Most American evangelicals today are "premillennialists." That is, they believe that the return of Jesus will usher in a time of peace and harmony on earth. ("pre" Jesus must return before the "millennium" the 1000 year period of righteousness.) It has not always been so. In the mid-nineteenth century most American evangelicals were "postmillennialists." That is, they believed that the spread of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit would usher in an age of peace and righteousness prior to the return of Jesus. ("post" Jesus would return after the "millennium") Most of these nineteenth-century postmillennialists believed that the founding and growth of the United States was a God-ordained event as part of God's plan to establish the millenium. As American influence and freedoms (and the gospel) spread around the world, peace and harmony would prevail. Twentieth-century events such as the evangelical loss of influence over American culture, development of atomic weapons, and secularization of Europe helped shift American evangelicals from a postmillennial to a premillennial position.

Listening to President Bush's speeches, especially his most recent State of the Union address, leads me to conclude that the president is a postmillennialist, whether he realizes it or not. In his view, we (the United States) are at work doing God's will to bring liberty to the oppresed of earth. Once the world is democratized, we will have peace and safety (the millennium). The recent electoral victory of Hamas in the PA does not seem to have dented his enthusiasm for democracy as a cure-all.

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that GW is out of step with a big part of his evangelical base. It will be interesting to see if American evangelicals will follow his lead on the establishment of peace on earth through the spread of democracy. For another thing, it means that GW probably does have a sense of being a part of God's plan for the world. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Many of our leaders have felt something like that. Of course, it is harder to compromise when you see the world as the arena of conflict between God and the devil.