Cringe-inducing

Jim Fletcher 90x115by Jim Fletcher

Part of the apostasy of the last days’ Church, predicted by Paul and Peter, among others, involves a denial or marginalization of Bible prophecy itself. Such a mindset of course impacts how we see Israel and the Jewish people.

This is one of the chief reasons Israel is being tightly squeezed by the international community today.

For those of us who came of age reading Hal Lindsey, it seemed prophecy had arrived at a golden age. In a sense it had, although, ironically, in the shadow of the Six Day War, which gave rise to prophecy teaching, the seeds of false criticism arose. As I have written recently, much of that opposition has come from effective Palestinian propaganda, which is now bearing fruit all across the American church landscape.

Matthew Lee Anderson, Mere Orthodoxy blogger (the following is from an article in Christianity Today),

“Struck a nerve earlier this year when he identified young evangelicals as another group desperately seeking social acceptance. In a twist on the Pew data, Anderson sees his fellow 20-something evangelicals lobbying for acceptance by denigrating their elders.

“According to Anderson’s reading of evangelical youth, they believe older evangelicals were seduced by the Religious Right and didn’t do enough to fight poverty and racism. They were preoccupied with a narrow set of values, such as abstinence from alcohol and sex outside of marriage. These same rubes even bought Left Behind books and watched The Late Great Planet Earth.”

Anderson discerns the reasons behind this form of rebellion:

“If young evangelicals had reached these conclusions for principled reasons, then Anderson might not be so concerned. But he suspects more nefarious trends at work.

“’I get the sense that for many of my young evangelical peers, the doctrine of eschatology is less important not because of careful reflection upon the Scriptures, but because of the political and cultural scorn the doctrine has earned,’ writes Anderson, a 2004 graduate of Biola University. ‘For most young evangelicals, eschatology is cringe inducing not because traditional formulations are wrong, but because they are weird. That all Christians would disappear in a flash will hardly earn Christians cultural acceptability—and cultural acceptance, today, is their paramount desire.’"

So, Bible prophecy is “cringe-inducing” and “weird.” And who wasn’t teaching these young people that friendship with the world is enmity with God? How did we fail to tell them that acceptance from the world is the last thing they should be seeking?

Thus, we have a catastrophe on our hands, with regard to prophecy teaching among the younger generations. There are many reasons besides their embarrassment over their elders. The foundation to this unbelief also springs from scholarship, both old and new. From a Publishers Weekly review recently, we read about Elaine Pagels’ new book:

“Many Christians today believe that the Book of Revelation (which some mistakenly call “Revelations”) was written by the same “John” who wrote the Gospel of John, speaks to an audience of persecuted Christians, and stands in harmony with the rest of the New Testament. In this fascinating study, Pagels challenges all of those assumptions, arguing instead that the visions recorded by John of Patmos function as an anti-assimilationist harangue that explicitly countered Paul’s teachings that keeping Jewish law was no longer necessary.”

Question: How does Elaine Pagels know that John’s worldview was at odds with Paul’s?

Answer: She doesn’t.

Pagels cannot know what her book alleges, any more than she can know whether the Apostle John suffered from bunions or disliked the color blue. Her hatred of predictive prophecy is her bias here, and that is why she crafted her book around it. This is a common tactic among liberal scholars: making up “evidence” to assert a falsehood.

Believe it or not, the Pagels of the world are having a dramatic negative effect on the biblical worldview of millions of young people in America.

For a long time, authoritative figures like liberal scholars have said, in essence, “Bible prophecy is really stupid,” and young students have said, “Okay, Bible prophecy must be stupid.”

Then there is the growing assault on Bible prophecy teaching from the evangelical world. Voddie Baucham, a wildly popular evangelical leader, recently made his case for supporting Ron Paul for president. The comments from his blog were reprinted at American Vision News, on January 17. In his discussion of Paul’s views on Israel, Baucham wrote:

“Ron Paul does support Israel. It is our current foreign policy that does not support Israel! However, there is a deeper issue here. There is a sort of misplaced Dispensationalism that governs people’s sentimental attitude toward Israel. Let me state clearly that I do not believe the Bible demands that the U.S. support Israel. I do, however, believe that it is wise to do so for geopolitical reasons. To do so for theological reasons, I believe, is actually misguided, and quite dangerous. Nevertheless, Israel is our only true ally in the Middle East, and that is important.

“But there’s a more important question: What does it mean to ‘support” Israel?’ Does it mean that Israel remains God’s ‘Chosen People,’ and we must stand with them in anticipation of the coming Armageddon? Is the President to act as ‘Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces’ and ‘Supreme Defender of Israel’? Or are we simply to make sure the foreign aid dollars don’t stop flowing?

So Voddie Baucham thinks dispensationalists are misguided and “quite dangerous.” Those assertions sound like someone who’d be happy having a beer with Brian McLaren.

Quite dangerous.

Wow.

(An important aside: American Vision News is brought to you by Gary DeMar, one of the country’s leading preterists, and an outspoken critic of dispensationalists.)

There are undoubtedly problems with dispensationalism, chiefly, I think, the tendency to speculate on “soon-to-be” developments in the world. I will go out on a limb here and say that the chief “sin” of dispensationalists has been two-fold: the aforementioned, non-credible speculation and, a failure to engage in new ways of communicating. While our opponents are using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to beat our brains out over biblical worldview—and I’m talking about Israel-and-prophecy-hating evangelicals—many in the Bible prophecy community are still using overhead projectors and talking in mind-numbing detail about the feet of iron and clay of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue.

Guess what? 20-somethings have no idea what you’re talking about. They don’t understand how Daniel’s 70 Weeks is relevant to their lives.

Frankly, in this, I don’t blame them.

This vacuum is being filled by opposing voices, the siren calls of social justice, the drive to be “missional,” etc. These are the buzz-phrases appealing to young people, who want to do something positive in the world. Problem is, many of them don’t realize that the forces guiding them are anti-biblical. The stance on Israel comes to mind.

As I wrote recently, young media moguls like Cameron Strang are questioning their parents’ generation, which largely supported Israel, mostly because of Bible prophecy.

It is no wonder then that the January/February issue of Strang’s Relevant magazine has an “article” entitled, “Apocalypse Now: Our Foolproof Guide to Surviving 2012,” by Ryan Hamm and Brett McCracken.

(That’s the cover title; inside it’s slightly altered: “2012: Your Guide to the End of the World.”)

The “story” itself is satire, a spoof on end-times speculation, with imagery ranging from zombies to the Planet of the Apes. It’s fairly clear the editorial staff of Relevant sees dispensationalists and prophecy teachers as cringe-inducing.

Meanwhile, Strang is moving closer to an open, public embrace of the Palestinian narrative, as I recently alluded to in “Israel Watch.”

In a way, who can blame him? He has seen up-close the holes in dispensational theology or, more accurately, how that crowd markets itself. He is also concerned with feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

In my view, the teaching of Bible prophecy in America today is in crisis. It follows then that support for Israel will slip dramatically in a few short years, as older generations pass to their reward and Cameron Strang’s generation sits in the cultural driver’s seat.

There is some cause for optimism. Last week on “Tonight Matters,” a radio outreach of RaptureReady, we interviewed Nathan Jones of Lamb & Lion Ministries. Nathan is super-articulate, informed, and he’s 38 and understands social media. Plus, he doesn’t look like Zachary Taylor (if such things matter to young people and, to some degree, I think it does).

He also has the benefit of studying under David Reagan, one of the clearest and most compelling Bible teachers I’ve ever known. Mentoring in this area is critical.

I hope I am not whistling in the wind here (or baying at the moon, depending on your perspective). To some degree, I think there needs to be a Reformation in terms of Bible prophecy teaching, which is linked directly to how one views Israel and the Jewish people.

The apostles wrote that in the last days, many would depart from the faith, and that greatly troubles me.

But taking it lying down really makes me cringe.

by Jim Fletcher