Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Prophecy Event

[Be sure to check out--each weekday this month--the essay posted at apologetics315 in the series, Why is Christianity True? (My contribution will be published there at noon on Wednesday, April 7)]

I was somewhat disappointed to read in The Bend Bulletin this morning that Tim LaHaye and like-minded evangelicals will be bringing their "message of biblical prophecy" to Central Oregon this month. LaHaye is the author of the "Left Behind" series of fictional end-times novels so popular among evangelical Christians today.

My take on this issue is similar to that expressed by Mark Noll in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which calls out the modern American church for its anti-intellectualism.
Paul Boyer's When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Harvard University Press, 1992) documents the remarkable popularity among American Bible-believing Christians--again mostly evangelicals and fundamentalists--of radical apocalyptic speculation. Boyer concludes that Christian fascination with the end of the world has existed for a very long time, but also that recent evangelical fixation on such matters--where contemporary events are labeled with great self-confidence as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies heralding the End of Time--has been particularly intense.
Referring to the deluge of books like this that came out in the weeks following the start of the Gulf War, Noll writes,
The books came to various conclusions, but they all shared the disconcerting conviction that the best way of providing moral judgment about what was happening in the Middle East was not to study carefully what was going on in the Middle East. Rather, they featured a kind of Bible study that drew attention away from careful analysis of the complexities of Middle Eastern culture or the tangled twentieth-century history of the region toward speculation about some of the most esoteric and widely debated passages of the Bible. Moreover, that speculation was carried on with only slight attention to the central themes of the Bible (like the divine standard of justice applied in all human situations), which are crystal clear and about which there is wide agreement among evangelicals and other theologically conservative Christians. How did the evangelical public respond to these books? It responded by immediately vaulting several of these titles to the top of religious best-seller lists.
I lament with Noll how an
unsound hermeneutic has been used with wanton abandon to dominate twentieth-century evangelical thinking about world affairs.
An so, Tim LaHaye is coming to Bend, where, according to The Bulletin,
The prophecy conference... is being sponsored by more than 50 churches in the greater Central Oregon area.
That means nearly every nearby Bible-believing church (excluding at least my own, Antioch) is perpetuating this problem, and thereby helping to make the true message of Christianity even more inaccessible to the reasonable people in need of it.

4 comments:

inchristus said...

Agree with your sentiments here and, of course, with Noll. Sad...truly sad. There is such negligence today in hermeneutics where the spirit of relativism has crept into our churches; the Bible can anything as long as it fits our pre-conceived notions about the future.

Anonymous said...

It is an extreme injustice to label the UN as the vehicle of the anti-Christ in a fictional book per LaHaye, and then to believe, and even act, on this fiction as if it were true. The UN has its problems no doubt, but I hardly think this fictional charade follows the dictates of even the Ten Commandments, namely, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

Well done Rick.

Mark said...

To me it seems the evangelicals are trying to predict and respond to everything that is happening out there and somehow attach it all to scripture. It is like catching the wind.It changes everyday and so do their prophecies.

A few verses on mans ineptness of trying to understand certain things and thus taking prophecy to far.

Ecl 8:17 No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.

Deut 29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Math 24:36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

I am no prophecy expert, but I know that we are living in the last days. I don't need to know every end times prophecy.I just know I'm going to be ready....that's all I need to know.


Mark S

Rick Gerhardt said...

Mark:

In addition (to the Scriptures you cited), Jesus makes it clear that His disciples will suffer persecution. Yet for many (at least among pre-millenialists), the motivation for that interpretation seems to be to find an out ("Jesus didn't mean our generation--we will be raptured first.")

Thanks for reading (and thanks for the tree.)