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Friday, January 18, 2008

What you believe has consequences.
(With thanks to Gary North)

One of the most damnable lines ever uttered by a preacher was said by J. Vernon McGee."You don't polish brass on a sinking ship."

His point, as I recall, was that since JEE-sus is coming, oh, day after tomorrow, then we don't need to be concerned about improving things in the world. Social justice (granted, a phrase co-opted by Marxist theologians), benevolence, painting. No need to excel in the arts, literature, or media production. Of course, it is an outworking of McGee's Calvinism speaking. I am of a Reformed background, and one of the queer issues is, if Grace is Irresistable, then why does one need to preach or teach, period? Why "polish brass" (exert human works and effort to improve the world) if all of Christ's will come to Him, and everyone else will be kindling, anyway.

The point also arises from "their eschatology – premillennial dispensationalism – ... a doctrine of earthly cultural and political defeat prior to Christ's Second Coming" as Gary North says. This is near and dear to my heart, as I came to the Lord during the Late Great Planet Earth craze. The biggest point of the Scofieldian rapture-fest was that when Jesus referred to the "budding of the fig tree", and "this generation" in Matthew 24, He was talking about The End of Days, and not the end of rebellious Israel, culminating in the Destruction of Jerusalem. Thus, since Israel was ceded its homeland in 1948, the Planet Earth had a clock ticking down to 1988, forty years, a Biblical generation. We were a-quiver with anticipation, since Jesus would return by 1988 !

Came New Years Day, 1989, and the pre-millennial crowd had some re-tooling to do. I mean, Jesus missed it! Clearly, the fault lay in faulty exegesis, but no-one recognized how faulty.

Having come from this background, I had a terrible problem: a serious lack of motivation. As a newly-married college senior in the late 70's, I wound up dropping out of college, at least in part because since Jesus could (or would likely) return next week / month / year, why should I bother to get a degree? Why polish brass? I was a convinced environmental studies major, with ideas for Saving The Planet, but why bother? I had to work for my family now, and be ready for the Lord's return. Why polish brass?


I have done alright for myself. I've grown up, learned to work, and repented of pre-mil follies. Remember- Jesus WAS GOING TO RETURN BY 1988. This is a Most Major Flaw. Those who taught thus, including myself, are guilty of false prophecy. Thankfully, this is not under the Mosaic covenant. The thing that amazes me is that the doctrine persists in the whole Left Behind foolishness, and across the airwaves. Granted, the Rapture and yo-yo return of Christ, with the Antichrist playing backup makes for a sexier story than History - Trumpet - Resurrection - Last Judgment, but if you want orthodoxy, right Biblical, historical Christian doctrine, Left Behind must be left behind. Such teaching is foreign to the Christian church until the 1800's, and last I heard, God takes a dim view of adding to or taking from His Word.

WHAT you believe has great impact on what you DO. Be certain that a popular teaching is truly a Godly one, and not just a convenient hook for best-sellers.

You may find this article interesting, as well.


Ian McLeod said...

fascinating Captain and logical too, that we should ask Melllvar for help.

Gary North is right on everything! :P Hah, I just hattipped him in a totally unrelated incident.

Anonymous said...

You know, it's funny...but even though I'm a pre-mil type myself, I've never given credence to any set date as "the return of Jesus." Neither have I regarded His soon return as an excuse to sit on my backside and do nothing.

Maybe it's because I read the Bible. I'm familiar with the "standing orders" and that passage where Jesus mentions that only the Father knows when it will be.

(I could flip the coin over and point out the reverse--that a focus on making this world a nice place to live has given rise to people who try to take over governments and fall for every silly "crisis" that's marketed--but I'm not going to do that. It's poor reasoning to denounce an opinion because it "could" result in something.)

*shrug* Not trying to be confrontational or anything. I'm just observing that taking one part of the Bible out of context--as in, not keeping in mind the rest of it--is the fast way to get yourself in trouble. We should all be watchful.

The Aardvark said...

Oooooooooooh, Mrs. P. You are so contentious! I think I'll ban you, since I prefer to sit here and blog to myself!!!

(You know you bless me, yes?)

The tricky part of the "date-setting" is that "1988" isn't a date. The nutjob (I say that charitably, given Jesus' comment about "day or hour") who wrote a book in the late 80's claiming that Jesus' return would be on Rosh Hashanah weekend got around it by saying that he wasn't date-setting, just providing a range.

I worked, taught, and all that. I just questioned the idea of long-range planning, since Jesus might come tomorrow. Apparently the Thessalonians had some slackers, though.

My biggest problem with the pre-mil position is that it requires certain a priori assunptions, and some gooey grammar, not to mention the invention of a New Doctrine: the Rapture. Bear in mind, NONE of that was extant Biblical doctrine prior to, oh, 1830. John Darby and C.I. Scofield developed an innovative new understanding of Revelation, and Jesus' prophecies.

A reading of Josephus, Tacitus, and other histories can show conclusively the apocalyptic horror that was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Knowing this makes Jesus' foretelling of the Temple's destruction dreadful in its finality, and that his "this generation" referred to the Jews then living, who would see the end of the Mosaic covenental economy.

Your use of "focus" is important, as one ought to do the one, and not leave the other undone.
God's call to preach the Gospel is paramount, but so is the call to do the Gospel, to be the Samaritan neighbor, to care for the church's "widows indeed", to do good to all men, but especially to the household of faith.
The church receives its marching orders from God's Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, yes? Sadly, the Church at the Start of the 21st Century often takes its orders from the New York Times.

Allowing the Word to interpret the Word, and seeing what the Whole Word has to say on an issue will go a long way towards preventing spiritual myopia (note the clever way I returned to your "focus"). Bible Promise Card exegesis, or getting one's doctrine from Inspirational Bestsellers is a fast track to trouble.

I guess in other words, "Amen".

Anonymous said...

"A reading of Josephus, Tacitus, and other histories can show conclusively the apocalyptic horror that was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem."

Well, just that one point of difficulty: I see a lot more in Revelation than just events relating to the destruction of the Temple. All the green grass and all the fish in the ocean is a bit sticky, if you put a limit on its fulfillment to A.D. 70.

But I'll bet that's not what you wanted to hash out today. 'S all right.

The Aardvark said...

Certainly there is more than the destruction of the Temple involved (I was making the Part represent the Whole, there.)

The language of Revelation is of a specific type.
It is a part of (for lack of a better term) an apocalyptic literature. Ezekiel and Revelation read parallel in many ways, as do many of the other prophets. The writing style may (I said MAY) not be intended to be literal, but is hyperbolic to show the catastrophic nature of events TO GOD'S COVENANT NATION.

My entries on this should not be taken as (poor) attempts at completely convincing one of the idea. If I can have you or anyone stop and think "Y'know, maybe a doctrinal system that did not exist before 1830, is a tad suspect." I think I'd be happy. I did, especially upon comparing historic Biblical doctrine re: Judgment Day to the Rapture teaching.

As a Restoration believer who is incidentally Spirit-filled, the classic Pentecostal / Charismatic love affair with the "Left Behind" -type scenario doesn't make my life any easier. ;^)

Anonymous said...

*shrug* I don't make a huge point of when, exactly, the Rapture/end of all things is to happen. The thing that bothers me is when people assume not only that we can fix everything, but that we MUST in order to bring about Jesus' return.

The Aardvark said...


That's a wrinkle of a different corrugation!
I am not certain that I have run across that, at least not in a screamingly obvious way.

I think the Dominion crowd are painted thus, but I suspect it is an erroneous pigmentation.

No argufyin' here, Missy.

OTOH, IF the Dispy angle is correct, Revelation provides a disturbing bit of intel: At the wedding supper, we hear:

6Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
If that means what it appears to mean, well, the church has some prepping to do.
(This comment is apart from a salvific requirement, as the Church is already "in", That the fine linen is defined as the saints' righteous acts is significant in a Jamesian way, I think.)

I'm just thinking aloud, here, not trying to be pugnacious.

Mahatma Randy said...

I went to a new church a month back, and it was pretty good. I was impressed. I went again, and again it was pretty good. I decided to take my family on my third visit, and they started talking about how Hal Lindsey was guilty of "Let's see what's in the news today" prophecy, trying to take stuff from the paper and cram it into the Bible. then the preacher proceeded to do EXACTLY that same thing for 20 minutes until my son - who actually knows real, legitimate, scholarly exegesis of Revelation - said, "I just can't take this anymore," and we left.

Later on the preacher emailed me "Hey, we got your new visitor card. How did you like it?" I politely told him my concerns - that this "Last Days" crap was useless at best, and likely heretical. He hemmed and hawed and quickly terminated any contact with me.

It's sad. It seemed like a nice place, but I won't be back.