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.