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On Prophecy Rackets
Prophecy - Signs
Friday, April 19, 2013
Alf Cengia

The other week I came across a publication that addressed one of Hal Lindsey's books and ''The Rise of Popular Premillennialism in the 1970s''.  It was an 81 page master's thesis presented to the Faculty Department of History at an American University.

When the thesis (typically) traces a line through John Darby, Cyrus Scofield, Hal Lindsey, and ends up by tackling the Left Behind fiction books; there are no prizes for guessing which side of the fence the author stands.  His primary target is Hal Lindsey. But the aim is to discredit all "prophecy experts".

There was no mention of John Ryle, George N.H. Peters and Joseph A. Seiss who were among the first of many (aside from Darby) that began looking at Scripture through the lens of a literal, grammatical historical hermeneutic.

In fact, like a pebble performing a series of skips over the smooth face of a lake, the writer covers a lot of familiar area without ever diving deeper than its surface.

Over the last couple of years I've encountered a number of scholarly critiques of "popular" premillennialism, dispensationalism and the rapture.  Notably, many of these have been written by people of other denominations.  At first glance, the focus of this criticism appears to center on the "escapist rapture doctrine".

But a common thread that runs through most of these polemics is the nation Israel.

Some call the rapture a dangerous "racket" which empowers and "prescribes" a violent script for Israel.  One liberal theologian, who boasts a string of qualifications, chided the rapture doctrine for distorting "God's vision for the world".  She wrote that:

"In place of Jesus’ blessing of peacemakers, the Rapture voyeuristically glorifies violence and war. In place of Revelation’s vision of the Lamb’s vulnerable self-giving love, the Rapture celebrates the lion-like wrath of the Lamb. This theology is not biblical."

The absurdity of these accusations is often matched by the captive audience's willingness to believe them.  Ironically, given what has been occurring within the writer's denomination (and others), biblical theology has become an exercise in eagerly bending to the diverse whims of modern society.

That denomination has become fractured between those who desire to hold onto their biblical tradition, and those who insist that the old Christian ideas must change.  Its leaders have employed; radical feminists, goddess worshippers, earth liberationists, activists for practicing homosexuality and same-sex marriage; to become ministers and teach in their seminaries.

They're not diligently discerning God's Word to guide the flock; they're departing from their tradition and using arguments to justify the demands on God by a diverse society.

The liberal branch of this denomination has come under criticism for bullying tactics against the majority conservatives within that church.  Factions sometimes sue other factions.  Given the anti-Israel position of its minority leaders, the irony wasn't lost on one minister who wrote:

"A denomination that claims to know how to reconcile warring parties in the Middle East should be able to demonstrate by example how contending parties in its congregations can create peace. One would think that all those condemnations of bullying would lead to second thoughts about bullying the majority of a large congregation into submission." (Emphasis mine)

It's not hard to see why liberal Christian academics enjoy a good relationship with the main stream secular media.  They're happy people who say all the right things.  Their god isn't punitive and doesn't judge someone based on sexual activities and he encourages women to exercise their choice over their bodies.

Moreover, their god doesn't have any future plan for that oppressive nation called Israel; that would be both discriminatory and Islamophobic. Heaven forbid!  The nuisance parts of the Bible were written by patriarchal men who were concerned about land and domination, so we should be careful how we interpret the prophetic bits.

And this brings me back to Hal Lindsey.

Hal is an easy target because his consistent work over the decades has given him immense exposure.  This is despite the thesis author's claim that Hal's popularity has "waned in recent years" and that the "malleability of the genre has given birth to new stars."

If Hal's popularity was waned then why is he the prime target for polemicists?

In typical fashion for this sort of criticism - ironic for a thesis written in 2012 - the author points out that we're far past the "last days" of 1988 and "Russia’s high point as a world power."

Now I admit to thinking about Hal when the Berlin Wall was toppled and the Russians suddenly became good guys.  I was an emerging New Ager back then.  Heck, Mikhail Gorbachev even found enlightenment and brought about some impressive reforms.

The world wasn't such a bad place after all - right?

But then along came Vladimir Putin.

And, suddenly, the old Bear which had lost its teeth was replaced by a newer, hungrier version.  The New Russia wants to gain back the world prominence the Old Soviet Union enjoyed.  The Soviet Union has been resurrected with a slick dash of lipstick applied to its mouth.  Just ask Georgia.

According to Kim Zigfeld, Russia is back to its old tricks. Putin has virtually crushed the opposition and is now legally entitled to stay in power until 2024.  Of course, if one values one's life, one would need to carefully consider the dangers of opposing the New Kremlin.  People tend to turn up dead.

Most interesting are Russia and China's dominant roles in the Middle East, and especially their relationship with Iran.  Iran is seeking Nuclear Power and has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.  Factor in the relationships between Iran, Syria, Lebanon and a nuclear powered North Korea.  These countries function safely under the mantle of their over-seers, Russia and China.

Don't forget to throw in the Arab regime implosion that toppled Mubarak, Gaddafi; that currently threatens to unseat Assad, and possibly even engulf Iraq.  Each fallen regime has been replaced by Islamist extremists who also "want to wipe Israel off the map!"

Instead of nuclear disarmament, we're witnessing nuclear proliferation among the western world's enemies.

Did Hal Lindsey do all that...or did he just get lucky?

Earlier, I mentioned Anglican Bishop John Ryle (1816-1900).  He was considered to be "one of the most authoritative churchmen of his time", and a "profound thinker."  His eschatology wasn't as detailed in comparison to some modern proponents.  Yet his "literal" regard for Scripture led him to expect Israel's return as a nation.

Most interesting for me, Ryle pointed to the abysmal treatment of the Jews and spoke about the lateness of the hour.  He looked about him and judged that the world was experiencing "night".  Ryle even lamented the state of the church in his day.

What, then, would he say about the state of the church and the world if he were alive now?  Would these not evoke a deep urgency within him to warn people?  Sadly, I believe the main stream churches would now marginalize him.

The world experienced a reprieve in the eighties.  It was like an early labor pain warning.  Yet the global events that are currently in motion will not be stopped until their ultimate conclusion.  Those who pretend to know how to bring peace to this world cannot even settle their own petty disputes.

It's time to wake up and smell the fertilizer that we're all swimming in.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: North Korean Woes

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