God cares about my eschatology…


A growing trend in modern Christianity is to take the teachings of the Scripture on eschatology and reduce them to some sort of cryptic, non-understandable, vague language. Since the exegesis is difficult (and it is), the assumption is made by many that God can’t possibly expect us to understand revealed truth in this area. Many end up saying something like, “Since so many Christians disagree on eschatology, we aren’t going to defend a certain position or make any dogmatic statements about any future events (or lack thereof).”

This attitude is prevalent in the emergent/emerging movement. Dan Kimball, for instance, shares this diagram on his blog. “How Jesus Will Return” is considered a non-core belief. I recognize that it is virtually impossible to make blanket statements concerning the emergent/emerging movement; however, many in the movement are willing to make very bold and assertive statements when it comes to desparaging dispensationalism or pre-millenial eschatology in general. The only eschatalogical view that is not tolerated with love and respect (which they constantly say fundamentalists lack) is that of the pre-trib., pre-mil., dispensationalists. One simple reason lurks behind this inconsistency; their understanding of the kingdom entirely drives the core of emerging/emergent belief. Dispensational eschatology is not compatible at all with the typical emerging/emergent view of the kingdom.

2 Timothy 2:16-18 16But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.

These two men went astray (lit. missed the mark) from the truth by spreading a flawed eschatology — they said the resurrection had already happened.

I will not allow the comments section to become a never-ending debate on eschatology. But let me make this plain: God cares what we believe concerning eschatology; missing it is to miss the truth itself.

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  1. #1 by Dan on August 18, 2007 - 1:01 am

    hello.

    hope you didn’t feel I was being vague about the fact of Jesus’ return. I did write on the blog:

    “I listed that Jesus will return and there is judgment that will happen. But in the “Non-Core Beliefs” I listed that how Jesus will return but the timetable is not clear. The clarity is that He will return, but the unclarity is how He will return (amillennial, premillennial, post-trib, pre-trib etc.) We may have an opinion, we may think we are right. But the fact is, there are differences of opinions about these issues throughout church history and in the church today.”

    So I was trying to stress that there are for sure truths and His return is one of them.

    Thanks for reading the blog,

    Peace in Jesus,

    Dan

  2. #2 by Joel B. on August 18, 2007 - 6:41 am

    The major problem, in my view, is that many people seem to suggest that “non-core” (whatever that is…Is this Weight Watchers or something) is to mean not important. That’s just flat out wrong.

    Look at all those non-core beliefs (six-day creation, Election/Free Will, Gifts of the spirit) now look at one particular on there that just shows what a joke this is to them…Apple v. PC. So here we have all these items that the Bible clearly teaches on, like or dislike the teaching, women in the pulpit, six day creation etc. And to them, this is just the same as the Apple v. PC debate.

    And so now we see what has happened by treating non-saving doctrines as unimportant, the Word of God is marginalized and treated as a joke in almost every area. Why should we be surprised then when Emergents scoff at the Word of the Lord, they’ve already told us how important they think it is.

    It is encouraging that there is so much good in the “core” beliefs section, but who determines and who decides. I don’t see how remotely “Covenant of Marriage” is any more of a core belief than some other things, as it’s just as clearly taught as others in the non-core belief section. Does someone need to believe that God made marriage to be between one man and one woman to be saved? I don’t think so (Although I strongly believe that God made marriage to be between one man and one woman.) Does that mean that because it’s not a “saving” doctrine that it’s not important…NO!

  3. #3 by clearly on August 18, 2007 - 7:00 am

    Dan,

    Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to comment here.

    I understand that you affirm that Jesus is coming again — you just won’t say when (which I think is sort of a cop-out). I am not so much as criticizing that point as I am using it as an example to show that emergents/emerging typically will not make bold claims about eschatology unless of course it is bashing pre-mil dispensationalists.

    Anytime someone tries to paint such a diverse movement with a broad brush, there is the possibility that the positions/beliefs of certain individuals will be misrepresented. That’s to be understood. I hope you don’t feel that I misrepresented your position.

  4. #4 by clearly on August 18, 2007 - 7:13 am

    Joel,

    “The major problem, in my view, is that many people seem to suggest that “non-core” (whatever that is…Is this Weight Watchers or something) is to mean not important. That’s just flat out wrong.”

    I agree. It bothers me that because there so many differences of opinion on certain issues that the postmodern mindset is to view those things as unimportant. When multiple interpretations of a clear teaching of Scripture (like the sub. atone.) arise, then who is to say that this particular doctrine will not become a “non-core” issue as well? That’s the danger in over-stressing the responsibility of the community (which may or may not be regenerate) in biblical interpretation. The words themselves have meaning and carry the final authority.

  5. #5 by phil on August 18, 2007 - 7:39 am

    The reason I think Dispensationalism gets the brunt of criticism is that it is the easiest to prove wrong from both a Scritpural and just common sense standpoint. Dispensationalists have time again tried to predict dates (which we are explicitly told not to do) for the Rapture, and time and again been proven wrong. I’ve never heard any of them apologize or admit they’ve been wrong. Instead they keep on saying the same things over and over.

    I think one’s eschatology is important, and I think Christians have done harmful things because of the wrong view. Christians see turmoil in the Middle East as inevitable, they support Israel unconditionally, and they almost hope for things to get worse and worse.

    I think a lot of good and well-meaning Christians are Dispensationalist just because there hasn’t been good teaching to counter it. A lot of pastors probably fear teaching against it because of it hold, although I see that changing now.

    As far as the other views of pre, post, or amillenielists, I think there does need to be grace among Christians. It’s hard to argue definitively about something that hasn’t happened yet.

  6. #6 by clearly on August 18, 2007 - 7:50 am

    Phil,

    Predicting the dates of the Lord’s return is no wierder than thinking that our actions will usher it in.

    Further, such predictions were on the fringe of dispensationalism and not mainstream.

    Even further, modern-day dispensationalists wouldn’t consider such a thing as predicting the day or year when Christ returns. One of the sine que non of dispensationalism is a literal hermeneutic. In other words, if the Bible says not to, we try not to.

  7. #7 by Joel B. on August 18, 2007 - 8:05 am

    The “problem” with dispensationalism is, that it is a systematic theology, that is it is something that it part read out of the text and part read back in. There is no “You are now entering the dispensation of Human Government.” designation in Scripture. Instead we look at the totality of Scripture as say what is happening overall, and we see God interacting with man in different ways. Covenent Theology or any other systematic theology is going to have the same read out and then read something back in problems. Doesn’t mean that some systematic theologies are “more equal” than others.

    That some dispensationalists have been done things they ought not does not upend that fact that dispensationalism currently, to me is the best systematic approach to the Bible currently. Especially with the focus on Biblical fidelity. But I can tell you, dispensationalists and covenants as best I can tell get along greatly 99% of the time the big difference seems to be between Individuals with a “Faithful to the Text” systematic theology, and those with a systematic theology of “it means whatever I think it does.”

  8. #8 by phil on August 18, 2007 - 8:06 am

    Well, you point to part of the problem with Dispensationalism in your answer. You are trying to apply a literal hermeneutic on writings that don’t lend themselves to be read that way. Revelation needs to be understood in the context and culture it was written in, or else we will get the distortions we see today. Also, you can hardly say the Left Behind novels are on the fringe of the movement. They pretty much define it now. I think Tim LaHaye has given several timelines that didn’t pan out.

    By the way, I don’t know of very many people that think we will usher Christ’s return in. We can work to spread the Gospel to the world as we are commanded in Scripture, and Christ will return when He returns. I don’t see it as being dependent on us so much.

  9. #9 by clearly on August 18, 2007 - 8:13 am

    Phil,

    Tim LaHaye is hardly the academic spokesperson for the movement. It has its roots in Darby and Scofield. Contemporary dispensationalists are Ryrie, MacArthur, etc and even include men like Saucy and Bock.

    Also, a literal hermeneutic allows for literary and rhetorical devices.

  10. #10 by clearly on August 18, 2007 - 8:14 am

    P.S. Don’t get going on Darby and Scofield. The movement has come a long way since the Scofield study Bible.

  11. #11 by phil on August 18, 2007 - 8:26 am

    Dave,
    Well have MacArthur and the others publically denounced the Left Behind books and Tim LaHaye, because like it or not, those have become the defacto representatives for Dispensationalists. I know, I still go to a church that has Dispensationalist roots, and a lot of people still treat those books like gospel.

  12. #12 by Joel B. on August 18, 2007 - 8:32 am

    Gosh, the Left Behind books are …entertainment…based loosely on dispensationalist theology, but golly they’re entertainment, and darn better people enjoy them then say…oh Harry Potter. And speak on the theology of the Harry Potter books.

  13. #13 by clearly on August 18, 2007 - 8:37 am

    Phil,

    Have you listened to MacArthur’s sermon at the Shepherd’s conference entitled, “Why every self respecting Calvinist is a premiller?” He pokes fun at the Left Behind series and makes a stab at Scofield as well.

    I have read the left behind books. Joel is right, they are entertainment. Further, LaHaye never says when Christ is coming back.

    I try to avoid arguments from authority because I think they are dumb. But, as far as your church having dispy roots…how many dispy books have you read personally?

  14. #14 by phil on August 18, 2007 - 8:59 am

    Dave,
    I’m not sure what we’re arguing about, really. I find your post somewhat odd. You seem to be saying that eschatology can’t be considered a secondary issue, which is what Dan Kimball said. It really needs to be, or else it seems like you’re saying that if your not a Dispensationalist, you don’t take the Bible seriously. Clearly, that’s just not the case.

    I don’t know if I’ve read specific books about the end times from Dispensationalists. I’ve certainly read other book by them dealing with other topics. Also, I’ve heard it exlained and taught in such detail, I can’t imagine anyone showing me any new evidence. I’ve seen the charts and graphs, the supposed prophetic implications of certain events, etc. I’m 31 and grew up in an A/G pastors home, so I’ve been around this block more than a few times.

    A few years ago, I started doing more research into different views, and I just found the Dispensationalism is probably the weakest view, and I’m not just basing that off of the Left Behind books.

  15. #15 by Chris L on August 18, 2007 - 10:48 am

    Dave,

    You wrote:

    I recognize that it is virtually impossible to make blanket statements concerning the emergent/emerging movement; however, many in the movement are willing to make very bold and assertive statements when it comes to desparaging dispensationalism or pre-millenial eschatology in general.

    The first (and primary) error with this statement is that you are linking to my article, and I do not belong to an “emerging” (or “emergent”) church, nor do I consider myself part of the movement. I have been a lifelong member of Restoration Movement (sometimes called ‘independent’) Christian church, which holds an amillenial stance toward eschatology.

    And, the primary reason for the amillenial (or, in my case, partial-preterist, which is a subset of amil) stance is because of a high view of scripture, which I have seen outlined best here.

    I do believe that eschatology is important, insofar as its impact on orthopraxy, which was the thesis of my article on pre-mil/dispensationalist eschatology (which, as normal hermeneutics would have it, makes Jesus, Paul (and Daniel) out to be either liars, mistaken or outright deceitful.) I agree with Dan, though, that it is “non essential”, in that choosing one over the other does not define heresy.

    Where I believe (and wrote) that pre-mil orthopraxy steps over the line is when it creates ad homenim attacks on individuals or groups by trying to add the tag of “Whore of Babylon” or “anti-Christ” to specific figures or movements, and to treat them thusly.

    So, to sum up:

    1) I’m not emerging/emergent, so don’t tack those guys with my eschatological arguments.
    2) I believe that eschatology is important but non-essential (i.e. non-heretical).
    3) I hold a non-dispensational view, not out of a desire to preserve unclarity, but because of a high view of scripture and the two key rabbis of our movement (Jesus and Paul).
    4) I love my Christian brothers and sisters who hold eschatological views apart from mine, and it saddens me when these views (or my own) lead to poor orthopraxy.

  16. #16 by clearly on August 18, 2007 - 5:50 pm

    Chris L,

    So you aren’t in the movement? Okay, I’ll take your word for it. Could you see how I could think you were — the blog you write for spends so much time defending the movement, that you had me fooled!

    Nevertheless, your attitude towards premil dispensationalism is rather indicative of the emerging/emergent movement.

    I would also cringe to see people label institutions or groups “the whore of Babylon.” I like to speak in more precise terms. I would say something like, “that sure reminds me of the anti-christ.” After all, John himself said in chapter 4 of his first epistle, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” John has no problems referring to false teachers in this regard. Why should we?

  17. #17 by Chris L on August 18, 2007 - 6:42 pm

    Dave,

    The group blog I write for also also defends a number of Evangelical and PD churches and individuals, as well. I suspect that, had we existed 10-15 years ago that we would have been spending a great deal of time defending Charismatics/Pentecostals (and I’m a fairly strong cessationalist!) The primary aim of that blog is in defending Christians from unjustified attack/demonization within the church. It just happens that the ECM is the watchdawggies whipping boy of choice at the moment.

    Even saying “that reminds me of the anti-christ” is an ad homenim attack, in and of itself. Actions and beliefs should stand on their own without adding in prophetic speculation. Additionally, it tends to sell short the idea of ‘anti-christ’, since I can’t think of anyone (not even Hitler or Stalin) who could hold a candle to Nero, Vespasian or – worst of all – Domitian, in terms of fulfilling what would be expected of the “anti-christ”. If he (the ac) hasn’t yet arrived, he would have a huge way to go to surpass any one of those three Caesars…

  18. #18 by Henry Frueh on August 19, 2007 - 7:34 am

    Biblical prophesy is God’s way of keeping us thirsting for His return. I find the more I study the more I am sure about His glorious return and the less I am absolute about the events and chronology.

    Let’s not sacrifice the infinite joy of His coming on the altar of differing opinions of the chronology. Jesus is coming back in glory and by His grace He is either coming for me or I will be coming with Him!!

  19. #19 by Chris L on August 19, 2007 - 10:09 am

    Amen, Henry (Rick)

  20. #20 by clearly on August 19, 2007 - 12:46 pm

    Chris,

    “Even saying “that reminds me of the anti-christ” is an ad homenim attack, in and of itself. Actions and beliefs should stand on their own without adding in prophetic speculation”

    So what was John doing in 1 John 4? I believe he identified false teachers as being similar to anti-christ. Please offer me a suitable counter-interpretation.

  21. #21 by Chris L on August 20, 2007 - 10:41 am

    Dave,

    Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

    First off, this seems to be fairly specific to those who do not acknowledge that Jesus was incarnate and of God. This does not seem to be addressing differences in interpretation of scripture, but the acknowledgement of Christ. Additionally, John keeps using the term ‘spirit’ and not ‘person’, which implies ideas and not people. This is even made plain when he transitions from the spirit of the antichrist to the person at the end of v. 3. It is the difference between people and ideas (which I keep hammering into myself and the other writers at my site, because it is far too easy to move to people rather than ideas).

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