Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Left Behind or Left Befuddled - Gordon L Isaac

More than a few times I've had someone tell me that the Bible should be understood in context to the audience it was written for. Yep, I agree to a point. But too often that's code for: "It doesn't mean what you think it means."

We're told for example, that in the case of Revelation, John would have been speaking in the language of his day to people (the church) experiencing trials of their times. It was meant to be a comforting book for them at that time.

But, of course, that's not to say that it doesn't have value for us today. Just as long as one doesn't take it too woodenly literal, or seriously, or, well you know - don't turn into a dispensational premillennialist with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. After all, do you really believe a city 1500 x 1500 x 1500 miles will descend down from heaven to the earth? Get it?

And did you know that dispensationalism was created by John Darby in the 19th century? He's the cultist chap who invented that queer secret rapture idea. He passed these aberrant teachings onto Scofield (that rascal) who infected a bunch of other people in a long line....finally to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. And you all know what they did with that.

Dispensational premillennialism is dangerous to the church because it is essentially pessimistic....and a bunch of other stuff to boot.

In the briefest of summaries this is the line of thinking Gordon L Isaacs uses in his book "Left Behind or Left Befuddled - The Subtle Dangers of Polarizing the End Times." Isaacs is the Berkshire Associate Professor of Advent Christian Studies in the church history department at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.

I came across the book at Half Price Books and bought it because I'm a sucker for punishment. The format was predictable and typical, and almost as bad as Barbara Rossing's The Rapture Exposed. But please note that the secret rapture isn't Isaac's target - not at all. As I've mentioned before, these people have a problem with premillennialism and especially the restoration of national Israel. That's what really drove Rossing and that's what drives Isaac.

Left Behind or Left Befuddled gets praise from Gerald Arbuckle from the Catholic Theological Union, Sydney, Australia. Arbuckle writes:
"Fundamentalism is historically an authoritarian and simplistic reaction to the fears evoked by religious, political, social, or economic chaos. Thus, in today's turmoil of postmodernity and globalization, it is not surprising that many seek security from biblical misinterpretations of the second coming of Christ...."
Ah...the irony of a Catholic describing fundamentalism as historically authoritarian. Anyway, Arbuckle is essentially echoing Isaac's premise that the Left Behind mentality is a misguided reaction to fear which leads to gross biblical misinterpretations.

I will interact with the book in later posts because its criticisms and arguments are so common. But for now I'd like to correct a couple of assertions. On page 24 Isaac writes:
"If one is a proponent of dispensational premillennialism, one is on the side of good. If one does not share that position, one is relegated to the group of scoffers and those who will most likely be left behind."
One would love some sort of citation for that assertion. I don't believe Isaac will be left behind, even if he is a scoffer. Also he puts Doug Krieger in the dispensational camp. That would be news to Krieger who has written a bunch of articles criticizing the system.

One last thought for now:

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): "If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever." Jeremiah 31:35-36

For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28

I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up From the land I have given them," Says the LORD your God. Amos 9:14-15

I wonder how Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Amos' audiences would have understood those messages in their day. I know, I know...the NT reinterprets the OT.

Whatever works, right?

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