Friday, October 28, 2011

You’re wrong so I’m right

As I’ve mentioned once before, I was influenced by reading Marv Rosenthal’s statement on p 280 of “The Pre-Wrath Rapture Of The Church” that “...refuting posttribulationism does not make pretribulationism correct”. He was absolutely correct and I took that to heart.

Dr Rosenthal was criticizing Charles Ryrie for spending “75 percent of his book to a refutation of posttribulationism” in his book “What You Should Know About The rapture”. Of course, there was an irony related to that objection. Dr Rosenthal devoted a lot of time to refuting pretrib presumably on the premise that if pretrib was wrong then his new view was correct.

It should also be noted that Dr Ryrie was responding to the challenge of Dr Gundry’s book “The Church and the Tribulation”. Unlike Dr Rosenthal, he wasn’t introducing a fresh rapture view. In fact, Dr Gundry might be singled out for trying to prove his own developed view by attacking pretrib in his two books.

One of the first things that stood out for me back in 2006 - when I first took an interest in this subject - was that most critics are better at attacking other systems than defending strong criticisms directed at their own viewpoints.

That speaks volumes to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who is a True Jew?

Excellent study by Tony Garland:

I believe that much of the confusion concerning the use of the term “Israel” in the New Testament -- and especially whether it refers to believing Gentiles -- can be cleared away by recognizing that although, consistent with its use in the Old Testament, the term always denotes those who are physical descendants of the man Jacob, there are also passages where the writer desires to call attention to a subset from within the physical descendants of Jacob who also share the faith of father Abraham. Here are some principles to consider when reading such passages...keep reading

Monday, October 24, 2011

Richard Mayhue - Day of the Lord

Going back a few posts I mentioned that the timing of day of the Lord posed no problems for pretribulationism. Non-pretrib proponents will usually try to argue that this event is intrinsically linked to the rapture’s timing and that God’s wrath can only be present in this period.

They’ll then try to show that the day of the Lord is a technical term and that it can only appear after certain precursors have taken place. If all the preceding arguments are correct then pretribulationism is false.

I don’t agree with all of Dr Mayhue’s arguments but he presents a compelling case that the timing of the day of the Lord is not significant for pretribulationism to be true or false.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pretrib - stripping the Gospel of the cross?

While I was doing some research the other day, I came across an article written by Dalton Lifsey (DL) who also wrote the book "The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob's Trouble." He begins by praising people like Joel Rosenberg and a number of other pretribulationists for their pro-Israel stance. But then he turns it around and chides them for their “escapist” eschatology.

He notes:

“...I am grateful for their boldness to trumpet the seriousness and severity of the coming crisis. But it grieves me that their message of preparation is grounded in an anticipation of an imminent escape from the earth as “Jacob” is expected to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without a prophetic companion.”

And this:

“I hope you can sense the gravity of this. We should find it deeply troubling that men like John Hagee and Chuck Missler are speaking of a future Holocaust for the Jewish people (in no uncertain terms) and yet denying the Church’s sacrificial identification with them in the midst of it (also in no uncertain terms).”

This is a sanctimonious effort to elevate posttrib to a higher moral position. Being an ex-postie, I find it contrived. DL should just stick to scriptural arguments. He throws out some commonly used ones later in his article.

I happen to know that many of DL’s posttrib friends believe the Antichrist’s reign won’t be global. One of these - when asked about preparation for the tribulation - stated that he would likely be far away from the epicenter for most of the seven years. Yet he agrees with DL’s grievance. One might ask how these brave souls could be “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” with Israel if they’re comfortably on the other side of the world.

In response to one objection another contributor states:

“The Bridegroom doesn’t “beat up His Bride” before the wedding. He saves her from an enemy who wants to kill her and prevent the wedding from happening altogether. He doesn’t drag the bride through the mud of tribulation. He drags her out of it.”

He appears to forget that it is God who initiates the tribulation via the seals. And according to posties it is Michael the archangel who “stands aside” to make way for the Antichrist.

And aren’t Israel (the divorced/future wife of Jehovah) and the church (the virgin bride of Messiah) one unit according to their view? Yet in that system the church is raptured after the tribulation (Why?), which is noted by Jesus to be the worst period in history, and leaves Israel behind to face God's wrath. A worse period? I find this logic both tortured and inconsistent.

DL claims that he’d formerly:

“...embraced a Dispensational view of things until I heard a Chinese pastor say in broken English that we Americans have “Stripped the Gospel of the cross” through out escapist eschatology that doesn’t prepare people to endure... This doctrine, more than any other, will be the cause of many becoming disillusioned, offended, and bitter in the generation of the Lord’s return. No doubt the “great falling away” of 2 Thess. 2:2-3 will be caused in part by this Western false teaching.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I hard something like that. Nevertheless, I believe dispensationalism is bigger than the rapture timing issue. I cannot help but wonder if there were other factors that caused DL to abandon it.

It’s true that some have an “escapist” mentality. Here in the West, it is easy to become complacent. We must pray for and help our brothers and sisters living in countries where there is persecution. And, in fact, there are many individual and corporate missionary outreaches where pretribulationists are directly involved.

No good pretrib student denies that severe tribulation and martyrdom will be part of the church’s experience. One only has to look at history. It could conceivably get a lot worse prior to any rapture. But it basically gets down to an academic understanding over when God’s wrath occurs.

Pretribulationism has nothing to do with stripping the Gospel of the cross. Expecting an imminent coming of the Lord should put people in daily abiding in Him.

Critics like DL should re-examine their broad-brush judgments of pretribulationalists.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Those Armageddon Loving Dispensationalists

A while ago I became involved in the historic premil Church-Israel discussion initiated at Mike Vlach’s blog. From there I looked at Craig Blomberg who strongly endorses Gary Burge and Colin Chapman and noted that these two theologians are actively anti-Zionist and anti-dispensational.

This subject is more crucial than the emotive rapture timing debate. That’s not to say that the rapture isn’t important, but (for me) what’s really important is what God said about Israel in the OT; how we understand that in light of the NT and how we understand modern Israel.

Did God mean to do what He said He would in the OT? On what basis do people re-define or ignore select OT verses relating to Israel’s future? Can we trust God at His word? See Paul Henebury’s Let God Be True…And Say What He Means

Joel Rosenberg’s 2011 Epicenter Conference featured a panel discussion called "Assessing The Threat of Replacement Theology and Other Efforts To Delegitimize Israel" between Joel and three other men. One of those men was Dr Michael Rydelnik. You can watch it HERE.

Dr Rydelnik recalled an earlier (Dec 2010) interview with Dr Burge when Moody Radio’s Janet Parshall hosted them in a discussion over Israel’s rights to the land. Notable during that interview was Dr Burge’s avoidance in fully dealing with Dr Rydelnik’s OT texts. In each case he would eventually steer the conversation away to something else.

In the end, Dr Burge retreated to a geo-political debate where he proceeded to disparage Israel in contrast to the observations of the program’s host and Dr Rydelnik. Recall also that Dr Blomberg finished off his Denver Seminary commentary with an indictment on Americans blithely supporting an Israel who “oppresses” Palestinians.

I’ve noticed a trend where certain critics employ a similar formula:

1) They link Christian Zionism with dispensationalism

2) They undermine dispensational theology by pointing out the personal failures of some of its adherents.

3) They tend to use the same arguments to try to prove that dispensational theology is unbiblical

4) They try to stereotype the average Zionist as a provocateur of Armageddon

5) Finally, they go after an “oppressive” Israel.

Rarely, in their narrative, do they acknowledge examples of Arab-Palestinian or Islamic hegemony or the recorded attempts to eradicate Israel, and they never fully engage Scripture that could undermine their theology.

One example of the contempt for Zionism and dispensationalism is Gary Burge’s essay “Why I’m Not a Christian Zionist, Academically Speaking” where his main target is John Hagee. Dr Burge writes:

“The average reader may be excused for not understanding the finer differences between an evangelical preacher who calls for a pre-emptive bombing strike against Iran and one who thinks this view is outrageous and immoral... For instance, high-profile pastor John a Christian preacher who enjoys outrageously militant sermons....Others like myself find him not only embarrassing but dangerous.”

And again:

“Christian Zionists excel in one but fail in the other. They love Israel profoundly but I await the day when Rev. Hagee exhorts Israel (just once) to pursue a national life of justice and truth...This is where everything has been leading. This is the crown jewel in Christian Zionism’s worldview. This is why Rev. Hagee is willing to risk throwing the Middle East into nuclear war. The birth of Israel has now set the stage for the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.”

This is the same polemic that Stephen Sizer promulgates. Rev Sizer has also written a Forward for a book by Alistair Donaldson “the last days of dispensationalism – a scholarly critique of popular misconceptions” which follows the above 5 point formula. Dr Donaldson, in turn, has endorsed Dr Sizer’s polemical “Christian Zionism”.

In his Forward, Rev Sizer wastes no time raising “apocalyptic” concerns by citing Sarah Posner’s “Pastor Strangelove” in which she focuses on John Hagee’s misguided comments:

“The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”

This sets to poison the well and leads readers into believing the dispensational system unanimously promotes this sort of thing. Dr Donaldson takes this same “apocalyptic” cue when he states on page 149 that:

“[dispensational] beliefs, though being counter to a sound biblical understanding, have significantly influenced foreign policies of governments (especially the United States) concerning Israel, giving rise to significantly distressing world-impacting events, and to what is often uncritical support for the modern state of Israel – despite her atrocious and dehumanizing tyranny of another people – by millions of people who profess to love God who himself abhors justice.”

But John Hagee is not a normative dispensationalist and mature dispies would strongly disagree with his theology and politics. God doesn’t need Christians lobbying for pre-emptive strikes to fulfill His plan. Christians are to be out spreading the Good News and praying for peace.

What these critics are doing is selectively quoting statements made by individuals on the fringe of Zionism and/or dispensationalism and using them as an excuse to disparage the system and Israel. These critics also habitually make polemical and unsubstantiated statements regarding Israel. This is done so often and glibly that it becomes factual in the mind of a non-discerning reader. Far from being the peacemakers they claim to be by often quoting Matt 5:9 against dispies, they are actively fomenting conflict.

Dr Burge should know better as a consequence of his friendship with Michael Rydelnik. Dr Rydelnik’s book “Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict” is, in my opinion, a testament to how a Christian should view the Middle East conflict and Israel. He understands both sides of the conflict. He recognizes the fact that Israel isn’t perfect and that both Jews and Muslims need Christ.

One page 220 of his book, Dr Rydelnik lists three responsibilities resting upon those who follow Jesus:

1) We must pray for peace
2) We must work for peace
3) We must proclaim God’s peace through Messiah Jesus

Amen to that.

Further reading:

A Review of "On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend" by Timothy P. Weber.

Is Dispensationalism Hurting American Political Policies in the Middle East?


A critique of "Zion's Christian Soldiers?"

Faydra L. Shapiro on "Zion's Christian Soldiers?"

Mainline Churches Embrace Burge's False Narrative

Mainline Churches Embrace Gary Burge's Harmful Mythology

Sabeel's Demonizing Liturgy