Thursday, April 19, 2012

Was Renald Showers Wrong?

It’s understandable that people get frustrated when their eschatological view is misrepresented. One leading prewrath proponent has complained that Renald Showers and Jimmy DeYoung misrepresented the prewrath position. He writes:

First, DeYoung kept confusing prewrath with midtrib, which just goes to show you that DeYoung is ignorant with “prophecy today.”...But DeYoung was not the only ignorant one, for Showers spoke of the prewrath as the position that believes that the rapture will occur about “3/4″ into the 7 year period, which is not true.

Ironically, a link was originally provided to a chart which depicted the prewrath rapture at about ¾ of the way through the 7 years. The chart was subsequently removed and the link now points to “Page Not Found!” Official laminated prewrath charts can presently be purchased HERE. Or you can just go online and check some out HERE or HERE. Scroll down to the section “The Timing of the Rapture” HERE for a clarification of the prewrath position.

Dr Showers has a reputation for being meticulous so I was keen to listen to the interview. Note that he wrote an in-depth critique of the system (The pre-Wrath Rapture View) and has interacted extensively with it. You hear him immediately responding to DeYoung’s question regarding “midtrib, prewrath”. What Dr Showers actually said was that the prewrath view is the rapture won’t occur until “maybe three fourths to two thirds through the 7 year tribulation period.” And I think that that is a fair summation of the view. He was merely distinguishing its approximate timing as distinct to the midtrib view, rather than going into detail.

A lengthier and more detailed summary can be found on page 7 of his prewrath book where he states that it occurs, “sometime between the middle and the end of the seventieth week.”

What exacerbates misunderstanding is that just about all prewrath charts (see above) have depicted the rapture point at about ¾ into the 70th week. Elbert Charpie is, perhaps, unique in that he thinks it might occur very early in the last half. However, one would think that a reasonable amount of time needs to elapse for Satan’s wrath (the Great Tribulation) to be administered. It’s also true that an article at the Pre-Trib Research Centre calls it The Three Quarters Rapture Theory which may aggravate those sensitive to that generic description. And to be fair to prewrath proponents, Dr Ice should have been a little more specific.

My limited experience has been that the system has sometimes been misrepresented but I doubt these instances have always been intentional. I remember having niggling questions after reading Marvin Rosenthal’s book. Several prewrath proponents I consulted seemed also somewhat confused over key issues such as the shortening of the Great Tribulation, the location of Christ in relationship to the church after the rapture and the resurrection of beheaded tribulation saints in Rev 20:4 etc. This may be one reason why PRI has offered special courses on the prewrath view for the benefit of its proponents.

As an aside, an exception was taken over Showers’ views of imminency and his comparison of the 4th seal of Revelation to the Ezekiel 14:21 “four severe judgments”. Dr Showers details compelling arguments in favor of imminency and God’s wrath (regardless of Hebrew or Greek expressions) at the 4th seal in “Maranatha, Our Lord Come!” and his abovementioned prewrath critique.

I can well appreciate the motivation for a non-pretribber to restrict the contents of the 4th seal to God’s disciplinary measures inaugurated to somehow “refine believers”. Yet, despite the elaborate attempt at expositing that position, one only has to read Ezekiel 5 to see that God’s anger and wrath (judgment) are associated with “plague, sword, famine and wild beasts.”

So it will be a reproach, a reviling, a warning and an object of horror to the nations who surround you, when I execute judgments against you in anger, wrath, and raging rebukes. I, the LORD, have spoken. When I send against them the deadly arrows of famine which were for the destruction of those whom I shall send to destroy you, then I shall also intensify the famine upon you, and break the staff of bread. Moreover, I will send on you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children; plague and bloodshed also will pass through you, and I will bring the sword on you. I, the LORD, have spoken. Eze 5:15-17

Why would it be any different at the 4th seal when Death and Hades are empowered to kill a fourth of the earth’s population using the same means? Renald Showers is right on the money. His two books speak for themselves.

Further reading:

Zechariah's Horses

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Misrepresenting Dispensationalism

A few days ago I read where one individual lumped dispensationalists in the same bucket as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and rabbinical Pharisees who didn’t understand the prophets. He was convinced that the push for the restoration of Israel was a “diabolical” and “political Zionist agenda” which will give rise to the Antichrist and the falling away of many Christians etc.

This low view of dispensationalism isn’t isolated. In another forum I made the mistake of disagreeing with an Amillennialist’s conclusions that God was finished with Israel as a nation; that the resurrection in Rev 20:4 was spiritual and that Satan was currently bound. I was promptly informed that I was “clueless” and needed prayer for my salvation.

What drives these attitudes?

There was a discussion over at Dr Reluctant’s that touched upon how dispensationalism is sometimes misrepresented. The names Ferguson, Sproul and Gerstner came up. I’ve noticed that Gerstner’s “Wrongly Dividing” (which I haven’t read) is cited freely by a smattering of authors and assumed to be thorough scholarship. One of the contributors to Paul’s discussion noted several flaws to Gerstner’s work, and he’s right.

There have been several responses to Gerstner (and others) by dispies. In particular, I’d encourage people to read John Witmer’s review of his book HERE and HERE. Note that you need a subscription with Galaxie but it is a worthwhile investment.

In some cases I suspect that passion to defend a particular understanding of the “truth” has over-ridden objectivity. This is where an author will deliberately refer to non-representative fringe and sensationalist cases against another system. One stark example of this is where Reverend Barbara Rossing (The Rapture Exposed) thanked her friends for sending her newspaper stories that presumably helped her research against the “Left Behind” genre. The almost obligatory mine-quoting of John Hagee, as if he was the dispensational model, is another one. And, of course, there’s the indiscriminate repetition of the Darby-MacDonald myth.

Rossing’s biblical scholarship is appalling – especially her interpretation of the book of Revelation. Yet she’s considered by some to be an authority against dispensationalism. At one point she refers to Christ as “Lambkin” and claims that the fundamentalists have misrepresented Him and misinterpreted the book of Revelation. Yet she simply ignores verses that portray God as being wrathful against the earth dwellers. You can read an exposé of Rossing’s book by Dr Kevin Zuber HERE.

In her book, Rossing included Dr Robert Gundry’s input on Thessalonians and John 14 to counter pretribulationism. It lent her academic credibility and her book is still considered “authoritative” by contra-dispies. Yet many of her readers wouldn’t be aware that Gundry’s anti-pretribulational contentions have been challenged. Ironically, Gundry – a premil, posttrib “dispensationalist” - would have disagreed with Rossing’s ultra-liberal approach to Revelation. One wonders whether he was aware of the full thrust of that book when permission was granted for his contributions to be published there. The scope of Rev. Rossing’s work went far beyond disputing the pretribulational rapture.

Often polemicists will feed off each other. Someone quotes Gerstner because it confirms their position, influencing someone else to adopt that same quote of Gerstner's, who got it wrong to begin with. They’ll frequently use whatever secondary sources suit their view without fact-checking. A critic will claim to have been formerly involved in the dispensational system, yet misrepresents it. Examples of this are some of David B Currie’s comments in his “Rapture” book and some of the ex-dispie critics who formulated the 95 Theses Contra Dispensationalism. All this leads someone with an existing inclination against dispensationalism to feel justified in trusting whatever is offered up by the polemicist.

Even within the premil camp it’s common to read that “dispensationalism has too many contradictions” or “there’s too sharp a distinction between Israel and the church” although the reasons are seldom clearly articulated. Perhaps this blurring between the church and Israel is rapure-timing driven. I note that at the moment this event occurs, that distinction suddenly sharpens for all views.

Earlier, I asked what drives these attitudes. I don’t think it is always just a biblical disagreement with dispensationalism. I think there are some extra-biblical reasons that I can only guess at. But even in some cases where legitimate biblical differences are present, I think that that disagreement is driven by personal presupposition.