August 19, 2009

End Times Gloom and Doom: A Historical Reality Check

I'm told that if you translate "Prince Charles of Wales" into Hebrew and calculate the symbols using an ancient Jewish number system, it adds up to 666. Sound the alarm!

One of my least favorite aspects of being an American evangelical Christian is getting lumped together with peddlers of apocalyptic speculation and escapism of the Left Behind variety. Unlike those who are convinced that a "secret rapture" will occur at any moment or that the current geopolitical landscape is God's cosmic chessboard where brutal dictators, wars, famines and genocide are part of an inevitable collision course to destruction, I'm in no rush to force-fit today's headlines though an end times filter.

So instead of wading into the deep theological waters of eschatology or the Scriptural basis for cultural renewal, I offer the following 3 morsels to chew on. You'll likely need to read them at least twice to capture their full meaning, but it's an undertaking well worth the effort. I should also mention that each selection comes from the pen of a committed evangelical Christian. Ready, partake:

  • "The evangelical predilection, when faced with a world crisis, to use the Bible as a crystal ball instead of as a guide for sorting out the complex tangles of international morality was nowhere more evident than in response to the Gulf War in early 1991. Neither through the publishing of books nor through focused consideration in periodicals did evangelicals engage in significant discussions on the morality of the war, the use of the United Nations in the wake of the collapse of Communism, the significance of oil for job creation or wealth formation throughout the world, the history of Western efforts at intervention in the Middle East, or other topics fairly crying out for serious Christian analysis. Instead, evangelicals gobbled up more than half a million copies of several self-assured, populist explanations of how the Gulf crisis was fulfilling the details of obscure biblical prophecies." -Mark Noll (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Eerdmans, 1994)
  • "The current crisis was always identified as a sign of the end, whether it was the Russo-Japanese War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Palestine War, the Suez Crisis, the June War or the Yom Kippur War. The revival of the Roman Empire has been identified variously as Mussolini’s empire, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the European Defense Community, the Common Market and NATO. Speculation on the Antichrist has included Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler and Henry Kissinger. The northern confederation was supposedly formed by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Rapallo Treaty, the Nazi-Soviet Pact and then the Soviet Bloc. The 'kings of the east' have been variously the Turks, the lost tribes of Israel, Japan, India and China. The supposed restoration of Israel has confused the problem of whether the Jews are to be restored before or after the coming of the Messiah. The restoration of the latter rain has been pinpointed to have begun in 1897, 1917, and 1948. The end of the 'times of the Gentiles' has been placed in 1895, 1917, 1948 and 1967. 'Gog' has been an impending threat since the Crimean War, both under the Czars and the Communists. -Dwight Wilson (Armageddon Now! The Premillenarian Response to Russia and Israel since 1917, Baker Books, 1977)
  • "Revelation 21-22 makes it clear that the ultimate purpose of redemption is not to escape the material world, but to renew it. God's purpose is not only saving individuals, but also inaugurating a new world based on justice, peace, and love, not power, strife, and selfishness." -Tim Keller (Christianity Today, A New Kind of Urban Christian, May 2006)


razzendahcuben said...

Awesome quote from Tim Keller.

My first experience with evangelicalism was with the doom-and-gloom dispensationalists. I soon grew skeptical of the paranoia and head-in-the-sand attitude that pervades much of that movement.

I still believe much of what dispensationalism teaches (over against Covenant Theology) but would probably summarize my thoughts on disp. with the old saying, "what's good isn't original and what is original isn't good." The Creation-Corruption-Christ-Consummation model of New Covenant theology is much more faithful to scripture and historical Christianity, in my opinion.

Do you have an historical view of scripture you subscribe to?

razzendahcuben said...

PS: Your tagline should be, "Because uncommon loons have been known to err." :)

The Common Loon said...

Thanks razzendahcuben for your thoughts.

As far as my basic historical view of scripture, I would probably have to go with Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration.

Tim Keller outlines this very well in The Reason for God.