Dispatches from the Eschatological Battlefield (The Blogosphere, not the Valley of Megido, Silly)

james

How does one engage other Chrisitans about doctrinal disagreements?  Why would one want to?  How do you speak the truth without losing sight of love?  Since the theoretical answers to these questions don’t mean much, I recently embarked on a some experimental dialogues with Christians that believe some very different things than myself, hoping to gain some insight, and to practice my ability to be gracious and loving in the midst of ugly theological conflict.  I don’t know how to measure my success.  Should I measure by how many peopled I convinced that I was right?  If so, I was a dismal failure.  Should I measure success by how few times I lost my temper or said something rude?  According to this standard, I was fairly successful–not perfect mind you, not an “A+”, but maybe an “I” for Improved.  Here is a sampling of my experiments, which mainly centered around getting an into an argument/dialogue concerning eschatology with very conservative, and outspoken bible “prophecy” bloggers.  I have not changed a word of the following argument, except that I have erased the name of the person with whom I was arguing.  I have put editorial comments in italics and brackets.

The original blog post was about how Bible “prophecy” should be more important to the church today than it is.

ME:

The rapture was a concept made up in the 19th century. Standing up for peace, justice, and unity should be more important for the church today, not an erroneous interpretation of Revelation and Daniel.

http://theophiliacs.com/2009/11/03/eschatology-and-the-american-lawn-a-parallel-history-part-iii/

[Editorial Note: I fully admit that this isn’t the most graceful way to begin a conversation, but it did garner some attention.  Still working on my entrance.]

——–

HIM:
Both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul made statements that clearly establish the rapture doctrine. Jesus said, in Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Paul affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

jstambaugh, your belief in liberation theology is leading you down the wrong path. Liberation theology replaces the traditional message of salvation based on faith in Jesus’ death with one that is focused on salvation through political and social reform. Salvation is simply reduced to the goal of freedom from oppression in this life. Liberation theology allows the Gospel of Christ to be swallowed up by socialism. God is seen as a “hidden force,” and the New Testament is merely a collection of useful illustrations of Marxist truths.

[Editorial Note: Damn my bio, it is apparently of more interest here than my post concerning the raputre!]

——–

ME: 
B_____,

Please don’t get me wrong here, I believe very much that Christ is returning to judge the living and the dead. I simply do not believe that Christ will return once to take away all true believers, and then they’ll be a tribulation in which an anti-Christ (according to Bob Jones the anti-Christ will be a homosexual robot) will make everyone take the mark of the beast, and then the Tribulation force will come in and kick some anti-Christ butt, etc., etc., etc. until Christ returns again to establish a reign of peace and justice on the earth. Why not cut out all the stuff in the middle?

The return of Christ has always been and will always be a primary doctrine in the Church, the doctrine of the ahead of time rapture of true believers to spare them from the tribuation, etc. etc., has only been around since the 19th century.

I understand where you’re coming from on the whole Liberation Theology thing, but I think you’re oversimplifying things quite a bit. Using your logic and method, I could just as easily say that evangelical/fundamentalist doctrine has been swallowed up by nationalism, that God is seen as the protector and blesser of rich, white America, and that the New Testament is a collection of truths that verify our own predispositions toward capitalism, greed, and oppression. But the above statement, too, while there is a kernel of truth there, is not the whole story, and so is unfair.

I believe that in his life Jesus taught us to have concern for the poor, the oppressed and the outcast. In his teachings he taught us to be peacemakers and to love our enemies. He died in a self-sacrificing act of salvation for all, and he rose again to conquer death and establish a new reign of a different sort of Kingdom on this earth. As those who believe in what he did and said, our job is to live in the Kingdom of God now, and work toward the reconciliation of all Creation to Christ (Rom. 8), not in our own power, or through the use of political ideology (marxist or conservative), nor through the use of violence (like many marxist and fascist groups would use), but through the power of Christ’s self-sacrificing, world-changing, Love, which we have access to through reliance on the Holy Spirit.

In short, I do not take the teachings of Marx (or Glen Beck) seriously, nor do I take the efforts of governments to institute social reform seriously. Rather, I take the Beatitudes seriously; I take the Sermon on the Mount seriously; I take Matthew 25 seriously; I take Romans 12 seriously, etc.

In any event, I hope you take my words with grace, not as attacks but as a sincere desire to talk about serious issues that face us as brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you for allowing me the voice to do this on your site.

May the peace and blessing of Christ be with you.

James

 ——–

HIM:
James,

There is nothing wrong with being an “escapist.” Noah was an escapist and so was Lot. And Jesus said that when the end time signs begin to appear, we are to pray “to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

Certainly we are called to suffer for Christ (Romans 8:17). And anyone who truly stands for Jesus in this world will be persecuted (John 15:19). We are assured that as believers we will suffer tribulation in this world (John 16:33), but we are promised that we will be exempted from the great tribulation that will one day come upon the entire world (Revelation 3:10).

One of the early Church fathers, Clement, wrote quite extensively on the principles of the rapture in an epistle to the Corinthians he drafted in either 68 or 97 AD – less than 70 years after Christ’s death on the cross – a considerable period of time before 1830.

I have also given other historical evidence in prior comments that validate the teachings of the rapture preceding anything related to Darby.

The history of the social gospel (which the Emergent Church teaches) is, in nearly every case, a sincere attempt by Christians to do those things that they believe will honor God and benefit humanity. In every case, however, the practical working out of “benefiting humanity” has compromised biblical faith and dishonored God. Why is that? God’s Word gives no commission to the church to fix the problems of the world. Those who attempt to do so are starting out under a false premise, “…a way which seemeth right unto a man,” not God’s way. So where can it go from there? “The end thereof are the ways of death,” i.e., destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Furthermore, the problems of the world are all symptoms. The root cause is sin.

Consistent with its amillennial/postmillennial beginnings, the efforts of the social gospel are earthbound in their attempted restoration of the kingdom of God. Eugene Peterson has infiltrated that heresy into his Message Bible: “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (a perversion of John 3:17).

Anyone who puts his hope in this social gospel, which employs “people of faith” to make “this world the kind of place God can come to,” needs to heed the words of Jesus in Luke 18:8 “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” People of all faiths, yes, but certainly not “the faith,” for which Jude exhorts true believers to earnestly contend.

B______

——–

ME:
B________,

What exactly did Clement say? I will agree with you that he speaks extensively of the Second Coming of Christ and the bodily Resurrection. But these things are not what I am talking about when I talk about the rapture. Give me some chapters from Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians so that can see what you’re saying.

[Editorial Note: Strangely enough, Clement has nothing to say concerning the rapture, or the imminent formation of the Tribulation Force, or about the fact that the leader of the EU is going to put barcodes in everyone’s foreheads.  There is, in Clements letter, a fascinating discussion of the Resurrection and the immenent return of Christ, in which he invokes the imagery of the Phoenix, however.]

You said:
“God’s Word gives no commission to the church to fix the problems of the world. ”

What do you mean? Are you saying that Scripture has nothing in it about taking care of the poor? Does it not have anything in it about being good stewards of Creation? Does it not have anything in it about standing up against injustice and oppression? About taking in the widow and the orphan, about being kind to the stranger and the immigrant? Nothing about paying workers fair wages?

If you ignore the parts of the Bible which lay out God’s outline for a better world you have to ignore about 3/4 of it…and I thought you reformed folks were Sola Scriptura. 🙂  [Editorial note: I am not particularly proud of this little jab]

I am not purporting the social gospel as taught in the early 20th century, or post-millenialism. I don’t think we’re gonna fix the world’s problems before Jesus comes back, nor do I think we’ll do anything of lasting value without reliance on the Holy Spirit. But I do believe that we are called to be witnesses the Kingdom of God now, here on earth. I do believe that all Creation is groaning for Christ to return and set everything straight, and we need to be witnesses to that redemption in our actions and our words.

And furthermore, I believe that unless we are following God’s earlier commissions, like Micah 6:8 which tells us that all the Lord requires of us is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God, and like the roughly 2,000 verses that deal with the poor and our responsibility to them, that the “Great Commission” of Matthew 26 is meaningless. Our failure to witness to the true Gospel in our actions invalidates the witness of our words.

——–

HIM:
James,

You have come on the scene disputing the rapture doctrine, but have given no supporting scripture for your point of view. Instead, you throw some un-Biblical website out there.  [Editorial Note: that would be THIS website he’s talking about ;)]

Then you have spouted socialist and marxist views, but you try to use Scripture to disguise the ideology.

You made the comment “I don’t think we’re gonna fix the world’s problems before Jesus comes back”. That’s a glaring humanistic comment in my opinion. [Editorial Note: I think his eye must have skipped the “don’t” in my sentence.  It happens to the best of us.]

Your comment “Our failure to witness to the true Gospel in our actions invalidates the witness of our words” incorporates salvation through works it seems.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.

James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works; shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

Works will never produce salvation, nor will faith plus works save, but good works always accompany true saving faith.

This conversation is closed as far as I’m concerned. Points of view here are polar opposites. I stand firm in my faith and beliefs of what the Bible has to say about the Rapture and Prophecy.

——-

ME:

Thanks for the responses, B_______.

May the peace, love and joy of Christ our Saviour be with you, my brother.

James

Advertisements

7 Comments

  1. I would appreciate it if no one would make fun of this guy (you can make fun of me all you want). I didn’t drag this whole conversation over here so that we could ridicule the guy. I’d be interested if anyone has any ideas about how this argument could have gone better.

    Reply

  2. That is why, unless it’s on this site; and maybe on AGThinkTank, I just don’t get into these conversations. They are pretty much fruitless. I don’t have to prove my theological acumen – or lack thereof – to myself or anyone else and I can count on none of my fingers the number of changed minds that have come about as a result.

    Reply

  3. James,

    You slipped and gave us B_______’s name in the last post. :0) [James: but then I edited the name out of this comment so :o) yourself]

    I have rarely encountered anyone who wants to question their beliefs outside of the “Academy.” (a fact that drives the obscurantism in some Christian circles – i.e. “don’t go off to that liberal college, they’ll have you questioning your faith and experimenting with homosexuality, and doing drugs, and listening to secular music, etc, etc”)

    People on the “ground level” want only to be convinced that they are right. They don’t really have an eye for the Truth, they just want to feel secure in their own truth – however they can accomplish it. This is why so many apostate atheists are so bitter – this mentality can be QUITE frustrating.

    Now, I used a couple of categorical terms in that knee jerk reaction – so, by all means, take me apart.

    Shawn

    Reply

  4. If someone doesn’t believe in the Rapture they’re a Marxist? Certainly at least one side of the debate has conflated politics and theology. Debate cannot resolve the issue for reasons I think that Shawn well explicated.

    Reply

  5. I think you all are correct. Examining my motives, I found that I really wasn’t trying to convince anyone. I wanted to see to for myself what people believed about eschatology and I wanted to hear their justification for it, and I wanted to work on the skill of being kind to people who unabashedly and illogically call you names because you disagree with them concerning theology.

    About the whole marxist thing, Nathan, where the B that shall not be named (anymore) got that was from my bio where I say that I enjoy (among other things) Liberation Theology. It’s sort of unclear, though, from his response where his idea of me was coming from.

    Shawn,

    Thanks for the catch. I have made the appropriate edits.

    Reply

  6. James,

    Great post. I have had many a conversations like this with members of my own family, regarding this subject and others. One thing I learned from these conversations is that you must create an open discourse from the outset, which can be tricky to accomplish, but you will both learn something in the end.

    When two people with opposite beliefs choose to have a debate, the natural instinct is to simply defend your position completely from the outset, which makes it hard for the other party to compromise, and thus learn. The trick is, at least in my experience, is that you have to be a student first. Ask the individual about his beliefs, and let them explain. Try not to outright contradict him, but ask pointed questions that make the other person, and yourself, think. Be willing to compromise, especially on minor points, but don’t compromise your integrity and defend it if its called into question (which you did). If you have the right mindset from the outset, it is possible to crack even the toughest nut.

    When I have these types of conversations with others, I measure success if I can get someone (or myself) to say, “Wow, thats interesting… I hadn’t thought about it that way.” I hope this helps.

    Sincerely,
    -Jud

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s