Remember When Eschatology Was A Thing?

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61 Responses

  1. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Premillenial Dispensationalism has always been a hoax. There has never been any scriptural defense for it, and it’s proclamation is nothing more than a carnival barker enticing the crowd to come in, be bedazzled and drop money in the turnstile (offering plate).

    Other than that, I have not given it much thought.

  2. Michael says:

    Actually, dispensationalists use Scripture heavily…they just interpret it differently than non dispys.

  3. Kevin H says:

    The Evangelical Free Church change in official eschatological doctrine has been in the works for a while now. About 10 years ago they dropped pre-tribulational from their statement of faith. Now they have dropped premillennial. The ethos of the E-Free Church has been to avoid being dogmatic on many issues that are seen as secondary in the faith. It is a denomination, but one where individual churches have much automony. Seeing this change is not a big surprise to me.

    Before my current CC experience, I was a member of an E-Free Church. The pastors and elders of the church had a lot of association with DTS and even more directly with a local school with dispensational roots. And so the church taught a pre-trib, pre-mill doctrine. Even with the change in the official EFCA statement of faith, I would imagine they are still free to teach as before. What they didn’t do, however, is teach the doctrine in a dogmatic or condescending or overbearing fashion. And I appreciated that. They also didn’t push politics much, which I also appreciated.

    I do think there are various reasons for why end times eschatology has been fading from the forefront of American evangelicalism. And I do think Trump being in office has been a contributor to that. I would imagine that when a democrat next gets into the White House, we’ll see at least some kind of spike in end times preoccupation.

  4. Josh says:

    I think it’s just a better balance, for the time being. I talk to many convinced pre-trib guys often. They haven’t shied away from their convictions, but the hype has died down for a while. Someone will come up with some product that will reignite those fires before too long.

  5. Kevin H says:

    “it’s proclamation is nothing more than a carnival barker enticing the crowd to come in, be bedazzled and drop money in the turnstile (offering plate).”

    My experience at the E-Free church was nothing of the sort.

  6. Michael says:

    KevinH,

    Good info there…thanks.

  7. Michael says:

    Josh,

    I think the doctrine itself may fade into a niche model…it doesn’t seem to resonate with younger people who instead follow some sort of kingdom based view.

  8. EricL says:

    It has been replaced by secular eschatology, which is just as outrageously over-hyped. Instead of looking for the Antichrist and Armageddon in Israel, they are prophesying an environmental Armageddon. Instead of reading the news as if everything points to the pending global warfare and the destruction of the world, they claim every weather event proves their wild theories that the planet will melt in twenty years.

    Frankly, I’m tired of both types of End-Times prophets. I want to keep it simple: Christ will return and I’m to be faithful until that day arrives. I don’t want to live in fear; I want to live in hope.

  9. Josh says:

    Nah, it is being taught everywhere eschatology is taught. It is the preferred system of the biggest seminaries in our country. It could fade away, but it is generations from that.

  10. Michael says:

    EricL,

    I hadn’t heard that one…

  11. EricL says:

    To clarify, I wasn’t talking specifically about the Evangelical Free Church, but society as a whole. Many people are still drawn by those that claim doom-and-gloom is coming, but now their pointing at the weather instead of at the newspaper.

  12. EricL says:

    Sigh… when your comment is delayed by kids asking stuff and the online conversation has moved on without you realizing. Awkward 🙂

  13. Heidi says:

    It’s hard to pass a baton when you forgot to make one while you were counting down to the end of the world. The much ballyhooed Israel has turned 71. We are pushing the envelope of the definition of a generation. The fig tree is no longer a spring chicken.
    Calvary Chapel has no long game. They were hoping to be gone by now. But here they are. Getting older and being surprised that their children have made children who don’t care about eschatology.

  14. Em says:

    Recently read a very Biblically cogent book explaining a dispensational interpretation of God’s dealings with the human race down through history (i would say that MLD is wrong – dogmatically)
    Fortunately for folks here, day before yesterday someone borrowed the book and it is several hundred miles away. So you are spared quotes from it. 😎

  15. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The dispensational system is odd. It says that man frustrated God’s will / plan at every turn, and each time God changes his plan to come up with a new way to save man – hence the 6 plus dispensations.

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    EV Free if I remember right is a mixed bag. Aren’t they the ones who teach believers baptism but will also baptize your babies if you want?

  17. Kevin H says:

    MLD,

    The EV Free Church does primarily hold to believer’s baptism but does allow churches within it’s denomination to practice infant baptism as long as it isn’t taught as being salvific. My church taught believer’s baptism and would not baptize a baby, even if the parents requested it. I imagine most E-Free churches follow that way.

  18. I definitely feel Eschatology is tanking. Trump is a massive part of this, but also I think it’s a lack of ability to maintain an intellectual coherence. People are just confused and distracted by political developments.
    Dispensationism is especially in decline.

    Michael, I think you’re spot on that Pre-Disp is heavy on Scripture, but the method of interpretation is where the differences emerge.
    I dont believe there is any attempt to deceive.

    I take Pre-Dis on face value. Darby had a riding accident in 1827. While recuperating over several months he developed the third eschatological model. By 1830 all its components are in place. Well before the end of the century, it is completed and spread globally. It is what it is.
    Its weakness is it has significant holes in it.

    I think also, a whole new generation has emerged since Left Behind.

  19. Jerod says:

    One person has said, “the half hour of silence is for prophecy wonks to update their charts”

    I believe that prophecy should be paid attention to
    I also believe it can become a major distraction and a bitter root, just as Aaron’s staff was.

    I also believe that as things draw closer to their prophesied finality, however that looks (after all, none of the rabbis were looking for Jesus) the bible is clear that there will be a dearth of faithfulness/faith on the earth.

    Paul said we live in the last hour, that was 2000 years ago. Perhaps these are the last minutes,

    Like the Chargers when they were in San Diego, we’ll blow our lead and have fallen asleep in the last 2 minutes.

  20. Is there a CC transition towards a modified Historical Pre-Mill? I am specifically thinking here of Professor Ladd’s Already/Not Yet conceptI encountered it in 2018.

    The presentation I saw was a bit frightening. It was disconvolvulated and appeared to point towards a call to violence. I recalled it as both literal and allegorical. I felt it was irresponsible to tell a congregation we need to prepare for suffering and war as we take the Kingdom.

  21. Steve says:

    I kind of have to agree with MLD regarding the carnival barking particularly at CC Philly when I attended. The eschatology seemed to go well with The UFO phenomena they would occasionally bring up with guest speakers.

  22. BrianD says:

    It will return when
    a) a Democrat — Elizabeth Warren (who I think right now will be the Dems 2020 candidate), Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, AOC — wins the 2020/24/28/32 election
    b) evangelical Christians find themselves on the outs with both the far left and the far right. That may require some kind of event that makes conservative Christians choose between political influence and the Messiah they claim to serve.

  23. BrianD says:

    Michael, no one on the evangelical right is saying anything about climate change/global warming other than it’s fake news.

    EricL, I hear you, and I reject the worst-case hysterical scenarios. But this is something that will affect us all, and it may be the issue that gets evangelical Christianity’s attention with a slap to the face…

  24. Eric says:

    Growing up in the Australian intellectual evangelical tradition, eschatology was never a big thing. There was never much prediction of exactly what was going to happen. There was very little talk of the millennium, for the simple reason that the NT has little to say.

    We would read Revelation or OT prophecies and see Jesus and be reluctant to see too many other specifics. The main messages from any end times passages were that Jesus was greater than all the other powers, that the world as we know it is temporary & we have an eternal home, to be faithful, walking in the light, spread the gospel while we have time.

  25. Em says:

    a lot of good thoughts to read here – thank you for them today
    there is a danger for those caught up in the end times frenzy of the late 20th century to be afraid to consider what just may (or may not) point to an increased fulfillment of the prophesies … but don’t we need to always watch ? can’t we watch without sidetracking? ?
    FWIW – i think it is obvious to all that there is some sort of upheaval in our climate patterns, but what i am not willing to concede is that they are caused strictly by modern living…

  26. Michael says:

    BrianD,

    I think you’re correct.
    The issue of climate change may end up being the next issue both sides use to divide us…

  27. Corby says:

    Doctrinal emphasis is historically cyclical. Some doctrines are on a faster loop than others, but the emphasis comes and goes. An emphasis on grace will eventually give way to an emphasis on holiness, and back again, and both are right. An emphasis on the charismata will eventually give way to an emphasis on order and control, and back again, and both have their place. Predestination/free-will, take your pick. It’s a big Ferris Wheel.

    I call it theological angst. One manifestation is a person raised in one tradition (say CC) and never exposed to other theological possibilities. That person leaves home for college and connects with a more reformed church, and its all new to them. They feel like they’ve been kept in the dark, and they go whole-hog reformed (see CC guys going to Acts 29 in the early 2000s). Or, reverse that storyline because that happens too. Everyone thinks they are the first to discover something just because they’ve never been exposed to it. They are all about that thing until the next thing comes along.

    Pre-mil/pre-trib emphasis was distinctive of many evangelistic groups in the late 20th century. Just because it, or any other emphasis is becoming passe, doesn’t automatically make it invalid. It also isn’t inherently political, but some make it political.

    Right now, Bethel and Bill Johnston nonsense is all the rage. It will pass. I picture all of these on pendulums swinging back and forth. Both extremes are wrong (extremist pre-trib people living in the hills in cabins with guns vs. extremist the Bible is entirely allegory, have sex with who/whatever you want). The truth, the love, the reality are in the uncomfortable middle. Not compromised, but balanced. Not wishy-washy, but trying to see the whole picture.

    At least, that’s where I’m at.

  28. Josh says:

    Corby is right.

  29. Michael says:

    Corby may be right.
    I think that many who have now been exposed to other theological traditions find the pre trib theory theologically untenable…

  30. Josh says:

    Maybe, but others from different traditions may be finding truth in pre-trib as well.

    I mean how would you measure? I’m sure in your circle, you are seeing less Rapture craziness, but I’m not sure that is universal. SBC is declining, but still huge. The vast majority of us are still pre-trib.

  31. Michael says:

    Josh,

    My circle is still full of evangelicals.
    I could be wrong…but from my studies and talking with people in traditionally strong pre trib groups I think the doctrine losing a lot of traction.
    Premillennialism sustains a healthy position…pre trib is on a steep decline.

  32. Em says:

    Will the Church be a part of this world right up to the day God ends this? Dunno, but after the seven churches are addressed in the book of John’s Revelation, the term isn’t used again.. So?
    So, i guess we’ll just have to wait and see. .🙆

  33. Josh says:

    “Premillennialism sustains a healthy position…pre trib is on a steep decline.”

    Could be, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I do think pretrib craziness has certainly taken a back-burner for now, and that is great.

  34. Corby Stephens says:

    Josh @ 8:17am is right. 🙂

    I also think Michael @ 8:53am is right. If you were to chart it out (based on observation, not a survey), the pre-trib eschatology piece specifically, I think you would see its popularity spike rise in the 60s-early 90s, peak for a bit, the bell-curve downward. There are so many possible reasons for that that I don’t think it’s fair to jump to “its a stupid doctrine so fewer people are believing in it” as the answer. Here are some other possibilites, or perhaps combiations of these and others.

    – Church growth marketing mindset
    — Churches tend to teach what is popular or at least avoid what isn’t. Like Chicken Little, if you scream that the sky is falling all the time, eventually people will be disinterested. But that doesn’t mean the sky isn’t falling. The only people you will attract/keep are those who already believe it.
    — As was stated above somewhere, churches are wanting to appear less divisive on secondary issues so they are taking some things off of their doctrines/beliefs. Not because they stopped believing them, but because younger (than me) Christians who church shop are attracted to churches that at least appear less divisive.

    – The rise of post-modernism.
    — When you tend to be, or at least look like, a one-doctrine pony (I’m looking at you/us CC), and your underlying source of authority (The Bible) is taken less seriously, even by those within the church, your distinctive doctrine becomes less relevant, and you become irrelevant. Not because the doctrine is untrue, but because you have put so much weight on it, instead of Father/Son/Holy Spirit to do their work that you are expecting the doctrine to do.
    — Style of teaching. I’ve been redoing my home office and came across a DVD set from a Bible teacher I greatly respect. It’s from 2011, only 8 years ago. IMHO he is one of the best Bible teachers of the late 20th century. As I was watching it I realized that this teacher and teaching would not gain much interest today. Why? Because he was teaching the absolute truth and absolute authority of the Bible as he always had. This series happened to be on basic Christian doctrines. My point is that that mindset is prerequisite to a pre-trib belief. (This is affecting other doctrines as well, not just pre-trib.) That mindset is not compatible with post-modernism and relative truth drives the thinking of our culture in and out of the church. (Personally, I think we will see a craving for people speaking with authority like Jesus did sometime soon because relative truth leaves one empty and without direction. People are going to want Bible teaching, not just preaching, soon.)

    Anywho, my long-winded point is that if the pre-trib doctrine is circling to the background like all doctrines do, which I think it is, it isn’t because people are suddenly figuring out it isn’t true (I’m not going to argue why I think it’s true, that’s been done enough on this site). To some, it is an appealing and attractive and powerful doctrine. To others, it is a political weapon. It can also be a straw man, easy to knock down. But I could knock down prayer as a straw man, God’s justice/righteousness, the love of God, the power of God to heal, all of these can be and have been dismissed by some. That doesn’t mean they aren’t real and true.

    In other words, popularity does not equal veracity. I guess I could have just said that.

  35. Michael says:

    Corby,

    I’m going to add another factor, which you may dismiss out of hand.
    I think the popularity of N.T. Wright over a number of years now has changed the eschatological doctrine field as much as any disgust over end times madness.
    I think there is a theological rejection of pre trib based on a new view of the kingdom and all that comes with it.

  36. Josh says:

    I think you over estimate Wright’s reach. He has next to no traction in the Baptist world.

  37. Corby Stephens says:

    Michael – I think you are right more or less. A friend of mine changed his view largely due to Wright. However, IMHO, most of Wright’s arguments, as shared with me by my friend and what I’ve read online, are against the culture that is/was built up around the doctrine, not the Biblical aspects. He argues against the negative things that people do with the doctrine, none of which comes from the doctrine itself. People can do/have done horrible things in the name of many doctrines, but it doesn’t seem appropriate to tear it down based on that. It’s like a person saying that they are an atheist because of the abuses by church leaders. I get it, but that has nothing to do with anything.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to make the argument, just point out my own experience with it. I agree with your point regarding Wright.

  38. Michael says:

    What happens in the academy trickles down to the local church through years…and usually arrives in different form than it was argued in the academy.
    Wright has influenced many in the academy and his books have sold largely to lay people and pastors.
    I think it will take about five more years…I started saying this about ten years ago…but I think this doctrine will end up being a niche view.
    Another threat of world war may revive it…

  39. Josh says:

    “Another threat of world war may revive it…”

    Right. And that’s the rub. It has certainly declined, but I don’t see it going away.

  40. Duane Arnold says:

    I’m not positive about this, but I think there may be another reason – pop culture. Back in the day in CC/Shiloh, things like the Rapture were “our secret”, i.e. we knew something that the rest of the world did not know. Following the Left Behind books and associated media, that became less the case. Today we have comedians and talk show hosts brought up in in evangelical homes who joke and talk openly about how they were raised expecting the rapture, prophecy countdowns and all the rest. In pop culture, its become a punch line which, to millennials and Gen X is the kiss of death…

  41. Michael says:

    Duane,

    I think all that is a factor as well…

  42. Muff Potter says:

    I’m from the “Whatever floats yer’ boat” tribe.

  43. directambiguity says:

    Besides what’s been offered by Cory, Michael, and others, I think many, mostly younger, people have heard a different gospel or at least the gospel that has added ‘part of the good news is we can build the kingdom or fix the earth and solve social ills and studying eschatology isn’t all that important anyway’. Once you are viewing Christianity through those lenses it’s hard to see or wrap your mind around the idea that we can fix this earth up and solve social ills but we will all be raptured at any moment and then Jesus will open the seals and destroy all of our work we’ve accomplished in his name. Making it not popular for this generation.

  44. Em says:

    Lots of patchwork, cobbled snatches of scripture here… not much sound and solid. . .

  45. Jean says:

    Em,

    I didn’t engage in this thread because I don’t know what iteration of premillennialism is in fashion nowadays. In the past when we discussed this topic, most premillenial dispensationalists wouldn’t affirm some of their traditional teachings, so making progress in discussion was impossible.

    The questions that created the rub included the following:

    Did Jesus make the new covenant in his blood at Calvary, or not?

    Did Jesus’ once for all sacrifice for sins reveal Him God’s mercy seat, or not?

    If the Temple in Jerusalem was a shadow or type of the heavenly Tabernacle, and Jesus entered the Most Holy Place in heaven to make atonement for sins with his own blood, then why would God want to reconstruct a new earthly Temple at some point, going from the greater to the lesser? Is that what the tearing of the veil when Jesus died on the cross instructs?

    In Christ has God broken down in the flesh of Jesus the dividing wall of hostility between Gentile and Jew and made one new man, or not?

    Is the Church the sole repository of the manifold wisdom of God through which God’s plan of redemption in Christ shall be proclaimed to all people, or not?

    Is Jesus reigning at the right hand of the Father right now over the entire creation, or not?

    Scripture deals with all of these questions, if anyone wants to engage them.

  46. Josh says:

    Those are poor gotcha questions.

  47. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    This is on the level of “Have you stopped beating your wife? Please answer yes or no”…

  48. Jean says:

    As I said, Em… On the other hand, maybe the professional scholars will formulate more erudite questions.

  49. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    A dispensationalist can affirm Jean’s questions vigorously, as long as they are staying within the mythical period called the Age of Grace more commonly called the Church Age.
    When that comes to an end, all bets are off as there is no longer a Church and it is back to plan A – God’s work with his people – Israel.
    But then this too shall be dismissed.

  50. Michael says:

    I don’t think those are necessarily bad questions.
    I think the answers to them define the differences in how different groups construct their theology on this issue.
    The difficulty for me is that the dispensationalist can come right back with their construction and the presuppositions they bring to the text and then everyone smites each other in the name of the Lord.

  51. Michael says:

    Add to that the fact that former dispensationalists are like formers smokers, zealots who scorn where they came from.
    I speak from personal scorn… 🙂

  52. Jerod says:

    Jean,

    If God doesnt keep his promise to the Jews, why should he keep his promise to the church?

    The land is God’s, and he has sworn it to Jacob:
    “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” also Psalm 24:1

    also it’s impossible for God to break his oaths: Heb. 6

    It is made clear that, as for the church, the Jew’s sin does not mean he disowned them “Yet in spite of this (Israel’s disobedience), when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors”

    Leviticus 26:44-45

    Last, No one never said that the third temple was God’s project.

  53. Jean says:

    I have no desire to smite anyone, nor to even argue with anyone. I would be satisfied if people would simply confess their differences honestly and openly. At least then we could admit the magnitude of of the differences between two different expressions of Christianity. Are they secondary differences or central differences? Do the differences affect only a small section of theology or do the differences pervade all or almost all of theology?

  54. Jerod says:

    Jean,

    My questions also stem from our short conversation previously

  55. Michael says:

    Jean,

    It should be evident here that there are vast differences in how all of us and our individual sects understand Christianity.
    There are many different faiths represented here, all with the same name for the God they worship.

  56. Jean says:

    Jerod,

    I appreciate your input. I would rather read your view than get into a back and forth. Inevitably I would be accused of proof-texting, proselytizing or bad manners. I will spare everyone that indignation.

    I think the Bible sets forth one truth on the issue and necessarily if I believe differently than someone else, then by default I believe they are wrong; we can’t both be right if we hold two diametrically opposed views. Saying someone is wrong offends people today. So I won’t do it.

    However, if we share what we believe, any reader can evaluate the opposing views for themselves. That seems to be the best spirit of ecumenism.

  57. Michael says:

    Jean,

    We all know at this point that we all think each other wrong.
    We all think we have biblical reasons why the other is wrong.
    I think we’re all wrong (or partially right) in varying degrees…we all see through a glass darkly.
    I am utterly persuaded that we choose religious affiliation according to personality more than anything else…

  58. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jerod,
    This is why I take such great issue with premillennial / rapture / dispensationalist views. Do you really hold that all promises were not fulfilled through the perfect life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

    What do you do with Joshua 21:43-45? It sounds like God has already fulfilled all his promises – “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

    It makes me wonder why some think they have not been delivered as promised – as these words quite clearly state. It takes a strong “systematic” to support a theology saying otherwise – and dispensationalism does just that. Oh wait – in my opinion.

  59. Jerod says:

    Jean, I agree. So, I guess we’re both wrong, ha!

    I agree that that is the best Spirit of ecumenism. It is our fear of disagreement that has led to the reactionary shattering of the faith today, and society could only follow suit, naturally.

    Im glad to be wrong with you. One day, we’ll all find out so how very wrong we all are. Heaven is filled with doofuses.

  60. Josh says:

    Usually when someone lists a page long of semi-unanswerable questions, they aren’t really concerned with the answers.

    (This is a good example. This can be read in about 5 different ways because of wording and lack of punctuation. “Did Jesus’ once for all sacrifice for sins reveal Him God’s mercy seat, or not?” One could answer yes or no, and depending upon the what the questioner meant, the yes or no could send you to hell in five different ways.)

    So I disagree with Michael. All legitimate questions are great. Page-length lists of in-or-out gotcha questions are super-lame.

  61. Jerod says:

    MLD,

    But you’d have to admit, your dogmatism is based on a sliver of reality, like trying to figure out the shape of a shape of a glass from its shattered slivers.

    As Josh said, that’s an easy and impossible question to answer,

    Yes, it is now, but not yet

    Therein lies the rub

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