First published on Christian Controverser
Previous posts on this blog have questioned the claims of dispensationalists who claim to be able to interpret modern day events as being foretold in the Bible, especially the Book of Revelation. Whilst these types of teachings have been produced for thousands of years, Jesus has still not returned as claimed, nor have any of the other doomsday events proclaimed occurred either. Much of what has been taught within the writer’s lifetime mixes well known conspiracy theories about globalisation and world events with the supposed propehecies of future times within Biblical books. However the fact of these teachings is that people have been interpreting passages in Daniel, Matthew and Revelation to claim they can predict the future, practically since Gospel times, and none of their claims have been proven factually.
This particular post is written because Shine TV in NZ carries a feed from Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in the US which is full of dispensationalist “propaganda”, and this week they have been talking to a fellow called Jonathan Cahn, one of many “end times prophets” who have come and gone over the years, the fact being that none of the future they predicted has come to pass. Research done for the purpose of this post turned up Bob Enyart, a radio host in Denver, Colorado, who has done this great page, and he has extensively queried and debunked a whole lot of dispensationalist / futurist nonsense. In a nutshell, Jonathan Cahn has no more credibility than hundreds of his predecessors. But we are seeing a flood of this dispensationalist scaremongering coming out everywhere at the moment with alarming predictions about Covid which are just baseless conspiracy theories, and we are also seeing a lot of nonsense in the US with people aligned to the Republican Party lobbying Trump to do silly things like moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
This week some of the blog’s inspiration has come from a local pastor, missionary and teacher Neville van Eerten, based on the West Coast of the South Island, who is producing excellent theological anti-dispensationalist teachings, and there is more from Alistair Donaldson at Laidlaw College Christchurch, who has produced his own book called “The Last Days of Dispensationalism”, published a few years ago, which can be purchased on Amazon Kindle. In a nutshell, the reason there is so much dispensationalism taught is for many reasons, and a lot of them are political in nature. It is popular in the United States because it feeds into their culture of world domination, because the US has been able to establish the state of Israel as an ally in the Middle East to help guarantee American dominance over the supply of oil which is further necessary to remain a superpower, and to a lesser extent because of church interest in the history of the Middle East for pilgrimage. But there is also a tendency in a lot of church circles to dispel sound theological teaching and instead rely on what might be considered “uninformed” or “anti intellectual” viewpoints of the world, and because conspiracy theories in general have got a strong root within the Church simply because people see opposition to their faith and beliefs from institutions like government even in a lot of western countries. That is generally the type of environment where conspiracy theories tend to become well rooted.
At the time of writing there is certainly evident a strong anti-intellectual bias very evident in certain sections of the church community which in its more extreme viewpoints claims that universities are largely dominated by socialist ideology and are there to teach Marxism and Marxist inspired beliefs throughout humanities and social sciences. These types of viewpoints are largely ignorant of the facts that the oldest academic institutions of higher learning in Europe were established as schools of theology in monasteries and that theological knowledge became well established amongst the Catholic Church and spread from there to other churches post-Reformation. The majority of dispensationalist teaching tends to become evident in more “fundamentalist” churches where most of their members do not have higher education and in fact openly advocate against it. Gordon Fee is a Pentecostal theologian who has openly acknowledged that higher learning and education is relatively rare within Pentecostal circles and has challenged some of the teachings that are common within the movement (dispensationalism being highly prevalent within Pentecostal churches in general). Let’s just be clear that the modern forms at least of dispensationalism originated with John Nelson Darby, a prominent leader in the Plymouth Brethren, who went on to found the Exclusive Brethren sect, which remains highly controversial within church circles today, being commonly regarded as a type of cult. If his theology concerning the Exclusive Brethren is considered suspect, should we not also run a discerning eye over his dispensationalist beliefs, especially given that he did not have an intellectual background, and that Brethren churches are among those who oppose intellectualism in general?
What is most important for anyone of us to realise regarding dispensationalism is that it is not the slightest bit necessary to imbibe dispensationalist beliefs and teachings to live a vicarious Christian life. The problem with people that do base their faith around these beliefs is that it encourages the idea that everyone should focus their whole life around these assumptions of certain events happening by particular dates and therefore short-term thinking prevails. So no one should buy a house because they will be raptured from the earth at a certain date and therefore won’t need to have a house etc. Or there is no point in planning for a future career, family or missionary service, etc. This is absolutely no way for a Christian to live with their life being dominated by the paranoia of certain world events that look to them like they are going to create a new world order or the rule of the antichrist or whatever. The teachings which are found in the New Testament scriptures that are commonly quoted as the basis of end times futurism were all given in the 1st century AD either by Jesus or by his disciples, and the historicist and preterist schools of eschatological theology generally hold that these teachings overwhelmingly refer to events of that era, but such ideas get little consideration for the most part because dispensationalism is so entrenched in the US and gets so much airtime due to being propagated by international media ministries which are of US origin (such as CBN and TBN). What was the “last days”? Historicist or preterist views simply hold that the “last days” as expressed by Jesus referred not to the future of the Church stretching from the 1st century to the present day or the future, but to the end of the sacrificial temple-based traditional Jewish religion, which came about with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans. The alternative view this blog has long espoused is that the “last days” preceding Jesus’ third coming is the entire period of history of 2000 years plus and still counting, not a defined short period somewhere in the future as the Futurists claim. Either way, there is not a strong theological basis for the dominance of Futurist teachings on dispensationalism.