Saturday, May 21, 2011

End Times Predictions?

Last week I posted a review of "Has Christianity Failed You?" by Ravi Zacharias. In that book, Ravi talked about how members of the Church have failed people by not acting as Christianity teaches or by teaching something that Christianity does not teach- the person discovers the wrong behavior or the false teaching and projects the falsehood onto the entire worldview, thus rejecting it. 

It came to my attention early this week that a somewhat influential person (Harold Camping) made a prediction that today is Judgment Day. I heard that several people believed him to the point of using the value of all their assets to warn others. I have no doubt, that this person will be used as a "poster child" of Christians and a reason to reject the truth of the Christian worldview. I have no doubt that many who follow this person will become disillusioned and "throw out the baby with the bath water" (leave Christianity). Unfortunately, this is one of those examples where a member of the Church is the source of the failure, not Christianity itself. A lot of times, in the defense of the truth of Christianity, it is not necessary to present an argument for God's existence or the resurrection of Christ; rather, all that is needed is a clarification on what Christianity teaches, and an explanation of why a certain someone, who has been proven to be wrong, is not actually teaching something that Christianity teaches. This is one of those situations.

Anytime that someone claims to know when Christ will return to earth, I am extremely skeptical. Let me first present why I am skeptical. I know that eschatology is a highly debated doctrine of Christian theology. From what little I've researched, I see that the agreement among the different sides can be summed up as, "Christ will return physically." Not much more. I know that agreement does not determine truth, but the lack of it, tells me that Scripture may not be a clear as some may believe it to be. Now this only takes me to skepticism; I do believe that this person is flat-out wrong, but this reason alone is not sufficient for believing that. 

I must appeal to Scripture for my reasoning for believing that this person is wrong. First, Christ said, Himself, that no one knows the day of His return (Mark 13:32). It is possible that someone would get lucky and guess the day- I mean if people kept saying, "Christ is going to come back tomorrow" until He does, then someone will get it right, but this can hardly be considered "knowledge".

My second is that for someone to have certainty of such a thing, they would have to have heard from God. I know that Camping has not claimed that God was the source of his prediction- instead it is based on study of Scripture and some calculations. However, due to the passage mentioned above, "study of Scripture" and some "calculations" are not going to yield a correct date either, so such a claim would have to come from God. I am skeptical that God speaks directly to people. I take the position that it is possible, but is extremely rare (for those who like the theological terminology, I would fall under "soft cessationist"/"soft continuationist"). I don't believe that I have spoken to anyone who has had such an experience, because none of them have provided a sign of a prophet. They have not performed some miracle (a speeding up or setting aside of natural processes)(John 10:37-38); they have not raised the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24); and the predictions that they make fail (Deut 18:21-22).

If someone tells me that they have a word from God for me; I am not likely to just jump and accept it. I will normally hear it- many times, these "words from the Lord" are simple encouragements that people have been moved to provide a brother in Christ. I have no problem with those, and I'm not likely to require them to perform a sign. However, if they are either making a prediction or telling me something that is counter to what Scripture teaches (both have been done in Camping's case), I will certainly require that they perform some kind of sign. If this is not done, then, like ancient Israel, I "do not fear him" (Deut 18:22).

I have another reason for being skeptical that is summed up in my post (Fear-Mongering Christians).

It is extremely important for people to know Scripture and have a correct understanding of Christianity (correct theology). I wish that everyone had the time and money to go to a seminary to learn the proper ways to interpret Scripture and develop a systematic theology. but that is just not going to happen. For those who desire to dig deep into what they believe and why, I promote The Theology Program. The program is not expensive (compared to seminary), and recently even that "hurdle" has been removed for the individual. They just released their inexpensive mobile app (iPhone and Android) that contains the entire video series and the program is available for free on the internet; there really is no excuse. If we allow ourselves to be deceived (pulled away from Christianity- and even take some or many with us) we have no one to blame but ourselves.

No one has to go spend the time and money to get a seminary education to be able to discern these things. We just have to be in Scripture and understand what is true about the worldview we hold and that it reflects the world we live in. We affect every person's heart and mind that we communicate to. By guarding our own hears and minds, we guard the hearts and minds of those we affect. And if we are prepared to dispel such a deception, we may very well be the tool God uses to prevent the backsliding of a Christian sibling or the continued rejection of the Gospel by an unbeliever.

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