I’ve debated with myself over whether I should respond to Tommy Ice’s awful article about me and my book End Times Fiction that Brannon Howse published on his Worldview Weekend site. In his first response to my original argument, Brannon argued that he does not teach on the rapture, and his site and conferences do not spend much time on eschatology. You could have fooled me. The fact is, a great many articles on Howse’s Worldview Weekend site are about eschatology. His latest one is a reprint of an article written by Thomas Ice titled “Gary DeMar’s End Times Fiction.” End Times Fiction was published in 2001 by Thomas Nelson as a response to Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series and is now published by American Vision and goes by the title Left Behind: Separating Fact from Fiction. Brannon should man-up and fight his own battles instead of calling in surrogates to defend him. The head of a worldview ministry is responsible for answering his critics honestly. So far, Brannon has not done this.
Tommy claims that I’m “jealous of the fact that people have responded to a fictionalized version of a dispensational prophecy scenario while rejecting his own misguided belief that these prophetic events were really fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and Israel’s Second Temple in the first century.” Tommy claims to know my motives in writing End Times Fiction. He doesn’t. I write my books because I believe there is a need for their message. Anyway, suppose jealousy is the reason I wrote the first edition of End Times Fiction. Ice’s jealousy charge is a red herring to divert attention from his theological perspective and his poorly reasoned arguments. He also engages in an ad hominem. My motives are irrelevant to the substance of my argument. I could be jealous, and LaHaye could be wrong.
By the way, what are LaHaye’s motives for writing Left Behind and Ice’s defense of LaHaye? There are lots of people who have charged that LaHaye’s doing it for the money. The original series was planned for three volumes. When LaHaye and his publisher saw how well the series was selling, they stretched out the gravy train to 16 books. This doesn’t count the 40 volumes of kids’ books and related Left Behind spin-offs like graphic novels (upscale comic books), video games (Left Behind: Eternal Forces and Left Behind II: Tribulation Force), and films. What motive would Ice have to defend LaHaye and attack me? He gets paid by LaHaye and has served as a co-author with him on several book projects. Of course, LaHaye and Ice would deny these claims. Denial is all they can do since there’s no empirical way to prove that LaHaye’s not doing it for the money just like there’s no way to prove that I didn’t write End Times Fiction out of jealousy. That’s why charges of motive make bad arguments.
A little background will prove helpful to know why I wrote End Times Fiction. The first major book I wrote on Bible prophecy was Last Days Madness. Wolgemuth & Hyatt published it in 1991. The rights reverted back to me when the publishing house went out of business. American Vision reissued revised and updated versions in 1994, 1997, and 1999. Any careful reader will note that I do not deal with any of the Left Behind books in the 1997 and 1999 editions. There was no need to write a response since it was a fictionalized account of dispensationalism that had been done before, a point R. C. Sproul makes in the Preface and I make in Introduction to End Times Fiction. Last Days Madness was an adequate response to anything LaHaye had written in Left Behind.
So why did I write End Times Fiction? Because Mike Hyatt, President of Thomas Nelson, asked me to write it. I had no intention of writing a critique of the series. Who would buy it? Bookstores—Christian and secular—were making tens of thousands of dollars on selling the multi-volume Left Behind series. They weren’t going to buy a book where they might make five bucks and lose thousands of dollars in revenue. After some coaxing, and since I knew it wouldn’t take much time to write a critique of the Left Behind series, and Thomas Nelson was going to pay me for my time, I wrote the book. This was the first time in my life that I actually tried to talk myself out of a book contract. How well did End Times Fiction sell? It went through eight printings, and by the numerous emails I’ve received, it’s had a profound effect on lots of people.
Am I jealous of Tim LaHaye? You bet I’m jealous! Who wouldn’t be? I would like to make $50 million dollars or more as a writer. I’m also jealous of the guy who plunks down $1 for a lottery ticket and wins $98 million. I’m jealous of Mariah Carey who was paid $28 million by EMI’s Virgin Records not to fulfill her $100 million contact because her “Glitter” album sold a “disappointing 500,000 copies.” I’m also jealous of Alex Rodriguez who was paid $280 million over ten years to play baseball. Don’t forget J.K. Rowling who has made more than a billion dollars from the Harry Potter series. I may be jealous, but none of these successes prompted me to write a book about them.
I began writing on prophetic subjects after I began to speak on the topic of “God and Government” after the publication of my first book of the same name. After addressing how government is not a synonym for politics and outlining what the Bible says about developing a biblical worldview, invariably there would be someone in the audience who would ask a relevancy questions: “How is any of this relevant since we know that we’re living in the last days and Jesus is returning soon?” This was in 1983. Two volumes of God and Government followed in 1984 and 1986. It was around this time that writers like Dave Hunt began attacking “Dominion theology.” As Peter Leithart and I point out in our 1988 book The Reduction of Christianity, eschatology plays a major role in worldview thinking. We dealt with Hunt’s arguments head on. Peter and Paul Lalonde and Jimmy Swaggart were also attacking applicational biblical world and life view and denouncing dominion theology. This very public debate led to a series of debates with Dave Hunt and Tommy Ice. The point is, my entry into the prophecy field was necessary because of the attacks and misrepresentations that were coming from a number of highly visible end-time authors and ministries. After writing a series of articles in response to an article or two that Al Dager had written on the topic of Dominion Theology, Wolgemuth & Hyatt contracted with me to write what was the first edition of Last Days Madness. That was in 1991.
While I would like to make millions of dollars, I’m not going to publish error to do it. Tommy is right when he states that I “repeatedly represent . . . the prophecy beliefs of Tim LaHaye as far-fetched and beyond the realm of possibility.” Exactly!
Tommy goes on to write that I have ridiculed Tim LaHaye in End Times Fiction. Where? Do I evaluate and respond to LaHaye’s views by quoting his own non-fiction prophecy works and show how they do not line up with Scripture? I do. Is this ridicule? Tommy says that I am “incapable of simply presenting [my] views in a straightforward and positive manner, without first setting the stage with one of his negative diatribes against those with whom he disagrees.” Where in End Times Fiction do I do this? I challenge anyone to read my books—Last Days Madness and End Times Fiction—and find the kind of vitriol that Tommy accuses me of having. All one has to do is read Tommy’s article to see who uses “negative diatribes against those with whom he disagrees.”
Yes, I do believe that the events of Matthew 24-25 and Revelation 19 have been fulfilled. Why do I believe this? Because the Bible says so. Am I alone in this belief? Not at all. It’s dispensaionalism that’s new. There are numerous Bible scholars who have taken a similar position on these passages as I do. Tommy’s ridicule should be heaped on Eusebius, John Lightfoot, Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, John Gill, Thomas Scott, and many other Bible commentators through the centuries. My challenge to Tommy is simple: Find me one Bible commentator prior to 1830 that holds anything close to dispensationalism, the view that he and Brannon Howse hold. I challenge Tommy to go up against John Owen and John Brown on their interpretation of 2 Peter 3. He might not like my interpretation of Ezekiel 38–39, but it sure makes a whole lot more sense than what dispensationalists teach. Try interpreting the Bible literally and finding modern-day Russia in Ezekiel 38-39. Talk about bizarre! See my book Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future: Identifying the Gog-Magog Alliance for an exposition of Ezekiel 38-39.
What seems really to have gotten to Tommy is the way I keep bringing up the prophetic inevitability of dispensationalism’s future Jewish holocaust. Here’s what I wrote in “A Review of The Remnant, one of the volumes in the Left Behind series: “What many people who read LaHaye’s The Remnant fail to grasp is that two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel today will be slaughtered, and for every three Jews who decide to make Israel their home in the future, two will be killed during the Great Tribulation.” Is this incorrect? Have I misrepresented dispensationalism in general or LaHaye in particular? Not at all. Does Tommy deny that dispensationalists believe this? No he doesn’t. He does give us some comforting words. In addition to two-thirds of the Jews being slaughtered, we learn that “about three-fifths of the entire earth’s population will be killed during the course of the seven-year tribulation, many of them believers (Rev. 6:9–11).” According to Tommy, this slaughter is an evangelistic tool! “One of the main purposes of the tribulation (the 70th week of Daniel), Tommy argues, “is to bring the nation of Israel to faith in Jesus as their Messiah.”
I’ve made the point that, contrary to dispensaionalism, God actually sent messengers throughout Israel and the Roman Empire to warn of the coming judgment on Jerusalem that was to take place prior to its judgment in A.D. 70. God gave a 40-year warning. No such warning is given by dispensationalists today.
As I’ve pointed out to Brannon Howse in personal correspondence and in several articles posted on American Vision’s site (see here, here, and here), eschatology is important. If we’re going to win the next generation, telling young people and their parents that we are living in the last days in counterproductive and unbiblical. The world is not a “sinking Titanic.” If anything, it’s man-centered philosophies that are sinking and “will not make further progress for their folly will be obvious to all” (2 Tim. 3). The sooner Brannon understands this, the sooner his Worldview Weekends will have a lasting impact.