How a Legacy Can be Squandered

Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Christian worldview apologist Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984), writes the following in a post-election article that was published on the ultra-liberal Huffington Post website: “One reason the Republicans won on Tuesday is because many of their supporters have already given up on this world and are waiting for the next. I know, I used to be one of them.” One of the major faults of his father’s worldview was its lack of a viable eschatology. I’m not the only one to make this observation. William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, recounts the time in the 1960s he spent studying in L’Abri, Switzerland, under the tutelage of the elder Schaeffer:(1)

I can remember coming down the mountain from L’Abri and expecting the stock market to cave in, a priestly elite to take over American government, and enemies to poison the drinking water. I was almost disappointed when these things did not happen.(2)

Edgar speculates, with good reason, that it was Schaeffer’s eschatology that negatively affected the way he saw and interpreted world events. One of Schaeffer’s last books, A Christian Manifesto, did not call for cultural transformation but civil disobedience as a stopgap measure to postpone an inevitable societal decline. “The fact remains that Dr. Schaeffer’s manifesto offers no prescriptions for a Christian society. . . . The same comment applies to all of Dr. Schaeffer’s writings: he does not spell out the Christian alternative. He knows that you ‘can’t fight something with nothing,’ but as a premillennialist, he does not expect to win the fight prior to the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to earth to establish His millennial kingdom.”(3) This view has been true for millions of Christians. Providentially, the cracks in the foundation of this prophetic edifice are beginning to show.

Frank Schaeffer is right about a generation-long preoccupation with the end times among evangelicals and fundamentalists. Long before he wrote his latest irrational and misinformed rant, I and others have been writing about the impact or lack thereof eschatology has had on culture, education, and politics. My critique, contrary to Schaeffer’s, has been exegetical. That is, I offer biblical reasons why books written by Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, David Jeremiah, Thomas Ice, Ron Rhodes, John MacArthur, Mark Hitchcock, and others are wrong on the subject of prophecy. That’s why you will never find anything like the following, written by Schaeffer, in anything I’ve written on the topic. Notice the lack of any biblical analysis:

The Left Behind novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an “End Times” cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children’s books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise. Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting “Christ-centered” home school curricula, fearing higher education, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the “other,” as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism, the murder of doctors who do abortions, and possibly even a killing in the Holocaust Museum.(4)

And now that the “death panel”(5) republicans who also claimed Obama is the Antichrist(6) are in power, maybe it’s time to take a look at the religious insanity that beats at the heart of their movement.

The younger Schaeffer is not the only person to criticize end-timers as dangerous, especially in the area of foreign policy. For example, Chip Berlet and Nikhil Aziz write the following in “Culture, Religion, Apocalypse, and Middle East Foreign Policy”: “It’s hard to believe, but the Bush administration’s foreign policy and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are influenced by the writings of a cave-dwelling hermit who had apocalyptic visions some 2000 years ago.”(7)

There is no doubt that many Christians are otherworldly and have no interest in culture or the dirty business of politics. Many more Christians are eschatologically schizophrenic. They believe that we are living in the last days but still engage society at some level. You can see it in a book like David Jeremiah’s The Coming Economic Armageddon. But why warn about such a thing when the subtitle links the economic Armageddon to “Bible Prophecy” that all the current prophetic signs point to? I used to believe that these guys were sincere but misguided about their beliefs. But now I’m not so sure. They may be in it for the money.(8)

Prophecy writer John Hagee writes in a similar way. In one book, Financial Freedom, Hagee sets forth “What you must do to survive the devastation of an economic collapse!”(9) In another book, published two years later in 2010, Hagee asks, Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs that We are the Terminal Generation.(10) He devotes an entire chapter to the “terminal generation” in his 2003 book The Battle for Jerusalem.(11) Hagee is not the first to use the “terminal generation” idea. Hal Lindsey made the phase popular in 1976, nearly a generation ago!(12) A 1977 review of Lindsey’s book The Terminal Generation gets it right:

Lindsey has unquestionably tapped the pervasive apocalyptic mood in American society. The realization is growing that we are living in a world of limits, not an open future. Unfortunately, neither Lindsey’s strained attempts at biblical interpretation nor his socio-political analysis will help people to understand their world and act in faith and responsibility. Lindsey and his readers might ponder the calm wisdom of 1 Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers.”(13)

The use of 1 Peter 4:7 is interesting. Peter wrote this around A.D. 63, and yet he says “the end of all things is at hand,” that is, it was near for his first-century audience. Nearly 2000 years have passed, and “all things” are still here. The apostle was describing the end of all things related to the old covenant, not the end of the space-time universe. Their redemption was not by way of silver or gold or animal sacrifices, “but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Peter’s reference to “silver or gold” may be an allusion to the temple (2 Kings 14:12-14: Ezra 5:14). With the passing away of the temple in A.D. 70, there would no longer be any need for animal sacrifices or the temple itself.

Economic, political, moral, and religious conditions seemed to have set the world on the brink of destruction numerous times in history. Economic circumstances were so bad in Israel thousands of years ago that some people resorted to cannibalism (Deut. 28:53-57; 2 Kings 6:28-29; Jer. 19:9). Josephus relates an account of a woman who killed, cooked, and ate her own child during the siege of Jerusalem which began in A.D. 70. Adam Clarke offers the following comments on Leviticus 26:29:

Ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, etc.— This was literally fulfilled at the siege of Jerusalem. Josephus, Wars of the Jews [Book 6, Chap. 3, sec. 4], gives us a particular instance in dreadful detail of a woman named Mary, who, in the extremity of the famine during the siege, killed her sucking child, roasted, and had eaten part of it when discovered by the soldiers!

There have been other economic crises in the not too distant past, and we have weathered them: The Great Depression in the United States and the hyperinflation in Germany where the United States dollar was worth 4 trillion German marks. We can include two world wars, prime indicators used by the prophetic speculators that the end was near. The late Larry Burkett wrote The Coming Economic Earthquake in 1991. It was republished in 1994 and included the following subtitle: “Revised and Updated for the Clinton Agenda.” Evaluating economic conditions and the state of foreign policy can and should be done without weaving a web of prophetic intrigue, especially since so many have been so wrong for so long. There’s enough in the Bible on economics and politics that can be appealed to without framing everything in prophetic terms. If you get the prophecy wrong, many may suspect that you’re getting other things wrong as well, including who Jesus is and the authority of His Word.

But back to Frank Schaeffer’s comment, “One reason the Republicans won on Tuesday is because many of their supporters have already given up on this world and are waiting for the next. I know, I used to be one of them.” This makes no sense since many attribute Christian voters to the large turnout.

According to [Ralph Reed and his Freedom and Faith Coalition's] polling information released Wednesday [November 3, 2010], 32 percent of voters identified themselves as members of the conservative Christian movement. That number represents an increase over their 2006 data. Of those voters in their survey who self-identified as conservative Christians, 78 percent voted Republican.

Much of what Frank Schaeffer writes these days does not make much sense, as I’ve previously pointed out (see here and here). Why would Christians get involved in the political process if they knew that end was right around the corner? Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of people who do believe the end is near, and they don’t get involved. But this is beginning to change. Christians are reevaluating their end-time beliefs. Some very prominent Christians are no longer in the prophetic speculation camp. I’ve spoken to several of them. There are very few (if any) scholars defending the prophetic system made popular by mounds of books and articles on the subject. Many who still teach it do so because they need a job. The published defenders of the system continue to write their popular books. There still is a market for them, but their audience is shrinking. For some time now I have attempted to engage some of these men in public debate on the subject. They won’t do it. It would be the best thing for them, however. They would either shut me up or their poor showing would drive a stake through the heart of their system and end the charade quickly.

Frank Schaeffer has squandered his father’s legacy. Some of his criticisms of Christian conservatives are partially correct (as were his father’s), but they fall on deaf ears because he comes off as a spoiled and angry child (even though he’s nearly 60) and offers no alternatives either to the dualistic worldview of evangelicalism or the hate-filled and irrational splatterings of the radical Leftists he has hitched his latest wagon to.Endnotes:

  1. William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174.()
  2. William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174.()
  3. Gary North and David Chilton, “Apologetics and Strategy,” in Tactics of Christian Resistance: A Symposium, ed. Gary North (Tyler Texas: Geneva Divinity School, 1983), 127–128. Emphasis in original.()
  4. Schaeffer is referring to James von Brunn, the man who allegedly shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., on June 10, 2009. Von Brunn was a virulent racist and anti-Semite. He was also an evolutionist and anti-Christian. Von Brunn is a creature of the anti-Christian Left. See Bob Unruh, “Darwin-loving museum shooter hates Bible, Christians,” WorldNetDaily (June 11, 2009): http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=100882 Also see Kathy Shaidle, “Holocaust Museum shooter von Brunn a 9/11 ‘truther’ who hated ‘neo-cons,’ Bush, McCain” (June 10, 2009).()
  5. Since publication of Schaeffer’s article, Democrat operative Paul Krugman has come out in support of “death panels.” “The left’s favorite economist, who condemned others for saying ObamaCare would require death panels, now admits they are real and necessary. The way to control costs, he says, is death and taxes.” (“Krugman Endorses Death Panels,” Investors.com (November 16, 2010).()
  6. Only a few nut balls claimed that Obama might be the antichrist, certainly no more than Democrats who still believe George W. Bush is the devil incarnate.()
  7. Chip Berlet & Nikhil Aziz, “Culture, Religion, Apocalypse, and Middle East Foreign Policy,” Right Web 5 (December 2003). The cave-dwelling hermit is a reference to the Apostle John and his “writings” refer to the book of Revelation.()
  8. For the record, I don’t get paid any royalties for any of the books I’ve written. In fact, I no longer draw a salary from American Vision where all of my books are published.()
  9. John Hagee, Financial Freedom (Lake Mary, FL: Front Line, 2008).()
  10. John Hagee, Can America Survive: 10 Prophetic Signs that We are the Terminal Generation (New York: Howard Books, 2010).()
  11. John Hagee, The Battle for Jerusalem (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), chap. 5.()
  12. Hal Lindesy with C.C. Carlson, The Terminal Generation (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1976).()
  13. John M. Mulder, “A Review of Hal Lindsey’s The Terminal Generation,” Theology Today 33:4 (January 1977).()

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