The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Questioning History: Part 2

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In yesterday’s article, I pointed out that the record of history has been used, manipulated, and even forged to manufacture results in order to support a questionable paradigm. This is most evident in the area of the sciences. The Copernican Revolution and the Galileo affair are two of the major pillars holding up the science versus religion scam. (In reality it’s scientism versus religion.) A helio-centric (sun-centered) solar system was not self-evident by simple observation. It required a great deal of mathematical proofing to overturn what was observable common sense. [1] Furthermore, for the average person there was little to be gained from moving to a geo-centric to a helio-centric cosmology. In fact, if you check your local newspaper, the cosmologically inaccurate “sun rise” and “sun set” are still used. Unless we’re trying to predict the observed phases of Venus, we can get along quite well with geo-centrism.

It’s unfortunate that some authorities in the church adopted the bad science of the day and used it as a grid through which the Bible was interpreted. Aristotle became the exegetical touchstone when it came to cosmology and ethics. Galileo was doing the church a favor by moving away from a paradigm that was misrepresenting the Bible. Here’s how Peter Harrison explains it in the Introduction to The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science:

“It is commonly supposed that when in the early modern period individuals began to look at the world in a different way, they could no longer believe what they read in the Bible. In this book I shall suggest that the reverse is the case: that when in the sixteenth century people began to read the Bible in a different way, they found themselves forced to jettison traditional conceptions of the world.[2]

Galileo’s problem was that he could not supply the requested support evidence when challenged by the scientists of the day. [3] His arrogance didn’t help either.

Challenging those who appeal to history to make their case is a valid investigative and apologetic approach. Paul didn’t condemn the Bereans when they wanted to check his claims against the text of Scripture (Acts 17:11). Ad fontes, “to the fountain,” that is “to the sources” should be the Christian’s constant rallying cry.

So I was pleased at one level when I received the following email from a professor at a Christian college:

"I was recently challenged by one of my students when I made reference to your article in the October/November Biblical Worldview in reference to the prophecies of Daniel. In that article you referred to Hal Lindsey’s intimation in his 1970 “Late Great Planet Earth” that the “this generation” of Matthew 24:34 could mathematically come about in 1988. My student said that no such date had ever been suggested by Lindsey and that I had no proof of his asserting 1988. I informed him that Lindsey himself had suggested he would be viewed as a “bum” if 1988 did not pan out. He was not convinced. When I tried to recover the April 15, 1977 Christianity Today in which Ward Gasque questioned Lindsey on this matter, I was not successful. Could you help me find this 1977 article? Would it be possible for you to send an attachment copy of it? I would like to help this student but I don’t think he will be convinced by your article alone. Your magazine is excellent. Thank you for your good work. Thank you also for any help you could provide regarding the above."

The skeptical student did a good thing in questioning the source of my claim. The professor should also be commended for attempting to track down the support document that I used to make my claim against Lindsey. I’m a bit dismayed, however, with the attitude of the student. He had not done his historical research to assert dogmatically “that no such date had ever been suggested by Lindsey” and that there was no proof that he had made the 1948–1988 connection. The student put himself in a precarious position. If incontrovertible proof is found to support my thesis over his claim, what happens to his tightly held paradigm?

I suggested to the professor that he ask the following questions of his student before he shows him the evidence I supplied to him:

  1. “If I show the supporting documentation that Mr. DeMar used to make his points, what will this mean to you?”
  2. “Will it change the way you understand this subject?”

Sometimes arguments like the one voiced by this student are smoke screens. Once the evidence is supplied, they will move on to another objection. “Yes, Lindsey may have been wrong, but his misguided statements don’t mean that the belief system as a whole is wrong.” True enough. This is why I often ask skeptics to lay all their objections on the table. After they do this, I then ask: “If I answer all of them, will you then believe?” This is a test question to see how serious they are about the truth.

So, did Hal Lindsey make the 1948–1988 connection? He certainly did. There are millions of copies of The Late Great Planet Earth floating around. You can read his claim in chapter 4, “Israel, O Israel” under the heading Perfect Parable.

The article by Ward Gasque is more difficult to locate. You won’t find a copy anywhere on the Internet. It is cited a number of times, most of them by me. I first saw it in a book written by Samuele Bacchiocchi in Hal Lindsey’s Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle: Five Predictions that Failed! [4] After some research digging a few years ago, I was able to find a copy. Here is the section where Lindsey admits he made the 1948–1988 connection can be read here.

Take note of a couple of things. First, Lindsey changed his view on the length of a generation. In Late Great Planet Earth he wrote, “A generation in the Bible is something like forty years or so. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so.” Notice in the 1977 interview with Gasque that Lindsey changed his time scale for a generation from “forty years or so” to “somewhere between sixty and eighty years.” Second, he states (see the red section), “There are a lot of world leaders who are pointing to the 1980s as being the time of some momentous events. But I feel certain that it will take place before the year 2000.” Third, notice how Lindsey appeals to unnamed “scholars” and “world leaders” to lend support to his unsubstantiated claims. Fourth, he brushes off the significance of his prophetic claims as if they would not call into question the integrity of the Bible: “But if I’m wrong about this, I guess I’ll become a bum.” Fifth, Lindsey knew the claims he had made in 1970 and how people interpreted them. He was counting on the people who first read Late Great Planet Earth to forget what he had written or at least forgive him for going out on a prophetic limb, hoping a new generation of prophecy seekers wouldn’t check his older works, and breathing a sigh of relief that an obscure 1977 interview would never see the light of day.

Of course, Lindsey is not the only one who treats history this way. Secularists have been getting away with it for centuries. It’s time to call them on it.

See Simon Singh, Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe (New York: 4th Estate, 2004), 68–69.
[2] Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), Introduction.
[3] For a helpful accounting of this history, see Philip J. Sampson, “Galileo,” 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 27–46.
[4] Samuele Bacchiocchi, Hal Lindsey’s Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle: Five Predictions that Failed! (Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives, 1987), 54. For an update by Bacchiocchi of similar end-time speculations that have fallen flat and the repeated reference to the Gasque-Lindsey interview, go to website link here.
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