American Vision receives a number of books for review purposes from numerous publishers each week. Some of the books are unsolicited with no note or letter telling us who the author is or why we might be interested in the topic. Some books are so poorly written and designed that we wonder what the author was thinking. Self-publishing and print-on-demand companies make it easy for anyone to get a book published today. If you have written something, there’s someone out there who will take your money and publish your book. The risk is all yours. I tell people that it’s relatively easy to write and publish a book. The hard Part 1s marketing and selling it. Some self-published books defy conventional selling methods and make it big. The Shack is a good example. American Vision has been in the self-publishing business since 1982 when the first volume of my God and Government series was published. Books are never a sure thing, no matter how important we think the topic is.
Some books need to be written and published because they challenge the status quo of ideas that often dominate and paralyze innovation and cultural movement forward. Old battles are often fought with outdated weapons to hold onto a world that needs to pass away because so much of it is built on pretense. There is a scene in the film The Late George Apley (1947) that caught my attention and perfectly describes how belief systems take root without any clear thought of the origin of the plant (worldview) or the effect it might have on the environment (society and culture) (Kudzu, “the vine that ate the South,” is a current example.) A Boston blueblood, played wonderfully by Ronald Colman, is an unbending traditionalist who tries to force his self-conceived conventions on his two children in the year 1912. For Mr. Apley, Boston is “the Hub of the universe” and Emerson is the prism through which life must be viewed. It takes Julian Dole, the father of the young lady from Worcester, with whom Apley’s son John has fallen in love and wishes to marry, to make him think about his unyielding ways. Dole states that there are two kinds of people in the world, “stand patters” and “go getters.” Apley is a “stand patter.” He lives in the past with his old ideas and inherited money. Dole reminds Apley that his grandfather had traded rum for slaves, who were then traded for molasses, which made its way back to Boston to make more rum so cycle of ill-gotten gain would begin again. Apley’s current social station was built on a sordid history that he would rather keep hidden.
We have too many “stand patters” today who hold on to theological views that have as much validity as the views of Ralph Waldo Emerson. These “stand patters” don’t realize that there are viable alternative categories of thought that have a longer history and are actually rooted in the Bible. Peter Leithart and I pointed this out in 1988 with the publication of The Reduction of Christianity. The first printing carried the subtitle Dave Hunt’s Theology of Cultural Surrender. It was a direct response to Dave Hunt’s The Seduction of Christianity and its sequel Beyond Seduction. Actually, it was a response to just a few lines from Beyond Seduction where Hunt equated an optimistic eschatology with the New Age Movement. At the start, Reduction had no market because of the near monopoly that dispensational premillennialism had on the thinking patterns of so many Christians. Christian radio and television were dominated by the position, and it didn’t help that any talk about how God’s people could reclaim this fallen world was considered to be part of the New Age Movement and an end-time deception. Dispensationalism was considered the hub of the prophetic universe and Scofield was its interpretive Emerson. The response to Reduction was unexpected. It sold nearly 40,000 copies in less than a year! It was a catalyst for a reevaluation of Bible prophecy and cultural thinking. Christians were beginning to question the 1948–1988 prophetic timetable made popular by Hal Lindsey in his 1970 blockbuster book The Late Great Planet Earth. The rapture should have taken place sometime around 1981 for the pre-tribbers and certainly by 1988 for the post-tribbers. Edgar Whisenant’s 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 embarrassed the movement. In a debate I had with him just prior to September 1988, when he claimed Jesus would return to “rapture” the church, Whisenant was emphatic that if he was wrong about his calculations, then the Bible was wrong. He later recalculated and dogmatically declared the end would be in 1989. We’re still waiting!
My foray into the realm of cultural Christianity with big-name authors like Hunt and Lindsey opened doors to multiple radio interviews, magazine articles, additional books, speaking engagements, and debates. I did a series of debates with Dave Hunt. Gary North and I debated Dave Hunt and Thomas Ice in Dallas in 1988. I’ve located these debate tapes as well as an interview that Kerby Anderson did with me on the “Point of View” radio show, four tapes in all. MP3 versions are now available here. I can honestly say that the views of Hunt, Lindsey, and other prophecy writers have contributed to where we are as a nation today. They have created an entire generation of George Apleys. Their preoccupation with the soon-coming of Jesus turned Christians into religious doughnut-hole observers. Instead of focusing on the outworking of God’s redemptive work in the here and now, they focused on an end-time event that was always “near.” It reminds me of something that was printed on my father’s favorite coffee mug:
As you ramble on through life,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
Not upon the hole
Their misunderstanding of prophecy got millions of Christians to focus on the hole rather than the doughnut—the now of God’s redemptive work or the “not yet” rather than the “now.” The Left Behind series added to the preoccupation of doughnut-hole gazing.
In 1991, the first edition of Last Days Madness, now recently reprinted, was published by Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers. It began as a series of articles I had published in American Vision’s monthly magazine The Biblical Worldview in response to an article written by James Dager that appeared in his tabloid The Media Spotlight. Because of the failed 1948–1988 scenario made popular by Lindsey, people were beginning to question the any-moment rapture paradigm in the early 1990s. This did not mean that the end-time doughnut-hole watchers no longer published their prophetic books. They’re like refried beans. Their out-of-date prophecy books of end-time certainty are put back on the stove and served to an unsuspecting public as a fine new dish.
Most of today’s big-name prophecy writers get by with their latest end-time books—like Mark Hitchcock’s The Late Great United States and David Jeremiah’s What in the World is Going On—by giving the impression that their arguments are new. Only the names and dates have been changed. Younger Christians who buy up these books no almost nothing of the failed prophetic works of their predecessors. New authors spring up offering “stand pat” interpretations that have been sold before. One of the most recent is Jesus Really is Coming Back . . . Soon! (Notice the world Really.) There’s nothing new about what this book claims, except that the author is described as “a true modern day Prophet.” I’m encouraged that the web site offering the book has fewer than 200 visitors, even after taking out full-page ads in World magazine. Maybe Christians are getting wise. Unfortunately, prophecy sells.
In the past few weeks, I received about a dozen books for review. Two of them, Global Warming and the Creator’s Plan and Bankruptcy of Our Nation, were a disappointment. Bankruptcy is a good book that is spoiled by an eschatological bent. If you order this book, please disregard the author’s eschatological views. The author writes:
- “As this book unfolds, I will demonstrate why I believe that many in the American Church have been sucked into a great end-time money delusion in that they believe in this illusion of prosperity that surrounds them.” (p. 9)
- “Most sincere followers of Christ believe that these are the last days and that Christ could return at any moment. If that is true, then it must also be true that these are the most deceptive days the earth has ever experienced. This is because the Bible indicates that great deception would be a sign of His return. And if these are truly the final days before Christ’s return, which I believe they are, then we are living amid more deception than we could ever begin to realize.” (p. 11)
- “As Christians, our only hope is found in Christ and in His soon coming Kingdom.” (p. 250)
As I argued earlier in this article, not too long ago the New Age Movement was the end-time delusion. I just heard yesterday from a friend that a Christian filmmaker is going to claim that the faddish Emerging Church Movement is the end-time delusion. At the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church, specifically the papacy, was the antichrist. The history of the church is the history of some claim of a current end-time delusion. Now it’s economics. So what was it when we were hit with the Great Depression? Why wasn’t the hyper-inflation of the Weimar Republic (1921–1923) also an end-time delusion? Economic deception is as old as the Bible (Isa. 1:21–23) and nations. Does anyone remember their American history and the expression “not worth a continental” (also see here and here)?
Many who write about prophecy have no sense of history. How many times have “sincere followers of Christ” believed that their days were the last days? Take a look at Frank Gumerlock’s The Day and the Hour for a real history of prophetic speculation. His accumulation of 2000 years of examples is sobering. Before anyone writes a book on prophecy, he or she should be required to read Frank’s book. If his book is not cited, don’t buy the latest book on prophetic “certainty.” This book is so important that we are selling it for $1.00.
The claim that “as Christians, our only hope is found in Christ and in His soon coming Kingdom” is incorrect. Our only hope is in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. If we have to wait for “His soon coming” to appropriate His finished redemptive work, then we are not preaching the gospel. When the New Testament uses words like “near,” “shortly,” “at hand,” and “quickly,” words that end timers use to teach the false doctrine of the “soon,” “any moment,” or “imminent” coming of Christ, it is referring to the coming of Jesus in judgment against Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70. Jesus made this crystal clear in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). If you’re not convinced of this view, then I suggest that you pick up a copy of Last Days Madness or Is Jesus Coming Soon?
The author of Bankruptcy spends more than 250 pages laying out some good principles of economics and then ruins his argument by concentrating on the doughnut hole. If we are to believe him that we are living in the last days (page 11), then there is nothing we could or should do to fix it. Just wait until “the world’s leaders, its politics, bureaucracies, organizations, religions, pleasures, and philosophies are all going to be destroyed by fire at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ!” (page 251) since Jesus’ Kingdom is coming, as he believes, “soon.”
In a similar way, the book Global Warming and the Creator’s Plan is spoiled by a large section on “the establishment of a theocratic kingdom centered in Israel.” (page 143) What this section on the millennial kingdom has to do with global warming is beyond me. Once again, if the “millennial kingdom” is the capstone to history, then why should Christians care about “global warming” one way or another?
There are people who get articles from me who get angry because I keep bringing up these issues. Many of them are like George Apley who refuse to leave Boston (dispensationalism or some variety of it) and put down Emerson (Scofield, LaHaye, Lindsey, Hagee, Hitchcock, Ice, Jeremiah, MacArthur, or some other modern-day prophecy writer).
Article posted May 6, 2009