After my 12/20/07 article about Bible “Gaps,” a pastor responded. I’m hoping my reply will clear up a couple of issues for him. Here’s the crux of his email:
"I believe you are a brother in Christ, and I really admire the last paragraph of your recent article. [i.e., Christian activism in culture.] That’s what I strived for during 40 some years as a pastor. I was active in many community public service projects and deeply involved with Christian youth programs. Thanks for pressing on for good Christian leadership in government.
However, one problem I have is your obvious hatred of dispensationalism and pre-millennialism. I believe in this eschatological view, and it’s never stopped me from being active in my community. My motto is to live as if Jesus is coming today, but work as if He won’t for another one hundred years. This motivates me to work hard for His Kingdom. I don’t see how preaching against one thing in order to establish another is profitable for the Kingdom. Dispensational theology hasn’t done anything to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will reconsider your vitriolic attacks and use that energy to do more to foster the ideas in your last paragraph."
Thank you for your (mostly) kind words and comments. And thanks for all you’ve done for your community. You sound like my kind of activist. I’m glad you enjoyed last week’s final paragraph (Christian activism in culture), nevertheless, I was surprised that “good Christian leadership in government” caught your eye since I purposely omitted any reference to politics or government in it. I did so to help make the point that Christian kids who are the beneficiaries of serious, parent-guided training at home are going to be tomorrow’s Bible-based leaders within every square inch of culture whether it’s in medicine, media, entertainment, business … every place; not just in politics. Naturally we do want Christian politicians and biblically-based laws to earn their way back into society, democratically, from the bottom up. But I’ve always stressed that we’ll never win the all-important battle for culture if we imagine it’s doable through “better government.” Politics doesn’t create culture; it just reflects what’s already there. That’s why it’s God’s plan for all of us to assume the burden of Kingdom-advancing activism where we live, work and play, 24/7, all across society; not wait for a “Christian politician” to do the job for us.
I’m very sorry to hear you characterize my assessment of dispensationalism as “vitriolic hatred.” I’m sure this was just a bit of rhetorical license on your part because a review look at the article will show that I gave its founder J. N. Darby full credit for his sincere intentions. And what other greatly admired Christian leaders have done more to defy the humanist agenda than Jerry Falwell or Tim LaHaye, both of them dispensationalists? I’ll also tell you that most of my best Christian friends are dispensationalists. However, by injudiciously trumpeting Darby’s theory for the entirety of the 20th century, C.I. Scofield, L.S. Chafer, and especially Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth) and their enthusiasts turned a harmless theory and what could have been merely a temporary theological detour into a formula for full-blown, pietistic retreat from culture.
You said, “Dispensational theology has not done anything to destroy Christ’s Church.” Maybe, but with respect don’t forget its relentless emphasis on the “right-around-the-corner end times,” and its repeated pessimistic message that “things have to get worse before they get better,” just as is actually happening! Note then the correlation between a Church reflecting near-term pessimism; its people pre-occupied with everything but long-term Christian success in culture, and the societal chaos so evident in 2007. For nearly three centuries the pre-dispensational Church in the U.S. had dominate influence in all of society. Now it has next to none. So then, if not a Church verging on cultural irrelevance, who or what else might be responsible for our national cultural meltdown? The ACLU? Elvis? Dr. Spock? Playboy Magazine? For all of the thousands of repeated church-member declarations that “we pray for Him to come today, but work like it won’t be for 1000 years,” what’s the most meaningful victory in culture you can think of in the last 50 years attributable to an obedient Church? Any? Once 95% of us switched over to “last days” dispensationalism, the cultural standard-setting duties that had, for so many years, been the sole province of a pretty good Church fell to aggressive no-nonsense humanists. And you can read all about every day in the news.
While on the topic of disagreements, I also disagree with evolution. However, wouldn’t it be a mistake for someone to label me as “needlessly disruptive and unloving” if I were gently to inform, for example, a theistic evolutionist that he’s been fooled by a God-dishonoring hoax? What about “liberation theology?” The “emergent church?” Making God’s tithe optional? Should these common errors be ignored just for the sake of a false fellowship? I think they have been ignored, and our grandchildren will be paying the heavy price because of a century of serious scriptural imprecision.
Many of us still hold Luther, Calvin, and Knox in the highest regard, that brigade of reformers (and non-dispensationalists) whose dedication and sacrifice gave us Western civilization. Sadly, it’s the serious-minded modern followers of these three stalwarts who are often criticized for “attitudes of divisive harshness” etc. But, is that fair? Who, moreso than supporters of Reformed principles strive any harder to see black and white biblical truths applied to today’s Church? Who could be more opposed to a passive acceptance of a world full of squishy grays and a whatever-meets-your-felt-needs theology? How can Christian brothers walk cooperatively together if they are not in agreement? (Amos 3:3). With all respect to the pastor, I don’t feel that insisting on absolute theological truth for a wavering Church in a time of member pessimism is preaching confusion; it’s preaching Light. It’s not vitriolic hatred; it’s Love. Love of the brethren and love for the creation He ordained that we care for until He returns (Psalm 8:5–6).