Skip to comments.Sci-Fi Theology: Just Passin’ Through (Open, see my note in #1 on purpose)
Posted on 01/09/2012 1:26:46 PM PST by mnehring
One of the earliest and fondest memories of my childhood involves getting up at four in the morning on Saturdays to watch black and white science fiction movies with my father. Inevitably the movie was terrible but I continued to sacrifice sleeping in every week because the fun was not in the quality of the movie but in the experience. There was something exciting about getting up early and laughing at cardboard aliens and monsters whose strings were showing.
Not all science fiction is ridiculous; in fact some of it is very entertaining and even inspiring. With that in mind I understand why so many Christians have chosen to read the Bible, especially the parts believed to discuss the end of the world, as if it were a work of science fiction.
While most scholars properly interpret these passages in their proper contexts many Christians have been enchanted by popular authors who teach that one day Jesus will come back to beam us up to heaven Star Trek style to rescue us from a world-wide conspiracy involving microchips, oppressive government, and rivers of blood. Compared to the tedious work of interpreting the Bible properly sci-fi theology is quite exciting.
For example, Harold Camping spent millions of dollars advertising May 21, 2011 as the day God would judge the world and rapture the church. When the world didnt end, he claimed that God really did judge the world, but that it was a secret. For the past five months God has judged the world by preventing anyone from becoming a Christian. A week ago today, on October 21, 2011 was the predicted day God would rapture the church to heaven and send everyone else to hell. It is easy to laugh at people who predict the end of the world; especially the ones who keep making predictions even after they proven wrong multiple times.
The ironic thing is that a good number of the Christians who laughed at Mr. Camping are adherents of sci-fi theology (better known as dispensationalism) themselves. Many Christians have the impression that its perfectly rational to hold to an eschatology where Jesus takes the Church to heaven and sends a series of judgments on the earth that includes insects from hell. However, to believe these things while setting a date for their occurrence? Well thats just crazy. That doesnt seem very rational to me.
This kind of silliness needs to be addressed by the whole Church. What one believes about the end of the world is never abstract, but governs the way one views the world and the way Christians are supposed to respond to social, economic, and environmental problems.
How many of you have ever sung the hymn that says This world is not my home, Im just a-passin through. If Heavens not my home, then Lord what will I do? This reflects a very common attitude among evangelicals that the earth is just the hotel room of our lives, that we are only here temporarily and should put no more effort into taking care of this earth than we would our room at the Holiday Inn. Why bother fighting global warming and keeping water and air clean if were just here temporally? Another way of putting this is that our spiritual home, heaven is good, while this world of matter is corrupted by sin, is not good, and will be destroyed one day. This is a very ancient belief called Gnosticism, which was the first heresy the early Church had to combat.
The Biblical alternative is to say that the current creation is groaning as in labor, eagerly awaiting the day when it will give birth to the new. The Resurrection of Christ is a foreshadowing of future events, the old corruptible will finally become incorruptible, the old will be transformed into the new. The new creation will not be totally new, but like the risen body of Christ, will be fashioned out of the old.
Dispensationalism is not just bad for the environment. Many adherents are actively engaged in preventing Palestinian statehood because they believe the modern state of Israel has prophetic significance. This has led them to oppose peace in the Middle East, and has cost the lives of thousands of Palestinian and Israeli children. If you dont believe me, just think about how world leaders who try to make peace in the region are accused of being the anti-Christ by members of the religious right. This theology extends beyond the holy land, as many Christians support the American presence in Iraq because they believe it is setting the stage of ancient Babylons revival. Blessed are the peacemakers has been replaced by blessed are the warmongers because they believe Middle Eastern wars will hasten the return of Christ.
Many of us have been living as if we were in a hotel room. Our bags are packed, and we are waiting eagerly to check out and go home. I hope that we will pick up the Gideon Bible on the shelf and read Genesis One, whose Priestly author called the earth good. Its time to unpack our bags and get down to business, we wont be checking out anytime soon.
This is not unusual. I am seeing more and more of this almost parody of what mainstream Christianity is, not coming from outside the fold, but coming from within Christian churches. Attitudes like Perdue's are being taught in our seminaries and Christian colleges.
I am far from what one would consider an "Evangelical" but I can see through Perdue's mockery of Evangelicals as almost resembling word for word what comes from anti-Christian speakers. I have seen the results of this from many friends coming from Divinity school having come back with extreme liberal views, then passing those off in a twisted way as somehow a 'pure Christianity'.
This is the new way the left is attacking. I thought it would be good to discuss here.
I’ve never heard of this guy, but he’s right. Dispensationalism is unscriptural, ridiculous, and tends to discredit Christianity among thinking people.
To say his point of view is another manifestation of the left is just nonsense. No wonder so many people think of “Christians” as dimwitted.
All the people I have known who moved away from destructive behavior, went towards Christianity.
I take it you didn't read the whole article? He only starts with the attack on Dispensationalism but he leaves that early to attack Right leaning Christians in general, from Environmental Issues to Israel, etc. He issues Dispensationalism only as a diving board into the pool of his discussion. (I find a lot of the Dispensationalism ideas off as well but that isn't the point here.)
>>How many of you have ever sung the hymn that says This world is not my home, Im just a-passin through. If Heavens not my home, then Lord what will I do?<<
I don’t know that one — even from when I was singing in Folk Mass where we Catholics sang good old Protestant songs :)
Ditto, that is one of the things that really jumped out (and something I have heard a lot from former Conservatives who come back from Divinity schools). They mock Christian and the Right’s support for Israel simply as ‘God told us too.... and we can bring in the end times’ when that is nothing more than a parody of reasoning.
Dispensationalism is bad because its adherents are less likely to be liberals and because they think Palestinian peace offers are insincere. Uh huh. Got it.
(BibChr, I’m pinging you because I know you have an opinion or two on dispensationalism)
Harold Camping’s a dispensationalist? I thought he was an amillenialist.
If you actually follow the links back to Perdue’s blog, you quickly realize that he’s a Liberal who’s masquerading, knowingly or otherwise, as a Christian. Lots of focus on Social Justice and “Practical Theology”, not so much focus on Christ.
He is, but some people don't bother to tell the truth when it comes to Theology in general and Eschatology in particular. It's easier to just lie about someone's beliefs than it is to actually attack them on the issues.
Wow. I don't know any Christians who believe that war in the ME will "hasten" the return of our Lord.
However, some Islamists (most notably Imanutjob) believe they can hasten the return of the Mahdi by causing war and chaos, and these people certainly seem devoted to the cause. [http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2010/October/The-Mahdi-Why-Iran-is-Seeking-Global-Destruction/]
How many of you have ever sung the hymn that says This world is not my home, Im just a-passin through. If Heavens not my home, then Lord what will I do? This reflects a very common attitude among evangelicals that the earth is just the hotel room of our lives, that we are only here temporarily and should put no more effort into taking care of this earth than we would our room at the Holiday Inn.
he's dead on right about this. I don't recall that song in particular, but I've heard endless repetitions of "I'll fly away", and many others about dieing and going to heaven.
What's wrong with that? It's a truncated personal eschatology. The New Testament's emphasis is not on going to heaven. It's on the resurrection, and the new heavens and new earth.
Dispensationalism is not just bad for the environment.
That it's good or bad for the environment, or any other leftist hobby horse, is completely beside the point. Any question beside whether it's true or not, is beside the point.
Harold Campings a dispensationalist? I thought he was an amillenialist.
Neither. Having called for people to leave the churches, he's completely off the reservation.
Blessed are the peacemakers has been replaced by blessed are the warmongers because they believe Middle Eastern wars will hasten the return of Christ.
Wow. I don't know any Christians who believe that war in the ME will "hasten" the return of our Lord.
"Hasten" might not be a good choice of words. But, there's plenty of people, right here on Freerepublic, that seem to be excited with the possibility (based on their recent and quirky reading of Isaiah 17) that the modern secular state of Israel might lob a nuke on Damascus. And, as far as I can see, completely heedless of the consequences.
And, I did read the other day that John Hagee was praying for war.
“This reflects a very common attitude among evangelicals that the earth is just the hotel room of our lives, that we are only here temporarily and should put no more effort into taking care of this earth than we would our room at the Holiday Inn. Why bother fighting global warming and keeping water and air clean if were just here temporally?”
The above quote is nonsense.
Whether or not SOME or ALL or A FEW “evangelicals” believe that “the earth is just a hotel room” it is not a given than some, or all, or even most “evangelicals” DO NOT think we are supposed to be good stewards of the earth “while we are here”. It is not even a given that all, or even most “evangelicals” reject the man-made CO2 global warming premise.
However, accepting the man-made global warming premises is a scientific and political question, not a theological one. To say it is a theological question is an admission that the author accepts the man-made global warming premise and its political bias and feels free to attack those who do not as morally in error. He is wrong, on accepting the man-made global warming premise and in his pretense that those who do not commit a moral error. His theological hubris is the greater moral error.
The author is a fool and obviously knows little about the behavior of Evangelicals. Evangelical Christians are known as good stewards, and I’d argue that hotel operators know it. I don’t know of any Christian who would do anything but take good care of a room at a Holiday Inn. To do otherwise would treat others differently than we would like to be treated.
“Many adherents are actively engaged in preventing Palestinian statehood because they believe the modern state of Israel has prophetic significance. This has led them to oppose peace in the Middle East, and has cost the lives of thousands of Palestinian and Israeli children.”
The above quote is nothing other than a reflection of politically indoctrinated ignorance.
“Peace in the Middle East” is prevented by and opposed by primarily one group of people - the political leaders of the Arabs of the former British Mandate of Palestine who now reside outside of Israel and outside of Jordan.
Peace has always been open to them, and they have always rejected it because they have never been able to get it, by war or otherwise, on terms that will create the end or the destruction of the state of Israel.
Peace was open to them in 1948 when the independent Jewish state was a tiny, fractured, physically insecure entity and the Arabs of the former British Mandate of Palestine outside of Israel, whether in Jordan elsewhere, held over 90% of “Palestine” as theirs. But they didn’t want Peace. They wanted the destruction of Israel, as tiny as it was.
There were more “Palestinian refugees” after Israel declared independence than before, BECAUSE the Arabs chose war instead of Peace.
Isreal’s borders grew with Israel’s refusal to be destroyed by the wars mounted against it, because the Arabs chose war over Peace.
Peace requires parties to negotiate, it is not created by one party agreeing to commit suicide. Israel has always been ready to sit and negotiate. The Arabs have always demanded some form of precondition in order to negotiate and those preconditions amount to some form of Israel giving up some aspect of their existence just to get the Arabs to sit down with them.
If “Peace” is not being negotiated now, it is the choice of the Arabs, not Israel.
There is nothing “evangelical” or even “religious” or even “right wing” about any of this. Its just history. The history of one group - the Arabs of Palestine outside of Israel - who have wanted one thing more than Peace - the destruction of Israel.
Furthermore, the author writes that:
"Dispensationalism is not just bad for the environment. Many adherents are actively engaged in preventing Palestinian statehood because they believe the modern state of Israel has prophetic significance. This has led them to oppose peace in the Middle East, and has cost the lives of thousands of Palestinian and Israeli children."
Israel is important and does figure most prominently in prophesy. Our task as Christians is to support and defend her and her people for we are not an independent group of God's people; we have been grafted into the root of the tree of Abraham (Romans 11:7).
That pretty much sums up my exact feelings in a clearer way than I stated before. And this ignorance is coming right from our theology schools.
As a Catholic, I am not a Dispensationalist. I think that the gentleman (using the term loosely) is being unkind. While I do not believe as you do, and may likely from time to time have a civil argument with folks, there’s no sense in engaging in mockery. And that’s what this guy’s doing.
It is a shame that he is apparently being tolerated for that sort of stuff. Can you affect this by contacting his superiors?
And really, when it comes to Israel, it’s a civilized country, a parliamentary democracy in the midst of a sea of nastiness. They’re our allies. As such, we should support them. The Palestinians came back, largely, when an opportunity to take become “victims” coincided with being pushed out of Jordan and elsewhere. The islamists believe that if islam rules over a place once, that it must always rule over it. Waffleheads.
Oh man, I thought this was going to be about sci-fi authors and their theology, which would have been cool. Ah well.
This was just an example I was using for discussion. One of the things that concerns me is this seems to be more common of an attitude coming from theology schools, even ones we consider Conservative. Liberal agendas are tempering faith. Like this author, they mock Right leaning Christians on everything from environmental issues to the death penalty and international affairs. Worse, they are coming out of these schools not just with these thoughts, but as liberal activists who are going after Christians politically.
The person I got this from is a liberal whose son just graduated w/ a PhD in Theology from Wake Forest and will be teaching at a Conservative Bible College. This guy is far more of a liberal activist than he is a Christian leader, yet he will be 'training' future Christian leaders.
Maybe next time (that would be cool).
About the only thing you wrote that I agree with is that Camping is a screwball.
I don’t believe the Bible teaches a “Rapture” or that God gives a rip about Israel, at least no more than anyone else. Dispensationalism and all its tenets, e.g., end times tribulation, Rapture, physical Israel being God’s people, etc. is not Biblical. It is the result of the fevered imaginations of Montanus, Darby, Scofield, Lyndsey, and a bunch of other nitwits.
If your going to accept the Bible as God’s word, adopt a reasonable, rational (I don’t mean materialistic) interpretation of it. Dispensational Premillinnialism is just plain dumb.
That's reasonable...God was made in our image...It only makes sense that God's ways are our ways and that we have the power to control our own destiny...
God wouldn't write anything that a natural, rational, logical mind couldn't figure out...
The author should have at least read past chapter one:
Gen 3:17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.
Gen 3:18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.
Gen 3:19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."
I knew the article would be liberal neo-orthodox nonsense as soon as I read this in the third paragraph. Anybody who's studied the issue knows that "most scholars" are all over the board when it comes to the eschatology of Revelation. What he really saying is "since all the smart people agree with me then everybody else is just stupid." Just another phony trying to use Christianity to push a liberal agenda.