Tag Archives: Evangelicalism

What do we do?

Like most of us I’m sure, I have watched the events of the last week unfold feeling almost a sense of disbelief.  We have had racial killings, attempted terrorist assassinations against, not one, but a number of former top officials, and today, and antisemitic mass murder in a synagogue.    Along with that we find denials, talk of conspiracies, accusations of “fake news”, or at best, perhaps insincere calls for unity from those who have, at least up till now, been the ones who seek to divide.

Even if you don’t want to believe that the political rhetoric of our country today has directly inspired the horrific bombing attempts, assassination attempts, murders, antisemitism, racism, and hate of this week, it certainly has not helped. It certainly has not sent a message that affirms Christian values, or any values, except the self indulgence of our leaders. Without that message, our leaders are subtly endorsing the violence and hate, giving it a wink and a nod when they should be condemning it without hesitation. They are emboldening those who seek to destroy.

The church in this country is already inept, powerless to confront the evil around it.  Instead it succumbs.  It casts its lot with the evil one.  It makes a deal to keep its doors open from one week to the next, but it has no power.

So to this I say, why not close?  Close, and see what you have left — will there be anything at all?  Perhaps not, or very little, but what is left, if anything, is what Jesus can use to bring the Kingdom of Heaven that He announced was already present 2000 years ago.  You are a stumbling block the way you are.

As Christian’s, we have no more choices, we must speak out, and we must do so now – in no uncertain terms. Evil is evil, and it is engulfing our country. It has already overcome the evangelical churches, it has crept it’s way into all our churches, and it threatens to destroy our democracy and even worse, destroy Christ’s Church in this country. Now is the time for the resistance church, churches that will say no to the anti-christ that rules in American churches.   Now is the time we must call on ourselves, each one of us, to return to Jesus.

Jesus calls to us.  He stands at the doors of our churches and knocks.  His Holy Spirit still moves where we invite Him in.  There is still hope for those who open the door of their heart to let Him in.

Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message. (Mark 1:15 MSG Version)

 

New Evangelicals

I feel compelled to address briefly what has become known as the New Evangelicals.  This has been a movement in modern Evangelicalism since at least the late 90’s, but they do remain somewhat on the fringe of Evangelicalism.  They are typically younger and more diverse than the white, male dominated establishment.  They have a stronger sense of social concerns, but are less vocal and receive far less media attention than their counterparts.  I watched one of the very few television preachers that I respect recently make a statement “We must get back to Jesus” – this is the New Evangelical.

While I respect their position very much, I feel the question that must be asked is can they remain true to their values while, at the same time, remain Evangelical?

I must express doubt that they can unless they discard Dispensationalism.  I have written a great deal regarding this subject in earlier posts, so for now, let’s just say that Dispensationalism is the greatest “fake news” gripping the Evangelical movement today.  While I may argue the finer points of conversion and discipleship, Dispensationalism lies at the heart of what is wrong with this modern manifestation of Evangelicalism – and they have had 200 yrs to practice it,

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What is happening?

The Dragon stood on the shore of the sea. I saw a Beast rising from the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads—on each horn a crown, and each head inscribed with a blasphemous name…The Dragon turned over its power to it, its throne and great authority…

The whole earth was agog, gaping at the Beast. They worshiped the Dragon who gave the Beast authority, and they worshiped the Beast, exclaiming, “There’s never been anything like the Beast! No one would dare go to war with the Beast!”

The Beast had a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous. It could do anything it wanted for forty-two months. It yelled blasphemies against God, blasphemed his Name, blasphemed his Church, especially those already dwelling with God in Heaven. It was permitted to make war on God’s holy people and conquer them. It held absolute sway over all tribes and peoples, tongues and races. Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.

Are you listening to this? They’ve made their bed; now they must lie in it…

I saw another Beast rising out of the ground. It had two horns like a lamb but sounded like a dragon when it spoke. It was a puppet of the first Beast, made earth and everyone in it worship the first Beast, which had been healed of its deathblow.

This second Beast worked magical signs, dazzling people by making fire come down from Heaven. It used the magic it got from the Beast to dupe earth dwellers, getting them to make an image of the Beast that received the deathblow and lived…

(Excerpts from Revelation 13 (MSG Version)

Revelation is a beloved book of the Evangelical Dispensationalist.  This passage descries two beasts, the first beast is what has been misappropriated as the “Anti-Christ” at least since the Reformation.  This is incorrect as the term “Anti-Christ” is used only 3 times in the Bible (twice in the first epistle of John, and once in the second epistle of John), each time referring to false teachers that come out of the Church itself and their doctrines.  The Anti-Christ is not a political leader as so many suppose, it is in the Church itself.  The term “beast” used here actually means a venomous beast.  I tend to picture a kimodo dragon in relating to that term, a beast that inflicts a deadly wound and follows its victim, waiting to the venom to take effect before overtaking its helpless victim.

The second beast is regarded as a religious leader or group which follows and supports the first beast.  Together, they dupe people and convince them to follow the first beast.  By following the first beast, they are in fact following Satan, the Dragon, who gives the beast its power.  There does not actually have to be anything “magical” here in the beast’s power to mislead people into following the beast and Satan:  lies, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, blasphemy – they are all from Satan; the only trick comes in getting people to believe them.  If there is anything that the last 3 years have proven, it is that it is not very hard to get people to believe lies.  All you have to do is tell them lies they want to hear.

There have probably been many beasts of Revelation, and there probably will continue to be many more as long as human civilization continues.  Ever since Akhenaten of Egypt and Constantine of Rome, every political leader knows the value of a gaining religious allies; and the more “conservative” the political leaders, the more “fundamentalist” the religious leaders, the more valuable they are to each other.  But now we are facing the beasts of Revelation here in the United States.  Donald Trump and his minions in the Republican Party, along with this current manifestation of Dispensational Evangelicalism, are in every way the description of the beasts of Revelation 13.

Reading Revelation 13 should send chills up the spine of the Dispensationalist, but it doesn’t to the Evangelical today.  They have had almost 2oo yrs of believing that real news is fake, and their own fake news is real; they have lived their lives in distrust of media, science, and government, even when it is for their good.  They have been told over and over that anything that deviates from the capitalist world view is of the Devil, and progressive world views are evil and will take away their freedom to worship.  Further, in order to keep the fear and hate that they have built up intact, they will completely turn their backs on the teachings of Jesus Himself.  It can be no surprise at all that they will follow along with Trump’s message of hate and mistrust of anything but what he tells them is real.  It is exactly the message they want to hear, and have spent years believing was true.

So, this is the bottom line, this is where the Church in this country finds itself today.  Are non-Dispensational, non-Evangelical denominations prepared to handle this challenge?  No, they are not.

You may be wondering at this point why I utilize the term “main stream” as opposed to the more accepted term “mainline” when referring to the established Protestant denominations.  It’s because I see this phrase as more fitting to what Protestant denominations have become.  Protestants in their churches today seem to be floating down stream, overall oblivious to the difficulties and dangers that they are facing.  Main stream Protestants are dying off, quite literally.  It is an aging demographic, and predictions are that by the year 2030 they will cease to function as any organized religious entity.  Yet they still seem content with the “that’s the way we have always done it” mentality.  They remains largely resistant to any change in the Ecclesiastical structure or Liturgical mannerisms that will allow them to address the needs society today.  In short they are old fashioned and want to stay that way, even if it means that eventually they will be left with no choice but to close their church doors.

Main stream denominational leaders remain woefully ignorant of the dangers that Dispensationalism presents, most do not know what it teaches, and in many cases, may not even know what it is.  Yet its underlying message of hate and distrust, do reach into the pews of the main stream denominations.  The people sitting in those pews still watch Fox News, still watch 700 Club, still listen to conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh.  The central message of the Dispensationalist Evangelical is still getting through, and disturbingly, the more main stream Protestants attend church, the more likely they are to fall prey to it.

This article details a disturbing trend that was found following the 2016 elections.  Even in the most progressive denominations, the more often someone attended services and church activities a week, the more likely it was that they would vote for Donald Trump:

Searching for the Religious Left

The article seems to end in bewilderment, how could this be?  But the answer is really quite simple.  Main stream denominations have failed.  They are faced with a challenge they do not understand, and are ill prepared to deal with.  Their leaders can write position papers, and doctrinal statements to their hearts content, but they mean nothing to those sitting in the pews.  They are really just worthless scraps of paper.  Why is that?  This is the work of the second beast – the real Anti-Christ…

The language we use is an expression of who we are, how we see the world, how we make sense of our environment.  It is very difficult to understand someone who speaks another language than you do.  You may find a way to communicate, but it is through a set of assumptions that we human beings hold to be universally true; a smile means happy, or a frown means sad.  However there can be much more to a smile and a frown than just that, and it is those things that can be misconstrued.  The same holds true of main stream Christians and Evangelicals.  Both will make assumptions about what the other is saying based on their particular understanding of what Christianity means, but many times they will both be wrong.

It was not until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized that the Rapture was not a universally taught doctrine in Christian churches.  I had always pretty much assumed that everyone knew of the Rapture – I was wrong.  Looking back now, I guess I really should have figured it out, but I just never made the right connections.  It was at that point that I also realized that had been speaking a different language than other Christians all along.  When the Evangelical says, “Jesus is coming again.”  It is the Rapture they are referring to, other Christians will use the same words, but they are referring to Christ returning to set up his kingdom on earth.  When the Evangelical sings “Oh what a wonderful day it will be, Jesus is coming again!”  They are not thinking of the same “day” as others are – they are thinking of the Rapture.  The difference is not subtle.  It is a real, and a wide, chasm that exist between to two expressions.

The same is true of the word “Grace”.  To most main stream Christians, Grace is the work of God in our lives to move us into a relationship with Him, it leads us in the directions that we should go to follow Him, it calls us back when we fall off our way – it is the extended hand of a loving God toward imperfect humans.  But to the Dispensationalist, Grace is simply “unmerited favor” that God extends to human beings.  Beyond that though, Grace is also a period of time, the current Dispensation, which means, that Grace also has an end.  And in the end, those dirty sinners will get what’s coming to them (after the Dispensationalist has been Raptured of course).  That is not something that is taught in main stream churches, but the underlying attitude, that hateful distrust, does find its way into main stream pews.  Again, it is not a subtle difference, it is a wide, and very real, chasm that our main stream churches and leaders do not understand.

This second beast is there to wrap the lies of the first into religious propaganda that will appear to those hearing it to be coming from God, and yet the meanings of the words are not what they think.  Lies are hidden behind a phrase from a verse here and another phrase from a verse there in the Bible.  This second beast causes Christians to ignore the teachings of Christ to follow along after the things they want to be told; and shown in the above article, this modern Evangelical beast is alive and well in even the most progressive (on paper) Protestant denominations.  The second beast has been very successful in its mission!

So what is needed?  I am calling for a RE-Formation of the Church in our country.  Not another Reformation, and we certainly need no more revivals.  Rather a Re-Forming of the Church in seeking what Jesus Christ Himself actually wanted His Church to be.

That is the subject of our next post…

Evangelicalism and Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism is probably the most the most important aspect of the modern manifestation of Evangelicalism, yet it is the least understood aspect of Evangelicalism.  There is a lot of discussion and dispute regarding the exact origin of Dispensationalism, but most will agree that it was a man named John Darby who first popularized the idea in and/or around the year 1830.  Darby was one of the founders of the group called the Plymouth Brethren; this group had become disillusioned with the current hierarchal structure of churches in England, Ireland, and Scotland.  The group formed in 1828 and Darby became one of its chief advocates and outspoken messengers.  Darby is a man whose character has often been called into question, along with the motivation and impetus of his development of Dispensationalism; however it can be said that he was a man who knew his Bible very well.  That is not to say that his views are correct, one can know the words of the Bible very well, but still never know Jesus, which is what being a Christian means.

At the time of its inception, Dispensationalism did not find immediate acceptance by most Evangelicals.  Dispensationalism was, and still is, viewed as a very different method of interpreting the Bible.  It diverges from the more established Covenant Theology norms, and it took time before it became popular in theological circles.  Darby made several trips to the United States, as did other members of the Plymouth Brethren.  Eventually strongholds of Dispensational thought were established in the United States and the movement became more popular.

Probably the most important milestone in the development of Dispensational thought came with the publishing of the Schofield Reference Bible in 1909.  This immediately became the gold standard of Dispensational Biblical interpretation, and is still very popular today.  The Schofield Bible gives cross references and notes which succinctly map out the very complex nature of Dispensationalist theology.  This allowed Dispensationalism to grow at an ever quickening pace.

In the split that took place in Evangelicalism during the middle of the 20th century, Dispensationalism found an established home in the fundamentalist factions, while on the other side of the divide it was rejected and even named a heresy by some denominations.  Today however, with the fundamentalist regaining control of the modern Evangelical movement, Dispensationalism is the dominate theology of Evangelicals.

So, what is Dispensationalism?

Simply put, Dispensationalism is the belief that human history as portrayed in the Bible is divided into specific periods of time called dispensations.  In each dispensation God reveals himself in a specific manner, and human beings are given specific requirements to respond to how God is revealing himself at that point in time.  In all cases human beings fail in these responsibilities, and God revisits with a new dispensation and, therefore, new requirements.  The number of these dispensations will vary occasionally from one interpretation to another, but it generally ranges from 3 to 7, with 7 being the predominate thought today.  It is important to note that not all these dispensations have occurred yet – and, not all are finished.  A rough listing of dispensations recorded in this view of Biblical history is:

Dispensation of Innocence (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden)

Dispensation of Conscience (Adam to Noah)

Dispensation of Human Government (Noah to the Tower of Babel)

Dispensation of the Patriarchs (Abraham to the Exodus from Egypt)

Dispensation of the Law (The Law given to Moses and the establishment of Israel)

Dispensation of Grace (the Church, Present Age)

The Millennial Rule of Christ on Earth (Future)

These first three dispensations listed deal with the human race as a whole, the third and fourth deal specifically with the nation of Israel. It is important to note that the Dispensation of Law has not yet been completed according to the Dispensationalist model, but will be completed at a future time. The next, the Dispensation of Grace, deals with the present age and specifically the church itself.  The last dispensation has not come about yet, and will be established by the thousand year earthly reign of Jesus on earth as it is recorded in the final chapters of Revelation.  By far the most emphasis is placed on the last three dispensations by the modern Evangelical movement.

One of the foundational elements of Dispensationalist thought is that God deals with the Jewish nation, Israel, and the Christian Church in very different ways.  The current “Age of Grace” was necessitated by the Jews rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, thus opening the door for the Gospel to be preached to the Gentile nations.  It is a mistake however to think that this current dispensation is something that God came up with “on the fly” as many Dispensationalist detractors will claim; actually, this was, in the Dispensationalist view point, always the plan. This current Dispensation of Grace was hidden from the Jewish prophets and was only made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  But to the Dispensationalist, it also means that God is not through dealing with Israel yet, the Dispensation of the Law is not over; no, the Dispensation of Grace interrupted the Law in order for the Gentile nations to hear the Gospel message.  The Dispensation of the Law will not conclude until the 7 yr “Tribulation” recorded in the book of Revelation.  In order for the Dispensation of the Law to be fulfilled however, it becomes necessary that the Dispensation of Grace to end, and the Church to be removed – thus, we find the teachings regarding the Rapture of the Church which I have discussed in previous posts.

Confused yet?  Yes, you probably are if you have not been indoctrinated into the realm of thinking.  Believe it or not, it does become even more confusing, but at this point we must draw some conclusions and start to see how Dispensationalism becomes so popular in the current manifestation of the Evangelical movement.  Further explanation of the Dispensationalist teachings will have to wait for a later post; but here I want to make one thing very clear:  Dispensationalism IS heresy.  It is an entirely different way of viewing “biblical” events, and its foundation rests on its adherent’s acceptance the Dispensational interpretation of those events.  This interpretation is FULL of apostasy.

To illustrate this, let’s return to the Dispensational teaching of the Rapture of the church.  I Thessalonians 4:16-17 is used as a description of what the rapture will be.  Make no mistake, this description in in the Bible, and yes, as they will claim, these verses were viewed by the early church to describe a coming event (it must be noted though when this event will occur is quite different in the views of the early church than it is in Dispensationalism).  However, these verses to NOT describe the Dispensationalist Rapture.  The apostasy of the Rapture hides itself behind these verses (and others a well).  This apostasy is the belief that Jesus will return, not once as the Bible predicts, but twice.  The first time here, “in the clouds”, to remove the church from the earth, thus opening the door for conclusion of the Dispensation of the Law.  Then a second time as described In Revelation 20 to set up His Millennial  Kingdom on earth, which is the final dispensation.   This idea of Jesus returning twice is the apostasy of the Dispensational Rapture.  It is never found in the Bible.  It requires you to accept their interpretation of the linear framework they see developed in the Bible (dispensations) to believe it to be true.

So, why is Dispensationalism so widely accepted by modern Evangelicals?

First, because it masquerades itself as a literalist view of the Bible, even though, as we just demonstrated, it really is not.

Secondly, because the Evangelical view of salvation or conversion fits neatly into the Dispensationalist framework.  The only requirement placed on human beings in this current Dispensation of Grace is to accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for salvation.  That’s it – from there you can look forward to rapture and going to heaven.

Thirdly, because Dispensationalism is highly politically motivated.  The Dispensationalist will look to current world events for verification of their beliefs.  They will look for signs in what is happening on the world stage for indications of the imminent return of Jesus Christ (meaning the rapture) and the fulfillment of the prophecies they see in the book of Revelations.  They see these signs in such things as the re-establishment of the nation of Israel, they will see the United Nations as the beginnings of a world government, they will see the European Union and NATO as the reconstitution of the old Roman Empire; they will even see things like socialism, and even climate change to be a plot to impose a world order as they understand the beast of Revelation will do.  The current Trump administration will seem to them to fit right into their Dispensationalist, Evangelical ideas – they don’t like NATO so they have no problem if we pulled out; they don’t believe in climate change so there is no problem with pulling out of environmental treaties; moving the  US embassy to Jerusalem, that was a great thing.

All this leads to making the Evangelical very vulnerable to being tossed about with every political whim that comes about, as long as they can justify it somehow in their Dispensationalist framework.  There are consequences to heresy and believing apostasy, this is what we are seeing today.  Jesus said “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16).  Today we see the fruit of Dispensational Evangelicalism.

A Brief History of Evangelicalism, Part 1

The development of Evangelicalism did not begin as what we see today, it has a long and complex history, and I cannot hope to put it into just a few words; but I think it is important to understand a little of how this thing called Evangelicalism developed over the last few centuries.  It is sometimes a muddled mix, and to try and find a clear historical line between where Evangelicalism started, and where it has ended up today is difficult at best.

Evangelicalism actually began to take form in the 1730s in Europe and the colonies led by the like of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley.  It was a movement that eventually brought together several ideas and attitudes of Protestant thought under the overarching umbrella of conversion or salvation.  Many of the revivalist preachers traveled extensively and organized churches, particularly in the United States, were still somewhat rare in many areas.  To meet these circumstances, Evangelicals began to emphasis the concept of Assurance and Eternal Security – it is the “once saved, always saved” thing.  It can be argued that without these concepts, the Evangelical movement would have never become the dynamic force it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Proselyting became an emphasis, and relatively easy with these concepts, however developing discipleship was much more difficult.  Over time though churches did develop and challenges began to develop in how to address the culture in which the movement found itself.

During the middle of the 20th century, a split developed between the fundamentalist factions of the Evangelical movement and those more liberal who wanted a more non-judgmental and engaging manner to address the culture. During this time, fundamentalist factions tended to isolate themselves, leaning toward a kind of tribalism, interacting primarily with other fundamentalist groups; while the rest of Evangelicalism embraced Ecumenism.  This split apparently remained until the latter part of the 1980s when the fundamentalist factions again became the primary voice of the Evangelical movement.

The current manifestation of Evangelicalism, what we generally refer to today, what the news media refers to, and what has become a political force in our country actually began as a reaction to the turmoil of the 1960s; the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, gay rights, the perceived spread of Communism and the Vietnam War with the anti-war protests that came with it, to name a few of the contributing factors that sent chills up the spine of the fundamentalist factions.  Humanism and Communism were the greatest enemies back then to the Fundamentalists, and they feared that the government, under these “liberal” influences would in time encroach upon their religious rights and liberties.  At this time there also came a deep distrust of the evening news “liberal” media.

The first major catalyst to what became the modern Evangelical movement was not Roe-Vs-Wade as many imagine, but actually began with a court case involving Bob Jones University, a segregated, fundamentalist school in South Carolina, and the IRS.  In 1970 Bob Jones University was notified that they would lose their tax exempt status because of their racially biased admissions policies.  Bob Jones filed suit claiming that the IRS was violating its First Amendment rights to religious liberty.  The case wore on in appeal until it was finally decided in 1975 by the Supreme Court in an 8-1 margin in favor of the government. Fundamentalist factions were quick to come out in support of the university, despite its policies were openly racist in nature.  This was just the first case however that fundamentalists objected to rulings by the Supreme Court, at the same time as this case was being litigated, there was also Roe-vs-Wade, and the ruling to remove institutionalized prayer and Bible reading from public schools; both of which made more headlines and drove the newly formed alliances of fundamentalism into the national scene.  I can remember hearing about all these cases while sitting in Evangelical churches and from the inception of modern Evangelicalism the Supreme Court has been a major target in expanding their agenda.

In 1979, Jerry Falwell, a Baptist pastor, televangelist and civil rights opponent, founded the Moral Majority.  Even though the Moral Majority worked openly with other religious persuasions such as Jews and Catholics, this was a fundamentalist organization and deeply committed to its own political agenda. Even though the Moral Majority lasted only about 10 yrs before disagreements over working with these other persuasions caused it to dissolve, it was the first truly organized political effort by fundamentalists to be directly involved with the political process.

The Republican party was quick to see the voting value of what was soon to become known as the “religious right” and it did not take many years for what seemed at first to be a fringe element of the Republican party to be able exercise more and more influence in party platform and politics.  At the same time, the religious right was also able to gain more and more influence in the Evangelical movement and by the 1990s dominated the dialogue of the Evangelical movement to such an extent that they became synonymous with what it was to be Evangelical. With the fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War, the Evangelical fundamentalists needed a new enemy to keep their momentum going both in the political and religious spectrum.  To have an enemy to rage about is extremely important in both political and Evangelical perspectives. The choice was obvious and they soon turned its attention almost entirely toward political liberalism, creating even closer links to the Republican party.  Today, if you were to go into one of the Evangelical Baptist churches I grew up in it is assumed that you are a Republican, not inquired of, not asked, not discussed, it is simply assumed.

Today, for all practical purposes, to be Evangelical is to be Fundamentalist.  I know that many who still want to hold to the pre-1990s definition will be disturbed by that statement, and that there are many who still hold to the label who do not practice fundamentalism, but by all practical measures by which Evangelicalism is viewed today, it has become a fundamentalist movement.

In order to fully appreciate what Evangelicalism is today however, we have to step back again in time and look at another development that is often overlooked, and even more often misunderstood.  We must look at the development of Dispensationalism.  That is the subject of the next post – stay tuned…

Raptured Out of Fear

At this point, after reading my previous post, you might wonder what happened to me as a child, did I ever get over the dread of being separated from my mother and family?  Well, yes I did – but it wasn’t the Evangelical way.  To the Evangelical, assurance of salvation is extremely important.  They will hand out Bible verses that are not meant to be questioned, very often they will want you to record the day and time in some manner, they will emphasize that your salvation is assured at every turn they have; but there was nothing in those things that I found at all helpful.  Not the verses, not the prayers, not the preaching; none of it was helpful – there had to be something else.

When I was 14, not quite having turned 15 yet, my mother was again late coming home; and, as normal I had begun to panic.  I remember I was pacing the floors again, I was in tears again, I was again in hysterics that I had been left alone.  But this time, instead of reading my Bible for comfort, or recalling the verses I had memorized, or praying for God to “save” me again, I remember I kneeled down at the side of my bed and prayed “God, I can’t do this anymore!  Bible verses don’t work, and I have asked you to save me so many times, I don’t know if I am saved or not.  But please God, just take this fear away.”

At that moment, I felt something I never knew before, I felt peace, total peace.  I got up from the side of my bed, and looked out the window to see my mother walking up the sidewalk.  I just watched her.  I didn’t feel the same “safe for another day” feeling that I normally did, I just felt at peace.  I knew then that those feelings of dread that I had experienced so often would never return, God had taken them away – and they never did return.

I did continue to believe in the Rapture for another 12 yrs or so, but it never held me in the grip of fear again that it once did.  That day, kneeling beside my bed, God worked a miracle in my life; God became real to me that day.  That day I found a God that was, for whatever reason, able to reach into people’s hearts and minds in ways that words in the Bible, and theories spoken by preachers could never do.

The Evangelical reading this would probably say that this was the moment I was “truly saved”, my conversion.  I have nothing against that – I do actually believe in the concept of conversion.  On that day, I see my conversion to being a disciple of Christ beginning, it was not the final step, it was not enough be “saved”, one had to begin a journey to follow Jesus in teaching, example, and life, as well as in death and resurrection.

The best way I know how to describe the Evangelical view of conversion is that they will look at “salvation” or “conversion” and see Jesus as a kind of façade.  The façade of a building is the front – where the entrance is.  It can be very beautiful and most architects place special emphasis on this part of the buildings design; but it is only the façade.  What is inside is where we find the functionality of the building, why it is there and how it is of value.  Look at John 10:9: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…” This is Jesus the door of salvation. Evangelicals will see salvation as this.  Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, which open the door of salvation; but is there anything on the other side of this door?  I did not find anything in Evangelicalism to show me there was.

Evangelicals will overwhelmingly believe in the “once saved always saved” idea, and the majority will believe in the “salvation by faith alone” idea; but as time has gone by I have begun to realize that the Evangelical salvation is really a very theoretical salvation.  It requires little by way of practical application.  Sure, they will want you to go to church (their churches), and they will want you to “grow in Christ” (as they define it), but there is little requirement for discipleship.  I define discipleship as following the teachings of Jesus and His example.  This lack of discipleship tends to leave a kind of void, a gap in understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus (i.e. Christian).  This void has proven to be easy to manipulate and take advantage of by leaders whose motivations have actually been the advancement their own political position and influence.  People like Jerry Falwell, his son Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robinson on the religious side, and like Pat Buchannan, Ted Cruz, and even George Bush on the political side.  All sought to manipulate the void created by an incomplete, and misunderstood idea of “salvation” toward their own ends and political standing

We must see that John 10:9 goes on:  “…he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Then in the next few verses Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.  These words stand out to me though here: Go in and out, find pasture…  This is not a passive, theoretical salvation I see here, it is an active salvation.  It is one of movement, and finding safety and nourishment in Jesus.

It took a number of years of moving forward and backward, in and out, before I came to terms with the ramifications of what happened to me that day – and in many ways I still am working on that.  What I can say with certainty is that I learned that being a Christian was not about saying a prayer that will hopefully get you to heaven and keep you out of hell; that is not what conversion is.  Christianity is about the life we live here and now, and how we live as Christ lived.  What I have learned in my Christian life is that Jesus, Jesus alone, is the Way.  The way we should be living our lives now, not just to go to heaven, not just to believe in the crucifixion and resurrection, but Jesus is the example we need to look at to live our lives every day.  I learned that Jesus is the Truth; not our preachers (and definitely not our politicians), they don’t hold the truth – only Jesus, and Jesus alone.  And I learned that Jesus is the Life; the life we should be living right now.  Our churches do not hold the key to Life, our preachers do not hold the key, Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Way to the Truth about the Life we should be living. (John 14:6)

Rapture?

I want to share a personal story with all those following Breakfast In The Basement.

When I was a child, I heard of something called the Rapture.  This is the moment that Christ comes and takes those who have accepted him as their personal Savior away (believed to be described in I Thessalonians 4:16-17), and everyone else is left to endure the seven years of Tribulation meant to judge humanity.  In a moment, a twinkling of an eye, all those who are true Christians will simply vanish, to meet Jesus in the clouds – everyone else, faces the horrors of God’s judgement with no escape.

This was a very traumatic thought to me as a child!  It shaped much of my childhood.  It scared me to panic, the thought that my mother would be taken from me and I would be left alone in this world.  I tried to be “saved”; I went forward in church, I prayed all the prayers, I read all the Bible verses – it never helped.  I still could never really be sure; and when my mother was just a couple minutes late coming home, I would be in panics until I saw her walk in the door.  I would pace the floor, I would cry, my thoughts would be overwhelmed by the terrifying feeling that my mother was gone – and I was alone.

When my mother would finally come home, I would often run and hide; I would wipe my tears, and try to gather myself.  I never told her my feelings, even after I grew up she never knew; I never told her how this idea had affected me.  She never knew about my panics or my tears.  Not because my mother would have been anything but understanding, caring, and compassionate. It was not out of fear of being scolded that I did not tell her, it was because I was ashamed.  You see, to doubt your salvation is a sin in the way I was raised – you must trust unquestionably the Word of God, these verses that had given me no comfort. You simply had to accept it.  To do otherwise is to call God a “liar”, that is a sin – and I sinned a lot!

It was unashamedly taught by churches that families would be torn apart by the Rapture; “one will be taken, the other left” (Matthew 24:40-42).  It was the thought and teaching I grew up with, and believed for most of my childhood.  Looking back on these teachings, I can begin to understand (NOT condone mind you) how Evangelicals today can look the other way, or even openly encourage, how our country is taking children away from their parents at the border.  To those who were not raised in this environment, this acceptance may seem a mystery, but the answer, at least in part, lies in this teaching.  To the Evangelical who believes that someday Jesus himself will rip apart thousands, if not millions, of families all over the globe in this way, the current crisis on the border may pale in significance.

This teaching of the Rapture has the effect of removing responsibility for the hurt and suffering in the world.  If you are “saved”, you will be taken away before all the bad stuff happens, you have no reason to worry about the suffering in the world today; it will get much worse, but that is not your problem.  By removing responsibility, a kind of callousness to others suffering ensues.  Their suffering is after all, their own fault, they did not follow God’s law and accept Jesus as their personal Savior.  That callousness in turn can bring about a disdain, contempt, and even hatred of those who one does not believe will be part of the Raptured few.  While the Evangelical may claim a “burden for lost souls” while they remain hopeful of being Raptured, their anticipation is that, once Raptured, they will sit in Heaven looking down the judgement of human beings saying “those dirty sinners will get what’s coming to them!”  That “burden” only extends to the time when they leave those lost souls behind.

To far too many Evangelicals today, what is happening on the border is these peoples own fault, they broke our laws, they get what’s coming to them.  It is the Rapture attitude in miniature.  It is without responsibility, it is callous, it is even hateful; but it is essentially no different than what the Rapture will do to many more children.  The results are the same, except the judgement God rains down on human beings will be much worse.  It is then no mystery why the Evangelical will accept and condone such actions so readily.  These actions have much in common with one of their most dearly held beliefs.

What makes the Evangelical, Evangelical?

In one Methodist church I attended after leaving the Evangelical movement, during part of the service the pastor would ask “where have you seen God this week?”  Invariably the answers would consist of grandchildren, flowers, sunshine, etc.  Pretty things, hopeful things, things that cause us to take a moment and reflect on the beauty of the world God has provided for us.  There is nothing wrong with that, but to be honest it got a little boring sometimes.  I think sometimes we forget that the world is a difficult place and life is hard – we need to see God in those things as well.  But to the people in those pews, and most I think attending main stream churches, this is what they want to hear, and this is what they want God to be.

Go to an Evangelical church, like the Baptist churches I grew up in, this Sunday and ask that same question: “where have you seen God this week?”  You will most likely here accounts of great “victories”.  This Sunday, you will hear of the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice that meets their Evangelical criteria.  You will hear how Donald Trump stood up to NATO; and you will hear whatever spin they want to put on the meetings happening the rest of this week.  This is what the Evangelical will want to hear, and this is what they want God to be.  A confrontational God, a warrior God, a judging God, a God that stands up and fights for their version of what is right.

This illustrates the difference between the Evangelical and the main stream Protestant.  Both will see God in the way they want to see God, but, as you might expect from the above comparison, the Evangelical will take a particularly hard line view.  Not only that, they will most often express this view very loudly and assertively.  If that does not work to sway, they will often resort to insults or bullying get their point across.  This is especially noticeable in the rise of right wing media over the last 30 yrs; the goal seeming to be that if you can say it loud enough, mean enough, and often enough, then somehow interject the name of God or quote the Bible, you win, regardless of validity.  With the ever increasing popularity of social media, we are seeing the confrontational attitude become more and more prevalent among Evangelicals, and it seems to have reached a fevered pitch since the 2016 election.  Winning is a victory for God, and whatever the cost, winning is paramount.  Lies can be rationalized, or just ignored as “alternative facts”, anger can be justified, bullying is just a way to look strong; none of those things matter as long as the “victory” can be attained.

This is difficult for the main stream Protestant to understand, unless they happen to be one who has come out of the indoctrination that makes Evangelicals what they are.  After waking up the other day at 4 AM by the TV relating how our President was taking hard line (and some will say destructive) approach with NATO allies, this difference however became especially clear to me.   Evangelicals simply do not see Christianity in the same way that other Protestants do.  To the Evangelical, Christianity is not a message of peace and love (unless it is their version of those things), it is a message of battles – battles to be fought and won by whatever means available.