One of the primary sources of hope in our world today is the marvelous example of predictive prophecy in the Bible.
Contrary to the view of some Christian leaders in America—who like to marginalize Bible prophecy teaching—the Bible is loaded with such examples. From epic, sweeping prophecies (God promising Noah He will never again destroy the earth by water, in Genesis 9) to the more mundane (though no less miraculous: Matthew 17:27, the coin in the fish’s mouth)…God is telling us loudly that He knows all, considers all, and cares about every person.
Only a Being whose essence is love would provide us with such irrefutable evidence that He is alive and active in our world. One of my favorite “substitute words” for prophecies is promises. When God promises to do what He said He would do (Isaiah 46:9,10), we can all have confidence that Good is in control. By reading the Bible, we get the full picture of God’s overall plan for humanity, and the planet itself.
It is divine revelation.
Yet it is supremely ironic (and a fulfillment of prophecy; see 2 Peter 3) that major Christian leaders today, and many ministries—including apologetics ministries—either ignore or marginalize prophecy. As Bob DeWaay writes in the Winter 2014 issue of Critical Issues Commentary:
“As soon as divine revelation is rejected, despised or twisted we end up in despair of knowing the truth.”
This of course is the great tragedy of the teaching of men like Brian McLaren, and other, more mainstream evangelical leaders who seem embarrassed or otherwise put-off by prophecy teaching. Sadly, this mindset is affecting Millennial leaders. Bloggers like Margaret Feinberg and even Southern Baptist heavyweight Ed Stetzer strive to take people away from prophecy teaching.
(In a 2013 piece in Charisma magazine, Feinberg twists the question of an earnest Millennial, who wants to know if we are living in the end-times.)
And because so many young people feel despair today, they have no way of finding a way out. The so-called Emergent theology says that we can’t know absolute truth, and so they twist Scripture.
I was reminded of all this a couple days ago, when yet another swipe at the new “Left Behind” movie (starring Nicholas Cage) appeared in the pages of Relevant magazine. Publisher Cameron Strang, who by extension also uses his magazine to marginalize the great fulfillment of prophecy—Israel—loves to mock Cage and this film.
Here, I’m not arguing for or against the film itself, or even particularly about Dispensationalism (connected to several failed predictions of the Rapture in the past 40 years). What I am saying is that the “guilt by association” tag is harming legitimate prophecy teaching, and depriving young people in particular of a great source of hope in an increasingly hopeless world.
In a short piece titled, “When You Stare Into the ‘Left Behind’ Poster, the ‘Left Behind’ Poster Stares Back,” published May 29 in Relevant, we are treated to this jab:
“It’s been a little while since we’ve had any news to report on our generation’s defining moment, the release of Nicolas Cage’s Left Behind reboot. The film’s inner machinations have been shrouded in mystery, far from the public eye, perfecting every point of the story in much the same way Michelangelo perfected every point of the Sistine Chapel.”
Dripping with sarcasm, this is but one of several such tweaks in the past year. In an email response to my query about why the Relevant staff does this, Strang wrote:
“We don’t poke fun at Bible prophecy (never once has our coverage made light of any actual theology); we simply lampoon Christian culture kitsch.”
Except that isn’t really true.
A 2009 interview between authors Jason Boyett and Rob Stennett is a good example of the general tone Millennial Christian leaders take when discussing the subject of Christian eschatology. As Stennett explains:
“I’m really not sure if one day all the Christians will just vanish in piles of clothes and unmanned vehicles, because over the 2,000 years there have been so many different ways we imagined the end of the world coming. And I’m pretty positive it’s not going to happen in my lifetime, but now that I’ve said that I’ll probably be raptured right in the middle of answering this question (or you’ll be raptured right in the middle of the answer).”
In another 2009 piece, writer Brett McCracken clearly signaled the tone Relevant (and its publisher) take with regard to Christian eschatology:
“We could make fun of evangelical end-times ridiculousness all day, but the question remains: why does it sell? Why are we so strangely excited by the possibilities that the earth will be destroyed and throngs of people will perish at the hands of a God antsy to get the wheels turning on the whole Revelation thing?”
So…Cameron Strang says his magazine doesn’t “poke fun at Bible prophecy,” but one of his writers does, calling it “end-times ridiculousness.” And that’s just one example.
Reading these pieces in Relevant, one comes away with the clear feeling that they do indeed mock “Rapture theology,” “Dispensationalists,” etc. The New Evangelicals do not like to emphasize the kind of eschatology associated with the imminent Return of Christ. They just don’t.
Let me speculate as to why this mindset is strong among Millennials:
•Traditionalists in the church embarrass them. They want to disassociate themselves from “old-school” religion or, as Relevant likes to say, “dead religion.”
•Classic Christian eschatology rubs against the Millennial view that they can “make the world better.” This follows the teaching of Millennial mentors like Rick Warren, who discourage the study of Bible prophecy. The question few ask is, “What if Warren & Friends are wrong?”
•Legitimate concerns over the irresponsible speculations of bad prophecy teachers. They have done great damage to the cause of prophecy teaching. Millennials are right to stay clear of such false teachers.
There is no greater evidence in our world today that God is alive and active…than the fulfillment of prophecy. Israel exists, against all odds, as perhaps the centerpiece of “end-times” theology.
It’s too bad leaders like Cameron Strang, Rick Warren, and Margaret Feinberg risk irrelevance by attacking prophecy teaching.
What do you think?