Skip to content

FCF Weekend Roundup (10/25/14): Tragedy, Evangelism, Gushee Comes Out, and More!

October 25, 2014

It’s been a crazy news week filled with both hope and tragedy. Two nurses from Dallas are free of Ebola, while two communities have been shaken with shootings in Ottawa and Washington. Here’s a mix of some of the stories that caught my eye this week:


Radical Islam and the Shooting in Ottawa

Canadian flag marked in memory of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the guard killed in Wednesday's tragedy (Reuters).

Canadian flag marked in memory of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the guard killed in Wednesday’s tragedy (Reuters).

A number of important pieces have been published in response to Wednesday’s shooting, in which a Canadian citizen with Libyan roots and possible jihadist ties opened fire in the Canadian capital, killing an army reservist:

We will not make our world better through fear or anger or attempting to shift suffering from us to ISIS or anybody else we qualify as “other”. We can make it better through a perfect love that casts out fear. I firmly believe this option is available to us, and it is this way taught by Jesus which is the only way we can bring lasting peace.


Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century

churchless-coverThe Barna group has a new study out (and with it, a new book) examining changing trends among the unchurched in America. These include growing secularism, loss of familiarity with the concept of church, and attending church on Sunday mornings no longer being a mainstream part of American culture.

While many Christians will mourn the decline of the church in our culture, the folks over at Reknew remind us that America was never really a Christian nation to begin with, asking the question: Is America uniquely “under God”?

Although I agree that the church tends to be at its best when Christians are in the minority, this doesn’t excuse us from the call to make disciples. In that vein, “The Way?” blog has a great article examining what evangelism needs to look like in the twenty-first century. It’s a really excellent post that all Christians would do well to read.


Gushee Comes Out, and More!

David P. Gushee

David P. Gushee

Renowned Baptist ethicist David Gushee made waves this week with news that he will be coming out as pro-LGBT (affirming same-sex relationships) in a speech next month as well as his upcoming book entitled Changing Our Mind. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

“Every generation has its hot-button issue,” writes David P. Gushee, “For us, it’s the LGBT issue.” In Changing Our Mind, Gushee takes the reader along his personal and theological journey as he changes his mind about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inclusion in the Church. “For decades now, David Gushee has earned the reputation as America’s leading evangelical ethicist. In this book, he admits that he has been wrong on the LGBT issue.” writes Brian D. McLaren, author and theologian.

It takes a lot to admit when we are wrong, especially for academics. I look forward to reading the book and to seeing how Gushee’s denomination, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will respond. Since I personally favor the “third way,” standing for marriage equality in society while believing that this is a topic on which those in the church can agree to disagree, it is my hope that grace will abound.

As for my promise for more: Here’s a testimony you all should read from Brad Kramer, a good friend of mine who works for BioLogos. Brad talks about growing up in Evangelicalism and his own personal journey on the topic of evolution. It’s a good read — check it out!

And last but not least, your weekly dose of awesome: the trailer for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, which was leaked on the internet a week before it’s scheduled release. Hail Hydra!

Those [Christians] Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones [at Muslims]

October 22, 2014

ISIL militants kill 102-year-old Syrian in Alawite massacre

ISIS militants (source).

With yet another American-led war in the Middle East and numerous acts of violence carried out against civilians by ISIS soldiers in Iraq and Syria, anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States is nearing an all-time high. On the TV, internet, and social media, talking heads have emerged denouncing not only Islamic fascists, but Islam itself — even all Muslims — as violent.

This sort of rhetoric is to be expected from “New Atheist” types anxious to denounce all religion, but I have been alarmed by the number of Christians who have joined in the fear mongering chorus of our culture. While the actions of the Islamic State are horrendous, I would expect followers of Christ to exercise a bit more grace in the matter in our public discourse.

My mother always used to say that when you point one finger, three more point back at you. While popular culture is currently focused on the evils of radical Islam, it’s only a matter of time before the news cycle shifts its critical eye to Christian fundamentalists (and with an election around the corner, I suspect that will come sooner rather than later).

With that in mind, here are a few similarities between Christianity Islam that should make followers of Jesus think twice before bashing our Muslim friends.


1) Bloody texts and bloody histories

A popular trend among anti-Islamic bigots is to quote violent passages from the Qur’an out of context to imply that the Muslim holy book endorses violence. The problem is, this same tactic can easily be applied to the Bible, with similar results:

  • “You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” (Deuteronomy 7:16)
  • “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1 Samuel 15:3)
  • “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.” (Nahum 1:2)
  • “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
  • “With justice he [Jesus] judges and wages war.” (Revelation 19:11b)

The same can be said about our violent histories. Critics point to the wars waged by Mohammed and the Muslim conquest of Spain as evidence that Islam is inherently violent, but let’s not forget about the long history of Christian violence: persecuting heretics, perfecting anti-semitism, the Crusades, centuries of European wars waged by Christians against other Christians, etc. We have some nerve to label Islam a religion of violence.

Some will argue that while Christianity “got with the times” and abandoned violence, Islam remains stuck in the Middle Ages. But before we go pointing fingers, Westerners would do well to critically investigate why it is that some Muslims appear so out of step with the twenty-first century.

Arabs and their leaders have been pawns of Western powers for over a century. The boundary lines being fought over today in the Middle East were set by colonial powers generations ago with little regard for tribal borders. These same colonizers put brutal dictators in power to serve their own interests, robbing native peoples of their security and sense of dignity.

Meddle with the destiny of a people long enough and they will turn to any extremists that offer to overthrow their oppressors. If Islam is stuck in a violent past it is European imperialism — not religion — that has kept it there.


2) Inaccurate portrayals by the media

Just your typical Christian our for an afternoon stroll, oh wait...

Just your typical Christian our for an afternoon stroll, oh wait…

If there’s one thing Christians and Muslims have in common today, it’s the fact that we both suffer from terribly inaccurate portrayals of our faith in popular culture. Always on the lookout for a story, the media habitually portrays entire religions via their very worst representatives.

I cannot tell you how many times I have told someone I am a Baptist, only to have them respond, “You’re the ones who hate gays, right?” It’s no wonder that the common perception of Christians in America is that we are judgmental, hypocritical, homophobic, and politically conservative — the same media that mishandles the image of Muslims is shaping public perception of the church!

For the sake of consistency, if we’re going to accept the notion that all Muslims are militant extremists, we must also concede that all Christians are bigoted racists who get their kicks protesting funerals of dead soldiers. Don’t like that idea? Then stop dishing it out.


3) Overlapping religious traditions

Another reason Christians should be hesitant to bash Islam is the extent to which the content of our faiths overlap. In addition to our shared worship of the God of Abraham, Christians and Muslims claim a long lineage of patriarchs and prophets — e.g. Noah, Jacob, Elijah, etc. — as part of our religious heritage.

While some of the details are different, a surprising number of narratives are found in both the Qur’an and the Bible. Muslims even hail Jesus as a prophet, second only to Mohammed, and accept the historicity of the virgin birth (a tradition that even some Christians have turned away from).

Christians and Muslims also employ remarkably similar apologetics to argue for the existence of God and reasonableness of faith, while sharing an overlapping and co-influencing history of religious philosophers and theologians. It’s no wonder that Islam, when it first emerged, was viewed by many ancient Christians as a mere Christological heresy, and has even been praised by some for spreading monotheism among the pagans.

While we disagree on key tenets — like the character of God, divinity of Christ, and inspiration of Scripture — our faiths exhibit a considerable degree of overlap.


4) Image bearers of the same God

Can you see the image of God in your Muslim brothers and sisters?

Can you see the image of God in your Muslim brothers and sisters?

Perhaps the most important reason for Christians to love and respect our Muslim neighbors is the fact that they too bear the image of God. The apostle John drove this point home by making our love for others the measure of our love for God:

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Because human beings are made in God’s image, to vilify another person is to sin against the image of God. Jesus also made this connection, linking love of God with love of neighbor in his teaching encapsulating the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). When Jesus was challenged to clarify who counts as our neighbor — and thus who God’s people are commanded to love — he told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Jesus’ choice of a Samaritan as the hero of this story was a radical one. The Samaritans were distant relatives of the Jews who followed different Scriptures and observed rival holy sites. They were considered unclean, violent, and sub-human. Come to think of it, if Jesus were to retell the story today to a Christian audience, it might look something like this:

Wanting to justify himself, the Evangelical Christian asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A Catholic priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Baptist missionary, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Muslim, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man in his own station wagon, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out a wad of cash and gave it to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Too blinded by bigotry to acknowledge directly that a Muslim could do good, the Evangelical Christian replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus used an enemy to set the parameters of who counts as our neighbor. If love of neighbor reflects our love of God, and love of enemies is the measuring stick for love of neighbor, then Christians had better be damn sure to sincerely love our Muslim friends. After all, God’s image is reflected in them too.

FCF Weekend Roundup (10/18/14): Ebola, LGBT in the Church, Talking Zombies, and Much More!

October 18, 2014

Welcome to your weekly gathering of noteworthy items from around the web. There was a lot of great stuff out there this week — a lot happening in the church and around the world.

Before we get started, I’ve got to say that I really enjoy doing these “weekend roundups” — they force me to follow the news and stay engaged with current events. I only hope you enjoy discovering the following content as much as I enjoyed collecting it!


News

Protesters in Hong Kong (image courtesy of relevantmagazine.com).

Protesters in Hong Kong (image courtesy of relevantmagazine.com).

The eyes of the world are on the protests in Hong Kong and Relevant Magazine has a great piece in support of the protesters, putting forward a moving argument for Why the Hong Kong Protests Should Matter to Christians:

The most captivating aspect of the current events in Hong Kong, even more than the numbers or the dignified, disciplined way in which most protesters have conducted themselves, is their courage to ask for change despite the daunting odds. They are hoping for hope’s sake—and doing so before the entire world, regardless of the outcome… Modern human history is full of movements that began long before anyone thought they had a chance—abolitionism, women’s suffrage, decolonization, civil rights, anti-apartheid. This is where all great social change begins: with a few people willing to speak up, and a few people willing to listen.

In other news, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been all over the media for the past few weeks, and the coverage has been laced with plenty of hysteria-invoking misinformation. If you’re looking for a different approach to the issue, Sophie Kleeman over at Mic.com has a great piece highlighting Exactly What’s Wrong with How the West Talks About Ebola.

Christians have been all over the news this week as well, especially in connection with LGBT “issues.” It began with the surprising news of the Vatican softening its stance toward homosexuals in an official document released last Monday.

Not long after, news broke of five pastors in Houston being forced to turn over sermons mentioning homosexuality to the city government. Marty Troyer, a Mennonite pastor in Houston who is not one of the five, has a great piece in the Houston Chronicle beseeching the city council not to read the sermons (and it’s not for the reason you might think).

In the midst of all this, Nadia Bolz-Weber (one of my favorite preachers) released this moving video as part of The Nines, an online Evangelical conference. The testimonies are a fantastic wake up call that reminds us of just what (or should I say, who) we’re really talking about:

mark-driscoll_profile_img

Mark Driscoll.

Last but not least in the news section, this week brought the resignation of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle who has found himself engulfed in a number of controversies in recent months.

I found the official announcement from the church troubling on a number of levels, not least of which is the ambivalence expressed toward the very real abuse that has taken place under Driscoll’s leadership. David Howard has an excellent post over at Naked Pastor that unpacks this shared concern.


Faith

On the religion front, I dug up a number of articles this week with some real depth:

Theological Graffity offers this reflection on Moltmann’s understanding of the doxological trinity (WARNING: intended for theology nerds).

Greg Boyd offers a compelling piece arguing that there is room for doubt in faith. And on a related note, check out Gary Gutting’s opinion piece in the New York Times, where he debates himself on the philosophy of religious belief and atheism:

The weakest intellectual aspect of current atheism is its naïve enchantment with pseudo-scientific biological and psychological explanations of why people believe. There are no doubt all sorts of disreputable sources for religious belief, and the same goes for rejections of religion. But it’s just silly to say that there’s solid scientific evidence that religious belief in general has causes that undermine its claims to truth.

One of my favorite authors, Scot McKinght, has a new book coming out soon called Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. In it he argues that “kingdom” is the most misunderstood word in the Bible. I think he’s really onto something here, but check it out for yourself in this promo video for the book:

To round out this section, be sure to take a look at Richard Stearns recent post over at HuffPo where he argues that finding one’s soul means you first have to lose it.


Entertainment

Marvel-vs-DC-Wallpaper-1024x640

The heroes are coming!

Major entertainment news dropped this week with DC Comics and Warner Brothers announcing release dates for DC movies through 2020. Check out Screen Rant’s coverage of the story, where they chronicle the estimated 40+ comic book-related movies that are due to hit theaters in the next six years.

I know I’m excited!

My wife and I are big fans of THE WALKING DEAD (yes, even season two). To celebrate the record-breaking premiere of the show’s fourth season, here’s your silly video for the week — Bad Lip Reading’s latest riff on the zombie apocalypse:

Ken Ham Has Zero Credibility

October 15, 2014

Ken Ham, president of creationist apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis, just lost any credibility he had left (which admittedly, is not all that much).

Ham’s most recent claim to fame was a televised debate back in February with Bill Nye the Science Guy. The two men debated evolution and creationism in an event that was panned by scientists and Christians alike for abundantly missing the point. It also managed to set the dialogue between science and religion back by at least a decade.

Deborah Haarsma (source).

Deborah Haarsma (source).

In a blog post published a few days ago, Deborah Haarsma, president of the BioLogos Foundation — an advocacy group that emphasizes the compatibility of faith and science — invited Ken Ham to dinner. The invitation was issued in response to a recent blog post by Ham attacking the integrity of Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe, yet another Christian organization, this one devoted to advancing progressive Creationism (spot the pattern?).

In what sounds like the setup to the best joke ever, Haarsma proposed for the young earth creationist (Ham), old earth creationist (Ross), and theistic evolutionist (Haarsma) to have dinner together and discuss their differences.

Unfortunately, Ken Ham declined.


Background

image-question5-large

Image courtesy of BioLogos.

For those who don’t know, young earth creationism of the “Answers in Genesis” variety advances a strictly literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-2, believing that God created the universe in seven 24-hour days and that the earth is therefore only about 6,000 years old.

Old earth creationism of the “Reasons to Believe” variety argues for a less literal interpretation of Genesis, allowing for varying lengths of biblical “days” and gaps in the creation account to explain the age of the earth in line with current scientific data.

Theistic evolution of the “BioLogos” variety argues that God used the evolutionary process to shape creation and bring about the diversity of life presently observable in the world around us. The book of Genesis is not interpreted as a rival scientific theory but as a divinely inspired account of creation that utilized the best knowledge of its day to articulate God’s relationship to the world as its Creator.

Imagine the possibilities if the three leaders of these different Christian camps sat down for dinner together! Rather than a fruitless debate, we might actually get meaningful dialogue. Sadly, that’s not going to happen.


A Disappointing Turn

ham-ken.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate.79

Ken Ham (source).

In a blog post published yesterday, Ham declined Haarsma’s invitation. According to him, Haarsma is seeking some sort of justification — attempting to get Ham to compromise his own beliefs by conceding that he and his detractors can agree to disagree.

But Ham didn’t stop there — he compared himself to Nehemiah, who stood up to the pagan enemies of Israel in order to help the Jews rebuild the wall around Jerusalem in the fifth century BCE. As Ham writes:

We at AiG [Answers in Genesis] are busy “rebuilding a wall.” We are equipping God’s people to defend the Christian faith, and I believe we are doing a great work for God. We are busy being “watchmen” — warning people of those who undermine the authority of the Word of God. Now, of course, I don’t consider Dr. Ross a personal enemy (as Nehemiah considered some of his detractors) — he is actually a pleasant person. But he is what I would call an enemy of biblical authority. He already knows our views, and we know his.

There are a number of things that are problematic about this response. For one, Ham casts his opponents as villains — and more than villains, “enem[ies] of biblical authority” seeking to destroy God’s people. While Nehemiah’s opponents sought to destroy the Israelites through military invasion, Ham accuses his opponents of destroying the church from within by promoting a low view of the Bible.

Even more alarming, Ham arrogantly casts his own view as the only faithful reading of Scripture. Nevermind that by utilizing the creation account as a polemic against evolution, he handles the text in a way its original audience never could have imagined; Ham also falls prey to a deeper error of equating his own understanding with that of God, committing a form of the very sin he believes literally resulted in the fall of Adam.

Perhaps the most disappointing element of Ham’s refusal to break bread with his non-literalist counterparts is the precedent it sets for Christian community. “He already knows our views, and we know his” — end of discussion. There’s no room here for fellowship, dialogue, or meaningful community. Ham will debate his fellow Christians, but he won’t talk with them.

The message here is very clear: because we disagree, we have nothing to talk about. Forget that we believe in a common God, live by a shared text, and serve the same Lord — if you don’t accept my views as your own, you’re wrong, I’m right, and I will have nothing to do with you.

Such an attitude is toxic to Christian community and reinforces the negative stereotypes of Christians held by many outside of the faith. If we don’t have the grace to listen to our own brothers and sisters inside the church, how can we expect the world to listen to us?

I used to respect Ken Ham a Christian, while seriously disagreeing with his reading of Genesis. But any credibility he had in my book is gone now. I hope the folks at BioLogos will keep the invitation open and that someday, maybe, Ham will accept.

Blogging Through My Ink: The Laughing Jesus

October 14, 2014

I receive a lot of questions about my tattoos: What do they mean? Why did I get them? Did they hurt? etc. This post is part of a series where I focus on one tattoo at a time and explain its significance. For other entries in this series, click here.

The laughing Jesus was my second tattoo, age 22. It has very special meaning to me that goes back to when I was a wee lad.

IMG_2511

Statistics

Background

97.084P/14

Willis Wheatley.

Christ the Liberator — commonly referred to as “The Laughing Jesus” — is a modern classic. Originally sketched by Willis Wheatley in 1973 as part of a four-part series commissioned by the United Church of Canada, there is now an estimated one million copies of the image in existence.

I first encountered The Laughing Jesus as a teenager. A close mentor of mine had a print of the picture which hung in his office. On Sunday mornings when I’d go to church, his office was often one of the first places I’d pop my head into. It was a safe place where I could be myself and I was always greeted by the laughing Jesus.

I used to tell my mentor that someday, when I had covered my body with tattoos, the laughing Jesus would hold a place of honor as one of my most prominent one. He’d laugh it off and tell me never to get tattooed. I was only 14 after all, but I sure showed him!

Significance

Prior to researching the picture for this blog post, I had no idea its original title was Christ the Liberator. The little bit of information makes me love the tattoo even more. There are plenty of iconic images of Christ out there — some depict his suffering, others his compassion, and still others his majesty. But there’s something deeply liberating about an image like this one.

In Christ the Liberator Jesus let’s out a belly laugh, head thrown back, eyes watering, snot probably about to burst out of his nose. It’s an image that captures Jesus in his earthy humanity — a statement which in some mysterious way begins to redeem the humanity of us all.

Reflecting on Christ the Liberator, United Church of Canada Moderator Gary Paterson had this to say:

“A laughing Jesus, as he announced the good news of God’s love and invited everyone to experience the Kingdom of God that was breaking into their midst… recognized the wild incongruity between his vision, this holy promise, and the reality that surrounded him — with Roman oppression, economic hard times, religious authorities investing far too much of their energy on maintaining the status quo, and a bunch of thick-headed disciples who never really seemed to catch the dream. But Jesus laughed, trusting that nothing was impossible for God.”

Amen and amen.

FCF Weekend Roundup (10/11/14)

October 11, 2014

ClimateCartoonFirst up this week: an article calling Christians to not be duped by climate change deniers. The piece is full of useful data and puts forward an excellent theological argument for preserving our planet:

We are responsible to God for what we do to this planet and its inhabitants. We have higher values than simply making money and hoarding our wealth. Of all people, we should be willing to pay the cost of simplifying our lives and reducing our consumption to help the world and to help poorer nations and God’s people who live there. The facts are clear enough, and becoming more clear and concerning every year. Christians are positive change agents. Let’s be leaders in making this important change.

Second, a fascinating piece from The Economist exploring the global divide over LGBT rights.

On the podcast front: check out the latest debate from Intelligence Squared, where two teams of two debaters argue over whether or not American action in the Middle East makes things worse. No spoilers, but I found the outcome of the debate quite surprising (and somewhat encouraging).

jesus-loves-muslimsMicael Grenholm over at Holy Spirit Activism has a compelling piece calling on Christians to sincerely love all Muslims. This topic is made especially relevant in light of recent bigoted remarks by Bill Maher and Sam Harris against religion (broadly) and Islam in particular.

While many Christians I know are quick to agree with these secular critics (so far as Islam is concerned), I see this as a a golden opportunity for Christians to go against the grain and demonstrate the radical love of the gospel.

In other news, Benjamin Corey has a hard-hitting piece chronicling the decline of the Religious Right, where he notes that:

When we combine the message of Jesus with the need for political power — whether liberal or conservative — we attempt to build a Kingdom that depends not on God, but on winning elections and destroying our enemies. Since movements such as the Religious Right rely on power, they are nothing without it — which doesn’t sound like the movement Jesus invites us into. In fact, throughout history we see that the Jesus movement spreads the fastest when his followers are not only out of power, but when they are actively oppressed by those who are in power, such as the early Church or the modern Church in China.. the Kingdom grows best, and always has, when followers reject the need for political might.

And for your weekly dose of something fun: SNL’s take on the decline of white people — enjoy!

The Real-World Consequences of Rapture Theology

October 6, 2014

Source.

The LEFT BEHIND reboot was released in theaters last week, met with both praise and scorn from various corners of the American Christian sub-culture. The film currently has a 2% on Rotten Tomatoes and raked in $6.85 million at the box office this weekend, driven in part by marketing to churches and other faith-based groups.

Called it.

Called it.

For those unfamiliar with the film and the book series on which it was based, LEFT BEHIND is an imaginative depiction of the rapture — a view of the end times held by many conservative Evangelicals, envisioning Christians being sucked up into heaven by God ahead of seven years of extreme trials on earth, culminating with the second coming of Christ.

I am not a fan of rapture theology. The perspective is less than 200 years old and is based on a reading of Scripture that borderlines on divination — lining up certain passages in just the right way, like a secret code revealing the future.

Many Christian voices have emerged with the release of LEFT BEHIND debunking rapture theology and exposing its deceptive misreading of Scripture. Those perspectives are great and a must-read for anyone tempted to check out this movie. But that’s not really what I’m looking to do here.

I believe that rapture theology has destructive implications, driving Christians to behave in ways that are out of sync with the way of Jesus. In that vein, here are four real-world consequences of rapture theology:


1) Diminishing Our View of Creation

The End

Just imagine the s’mores we’ll be able to make from heaven!

From its opening chapters, the Bible argues passionately for the earth as God’s creation. God creates the world, declares it “good,” and commissions human beings to care for the created order. This differentiated the ancient Israelites from their neighbors — whose creation myths embraced a violent, destructive view of the earth — and is reflected in Israel’s close connection to the land.

Even after the fall of Adam, God never rescinds the order to preserve creation. Jesus brought peace to the forces of nature in his ministry and the closing chapters of Revelation depict the restoration of Eden, a reality in which God dwells once again with human beings on a renewed earth.

In recent generations, very real threats have emerges to the stability of our planet in the form of nuclear weapons and ecological disaster. While one would expect Christians to be first in line to defend the earth, oftentimes the opposite is true and much of the blame falls on rapture theology.

The rapture reinforces the false notion that the earth is not our home. God is going to destroy this place and start over and Christians are going to be evacuated before any of that happens. Why worry about preserving the earth when it’s all going to burn anyway? It’s no wonder that so many Christians already seem to have one foot out the door.


2) Impact on “the Least of These”

Jesus’ ministry focused on announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom — a reality in which the sick are healed, the poor are cared for, and the oppressive structures of society are turned on their heads, putting the first last and the last first.

Jesus declared that the kingdom of God is among us (Lk 17:21), a present reality that arrived in his very person. But by turning the kingdom of God into a purely future reality, rapture theology relieves Christians of our responsibility to “the least of these,” with terribly destructive implications.

This is reflected in the move of some Christians to put individual evangelism before all else. If the rapture could come at any moment, why bother trying to affect change in society? We’re just rearranging chairs on the Titanic — better to abandon ship altogether and bring as many people with us as possible.

Some even find reason for hope in social decline, believing that things need to get worse before Jesus will return. Such theology has terribly destructive results on society’s marginalized.


3) Fueling Christian Zionism

This is a big one, and particularly controversial given what’s happening right now in Palestine.

Rapture theology depends on the belief that Israel will be preserved and that the temple will be rebuilt in its original location (which, consequently, happens to be the current home of the Dome of the Rock — one of the holiest sites in Islam).

Christian Zionists lobby American politicians to support Israel unconditionally, turning a blind eye to its persecution of Palestinians and repeated violations of international law. Zionist groups have raised millions of dollars to build illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory and routinely support the most right-wing politicians in Israel.

In addition to promoting injustice toward Palestinians — driving them to embrace increasingly radical and violent leaders of their own — this view confuses the modern nation state of Israel with biblical Israel, an error which has no basis in historical Christianity.

It is also dishonest. None of these Christian Zionists believe that Israelis are getting raptured; their destiny (other than a select few who convert to Christianity during the tribulation) is to die in massive numbers from divinely ordered plagues. They’re pawns in an apocalyptic game of chess that promotes violence around the world.


4) Promoting Christian Exceptionalism

In rapture theology, Christians are an elite group — God’s preciouses who receive blessings while all others are cursed. We get to avoid the hellish reality of a post-rapture earth simply by mentally assenting to correct doctrine.

Such a view is inherently prideful, presenting Christians as superior to our unbelieving neighbors. It is the very worst form of triumphalism and falls short on a number of other fronts.

For one, the notion that Christians will escape trials and tribulations on this earth is contrary to the teachings of Christ and found nowhere in the book of Revelation. To the contrary, Jesus warned his followers that our lives would be tougher for following him (Lk 14:25-35; Jn 15:18-25). If Jesus gave up the glory of heaven to suffer and die on earth, why would we expect our fate to be any different?

Second, rapture theology is inherently unloving. How can we claim to love our neighbors while voyeuristically imagining the terrible horrors that will befall them during the end times? That fact that so many Christian view such theology as an evangelic tool shows just how out of touch many in our ranks have become.

Finally, rapture theology promotes an un-Christlike view of God. Are we really to believe that the God who came to earth in Christ, associating with sinners, calling out the religious establishment, and granting healing and forgiveness is going to pull a cosmic 180?

If God doesn’t look like Jesus when the veil is removed at the end of time — we’ve got problems that go well beyond bad theology.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 656 other followers

%d bloggers like this: