One of my hobbies is studying and researching the sons of fathers and grandfathers who were theological liberals from the Enlightenment through the Victorian era. It might sound like a snooze-fest, but it’s important when one considers that Erasmus Darwin’s radical views seeped-into the worldview of his famous grandson.
This study is important if we want to understand why we see heresy and apostasy becoming mainstream in the Church.
Thomas Huxley, “[Charles] Darwin’s bulldog,” was the most aggressive famous atheist of his day, and his grandsons Julian and Aldous influenced Western education in ways we probably don’t have the stomach to face.
My research has expanded to now study how theological liberals influence their associates, friends, and by extension, the masses—most tragically, youth.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest targets of the liberals’ wrath today is Christian Zionism. It is quite fascinating to realize that the (ultimately successful) attempts to undermine Scripture began in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the attacks on this historicity of Genesis 1-11.
The next target were the books of the prophets—undermining the Jews and predictive prophecy. The ghastly outcomes of these attacks by the critics resulted in the Holocaust. Martin Luther, an outrageous anti-semite (but still darling of many evangelicals), and efforts by people like the German Christian Movement in the 20th century, plowed the soil for the Nazis.
Today, of course, the final battlefront for the Bible’s critics concern the person of Jesus Christ. We have an irony here: the Bible is true in its history, where it touches on science (such as the book of Job), and its philosophy for life. Yet the average person’s perspective is that somehow the critics have proved their case.
They have not.
That hasn’t stopped the sophisticated efforts of change agents like Brian McLaren and his Emergent friends. Not surprisingly, Israel is on the receiving end of their hateful efforts to marginalize the Jewish state and her friends: Christian supporters of Israel.
McLaren blogs frequently (www.brianmclaren.net) and also spends a fair amount of time touting the blogs of his theological friends, such as Frank Schaeffer, the son of biblical apologist Francis Schaeffer. The elder of course foresaw the rising apostasy, but the son is quite willing to attack Bible believers (www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/christian-zionism-is-trou_b_636872.html).
Remember what I said about the sons and grandsons being part of the decline in belief in the Bible?
McLaren’s blogs are quite revealing. Notice the following; his response to questions. He reveals his strategic thinking in advancing the goals of liberalism:
“This question reminded me how we need to remember that each day, new people are for the first time realizing that some sort of paradigm shift is possible, happening, and needed in their faith. Every day, new people are ready to start on the journey and get involved. A number of friends from the emergent village community have talked about this for years … we need to keep extending the new road farther and farther into new territory, while maintaining onramps for people from many different communities to start the journey from wherever they are, whenever they’re ready. It’s too easy to do one without the other … but both are essential.
“First, you’re fortunate in that fifteen years ago, when this journey was beginning for me, it was really hard to find anyone “safe” to talk to … there was a lot of talk about innovative methodology, but to raise theological questions was somewhat risky. Of course, it’s still risky – but thankfully more and more networks are forming where it’s safe to ask questions, think together, and explore.”
McLaren is simply pointing out that a generation ago, his ideas wouldn’t fly. Then, we had pastors in the pulpits that would stand for biblical truth. Today, we have pastors who are “life coaches” and advocates of their parishioners engaging in frequent sex. Or they promote and teach the latest clap-trap “Bible study” from a Christian celebrity.
In a later blog entry, McLaren then discusses one of his favorite subjects: bashing the Second Coming; he also never misses an opportunity to promote his books:
“Thanks for the encouragement. One slight tweak – in Chapter 18, I talk about the meaning of the word “parousia.” I explain that the term “second coming” isn’t found in the biblical text. It’s a term like “the Fall” – developed in extra-biblical theological literature, and then read back into the text (and sometimes put there by “translators” who are actually interpreters). That doesn’t mean it’s wrong – just that the term itself is subject to questioning. When Jesus speaks of coming back or again, sometimes he’s referring to the resurrection … sometimes he may be referring to his coming to be with us via the Holy Spirit at Pentecost … and sometimes he may be referring to the coming of a new era and “the end of the (current) age” centered in holy city, temple, priesthood, and sacrifice. He may also be referring to some ultimate judgment day … but the more I read the New Testament, the fewer of those references I think there are. More and more, it seems, Jesus was referring to things that were very close at hand, and so in that way, it turns out both Jesus and Paul were right: the cataclysm they predicted would happen “before this generation passes.”
McLaren is a preterist, one who believes most if not all the last-days prophecies were fulfilled by A.D. 70.
One of the outcomes of this kind of teaching—you won’t be surprised—is that Israel is again marginalized. When one believes that God’s promises for the Jews, from the Hebrew scriptures, are no longer in effect (Replacement Theology—God’s promises have been transferred to the Church), Israel takes on less importance in one’s thinking.
It is then a short step toward advocating the “rights of the Palestinians” above those of the Jews. This is the wedding between Palestinian propaganda efforts dating to the aftermath of the Six Day War, and theological liberalism, which has always despised the Jews.
It is why a change agent like John Shelby Spong can write books in which he claims to be a savage opponent of anti-Semitism, and at the same time (in the same book—what chutzpa!) claim that belief in the historicity of the Hebrew scriptures is the domain of fundamentalist crackpots!
Do you see? When you claim that the Old Testament is myth, symbolism or metaphor when it appears to be literal…you have just become a classic anti-Semite. You have denied the history and legitimacy of the very oppressed people you claim to defend!!
I have never forgotten the story told by David Reagan—surely one of the great Bible teachers of our time. Dave remembers as a youngster in church, asking the pastor what Zechariah meant when he recorded that the Messiah would re-visit Earth.
The pastor told him it was symbolic of Jesus coming into someone’s heart. In other words, there would never be a future moment in which the Jewish messiah would return to His homeland and begin to usher in an era of peace.
This is the result of liberals refusing to read the Bible in its plain-sense meaning. This “plain-sense” view is itself mocked by the liberals. Ironically, when Scripture admonishes the Jews to love justice, the liberals insist it means exactly what it says! The “Jews should practice justice” is always used by liberals who feel Israel needs to arm and bow-down to a Palestinian state.
Just know that Israel’s enemies are not limited to jihadists with a death wish. The long list of enemies includes those theological enemies who also long for the end of the Jewish state.
Christian Zionists who support Israel must know they are in a war of ideas. We must, must, must educate ourselves and resist the theological madness of the liberals.
Know also that men like McLaren come across as reasonable, earnest, and desirous of justice for everyone.
In the end, though, his vicious views of Israel will serve as a divisive wedge. The Christian Zionists McLaren and Schaeffer love to bash will have to decide how much they like perseverance.
We should well remember what Paul wrote to his protégé, in 2 Timothy 4:
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
“Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.”
The point is, for us, many Christians “love the world” because that’s easier in the short-term than standing for truth. A whole lot of people will side with the Palestinians and work to try and push the Jews into another ghetto. The pack mentality that has always plagued mankind, and fosters efforts to call, as Isaiah wrote, “good evil and evil good.”
Support of the Jewish state will cost you in the short-term. Ultimately, though, it will pale in comparison to the claims of the Judge of History that He will one day hand out judgment to the nations for the way they treated his people, Israel.
That day is coming, and when it does, I will be glad that my heart has always been toward Zion.