"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grace under Siege 56: Shifting the bedrock

     Those who tell us, with graphs and dates, that the pre-millennial view* of Biblical eschatology is recent (it isn't*) and that a pre-tribulation rapture, the second coming and the millennium were not always written into our Statement of Faith fail to recognize that prophecy of the end times from this perspective was always an integral part of the teaching of this church. When these views came into doctrinal fashion in church history or whether or not they were written into our Statement of Faith is utterly irrelevant. They didn't have to be in the Statement of Faith. They were common knowledge. Our understanding of Biblical eschatology was what our church was known for.
     Since the foundation of First Brethren Church on May 20, 1913, this is what our people found in the Bible, what we stood on, and what all four previous generations of pastors taught--Louis Bauman, Charles Mayes, David Hocking, Dick Mayhue. The statement merely reflects the reality that this is what Grace Brethren Church always stood for.   
     I don't think any of us realized when we called Lou to be our senior pastor that he was not committed to the same eschatology the church was founded on. I seriously doubt if the search committee who voted Lou in would have done so had they known he would not continue this 78-year heritage of our church. For 21 years he has "silenced" our eschatology and now he wants to kill it off once and for all by silencing any reference to it in our Statement of Faith.
     Through the years there were people who came to this church because of its eschatology.  Mary Mulloy has been in this church for 86 years. In 1925, she was brought to "Fifth and Cherry" as they called it then a 10-year old by her Uncle Coot and Aunt Carrie Mulloy. She says, "It was Dr. Louis Bauman's messages on prophecy that drew them to the church."    
     Four decades and two senior pastors later, it was Dr. David Hocking's series on Revelation that drew my first husband, Eric, and me as well as my second husband and his first wife Gretchen--plus many others--to settle in this church.    
     This view of the end times was believed and taught on a regular basis not only from the pulpit but in every age-level Sunday School class. Every pastor taught that the "things to come" prophesied in Scripture--the rapture, the second coming, the Millenium, God's ultimate restoration of the Jews--to their land and to their God--would be literally fulfilled.
     Current GBC members with roots back to the early days of this church can testify to this:
     Taylor VanBuskirk was raised in this church. His family have been members of Grace since his great-grandmother Elsie Scovil joined the church when it was at Fifth and Cherry in 1913, the year it was founded. Taylor says, "Her daughter Gladys Scovil married my grandfather Donald Van Buskirk and they attended as well.  My grandmother was a church pianist at times and my grandfather was a soloist.  Of course, my dad Ray and his sister Verda grew up in the halls of Fifth and Cherry back in the 1930’s.  The church always held a pre-trib position. What Pastors Bauman, Mayes, and Hocking taught us is happening today.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  The Lord knows the future and He decided to share it with us.”  
    Wendy Austin was also raised in this church. "My great-grandparents Harvey and Amanda Daudell were the first of our family to find 1st Brethren.  I do not know the exact year, but it was around 1919. They came to California from Indiana.  My Grandparents Jim and Helen Schilling, my parents Doris and Gene Schilling and my family all were taught what our church believed.  I can remember being in the Cradle Roll, and moving into a regular class.  One of the first songs we learned was 'Onward Christian Soldiers'.  I was always taught that we believed in the "Bible the Whole Bible and nothing but the Bible," and we would sing "The B-I-B-L-E, oh that's the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, the B-I-B-L-E," and then shout "Bible!"  
     "I know that when I would sit up in the balcony at 5th and Cherry and hear Dr. Mayes talk, I really wanted to know more about the tribulation.  I would talk with my grandmother, Helen Schilling, and she would go over what our church believed.  We would talk about the rapture of the church, pre-tribulation, and the second coming and the 1000 years reign on this earth.  This is what was taught and what set Brethren church apart."
    Shirley Todd's grandparents Walter and Ruby McPheeters were from Nebraska and joined First Brethren Church in 1934. Shirley's mother was six years old. Shirley says, "We were absolutely taught dispensational theology--the rapture, the tribulation, the millenium, the new heavens and new earth. They were taught at this church for as long as I can remember."
     These members, along with many more of us, are concerned that by dropping Point #9 from the Statement of Faith in order to be "more inclusive," the teaching of prophecy and the last days will be abandoned permanently. These things have not been taught from our pulpit for the last 21 years; what are the chances they would be added back to the teaching of our church once the Statement of Faith has been rewritten to exclude them? 
     Those who do not believe in the historical positions of this church, including its eschatology, have no right to change or eliminate them. Deleting Point # 9 in the Statement of Faith to conform to a lack of belief in its contents is inappropriate. 
     The only way the leaders could make this right is if, having deleted pre-trib, pre-mill eschatology from the Statement of Faith, they resume teaching and promoting it from the pulpit and in all the age-level classes.

*From Pre-millennialism - The Oldest View:
     The pre millennial view is the view that holds that Christ will return to earth, literally and bodily, before the millennial age begins and that, by His presence, a kingdom will be instituted over which He will reign. In this kingdom all of Israel's covenants will be literally fulfilled. It will continue for a thousand years, after which the kingdom will be given by the Son to the Father when it will merge with His eternal kingdom. The central issue in this position is whether the Scriptures are to be fulfilled literally or symbolically.
      In fact, this is the essential heart of the entire question. Generally speaking, one's view of interpreting the Scriptures determines whether or not he or she is a pre-millennialist. For the most part, all who believe the Bible to be literal are pre millennialists. Some Bible scholars, however, separate prophecy from other passages. They interpret the rest of the Bible literally, but whenever they come to prophecy, and particularly the book of Revelation, they tend to spiritualize it. Only in taking the Bible other than literally can a person be anything but a pre millennialist.
     The early Christians were almost unquestionably pre millennialists. The New Testament itself indicates that the apostles expected the Lord to return and set up His Kingdom in their lifetime. In Acts 1 v.6, just before our Lord ascended into heaven, the disciples asked a question that revealed their understanding: "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" The Lord did not deny that He would set up a Kingdom, but He told them, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."
     So we find the disciples and those they taught anticipating the return of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom. Many of the detractors of the pre millennial position suggest that it is a relatively new theory, having come on the scene during the days of John Darby and others. The truth of the matter is that pre millennialism held sway during the first 3 centuries of the early church and was known as "chiliasm". Dr. Pentecost quotes from Lewis Sperry Chafer's Systematic Theology:
     Pre millennialism generally holds to a revival of the Jewish nation and their repossession of their ancient land when Christ returns. Satan will be bound (Rev. 20 v.2) and a theocratic kingdom of righteousness, peace, and tranquility will ensue. The righteous are raised from the dead before the millennium and participate in its blessings. The wicked dead are not raised until after the millennium.
     The eternal state will follow the judgment of the wicked. Pre millennialism is obviously a viewpoint quite removed from either a-millennialism or post millennialism. It attempts to find a literal fulfillment for the prophecies in the Old and New Testament concerning a righteous kingdom of God on earth. Pre millennialism assumes the authority and accuracy of Scriptures and the hermeneutical principle of a literal interpretation wherever this is possible.
     Toward the end of the 3rd century the spiritualizing and allegorizing of Scripture began to take over theological thought, and together with the merging of ecclesiastical and governmental Rome under Constantine, pre millennialism fell into disrepute. With the advent of Augustine and other Catholic theologians, theology and philosophy supplanted the study of Scriptures.
     The Dark Ages are well named, for the Word of God, which is the light of life, was hidden from people by the Church, which had been entrusted with the responsibility of propagating it. As the light of God's Word was extinguished, the hope of the Church, the literal return of Christ to the earth, was eclipsed.
     Not until after the Reformation was there a revival of pre millennialism. . . It is probable that the pre millennial view, though subject to many attacks, will remain a dominant influence upon the Church until the Lord returns.

1 comment:

  1. [Interesting. Here's what I ran into on the web. Would love to get some reactions. God bless.]


    How can the “rapture” be “imminent”? Acts 3:21 says that Jesus “must” stay in heaven (He's now at the Father's "right hand," Acts 2:34) “until the times of restitution of all things” which includes, says Scofield, “the restoration of the theocracy under David’s Son” which obviously can’t begin before or during Antichrist’s reign. ("The Rapture Question," by long time No. 1 pretrib authority John Walvoord, didn't dare to even list, in its scripture index, these too-hot-to-handle verses!) Since Jesus can’t even leave heaven before the tribulation ends, which is also when His foes are finally put down (made His "footstool," Acts 2:35), the rapture therefore can't take place before the end of the trib! (The same Acts verses were also too hot for John Darby - the so-called "father of dispensationalism" - to list in the scripture index in his "Letters" which covers Acts 2 and 3 much more comprehensively than Walvoord's!)
    Paul explains the “times and the seasons” (I Thess. 5:1) of the catching up (I Thess. 4:17) as the “day of the Lord” (5:2) which FOLLOWS the posttrib sun/moon darkening (Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20) WHEN “sudden destruction” (5:3) of the wicked occurs! The "rest" for "all them that believe" is also tied to such destruction in II Thess. 1:6-10! (If the wicked are destroyed before or during the trib, who'd be left alive to serve the Antichrist?) Paul also ties the change-into-immortality “rapture” (I Cor. 15:52) to the posttrib end of “death” (15:54). (Will death be ended before or during the trib? Of course not! And vs. 54 is also tied to Isa. 25:8 which is Israel's posttrib resurrection!)
    Many are unaware that before 1830 all Christians had always viewed I Thess. 4’s “catching up” as an integral part of the final second coming to earth. In 1830 this "rapture" was stretched forward and turned into a separate coming of Christ. To further strengthen their novel view, which the mass of evangelical scholars rejected throughout the 1800s, pretrib teachers in the early 1900s began to stretch forward the “day of the Lord” (what Darby and Scofield never dared to do) and hook it up with their already-stretched-forward “rapture.” Many leading evangelical scholars still weren’t convinced of pretrib, so some pretrib teachers then began teaching that the “falling away” of II Thess. 2:3 is really a pretrib rapture (the same as saying that the “rapture” in 2:3 must happen before the “rapture” ["gathering"] in 2:1 can happen – the height of desperation!).
    Here are some Google articles on the 182-year-old pretrib rapture view: "Pretrib Rapture Politics," "Pretrib Rapture Scholar Wannabes," “Famous Rapture Watchers,” "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," “X-Raying Margaret,” "Edward Irving is Unnerving," “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” "Walvoord Melts Ice," “Wily Jeffrey,” “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism,” “Scholars Weigh My Research,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” "Thieves' Marketing," "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," “Deceiving and Being Deceived,” and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" – all by the author of the extremely accurate and highly endorsed book “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books).