Pat Robertson: Trump will win, the country will be torn apart, an asteroid will hit the earth, and the rapture will come

Robertson is prophesying again. Watch:

If you don’t want to watch, here are the main points:

  1. Trump is going to win the election “without question”
  2. After Trump is sworn in the United States will go to war with China, North Korea, Russia, and/or the Turks
  3. After Trump is sworn-in there will be civil disobedience in the streets that will tear the country apart.
  4. There will be “at least two attempts on the president’s life.”
  5. The fulfillment of Ezekiel 38:14-16 will take place. Turks, Iran, and other Muslims “will come together against Israel” because the United States is pre-occupied with internal chaos. God will wipe out this “horde” of Muslims
  6. God will bring about a period of “great peace” as explained in Isaiah 2:2-4. This will last for at least five years. There will be a global spiritual revival that will bring about this time of “peace and love.” “Dictators” will be “held in check” by God during this time.
  7. The peace will eventually end and the “Great Tribulation” will come as explained in Matthew 24. During this time the earth will be hit with a 3 billion pound asteroid that will “darken the sun.”
  8. Then the rapture will happen.
  9. The 2020 election will trigger all of this so get out and vote.

There you go.

Is Donald Trump an Antichrist?”

Trump iN Dallas

D. Stephen Long is the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics at Southern Methodist University. In his recent piece at the religion and ethics website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he makes the case that we should start calling Trump “antichrist.” Here is a taste:

Anyone who grew up in evangelical circles in the Midwest, as I did, will be well-aware of this kind of end-times theology. Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was a staple in the movement, predicting how a clash between the United States and the Soviets would usher in Armageddon. When the Cold War ended, putting an end to his interpretation, Lindsey then speculated that the antichrist would create a one world government through a cataclysmic war. The antichrist will be smart, well-educated, and attractive, which means at least that one should be very wary of education. Films like A Thief in the Night (1972) and songs like Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” prompted evangelicals in the 1970s and 1980s to be ever vigilant against the threatening reign of the antichrist. How odd, then, that when one appears, they have lost the religious sensibility to recognise him.

Yet I think it appropriate that reasonable people of faith begin to refer to Trump as antichrist. I don’t come to that conclusion lightly. When Trump was elected, I regularly referred to him as the “Orange Vulgarian.” I still find that reference descriptively accurate, but a friend admonished me that calling the president names was not the best strategy to win over his supporters. Since many of those supporters are family, friends, college classmates, and others, I thought it best to refrain from such epithets and attempted to make reasonable arguments on behalf of a different kind of Christianity and politics than the one that gained ascendancy with Trump.

Recent events, however, have led me to conclude that such a strategy leads us nowhere, especially when it comes to the war Trump and his allies are waging on black America. The necessity to stand with black neighbours against the current injustices that repeat old patterns requires something different. The obvious contradiction between Trump and his administration’s response to white supremacists and to those protesting on behalf of black lives demonstrates a demonic force at work that must be named by all of us who at baptism pledged to resist sin, death, and the devil, “the spiritual forces of wickedness,” or “the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” It is time that we call Trump what he is, an antichrist, and pastors and faithful Christians must start doing so from their pulpits, Sunday School classes, bible studies, and whatever means are available.

Read the entire piece here.

Former Fundamentalists Await the Apocalypse

Rapture 2

Today a piece by Sarah Jones at New York Magazine caught my attention. Here is a taste of “Apocalypse Now?”:

If you think it feels like the end of the world, you’re not alone. There is a pandemic. Donald Trump is the president. Hospitals don’t have enough ventilators, and the lieutenant governor of Texas thinks your grandmother should give up the ghost so that you can go back to your job. We keep hearing that the virus will peak, but nobody seems to know exactly when that will happen, or how long we’ll all be inside, or how many people will die before this is all over. The coronavirus isn’t the End, but its escalating horrors feel somewhat familiar.

Since the pandemic commenced, I have wondered if my fundamentalist upbringing might be useful. For American Evangelicals, the ’90s were the era of apocalyptic fantasia. Almost everyone I knew believed that Christ would return soon, and rapture his saints into heaven to spare them the death throes of the world.

So I called up a few friends. Like me, they grew up Evangelical or fundamentalist, with the same basic convictions about the imminent demise of humanity. I wanted to know if their old beliefs had emotionally prepared them for our moment of woe, or if they had simply become more anxious than usual. In the most secret regions of my brain I wondered, too, if they missed any of it, because sometimes I do. Believing in Armageddon was an act of catharsis. It promised relief. In the near-future, my suffering would cease and so, too, would the pain of the world. (Alas! God has stranded me here, on Post Malone’s planet, and I’m suffering right along with the rest of you.)

Read the entire piece here.

Does “End-Time Apathy” Explain Why So Many Evangelicals Don’t Care About the Environment?

The Gospel of Climate ChangeIf Jesus is coming back at any moment to “rapture” his church, why should evangelicals care about the environment? As religious studies scholar Robin Globus Veldman writes, this theory has been “widely accepted” by environmentalists to explain evangelical apathy about climate change.  But is it true?  Veldman is the author of The Gospel of Climate Skepticism: Why Evangelical Christians Oppose Action on Climate Change.  Here is a taste of her interview with Eric C. Miller at Religion & Politics:

Religion & Politics: This book offers an extended examination of what you have called the “end-time apathy hypothesis.” What is that, exactly?

Robin Globus Veldman: The basic idea is that evangelicals don’t care about the environment because they think that Jesus will return soon. It has been widely accepted, especially among environmentalists, but had never been empirically investigated. It was always just kind of thrown out there. E.O. Wilson, Al Gore, and Bill Moyers, for example, have all talked about the potential for end-time beliefs to discourage concern about climate change. As Moyers says, why care about the earth when you and yours are about to be rescued in the Rapture? But I wanted to treat it as a hypothesis because no one had actually examined it. Though I could have approached evangelical attitudes on climate from the angle of politics or theology or anti-science prejudices, this struck me as a more productive research question. There seemed to be a lot of lay interest, and it was something that I was curious about too. So that’s where I started.

R&P: Is the hypothesis correct?

RGV: My argument is that it’s onto something, but it’s not the best way to conceptualize what’s going on. End-time beliefs are a very important part of modern evangelicals’ religious worldview. They are a key element of the faith, and they play a central role in a lot of evangelical culture. But I found that end-time beliefs are deeply enmeshed in a larger matrix of influences from which they can’t be separated. They can’t be considered in isolation. I spend the rest of the book mapping that matrix.

R&P: The hypothesis relies on an end-times eschatology known as premillennialism, and you divide your subjects into “hot” and “cool” millennialist camps. What is this distinction and why is it important?

RGV: One of the tricky things about this research is that it required a deep dive into evangelical eschatology—the study of end times—and that required learning some jargon, especially as it concerns two key ideas. Premillennialism refers to the belief that Jesus will return to earth before the millennium, which is understood as a thousand-year period of righteousness over which Christ will preside. Postmillennialism, by contrast, refers to the belief that Jesus will return after a thousand-year period. Premillennialism suggests that the condition of life on earth will deteriorate until Christ returns, while postmillennialism suggests that it should improve. This is how evangelical theologians divide the different beliefs about the end times.

But when I went into the field and started speaking with people, I found that these categories did not map cleanly onto actually existing beliefs. Since most people who hold these viewpoints have not studied them in-depth or gone to seminary or anything, they don’t have this sort of erudite understanding. Instead, the clearest distinction that I saw in terms of how to categorize people was between what I call “hot” and “cool” millennialists. Hot millennialists are people who are really excited about the end times. They think that Jesus is coming back soon, they’re paying attention to signs, and the possibility gives them a feeling of hope. Cool millennialists are people who believe in Christ’s return but do not believe that it can be predicted with accuracy, and so are less directly motivated by the anticipation. As one gentleman told me, “We live like he’s coming today, but plan like he’s coming tomorrow.” This is by far the more common view, which ends up being very significant for attitudes on climate change because the end-time apathy hypothesis imagines a large constituency of hot millennialists. But these are far fewer, and I ran into a very small number of people who seemed to be enthusiastic about climate change as a harbinger of the end. If the hypothesis were correct, you’d expect to see a lot more of that sort of energy.

Read the rest here.

CREATE!: Teaching Tolkien’s “Leaf By Niggle”

LeafYesterday in Created and Called for Community (CCC) we read and discussed J.R.R. Tolkien’s short story “Leaf by Niggle.” Here is a summary of the plot from Wikipedia:

In this story, an artist, named Niggle, lives in a society that does not value art. Working only to please himself, he paints a canvas of a great Tree with a forest in the distance. He invests each and every leaf of his tree with obsessive attention to detail, making every leaf uniquely beautiful. Niggle ends up discarding all his other artworks, or tacks them onto the main canvas, which becomes a single vast embodiment of his vision.

However, there are many mundane chores and duties that prevent Niggle from giving his work the attention it deserves, so it remains incomplete and is not fully realised.

At the back of his head, Niggle knows that he has a great trip looming, and he must pack and prepare his bags.

Also, Niggle’s next door neighbour, a gardener named Parish, frequently drops by asking for various forms of help. Parish is lame and has a sick wife and genuinely needs help. Niggle, having a good heart, takes time out to help—but he is also reluctant because he would rather work on his painting. Niggle has other pressing work duties as well that require his attention. Then Niggle himself catches a chill doing errands for Parish in the rain.

Eventually, Niggle is forced to take his trip, and cannot get out of it. He has not prepared, and as a result ends up in a kind of institution, in which he must perform menial labour each day. Back at the home to which he cannot return, Niggle’s painting is abandoned, used to patch a damaged roof, and all but destroyed (except for the one perfect leaf of the story’s title, which is placed in the local museum).

In time, Niggle is paroled from the institution, and he is sent to a place “for a little gentle treatment”. He discovers that this new place is the country of the Tree and Forest of his great painting. This place is the true realisation of his vision, not the flawed and incomplete version in his painting.

Niggle is reunited with his old neighbour, Parish, who now proves his worth as a gardener, and together they make the Tree and Forest even more beautiful. Finally, Niggle journeys farther and deeper into the Forest, and beyond into the great Mountains that he only faintly glimpsed in his painting.

Long after both Niggle and Parish have taken their journeys, the lovely place that they created together becomes a destination for many travelers to visit before their final voyage into the Mountains, and it earns the name “Niggle’s Parish”.

We read “Leaf by Niggle” as part of our ongoing discussion of creation and its implications for the way we live as Christians.  Tolkien’s short story is about the ongoing work of creation.  As women and men created in the image of God we are called to participate in God’s creative work. In John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens he called Christians to the work of “co-creation.” (Tolkien used the term “sub-creation” to describe something similar).  We can view Niggle’s painting as his imperfect attempt at co-creation.  As inhabitants of a broken world scarred by sin, our efforts to create will always be imperfect.  Our finest art cannot express all the beauty of God’s holiness.  Throughout our discussion of “Leaf by Niggle” I tried to get students to put the story into conversation with Bruce Birch’s essay, “In the Image of God.”

There are several ways to approach “Leaf by Niggle” in a course like CCC. This became abundantly clear when I surveyed the room.  Several students wanted to talk about the tension between competing goods.  Niggle has a gift for painting, but he is constantly distracted by his needy neighbor Parish.  Though Niggle often complains privately about assisting Parish, and sometimes he finds him to be an annoyance, he never ceases to help his neighbor.  How do we balance our call to create–through art, writing, entrepreneurial innovation, scientific discovery, the cultivation of ideas, feats of engineering, sports or dance–with the everyday demands of service to others that might get in the way of our creative efforts?  This question made for some good discussion.

Some students brought up Niggle’s lack of preparation for his “journey.” They pointed out that Niggle was a procrastinator and easily distracted. When death arrived he could have been better prepared. A few students were disappointed in him.  They wished he had finished the painting.  Others were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for his lack of preparation for the journey because he was so busy helping Parish and his wife. Whatever the case, Niggle’s story prior to his journey seemed to elicit much anxiety among my students. This, I suggested, is the anxiety we all feel as inhabitants of a broken world.

But as anyone who has read “Leaf by Niggle” knows, the story does not end there. After his purgatory-type experience, Niggle is brought to a place of great beauty (Niggle’s Parish). Here he encounters his incomplete painting in all its fullness. Here his relationship with Parish is transformed.  The anxiety gives way to peace and happiness.  All of the brokenness is made whole (Shalom).

I cannot teach “Leaf by Niggle” apart from my understanding of Christian eschatology. Lately I have been studying the writings of the Anglican New Testament theologian N.T. Wright.  Wright’s books Surprised by Hope and History and Eschatology enabled me to teach Tolkien’s short story in a way I was unable to do when I last taught “Leaf by Niggle” eleven years ago.

A major theme of Wright’s work is what Revelation 21 calls the “new heaven and the new earth.” Wright challenges longstanding Christian beliefs about heaven. The ancient Jews and the early Christian church never understood heaven as place distinct from earth.  God will not destroy this earth and “rapture” believers to a heavenly realm.  Instead, he will transform this earth.  He will one day make the post-Genesis 3 world whole.  Shalom will be restored.  We will rise from the dead because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter morning (I Cor. 15). The New Testament teaches that we will enjoy this new heavens and new earth with new resurrected bodies.  Read Romans 8: 18-25:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Wright argues that this new heaven and new earth, or the Kingdom of God, was initiated when Jesus rose from the dead. We still live in a broken world, but we get occasional glimpses of the new creative order when we see acts of compassion, justice, reconciliation, mercy, and love.  Moreover, when we do creative work that is good, beautiful, or based in truth we are, in some small way, building this new kingdom.  What might look unfinished or incomplete in this world will one day be made whole.  This, it seems to me, is what Tolkien is trying to teach us in “Leaf by Niggle.”

I closed my class on Monday with a quote from Wright’s book Surprised by Hope:

But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain.  You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire.  You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site.  You are–strange though is may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself–accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world.  Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness, every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world–all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.

Niggle’s leaf, which ended up for a short time in a museum, became part of an entire landscape in the so-called “Niggle’s Parish.” Our creative work will one day contribute to the new creation as well. We don’t know how God will use it–1 Corinthians 13:12 says we see through a glass dimly–but it will be a part of the wholeness God will one day bring.

Here is Wright again:

What you do in the present–by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself–will last into God’s future.  These activities are not simply ways of making the present life less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we will leave it behind altogether (as the hymn  so mistakenly puts it, “Until that day when all the blest to endless rest are called away”). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

What Does the Bible Say About the Antichrist?

Anti-Christ-Luca-Signorelli2

I spent most of my late teens and early twenties getting schooled in dispensational theology.  We spent a lot of time trying to figure out when the rapture would come, the nature of the Great Tribulation, and the signs Antichrist’s coming.  I haven’t thought about this stuff in a while, but I have been struck lately by how many people–smart religious people–have been talking about the Antichrist.

A friend recently sent me a blog post by theologian Benjamin Corey, a self-identified member of the Christian Left with an masters degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Corey dug through the Bible and found every prophecy on the Antichrist.  Whatever you think about biblical prophecy, his list is very interesting, entertaining, and perhaps even revealing.

Here are a few characteristics of the Antichrist:

  • The Antichrist will be a leader of a nation that is a military superpower with the ability to trample and crush the entire earth. (Daniel 7:23)
  • The Antichrist will be a man who is exceptionally arrogant and will be known for giving boastful speeches. (Daniel 7:8, Revelation 13:5)
  • The Antichrist will be someone known for making a lot of public threats against the people (Revelation 13:2, Daniel 7:4)
  • The Antichrist will be a political outsider with despicable character and a contemptuous personality who wins an election that no one expects him to win. (Daniel 11:21)
  • The Antichrist will give speeches where he speaks “great things” and then about things that are even “greater.” (Daniel 7:20)
  • The Antichrist’s rise to power will seem like a miracle that God performed, tricking people into following Satan instead of God without even noticing. (2 Thess. 2:9)
  • Once in power the Antichrist will reveal that his heart wants to make alterations to the “appointed times” that are in current laws. (Daniel 7:25)
  • The Antichrist will make fake news popular and will be a chronic liar.  His followers will believe his delusions because they hate the truth. (Daniel 8:25, 2 Thess.2:10)
  • The Antichrist will draw strong support from many Christians as if they are willfully blind and outright delusional (Matt 24:24, 2 Thess 2:10)
  • The Antichrist will appear to receive a wound he can’t recover from, but will survive to put down the first attempts to remove him from office. (Revelation 13:3)
  • The Antichrist will worship the god of border walls. (Daniel 11:37-38)

Read the rest here.

The Evangelical Free Church Drops Premillennialism

TEDS

TEDS campus

When I was a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) between 1989 and 1992, the official position of the sponsoring denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America, was premillennialism. In other words, in order to teach at TEDS or receive ordination in the denomination, one needed to espouse the belief that the second coming of Jesus Christ would usher in his literal 1000-year reign as king of the earth.

Since my early evangelical experience was filtered through premillennialism, I never really thought twice about any of this.  I have always been interested in the relationship between premillennialism and American evangelicalism, but at the time I was a student at TEDS I was more obsessed with the intramural theological debate over whether or not one was a dispensational premillennialist or a Reformed or “covenant” premillennialist.  Theologians of both persuasions taught at TEDS.

Now, as Daniel Silliman reports at Christianity Today, the Evangelical Free Church has decided to drop the word “premillennial” from its statement of faith.  Here is a taste of his piece:

An internal document explaining the rationale for the change says premillennialism “is clearly a minority position among evangelical believers.” Premillennialism has been a “denominational distinctive” for the EFCA, according to the document, but shouldn’t be overemphasized.

“The thought was, we must either stop saying we are a denomination that majors on the majors … and minors on the minors, or we must stop requiring premillennialism as the one and only eschatological position,” said Greg Strand, EFCA executive director of theology, in an interview with Ed Stetzer.

The revised statement says, “We believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Whether or not Jesus will set up a literal kingdom on earth for a millennium is left to individual discretion.

The EFCA has been considering the change for more than a decade. John Woodbridge, a professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), the ECFA-affiliated seminary in Deerfield, Illinois, spoke in favor of the shift back in 2008.

Read the entire piece here.

As of Friday night, August 23, 2019, the doctrinal statement of TEDS still reads:

We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.

I will be eager to see how this change will influence future faculty hiring at TEDS.

The Politics of the “Chosen One”

Trump inauguration

My daughter was quick to tell me that “Antichrist” was trending on Twitter today.  Then I got a call from Emily McFarland  Miller, a reporter for Religion News Service, to talk about the meaning of words like “Antichrist” and “Chosen One.”  Here is a taste of Miller’s piece (co-authored with Jack Jenkins and Yonat Shimron):

Somebody had to take on China on trade, Trump told reporters Wednesday.

“I am the chosen one,” he said, glancing heavenward with outstretched hands.

Supporters have excused that comment as a joke.

Others used words like “blasphemy” and “idolatry.”

Bass tweeted that the phrase refers to Isaiah 42:1: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” Christians understand the Bible verse as a prophecy referring to Jesus.

“The chosen one” isn’t necessarily a biblical concept, said John Fea, professor of American history at Messiah College. It also has been used to refer to everyone from basketball star Lebron James to fictional wizard Harry Potter.

But in the context it’s difficult to ignore, Fea said.

“The phrase ‘chosen one’ is probably part Christianity, part science fiction, part myth, part fantasy, part Harry Potter,” Fea said. “But at the same time, there is embedded within that phrase this idea that God chooses certain people — and evangelicals will believe this — that God chooses certain people for particular moments in time to serve his purposes.”

Read the entire piece here.

Is Donald Trump the Antichrist?

Donald J. Trump, Taking Over The Big Apple

Check out Sarah Jones’s playful piece at New York Magazine in the wake of Trump’s recent “chosen one” comments.

So could Trump be the Antichrist? Look, anything is possible. I will tell you what my father once told me. Satan walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (For the record, I don’t recommend saying this to a child, especially not after she tells you that she had a dream about a witch who eats people.) The point is that Satan is devious, and his works can be found anywhere. Trump could indeed be his agent, and that would make him an antichrist, if not the Antichrist.

The distinction is relevant. As Hannah Gais pointed out in the Outline last year, the term initially identified “those who refused to confess Christ’s presence on Earth or his divinity.” But the eschatology popular with many conservative Evangelicals holds that there is one Antichrist, who will bring about Armageddon. Biblical literalists of a certain stripe have long speculated that a president would make an ideal Antichrist, though this interpretation is not universal. The Left Behind series, which terrorized Christian youth groups in the late 1990s and early 2000s, gives us an Antichrist from Romania, who exists thanks to genetic experimentation by a Satanic cult.

Read the rest here. I don’t know if Trump is the Antichrist, but one could certainly make the case that he is anti-Christ.

The Author’s Corner with Donald Akenson

51i8JUNVXDL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Donald Akenson is Douglas Professor of Canadian and Colonial History at Queen’s University. This interview is based on his new book Exporting the Rapture: John Nelson Darby and the Victorian Conquest of North-American Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2018).

JF: What led you to write Exporting the Rapture?

DA: This is the second volume in my three-volume set on where and how radical apocalyptic millennialism was built into its central position in American conservative evangelicalism. The first volume, Discovering the End of Time was published in 2016 by McGill-Queens University Press.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Exporting the Rapture?

DA: The big argument is that the ideological core of American evangelicalism was formed overseas and in the period 1860ff began to be energetically imported into North America. Surprisingly, the germinal ground was southern Ireland in the 1820s and thereafter. The entry point was the Great Lakes Basin and the subsequent process was equally a matter of Canadian and US assimilation of imported concepts. That is simple to state, but the process was anything but linear.

JF: Why do we need to read Exporting the Rapture?

DA: Mostly to help us escape the mortmain of American Exceptionalism, which, despite the heroic efforts of some fine historians, too frequently comes forth as American Parochialism.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

DA: I am an historian of Ireland, and of the Second British Empire and of the diasporas that had their origin in the British Isles. For a long time now, I have been arguing that in diaspora studies religion not only counts, it counts a great deal—despite its being marginalized by most historians of physical migration and by their counterparts in the field of cultural studies.

JF: What is your next project?

DA: To complete the third volume of the study and to bring the story up to the first decade of the twentieth century, when the new apocalyptic evangelicalism won.

JF: Thanks, Donald!

Nimrod Hughes and the Apocalypse of 1812

NimrodNimrod Hughes believed that one-third of the world’s population would be destroyed on June 4, 1812.  Read all about it at Past is Present, the blog of the American Antiquarian Society:

Hughes’s prophetic pamphlet was titled A solemn warning to all the dwellers upon earth, given forth in obedience to the express command of the Lord God, as communicated by Him, in several extraordinary visions and miraculous revelations, confirmed by sundry plain but wonderful signs, unto Nimrod Hughes, of the county of Washington, in Virginia, upon whom the awful duty of making this publication, has been laid and enforced; by many admonitions and severe chastisements of the Lord, for the space of ten months and nine days of unjust and close confinement in the prison of Abingdon, wherein he was shewn, that the certain destruction of one third of mankind, as foretold in the Scriptures, must take place on the fourth day of June, in the year of our Lord 1812. In it, Hughes claimed to have received apocalyptic visions from God during a recent imprisonment. A Solemn Warning was a bestseller, and many editions were published from mid-1811 into 1812, including at least six in English and two in German. On October 25, 1811, the Carlisle Gazette noted that “[Nimrod Hughes’s] prophecies are eagerly sought after from every corner, and the printers are hardly able to keep pace with the uncommon demand.” The popularity of this pamphlet eventually spawned a massive assault against Nimrod Hughes and his prophetic pretensions in the press.

Read the entire piece here.

The best thing I have read on Nimrod Hughes and people like him is Susan Juster’s Doomsayers: Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution.

The Anti-Christ in New Hampshire

bible_Geneva

If you have been following the GOP presidential race, you know that New Hampshire has fewer evangelicals than Iowa or South Carolina. But though evangelicals do not make a large swath of the population in the Granite State, it does have its fair share of born-again Christians.  One of them is apparently Susan DeLumus, a member of the state legislature. DeLumas is supporting Donald Trump.  She obviously has no problem with Trump’s recent squabble with Pope Francis because, after all, the Pope is the anti-Christ.

Here is a taste of an article on DeLumas:

In response to her own Facebook post of three snippets of scripture from the Geneva Bible, Rep. Susan DeLemus (R) wrote: “The Pope is the anti-Christ. [sic] Do your research.” In another response, DeLemus said “I’m not sure who the Pope truly has in his heart.”

She told Politico that she was generally referring to the papacy, rather than Pope Francis in particular.

“I was actually referencing the papacy. And what I wrote after that ‘do your research,’ if you read the Geneva Bible, which is the Bible I use when we study, the commentary is – actually by the founders of the United States actually, the Protestant Church – their commentary references the papacy as the anti-Christ,” DeLemus said.

DeLumus is correct about the Geneva Bible.  Here is a taste of the notes on Revelation 13:12 that appeared in the 1560 edition:

13:12 17 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein 18 to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 

(17) The history of the acts of this beast contains in sum three things, hypocrisy, the witness of miracles and tyranny: of which the first is noted in this verse, the second in the three verses following: the third in the sixteenth and seventeenth verses. His hypocrisy is most full of lies, by which he abuses both the former beast and the whole world: in that though he has by his cunning, as it were by line, made of the former beast a most miserable skeleton or anatomy, usurped all his authority to himself and most impudently exercises the same in the sight and view of him: yet he carries himself so as if he honoured him with most high honour, and did truly cause him to be reverenced by all men. 

(18) For to this beast of Rome, which of civil Empire is made an ecclesiastical hierarchy, are given divine honours, and divine authority so far, as he is believed to be above the scriptures, which the gloss upon the Decretals declares by this devilish verse. “Articulos solvit, synodumque facit generalem” That is, “He changes the Articles of faith, and gives authority to general Councils.”
Which is spoken of the papal power. So the beast is by birth, foundation, feat, and finally substance, one: only the Pope has altered the form and manner of it, being himself the head both of that tyrannical empire, and also of the false prophets: for the empire has he taken to himself, and to it added this cunning device. Now these words, “whose deadly wound was cured” are put here for distinction sake, as also sometimes afterwards: that even at that time the godly readers of this prophecy might by this sign be brought to see the thing as present: as if it were said, that they might adore this very empire that now is, whose head we have seen in our own memory to have been cut off, and to be cured again.

Who Was Charles Ryrie and Why Does He Matter?

RyrieCharles Ryrie died today.

I am guessing that many of the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home have never heard of Charles Ryrie.  But any student of 20th-century evangelicalism needs to reckon with him and his legacy.

Ryrie was one of the twentieth century’s foremost defenders of  dispensationalism.  Along with C.I. Scofield, Clarence Larkin, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and John Walvoord, Ryrie helped to craft the theological system behind popular books such as Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind novels.

But Ryrie also popularized dispensationalism through the publication of his wildly successful Ryrie Study Bible.  This Bible, which included thousands of study notes written by Ryrie, sold over 2 million copies since it was published in 1978.

When I started attending an evangelical congregation in the early 1980s it seemed like everyone had a copy of the Bible with the brown cover and gold lettering.  I eventually bought a Ryrie Study Bible too.  (Or perhaps my parents bought if for me, I can’t remember).  It was the New American Standard hardback edition.  I still have it.

I think it is fair to say that Ryrie’s Bible replaced the Scofield Reference Bible among a new generation of dispensationalists.

Charles Ryrie is an important figure in the history of conservative evangelicalism in the United States.  Someone should do a study of his life and thought.

ADDENDUM:  Here is the Christianity Today obit.

 

Slacktivist on Why Rapture Prophets Can’t Celebrate 50th Anniversaries

What happens if you preside over a ministry devoted to the idea that the so-called “rapture” of the Christian church will occur at any moment, but your ministry is fifty years old or older?  Wouldn’t it be a bad public relations move to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of such a ministry?  Fred Clark explores this idea in light of the fiftieth anniversary of an organization called The King is Coming Ministries founded by a preacher named Howard Estep.  Here is a taste of his post at Slacktivist:

The King Is Coming” ministries carries on Estep’s work, preaching that the Rapture is imminent and could occur at any moment, if not sooner. It’s now run by Ed Hindson, dean of the “Institute of Biblical Studies” at Liberty University. Hindson took over for Estep because, as the Gospel of Matthew says, “Two men will be grinding out a prophecy newsletter together; one will be taken and one will be left.”
The King Is Coming has a long, storied history as an organization. But celebrating that history is a bit awkward, given the content of the group’s message. They can’t do something like, for example, World Vision’s proud account of its 60+ years of work, with a timeline charting the growth and accomplishments of the organization throughout its long history.
What would such a timeline look like for a Rapture-prophecy “ministry” like TKIC?
1963: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1964: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1965: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1966: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1967: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1968: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1969: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1970: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1971: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1972: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong. …
1973: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1974: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong. …
That’s probably not a winning fund-raising strategy. It’s probably wiser just to fudge the group’s long history of premature extrapolation and to do their best to appear as though they haven’t been at this for as many decades as they have….
Clark also mentions the evangelical eschatological thriller A Thief in the Night and the very popular tract 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.

Pat Robertson and the Jeremiad

In 18th-century New England, earthquakes were usually interpreted as signs that God was punishing his covenanted people.  Massachusetts felt the effects of regional earthquakes in 1638, 1661, 1663, and 1732.  In 1727, the Boston area was hit with an earthquake that, by today’s estimation, would have reached 5.5 on the Richter scale.  In 1755, the area was hit with an even larger earthquake, registering about 6.2.  (In that same year a massive earthquake, probably 8.5-9.0 on today’s Richter scale, hit the Portuguese city of Lisbon).

Puritan ministers responded to these earthquakes and tremors by climbing into their pulpits and warning the people–God’s new Israel–of their sins.  These jeremiads were a fixture of New England religious culture. 

But the 18th century was also an age in which Puritans were starting to explain things through science.  As Harry Stout has shown us, Puritans never stopped responding to natural disasters and other societal problems through jeremiads. But we also know that many of the 18th-century descendants of Puritans were integrating their Calvinist faith with the new ideas emanating from the Enlightenment.

For example, John Winthrop, the great-great grandson of the Massachusetts founder by the same name, argued that earthquakes were best explained by science, not theology.  He has often been described as the founder of the science of seismology. After the 1755 quake, Winthrop engaged in an extended debate with New England clergymen Thomas Prince over the cause of earthquakes .  Much of this exchange took place in the pages of The Boston Gazette.  Prince defended the the traditional Puritan view of earthquakes as signs of God’s judgment.  Winthrop defended a scientific explanation.

I should add that for many 18th-century New England Calvinists, the scientific and religious explanations for earthquakes were not mutually exclusive.  Earthquakes could be explained both scientifically AND providentially. New Englanders could comfortably embrace both of these  explanations.

Of course Winthrop’s understanding of how earthquakes happened eventually won the day, but the old jeremiad tradition has not disappeared in American life.  In fact, 40% of Americans believe that earthquakes and other natural disasters are signs from God.  The jeremiad tradition lives on in folks like Pat Robertson

Here is a snippet from the Washington Post‘s coverage of Robertson’s remarks about the earthquake that hit the east coast earlier this week:

 Pat Robertson, natural disaster interpreter extraordinaire, said on Wednesday’s 700 Club that the earthquake that struck the Washington region Tuesday “means that we’re closer to the coming of the Lord.”

On Thursday’s broadcast, Robertson pointed to the damage to the Washington Monument in the earthquake as a possible ‘sign’ from God:

“It seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America’s power. It has been the symbol of our great nation. We look at the symbol and we say ‘this is one nation under God.’ Now there’s a crack in it… Is that sign from the Lord? … You judge. It seems to me symbolic.”

 …Robertson has a history of blaming natural disasters and terrorist acts on the victims. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, Robertson commented that Haitians had made a “pact to the devil” and were being “cursed” through the earthquake. He suggested that Hurricane Katrina was the result of legal abortion, according to Time Magazine. And in the wake of 9/11, Robertson had a now (in-)famous exchange with the late Jerry Falwell in which the two religious leaders suggested that the United States “deserved” the attacks for its tolerance of secularism, gays, abortion, feminists and pagans. Robertson’s religious worldview sees God as a being that can withdraw his protection from the United States based on the country’s morality.

This Week’s Patheos Column: Thy Kingdom Come: Harold Camping and American Evangelicalism

As I write this, Harold Camping is speaking to the press in the wake of his failed prediction that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. I have been amazed at how Camping’s false prophecy has become a cultural and media event. On Saturday night I was doing a book signing in Wilkes-Barre, PA and the entire staff at the Barnes & Noble could not stop commenting on the impending rapture. A fierce debate raged among the salespersons at the “Nook” table as to whether the great earthquake Camping predicted would take place at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time or 6:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. This week I received e-mails and Facebook messages from family and friends soliciting my thoughts on the matter. The preacher I heard on Sunday morning made Camping’s message the central theme of her sermon.

On Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. EST I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of a Panera Bread restaurant in Wilkes-Barre watching a man and a woman in the nearby parking lot of an Outback Steakhouse. They were looking into the sky. I have no idea why there were gazing in this way. Maybe they were watching a plane fly overhead. Perhaps they were noticing a unique cloud formation. But it sure looked like they were waiting for the rapture. At about 6:03 p.m. they stopped staring at the heavens, chatted with each other for a few seconds, and then headed into the restaurant, presumably to get their dinner. If they weren’t going to get their rapture, at least they could get a blooming onion.

Read the rest here.

The World Will End on October 21, 2011

Last night Harold Camping said he was wrong about the “physical” rapture taking place on May 21, 2011, but he is sticking to his calculation that the end of the world will take place on October 21, 2011.

He told a group of reporters that the world did indeed come under judgment on May 21, 2011, but the judgment was spiritual, not physical. Whatever the case, people can expect the world to end in five months.

Check out this report from the BBC and watch a short a video clip of Camping’s statement.

Stay tuned for another five months of craziness.  I just checked my calendar and on October 21 I will be at a conference in Birmingham, Alabama.