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The Arrogance of Prophecy

I make no bones about this — this column is a personal plea. Since I first began studying the rapture, I have been shocked by the attitude of many believers who have taken up the evangelical and apologetic banner of prophecy. It has become an excuse for arrogance, spitefulness, and harshness against believers and unbelievers alike.

Several months ago, I rented a copy of Left Behind, the movie. I sat, stunned, during the trailers as these promotional clips promised viewers hints of the blood, gore, and anguish that would follow the rapture as God poured out His fierce anger upon the earth. The pounding music, the seedy Hollywood presentation, and the deep, ominous voice-over invited Christians to come and enjoy the terror and suffering of the post-rapture world like spectators in a Roman coliseum.

And Christians will do it.

I have a friend who grew up in the South who has told me of a Halloween event called The Trail of Tears. In line with the fire and brimstone preaching for which this area is famous, this trail walks believers and unbelievers through a visual smorgasbord of crumpled cars, gashed foreheads, dead bodies, and half-starved men and women that will result from God's judgment. At the end, counselors line up to hit the traumatized participants with the salvation bargain: accept Jesus today or this could happen to you.

And Christians see this as “spreading the gospel of Christ.”

As I write this column, I am reeling from the response I received from a rapture enthusiast whose website I had visited. On the site had been an invitation: If I do not believe in a pretribulation rapture, would I please take this test? I did so, and the responses I received were condescending, arrogant, and in the light of his position as a professed believer, curdled my blood.

These are the men and women who claim to represent the Body of Christ. Oh, how we should be ashamed!

I am going to share with you two experiences I had on such websites. No names or web addresses will be given, and only portions of the correspondences will be shown. This is not to expose or shame those involved but to open our eyes to how we are behaving as Christians because, tragically, the content of these sites is not unusual. In fact, at least on the Internet, it is the norm.

The Rapture Site

I would like to share with you some excerpts from the website that challenged me, as a non-pretrib believer, to take a test. From the beginning, it was clear that the purpose of this test would open me to criticism from its author. I answered the questions honestly and biblically, interested to see what kind of response I would receive. It was not his answers I was interested in, but his attitudes. I was about to find out.

Here are some examples of the questions he asked and my answers:

What hermeneutic principle do you use to understand Scripture?

All scriptures to be taken literally unless clearly indicated otherwise by the text. All scripture must also be read in its historical, cultural, and scriptural context.

How do you determine whether something is symbolic or literal?

By the context. The Bible is very clear about when things should be taken literally and when they should be taken symbolically. It was Jesus' intention to bring to light, after all, not to hide.

How do you know for certain what a symbol means?

In most cases, it is interpreted elsewhere in the text. If it is not, we must rely on history or other factors to interpret it, but in these cases, we must respect that it is best speculation, not fact.

How many prophecies have been fulfilled in a symbolic manner?

None.

Clearly, he was leading up to something.

The Response

I received the reply a few days later. His first words were, “Here is your test results.”

Right off the bat, I knew the writer had already taken the attitude: “I have the 100% correct answer to all of these questions and can grade you according to my perfect knowledge and understanding. If I say you are wrong, you are.”

Scripturally and spiritually, that is very dangerous ground to be on.

Next, his grade on my answer regarding the hermeneutic principle. My answer, "All scriptures to be taken literally unless clearly indicated otherwise by the text. All scripture must also be read in its historical, cultural, and scriptural context," was graded "Not good. Too much wiggle room. There is only one principle: `Take everything literally in context, unless the Scriptures say it is symbolic or unless it is physically impossible for it to be or to take place, with the exception of miracles...Use it!"

The writer found my answer about how to determine whether something is symbolic or literal, "by the context," equally deficient: “Not good," he wrote. "Harold Camping says the same thing and he takes virtually every prophetic passage to be symbolic. The only way to know is by using the principle I noted above. Use it!”

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