It’s No Longer Just Fringe Theology
When I was in seminary back in the mid- to late-1980s, I remember taking a class with Don Carson on some of the Pauline letters. He remarked that students at that time had a completely different set of interests than they did just a decade before. I had been part of the Jesus movement in those days he was referring to, and I recall that there were two major emphases dominating the evangelical/fundamental churches then: (1) the charismatic movement and the spiritual gifts, and (2) the right interpretation of biblical prophecy.
By the time I got to seminary, those concerns were no longer the main story. Instead, it was all about women’s ministry in the church, the worship wars between contemporary and traditional styles of music, and the seeker-sensitive movement of church growth and the megachurches.
Sure, at ground level, many churches were still dealing with the other issues. In fact, right after seminary, I had a real conundrum on my hands, since I had moved from my dispensational training to a more moderate position on things like the rapture and the millennium. However, many congregations were still hesitant to bring in a pastor who didn’t have strong dispensational credentials and convictions.
Needless to say, in the following years I kept moving farther and farther away from my Scofield Bible, pre-trib, Bible as a puzzle-book approach to the Christian hope. And for a long time now, I have actually taken positions against most futurist biblical interpretations and have judged them to be — if I may say it — ridiculous modernistic readings that have little or nothing to do with the ancient and sacred book we hold in our hands. This shift is one of the most complete post-evangelical transformations I have experienced.
A lot of other people have joined me in this, even within evangelicalism. The popularity and influence, for example, of N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope is a sign that people are reading the Bible better and no longer falling for the hype and hysteria of the prophetic snake-oil salesmen.
So, how discouraging it is to watch as Robert Jeffress and John Hagee were the ministers chosen to offer prayers at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem this week.
Hagee, in particular, a purveyor of some of the most laughable interpretations of scripture in my lifetime, including his most recent scam about the “blood moons,” has not only been teaching dispensationalism, he has been actively promoting its fulfillment in real world terms.
In 2006 Hagee founded the organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which bills itself as “the largest pro-Israel grassroots organization in the United States.” Whatever your political opinions about Israel and Middle Eastern affairs, Hagee is approaching this from his theology, not simply politics. All you have to do is look him up on YouTube or at his ministry site for a boatload of prophetic “teaching” that boggles the mind.
In a recent interview with Breitbart, Hagee explained his understanding of the importance of Jerusalem to Christians:
Christians believe that Jerusalem will be the capital city in the Eternal Kingdom, ruled by Jesus Christ,” he said. (Religious sources tell Breitbart News that this belief is a tenant of dispensational theology, which is one of several branches of Evangelical Christianity.)
The U.S. embassy moving to Jerusalem is a very clear indicator of the verse in the book of Deuteronomy (28:13) where God promises: ‘I will make you the head and not the tail.’
Jerusalem is the epicenter of Christianity. Jerusalem is where Abraham placed Isaac on the altar on the Temple Mount in this city. Jerusalem is where Jeremiah and Isaiah penned the principles of righteousness that became the moral foundations of our civilization. … Jerusalem is the city of God.
He added: “Outside the city of Jerusalem, Jesus Christ was crucified, resurrected from the dead, and when he returns the second time, is going to put his foot on the Mount of Olives in the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the future of the world. Not Washington; not Rome; not Paris, France; not Berlin — Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the shoreline of eternity.”
Pastor Hagee, the Lord Jesus Christ is the epicenter of Christianity, and he is Lord of all.
It’s simply frightening to me that these are the kinds of evangelicals who are influencing the halls of power in the U.S. and beyond today.