>Why I am Frustrated with Futurism

Posted: 27/11/2009 in eschatology, iconoclasms, the bible

>While it was never my intention to be overly negative or deconstructive when it comes to this blog, I think I finally need to comment on Dispensational Futurism, otherwise known as “end times” by the popular evangelicalism. Dispensational Futurism, for those of here who may not be familiar with it, is a specific understanding of the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24, Revelation, Daniel and such. It represents the popular dogmas like the rapture (when Christians disappear) the coming tribulation, black helicopters, and a world government of the Anti-Christ. It was popularized by the Left Behind series, which is a whole different blog entirely.

At this time, I not only think that Dispensational Futurism is off track, I think that dispensationalism faces quite a bit of problems; problems that I think are not easily overcome. Here are some of the reasons why I am frustrated with futurism.

Dispensational Futurism is not a “conservative” view. Dispensational Futurism is often taught in evangelical churches, and especially charismatic and very fundamentalist churches, “what the Bible teaches.” Deviations from futurism are often taught as “liberal” viewpoints to be viewed with suspicion. Dispensationalism is right because it is conservative.

The strange thing is, dispensational futurism is far from conservative. It began in the 1800s –very late by Church History standards- and it was incredibly novel of an idea even then. Most Christians, including the big names in Protestantism like Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, never knew of futurism like we know it today and would not endorse it if they knew of it now. Furthermore, when futurists first came on the scene, they snubbed ministers who they considered to intellectual (and were consequently the actual conservatives) as not having anything worth saying.

Dispensational Futurism is a liberal view. In fact, if one considers how futurists approach scripture, the positions might actually be radical. This leads me to the second point…

Dispensational Futurists are hermeneutically challenged. While I am sure that there are futurists out there who are very conscious and aware of their interpretative methods, I am beginning to think that many futurists not only do not know their own hermeneutic, but do not even know what a “hermeneutic” is.

The more I talk to futurists, the more I am convinced that they do not know the difference between an interpretive method (a hermeneutic) and the act of interpreting. Furthermore, some of the most basic principles of interpretation are outright doubly ignored, such as reading a passage in its literally context or according to the time period it was written.

I believe that the conclusions of futurism are matters of presumption, and it is a presumption they are not aware of. The parable of the Purple Cow exemplifies this problem.

Dispensational Futurism has made Too Many False Prophecies. One can pick up a book at a Christian bookstore entitled “Charting the End Times” but chances are you aren’t going to find “88 Reasons why Jesus is coming in 1988.” Most books that talked about the end of the world around the year 2000 are less than likely to available for purchase too. I also doubt anyone is reading “the Late Great Planet Earth.” Why? Because these books prophesied about then current events that turned out not to be true.

There is a serious problem with consistency here. Many Christians rightly denounce the latter day prophets of Mormonism and the Jehovah Witnesses for their failed visions of the end of the world. Rightly, people invoke the test of a false prophet in Deuteronomy 18.

For even one false prophecy made by the founders of Mormonism, your average evangelical will rightly say “away with them and their theological projects.” Why then do we tolerate the failed predictions of dispensational futurism? Is it because names keep changing every ten years or so? Failed prophecies are failed prophecies. This should be enough to make at least reevaluate futurism if not dump it completely. Sadly, people seem to have a short memory about these things.

Dispensational Futurism encourages a “fire escape” Gospel I almost entitled this section as “Dispensational Futurism has a suspicious genesis.” But I think it suffices to say this, Dispensational Futurism, since its inception, has taught that the W.A.S.P.’s are alienated people, losing control in their society, and thus will eventually be sucked away from world because they’re just that special. In other words, get on board, and get out. Many articles, like those found at the preteristsite.com and the slacktivisit have already noted this same attitude in the Left Behind series, and I need not expound on them here.

I do not believe the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, and such is about escape planet earth and letting all God’s creation burn. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that starts small and then grows into something huge within the soil it was planted in. It is not like a soldier in a foxhole waiting for helicopter evac. Christians should not be looking to things like the rapture index to see how horrible the world is getting and looking foreward to our escape with self-satisfactory smugness, rather we should be doing the work of God in the world and preparing it for his coming.

So there it is: Four reasons why I am frustrated with futurism. It is a liberal view supported by poor interpretation. It has a bad track record when it comes to predicting the future and encourages, if only implicitly, that Christians need not care about the condition of the world around them. This is something I have been frustrated with for years.

So suck it, LaHaye.

  1. Dave says:

    >It gets so wearisome to read the same old tired arguments against dispensationalism – which just seem to be repeated from blog to blog – although they are almost always *entirely* straw-man arguments that *might* be true of a relatively very few dispensationalists – and seldom if ever use any biblical arguments at all and seldom if ever have any biblical references. I find it rather ironic that this blog condescendingly challenges whether or not dispensationalists even know what a hermeneutic is – while I could just as easily ask this blogger if he knows what a Bible is, since he doesn't use it.Not a single of these arguments against dispensationalism carries any weight whatsoever, because even if the charges were true, but dispensationalism were still found to have a biblical basis (which it does) – that trumps any historical theology argument.I have dealt with the charge of dispensationalism being "new" on the ABI blog:http://www.biblicalintegrity.org/blog/?p=245Dave JamesThe Alliance for Biblical Integrity

  2. Q says:

    >I hate trollers.Good post. Sums it up for me.

  3. Jin-roh says:

    >Dave, you don't have a "Biblical basis" on your side. You have your made-up, insular an ineffable paradigm that you force scripture into like medieval astronomers force the movements of planets into a geocentric universe.The difference between you and medieval astronomers is that you probably don't see your own paradigm. Non-futurists do see it though, and we are laughing at it.

  4. Dan says:

    >I didn't even know there was such a thing as dispensational futurism. Forgive me, but is that essentially a new name for dispensationalism? I grew up believing that theory, and still adhere to it in many ways, all of them unworthy of discussion on this blog. For while many of us have made idiots of ourselves by predicting this year or that, the fact is that the Bible seems to indicate these things (rapture, some form of tribulation, some sort of world order, etc) will occur. Now, don't get me wrong, we've made many mistakes; most notably, not reading where Christ said that not even he knew the day or hour of the rapture. However, that doesn't mean that we're all off our rockers.I do like this blog, and I don't think you were wrong in your comments, just don't lump us all in the same group. I believe in proper interpretive devices. I'm in seminary now and learning more.However, the most important thing is that no belief about dispensationalism (or frustration with it) should take away from our primary purpose on earth: To make disciples of all nations. This is paramount, and I have scripture to back that up, if anyone needs it. Ok, I don't mean to make that sound mean, I just want it put out there that I can defend my position.

  5. Jin-roh says:

    >I'm glad that your still reading the blog, even after everything I just posted, Dan.A lot of people grew up believing, Dispensationalism -myself included.I use the term "dispensational futurism" to be as specific as I can, as could technically be a dispensationalist without being a futurist, but that would be rare bred.My next blog will comment a bit on the eschatology I more or less support these days. That one will be much more positive.

  6. PKodon says:

    >You know, I grew up in a church that taught "Dispensationalism". Then, when I went to College, I discovered from those who ran the college that there was something called "Covenant Theology".Now, as I read the Bible myself, I see the word "covenant" used many times in scripture, but I can recall (probably should look in a concordance to make sure) only one verse that even mentions a "dispensation" in scripture, and that was talking about God doing things in the fullness of time.And, don't get me wrong, there is Covenant Theology and Covenant Theology. A concerned friend gave me a book to try to convince me that Covenant Theology was wrong. I started reading it, and before I had gotten very far, I discovered that the "Covenant Theology" I had been exposed to had nothing to do with the subject of the book.Now, I agree with Dan, in so far as Christ did talk about there being "great tribulation" that we should hope to escape from, by living our lives for Christ. Though the word "rapture" is not in scripture, the concept (as it's normally presented) is plainly there. Some world leader is to arise, make peace with Israel for 7 years, break that treaty 3-1/2 years into the treaty, and commit "the abomination of desolation". 144,000 Jews are supposed to evangelize the world, and two witnesses who do miracles are supposed to oppose the Antichrist, be killed by him eventually, and 3 days later, be raised by God.Now, I may not agree with dispensational doctrine, but I can read in scripture that these things are to come to pass (and with some work, I can even read it in Koine Greek).As Jesus said, only the Father knows the day or the hour, but we should recognize the signs of the season and be prepared. I believe that we need to do a number of things: be prepared for our Lord's return any day; present the gospel to anyone the Lord puts in our path; pray for those around us; occupy till He comes (be good stewards of whatever the Lord has put under our authority, do all to His glory, and the best of our ability, accomplish whatever tasks the Lord sets our hand to); and teach our children and the immature in the church those things the Lord has revealed in His Word.I believe that Christ will reign on this earth 1000 years, that Satan will be bound for that period of time, then released for one last attempt at deception. I see it in scripture. I can't deny it, and I don't see it happening "in the spiritual realm" as the Amillenialists believe.We all need to spend more time reading our Bible, and less time reading man's interpretations of it. The Holy Spirit is there to lead us and teach us what we need to know about the Bible. Let us, like Christ, be "about" our Father's business.PK

  7. Jin-roh says:

    >PKodon, You said,"Now, I may not agree with dispensational doctrine, but I can read in scripture that these things are to come to pass (and with some work, I can even read it in Koine Greek)."As far as I can tell the belief that such-and-such event in revelation or the Olivet discourse is about things that will come to pass in our future is an assumption of futurism (whether covenant or dispensational). It is this assumption that think is wrong.You also said:"We all need to spend more time reading our Bible, and less time reading man's interpretations of it. The Holy Spirit is there to lead us and teach us what we need to know about the Bible."I reject man's teaching. Specifically, I reject the teaching of LaHaye, Darby, and any other dispie-futurists who are all men. The Holy Spirit has revealed to me they are wrong. *shrugs*

  8. PKodon says:

    >Interesting. Now, I know that Calvin told those who wanted to form the Presbyterian Church (and make him the head of it) that those scriptures that had not been fulfilled were closed to our understanding till the generation would come who would see those things begin to come to pass, just as the scriptures regarding Christ's first coming were closed to the understanding of the Old Testament saints.So, you have said that you do not believe that the dispensationalists have the correct understanding of those scriptures, now I would like to know what you actually do believe about them.You seem to believe that Christ is coming again. Christ said that we would know the season of His coming by the signs. Do you believe there are signs of His coming by which we can know the time is drawing near, even though we cannot know "the day nor the hour"?Do you not believe that we ought to interpret scripture as literal, unless it is impossible to do so?I'm curious to know what you do believe about the prophetic portions of scripture which have not been fulfilled. We know from what you've said, what you don't believe. Now please tell us what you do believe.PK

  9. Jin-roh says:

    >PK, thanks for responding again. Since my beliefs about Eschatology are in, I'd recommend just reading the blog I posted after this one "Why I prefer preterism." I think there I comment on a some of my views that would better address you questions than this small blog comment would.Anyway you mentioned:"Do you not believe that we ought to interpret scripture as literal, unless it is impossible to do so?"I believe that an interpretation of scripture is to complex to assert the rule: Obvious Prima Facie, face-value, "literal" readings are the best unless it is impossible to do rad otherwise. Because what is "obvious" to us may not have been completely unheard of to both the original authors and the original audience. And vice versa, what was "obvious" to them could very well be obscured to us. And here:"I'm curious to know what you do believe about the prophetic portions of scripture which have not been fulfilled."The problem I have with futurism, is that futurist are often unable to explain (adequately) why a particular passage should be read as prophetic and unfulfilled passage. Rather, I have noticed that futurists have a list of passages that they consider such, but do so by an unconscious assumption only.

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