The Bad News of God?I'm not in an especially good mood right now, and it may not be the best time to write a blurb like this. That being said, today I want to look at the big picture of the Church's great obsession of our time.
There is hardly a facet of the Church which is not hollering the apocalypse at the top of its lungs. From the most ordinary layman to the most prominent national pastor, Christ's bride is caught up in the hysteria of the end times. Across the world, Christians are being told that we are at the absolute gates of the rapture, the tribulation, and God’s burning wrath upon sinners. Well, with this blurb I have decided to show my audacious side. And my inspiration, ironically enough, comes from Israel.
Have you ever heard of the Tenth Man? It's a military intelligence principle conceived by the Israelis following their disastrous intelligence failure in 1973 which led to the Yom Kippur War. It runs as follows:
If nine individuals in a group of ten receive the same info and agree on a resolution, it’s the responsibility of the tenth to protest, highlight all potential issues with that resolution, and argue the case for unlikelier scenarios – even if they’re on the same page as the other nine.
I do not know if we are at the very end of the end. Maybe we are. But with the Church so united in its obsessive groupthink, so supercharged in its proclamation that humanity is on the absolute edge of the cliff of horror and cataclysm, I feel like we need a Tenth Man to evaluate the issue as though - just maybe - we are not.
First of all, for us in the west to assumethat the end is near is ethnocentric. Pure and simple. It is the equivalent of saying that God loves us more than others and always has.
African Christianity is exploding. More Christians live in African nations than any other continent. The Christian population has almost doubled there since 2000, and there continue to be around thirty-five thousand new African converts every day.
China has long been known as the atheistic epicentre of the world; and yet it is poised to eclipse the US as the world's most Christian nation by 2030, and may even be a majority Christian nation by 2050.
Christianity is on the rise like never before. Souls are being saved, friend. A wholesale miracle is spreading across the developing world.
And we here in the west just expect God to bring that to a massive, screeching halt… for what? For us? For our presuppositions? For our fear? For our safety? Even if the west -with a church on every corner, and Bibles stacked halfway to the sky - falls utterly into chaos or poverty or tyranny, why should God cease his historic harvest of saved souls going on as I write? Hell, maybe the west could use a little chaos and poverty and tyranny… are these not prevalent in the places we are discussing?
Secondly, prominent voices in the Church have been predicting God's judgement throughout history. Pope Innocent III did it in 1284. William Miller did it in the 1830's. Billy Graham got a definite blotch on his permanent record in 1950 when he warned the world that the end would come in two years.
Misinterpretation of Christ's return dates back to the first century, with many in the first generation of the Church believing it would happen in their own lifetimes.
They were all sincere. They were all intelligent and educated. They all did their research, studied Scripture and looked carefully at what was happening in the world around them.
And they were all wrong. They wasted their time and mindpower. They caused tremendous fear and then massive disappointment to those who took them seriously. And they served a sumptuous feast to skeptics and scoffers.
Today's doomsayers are no different. They think they have all the facts, that they are doing God's work and spreading his knowledge, when not even Christ himself knew what was going to happen.
Finally, there is a fundamental problem with this end times hysteria: it is one big, ugly wrench in the blessed machinery of the spreading of the Good News of God. This endless stream of 'The end is near' is stifling the Great Commission.
If we're busy bunkering down for doomsday, we aren't preaching the Gospel. And even when we do, we are preaching a Gospel smeared with fear and gloom and unhappiness. No one is going to accept Christ under penalty of the terror of the Apocalypse. No one is obliged to.
Precisely how many souls do we expect to save with a Gospel of fear?!
I will not, under any circumstances, submit to a negative gospel. Bipolar notwithstanding, I am a profoundly happy man. I invite my unbelieving reader to an experience of joy and laughter and freedom, and leave the end of the world in God's hands where it belongs.
It is coming. Don't get me wrong. The Bible makes that abundantly clear. But I see far too much potential in this world to assume that we are on the threshold. The Church is on the rise, and on the move.
And even if we are at the end, I will keep working and moving. Nowhere in Bible is there any exception which alters the course of the Great Commission anywhere but outward with all the strength that God can give us.
And we are always to spread the Good News.