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Tag: Eschatology

This Was Your Life: The Great White Throne Judgment

this was your life

Note: I am quite familiar with the various eschatological schemes believed by Evangelical Christians. I speak generally in this article.

Most Evangelical Christians believe that their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return to Earth’s atmosphere (the clouds), and catch away (rapture) all the Christians. Unbelievers, including babies, children, and developmentally disabled people, will be left behind to suffer the wrath and judgment of the Almighty. For seven years, God will savagely and violently torture the inhabitants of earth, killing most of them. God will also ravage the planet, destroying most plant life and killing most animals. While God is busy maiming and slaughtering everyone, Christians will be gathered together in Heaven so they can judged and rewarded for their works by Jesus. This judgment is called the judgment seat of Christ (or BEMA seat).

Got Questions states:

Romans 14:10–12 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. . . . So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV). Second Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In context, it is clear that both passages refer to Christians, not unbelievers. The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ.

The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed. However, that is not going to be the primary focus of the judgment seat of Christ.

At the judgment seat of Christ, believers are rewarded based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). Some of the things we might be judged on are how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), and how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9). The Bible speaks of believers receiving crowns for different things based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). The various crowns are described in 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10. James 1:12 is a good summary of how we should think about the judgment seat of Christ: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

After the Rapture, there will be a thousand-year period (the millennium) when Jesus will rule with a rod of iron. Satan and his demons will not be present on earth. He has been bound with chains and cast in the Lake of Fire. At the end of the millennium, Satan and his followers will be loosed for a time so he can deceive the masses (those who survived the Tribulation). Finally, Jesus has enough, comes to earth on a white horse with the hosts of Heaven (angels and Christians) to wage a final battle with Satan. After Satan is vanquished, all the unsaved people who have ever lived — billions and billions of people — will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment and be judged.

God Questions says:

The great white throne judgment is described in Revelation 20:11-15 and is the final judgment prior to the lost being cast into the lake of fire. We know from Revelation 20:7-15 that this judgment will take place after the millennium and after Satan is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are (Revelation 19:19-20; 20:7-10). The books that are opened (Revelation 20:12) contain records of everyone’s deeds, whether they are good or evil, because God knows everything that has ever been said, done, or even thought, and He will reward or punish each one accordingly (Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:23; 18:6; 22:12).

Also at this time, another book is opened, called the “book of life” (Revelation 20:12). It is this book that determines whether a person will inherit eternal life with God or receive everlasting punishment in the lake of fire. Although Christians are held accountable for their actions, they are forgiven in Christ and their names were written in the “book of life from the creation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). We also know from Scripture that it is at this judgment when the dead will be “judged according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12) and that “anyone’s name” that is not “found written in the book of life” will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Prophecy, especially the “imminent” return of Christ and the Tribulation, was a big deal. I attended an IFB college in the 1970s. While the return of Christ was part of the teaching and preaching mix, it was typically used as a motivator to encourage (demand) students to evangelize the lost.

While I knew there were at least two judgments, typically preachers comingled the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Judgment, turning them into one final judgment where the dead small and great would stand before God and be judged, with the saved entering into the joy of the Lord and the unsaved being cast into the Lake of Fire, a place of fire, brimstone, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Jack Chick polarized this view in his bestselling tract, This Was Your Life.

For all the talk about every human being facing judgment from God for their works, the only thing that will matter is whether a person was saved. Christians will be granted entrance into Heaven (eternal Kingdom of Heaven), not because of their works, but because they “believed” a certain set of propositional facts. Unbelievers will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, not because of their works, but because they didn’t “believe” a certain set of propositional facts.

Keep these things in mind when you see Evangelicals doing abominable things. Nothing they say and do in this life will keep them out of Heaven. Sure, God will smack their hands on Judgment Day and assign them a room without a view, but they will enjoy all the benefits of Heaven. On the other hand, the Lake of Fire will be populated with billions and billions of good people; people whose only “sin” was worshiping the wrong God or no god at all. Child molester preachers will end up singing with the angels in Heaven, whereas moral and ethical unbelievers will spend eternity being tortured by God. Why? They believed the wrong things.

Remember, according to 1 John 1:9, forgiveness for Christians is but a prayer away. No sin is so bad that God won’t forgive. Ponder that for a moment.

Please see This Is Your Life! Judgment Day, a guest post by ObstacleChick and Jack Chick: This Was Your Life by The N.I.B.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Evangelical Hysteria Surrounding Y2K

y2k

Remember Y2K?

Wikipedia has this to say about Y2K:

The year 2000 problem, also known as the Y2K problem, Y2K scare, millennium bug, Y2K bug, Y2K glitch, Y2K error, or simply Y2K refers to potential computer errors related to the formatting and storage of calendar data for dates in and after the year 2000. Many programs represented four-digit years with only the final two digits, making the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900. Computer systems’ inability to distinguish dates correctly had the potential to bring down worldwide infrastructures for industries ranging from banking to air travel.

In the years leading up to the turn of the century, the public gradually became aware of the “Y2K scare,” and individual companies predicted the global damage caused by the bug would require anything between $400 million and $600 billion to rectify. A lack of clarity regarding the potential dangers of the bug led some to stock up on food, water, and arms, purchase backup generators, and withdraw large sums of money in anticipation of a computer-induced apocalypse.

Contrary to public expectations, few major errors actually occurred in 2000. Supporters of the Y2K remediation effort argued that this was primarily due to the pre-emptive action of many computer programmers and information technology experts. Companies and organizations in some countries, but not all, had checked, fixed, and upgraded their computer systems to address the problem. Then-U.S. president Bill Clinton, who organized efforts to minimize the damage in the United States, labeled Y2K as “the first challenge of the 21st century successfully met,” and retrospectives on the event typically commend the programmers who worked to avert the anticipated disaster.

Critics pointed out that even in countries where very little had been done to fix software, problems were minimal. The same was true in sectors such as schools and small businesses where compliance with Y2K policies was patchy at best.

I pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan for twenty-five years. During this time, there were two predicted events that fueled widespread worry and panic among the people I pastored.

The first event was Edgar Whisenant’s prediction that the rapture — a moment when Jesus returns in the clouds and carries away every Christian from the earth — would take place between September 11-13, 1988. Whisenant wrote a small book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Almost five million copies of the book were given away free and sold at Christian bookstores.

The hysteria got so bad in the church I was pastoring that I had to preach a sermon denouncing the book. I was a Calvinist, so I believed nothing happened apart from God’s divine plan. My eschatological beliefs were different from many of the people I pastored. I was amillennial and posttribulational. I believed the church would go through the seven-year tribulation — a time of judgment and purification — before Jesus returned to earth. I rejected IFB eschatology, including the false notion that the rapture of the church was imminent.

On Sunday, September 11, Somerset Baptist Church had its largest attendance of the year. There was a buzz in the air, as people gathered together in anticipation of the rapture. I explained during my sermon the Biblical reasons why the rapture wasn’t nigh. I repudiated Whisenant’s claims. While some church members felt relief after hearing my sermon, others asked me, “preacher, what if you are wrong?” September 11-13 came and went. Jesus was nowhere to be found. Thirty-four years later, Evangelicals are still saying, albeit with much less gusto, that Jesus could return at any moment. Sure, and the 2022 Cincinnati Reds are going to make the playoffs and win the World Series.

The second event was Y2K. By this time, I was pastoring Our Father’s House, a nondenominational church in West Unity, Ohio. Our Father’s House was a close-knit congregation of 40-50 people. It was, by far, the best church I ever pastored. Outside of losing three crotchety older couples over our use of praise and worship music, Our Father’s House was the most peaceable church I ever had the privilege to lead.

As hysterical stories about Y2K began to circulate among church members, some people became worried and fearful. This led some families to start acting like survivalists. One family was so afraid of what might happen that they bought cases and cases of canned goods from nearby Campbell’s, made sure they could heat and light their home with kerosene, and bought numerous other items that would help them ride out the coming apocalypse.

Evangelical pastors in Williams County started a Y2K group. The goal was to help our churches survive what could happen on January 1, 2000. I attended all of one meeting. The group was dominated by pretribulational rapturists who saw Y2K as a sure sign of the imminent return of Jesus to earth to rapture away Evangelicals. I was still amillennial and posttribulational, and much as I did in 1988, I took to the pulpit to denounce the notion that the rapture was going to take place on January 1. Unfortunately, many congregants held Left Behind eschatological beliefs. What amused me was the fact that people were hoarding food, fuel, and other goods. Why? If the rapture was nigh, why leave huge caches of food to be used by the heathens left behind?

As with Edgar Whisenant’s failed rapture prediction, Y2K proved to be much ado about nothing (though it can be argued that coders likely fixed many of the date issues that could have caused serious problems). The family that hoarded all the food later donated it to our church’s food pantry. It took us two years to get rid of cases of canned food.

Do you have a Y2K story to tell? Please share it in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Jesus is Coming Soon: The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast

jack chick tract the beast
From Jack Chick tract, The Beast

Growing up in the Evangelical church, I was exposed to eschatological preaching which purported to divine the future. Based on a literalistic interpretation of the books of Daniel and Revelation, Evangelical preachers speak of a day when Jesus will come in the clouds to rapture (remove) Christians from the earth. After the rapture, God will, for seven years, pour out his wrath on the earth. This period of divine slaughter and judgment is called the Great Tribulation.

During the Tribulation, the Antichrist, a powerful figure who wages war against God, will rise up and exert dominion over the earth. While Evangelicals have multiple interpretations of who and what the Antichrist is, all agree that he is one of the central figures of the Tribulation drama. According to the book of Revelation, the Antichrist will ultimately be defeated by Jesus and cast into the Lake of Fire.

Most Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is a real person. This belief has led to speculation about this or that person being the Antichrist. Some Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is alive today. What is interesting about these predictions about who the Antichrist might be is that the potential Antichrist always has political views opposed by Evangelicals. This is why some Evangelicals found it quite easy to label President Obama as the Antichrist, even more so when it was reported that Obama might head the United Nations after he left office. (Many Evangelicals believe the United Nations will be the vehicle used by the Antichrist to take over the world.)

According to many Evangelicals, during the Tribulation the Antichrist will take control of the world’s economy. No one will be able to buy or sell anything without having the mark of the Beast. The Biblical basis for this belief is found in Revelation 13:16-18:

 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Prior to the modern technological era, many Evangelicals believed that the mark of the Beast was a tattoo of the number 666 on the hands or foreheads of the followers of the Antichrist. In recent decades, Evangelicals have suggested that the mark of the Beast could be some sort of bar code, a mark that can only be read by using a certain type of light, or an embedded chip. I remember one preacher who was certain that supermarket scanners were paving the way for the Antichrist and the mark of the Beast. The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for vaccinations have led countless Evangelicals to conclude that the “jab” is the way the mark of the Beast, in the form of a chip, will be used to control the masses. That’s one of the reasons many Evangelicals refuse to get vaccinated.

While the character of the mark has changed over the years, the importance of it has not. Anyone receiving the mark of the Beast will be doomed forever. Revelation 14:9-11 states:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

According to these verses, anyone who takes the mark of the Beast will face the fury of the wrath of God. Suffering, painful death, and an eternity in the Lake of Fire await all who take the mark.

The 1970s and 1980s were the heyday for literalistic interpretations of the book of Revelation. Evangelical pastors regularly preached sermons on the end-times, featuring subjects such as the rapture, the Great Tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, and the great white throne judgment. Filled with illustrations from newspapers, these sermons inflamed the passions of Evangelical churchgoers. As the headlines changed, so did the sermons, but the focal point remained the same: Jesus is coming soon.

end of the world

After the 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 debacle (you can read the complete text of 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 here), Evangelical passion for future events cooled. The rise of the religious right, a political movement with plans to take over America for Jesus and turn it into a theocratic state, turned Evangelical attention from the future to the present. Instead of seeking after the kingdom of Heaven, Evangelicals began to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth. Gone, for the most part, are prophecy conferences and literalistic sermons from Revelation and Daniel. Instead, pastors focus on felt needs and personal fulfillment. There are certainly Evangelicals pastors who continue to preach newspaper headline sermons, but such preachers are on the fringes of Evangelicalism — most often found in Charismatic, Pentecostal, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches.

As I came of age in the 1970s, I heard frequent end-time sermons. Preachers warned that we were the last generation, those who would see the second coming of Jesus Christ. Men such as Jack Van Impe predicted Russia would invade and take over the United States, thereby ushering in the Great Tribulation. Many preachers believed that the rapture and the second coming of Christ would take place sometime between 1984 and 1988. The thinking went something like this:

  • Matthew 24 lists the signs of the coming of Jesus and end of the world. (verse 3: And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?) In verse 34, the Bible says: Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
  • Israel became a nation in 1948, a generation is 40 years long, thus, at the very latest, Jesus would return to earth in 1988.

In the late 1970s, I was a pastoral assistant to Jay Stuckey, pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church in Montpelier, Ohio, a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation. Stuckey, as many preachers of his era, was obsessed with prophecy, the Illuminati, and numerous other conspiracies. Calls to evangelize were driven by Stuckey’s belief in the imminent return of Jesus; imminent meaning, at any moment. Forty years later, Stuckey and I are no longer in the ministry, Montpelier Baptist, a church that at one time had over 500 in attendance, is closed, and those who were once obsessed with the soon-return of Jesus have turned to more earthly matters such as marriage/divorce, children, jobs, houses, and economic prosperity. While these people still tacitly believe that Jesus will someday return to earth, their lives are no longer dominated by eschatological mania. In other words, they grew up.

Were you once part of a sect/church that was obsessed with the end-times? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce, Were You a Supporter of Israel as an Evangelical Pastor?

i have a question

I recently asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave your question on the page, Your Questions, Please.

ObstacleChick asked:

When you were an Evangelical pastor, did you have an obsession with Israel as part of God’s plan for eschatology? How did you view the Jews? Did you believe that the Jews prior to Jesus were “saved” by belief in a savior to come, but Jews after Jesus are condemned to hell if they didn’t accept Jesus as the messiah? Did you believe Christians were “adopted” as God’s chosen people?

What great questions, none of which I believe I have answered before.

To best answer these questions, I must divide my twenty-five years in the ministry into three distinct periods of time:

  • IFB pastor
  • Calvinistic Evangelical pastor
  • Progressive Evangelical (Emerging) pastor

I was raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and worked for and pastored several IFB churches. IFB blood flowed deep in my veins. Theologically, I was 100% IFB. This meant that I believed:

  • The Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.
  • The Bible was meant to be read literally.
  • There was a discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments.
  • The Jews were God’s Chosen People.
  • Old Testament Jews were saved by keeping the law.
  • After the death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, salvation for everyone — including Jews — required putting one’s faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
  • The New Testament church was a branch grafted (adopted) into the vine (Israel); that in this present dispensation of grace, the church was God’s chosen people.
  • In 1948, God miraculously reestablished Israel as a nation.
  • Nations that blessed (supported) reconstituted Israel was specially blessed by God — especially the United States.
  • Multitudes of Jews will be saved during the Tribulation, their salvation requiring martyrdom.

Make sense? I can explain every one of these points in-depth, complete with proof texts, but I am more interested in showing how my views changed over the years. If you have questions about a particular point, please ask it in the comment section.

In the late 1980s, I left IFB orthodoxy and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. As an IFB pastor, I held classic IFB eschatological beliefs: dispensationalism, pretribulationalism, premillennialism. Embracing Evangelical Calvinism dramatically changed my eschatological beliefs, especially my view on the Bible and Israel itself. I believed:

  • The Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God,
  • The Bible was to be read contextually, interpreted holistically, and preached expositionally.
  • There was a continuity between the Old and New Testaments.
  • The New Testament Church was a continuation of Old Testament Israel.
  • The New Testament Church was God’s chosen, covenant people.
  • Salvation in both Testaments was through the merit and work of Jesus Christ.
  • There would come a time when a multitude of ethnic Jews would be saved.

As an Evangelical Calvinist pastor, I held the following eschatological beliefs: non-dispensational, post-tribulational, amillennial. As you can see, my beliefs about the Jews and eschatology changed dramatically once I became a Calvinist.

In the early 2000s, my theology and politics move leftward, so much so that many of my ministerial colleagues considered me a liberal. This was probably an unfair assessment due to the fact that my theology was still quite Evangelical, with a few caveats. In Evangelical circles, the word “liberal” is often used to define anyone who holds different beliefs from True Christians®. However, by the time I left the ministry in 2005, it was evident that my preacher friends were right; that I had left the farm:

  • I no longer believed the Bible was inerrant and infallible.
  • I still believed the Bible was, in some sense, God’s word, but it was the work of human hands.
  • I believed in inclusive Christianity; that the names on church doors didn’t matter.
  • I believed that ethnic Jews and Israel had no connection to the Jews of the Bible.
  • I publicly stood against Israel’s immoral behavior towards Palestinians.
  • I opposed the United States’ Evangelical-driven support of Israel.
  • I eventually embraced works-based salvation; that a follower of Jesus. demonstrated his faith by his works, not his beliefs.
  • I embraced what is most often called the social gospel.

Evangelical gatekeepers warned that emerging/emergent theology that infiltrated Evangelicalism in the 2000s would cause pastors to reject orthodoxy and embrace liberalism. (Please the Wikipedia entry for the Emerging Church.) These gatekeepers were right. Scores of Evangelical pastors left the farm, so to speak, and embraced liberal Christianity or left the faith altogether. I am certainly a poster child for what happens when someone asks too many questions; when one dares to ask, “Yea hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1)

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Do Evangelical Beliefs Lead to Mental Illness?

lisa haven
Charismatic Evangelical and Conspiracy theorist Lisa Haven

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Do Evangelical beliefs lead to mental illness? Yes and no. Certainly, Evangelicals, thanks to their religious beliefs, are, to some degree, deluded. They believe things that aren’t true, but I am not inclined to think that this means they all have some sort of mental illness.  All of us are capable of self-delusion. That said, I do think some Evangelicals are mentally ill, and thanks to their beliefs, they see their illness as God giving them some sort of inside information about the world. These Evangelicals are the religious version of Mel Gibson in the movie Conspiracy Theory. Let me illustrate this with a YouTube video put out by a Charismatic Evangelical named Lisa Haven.

The following video details Haven’s belief that the United Nations is a secret front group for the nefarious New World Order. This video has already been viewed almost 270, 000 times (434,000 people subscribe to Haven’s YouTube channel). The video is 11 minutes long, but I do hope you will watch all of it. Doing so will allow you to understand what follows. Be prepared to see lots of air quotes.

Video Link  (Sorry, for some reason embedding this video causes my RSS feed to break, so you will have to view it on YouTube)

As I watched this video, I was, at first, amused, and then quite sad. I told Polly, here’s a young woman whose mind has already been ruined. Imagine, for a moment, where Lisa Haven will be 25 years from now. Will she still be, to use her words, “digging deep and finding truth . . . spread (ing) truth no matter where it lies?” Or will she be taking psychotropic drugs, wondering what went wrong? I’m sure some Evangelicals will object to me categorizing Haven, a mother of four children, as mentally ill, but any non-religious interpreter of her video would come to the same conclusion.  Remove the religious context, and Haven’s rant sounds eerily like the rantings of a crazy person.

In a video titled 18 Unsettling Predictions For 2016: Warning You May Get More Then You Bargained For!, Haven makes 18 predictions (all grammatical errors in the original):

  1. Increased crime and more terrorist threats (due to mass immigration and influx of Refugees, he [Obama] wants to bring in 10,000 alone in 2016)
  2. Rise of Islam and anti-semitism. Christianity will either stay stagnant or decrease.
  3. Economy will continue to falter, maybe even a “Global Recession.”
  4. America will becomes more third world in nature.
  5. More gun laws and restrictions will be enforced.
  6. An Increased amount of race riots and civil riots.
  7. More movement into the New World Order, Pope Francis will continue his push in this direction, likely embolden it.
  8. Increased earthquakes, tsunamis, weather activity as predicted in the Bible and the warning letter sent to FEMA by prior presidential advisor John L. Casey.
  9. More fusion centers, NSA surveillance and more suppression of truth over the Internet (things like Facebook, twitter, Google, will all work together to oust truths and suppress reality).
  10. A move in the direction of policed streets in the name of “safety.” Increased activity of military helicopters, drone activity, domestic military drills, etc. More laws will be passed promoting this.
  11. Possible World War III due to numerous rumors now transpiring with Russia, who is currently preparing for war against the United States and they want the battlefield to be Syria.
  12. Patriots, Christians, Conservatives, Libertarians, Gun Owners and Veterans will become more of a target.
  13. Activity in the Middle East will embolden! More war activity in Jerusalem, more attacks on Israel as the Bible predicts.
  14. If Obama has his way, due his clean power plan, our energy prices will increase.
  15. Increased demoralization done under the banner of “political correctness.”
  16. More technological advancements, including more movement in the direction of a global ID, Mark of the Beast style (however their goal is not to have this fully in place until 2030)
  17. World governments will become bolder in their tyrannical moves.
  18. America will either have a revival or be apathetic.

While there is a minute element of truth in some of Haven’s “predictions,” it should be clear to readers that her conspiratorial thinking is being driven by her Evangelical beliefs concerning the Bible and eschatology (future events). Over the years, I have met numerous people such as Lisa Haven. Every one of them had one thing in common: Evangelical Christianity.

In a 2015 News2morrow interview, Haven shared how she views the world:

Another one – and I just put this story out yesterday, don’t know if you saw it – we could be having a repeat of what had happened in the Soviet Union here in America. And what I mean by that, in order to silence political opposition the Soviets started labeling political dissidents as a psychiatric disorder. The official label was sluggish schizophrenia.

They started labeling people with these titles, basically silencing any opposition that they had.  When I dive through some of the information I see in America, I see some of that being mimicked here. However they’re labeling it as conspiracy theorists and that could open a whole realm. I mean, you can say bible prophecy is a conspiracy theory. You can say a certain realm of patriotism is a conspiracy theory. The term is so broadly used.

There are various reports of research being done at colleges basically studying the minds of conspiracy theorists and labeling them with personality disorders. Again, when something like that happens, I’m like “Ahh!  What is the game here?”

….

I think, what could happen, is that they’re targeting political dissidents, basically the ones that are in opposition to what they want to play out – which would be your patriots, constitutionalists, veterans, Christians. They’ve been specifically targeted on numerous documents. We were targeted on Project Megiddo. There’s the right wing extremist documentation that we have today, and the presentations that they’re giving to our military. These are some of the, quote unquote, “right wing extremists” that are being labeled and targeted.

I think the reason why they’re doing that is, when something happens with the economy and we go into chaos, they’ll have reasons to go round up those dissidents – right wing extremists, as they label a lot of us. They could say that they’re rounding them up to prevent riots, and would send them to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) camps that they’ve set up. And they don’t call them FEMA camps – the official government term is internment camps.

….

Persecution can come in many forms. Right now there is a huge push of persecution against the reality of Christ. Right here in America! — that’s what we’re seeing starting. And that’s being turned into the lunatics that believe a lie. And part of that psychiatric diagnosis is that they are bringing in religion. So you can see what we might be headed in the future with something like that. They’re even claiming in some studies that I’ve read that it could be a medical diagnosis.

….

It’s hard to say, but I think we can push it back. We can delay it definitely. We’ve also seen the leaking of possible false flags that were planned by the government but were diverted because people in media have gotten it out. Sometimes people will say, “Oh but it never happened!” No, it didn’t – thankfully! Because it got diverted through media outlets, especially the alternative media.

The mainstream media seems to be government run. They can’t regulate the alternative media and that’s why they’re pushing that net neutrality (legislation) to put it on the lap of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).  Now if they can silence alternative media, they can implement their plans. But it can be diverted by waking up the masses.

What is it that drives Haven’s thinking? What leads a bright young woman to think that chem trails are poisoning all of us and that drinking tea will cleanse us of its deleterious effects?  What causes Haven to abandon her youth and devote her life to chasing after black helicopters, the New World Order, and Jesus? Two things: her belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Words of God and her literalistic interpretation of these words.

Haven is the poster child for what happens when someone really, really, really believes the Bible. Haven attends a Charismatic church which, week in and week out, reinforces her end-times, conspiratorial beliefs. According to Haven’s website, she is taking classes through the International School of Ministry (ISOM), an online Charismatic Bible college. ISOM is operated by Berin Gilfillan and his wife Lisa. Both have secular degrees (University of Michigan, Michigan State), proving yet again that educated people can be quite deluded.

According to a previous version of ISOM’s website:

Each Trimester of ISOM study consists of 32 teaching sessions of training. You can click on each of the blue buttons below to explore the wonderful content of those five Trimesters. They contain a total of 160 sessions of teaching from 30 renowned instructors such as Jack Hayford, John Bevere, Joyce Meyer, A.R. Bernard, Reinhard Bonnke, Marilyn Hickey, Brian Houston, T.L. Osborn and Bill Winston to name a few.

This ISOM program is tried and tested and has been used around the world by over 330,000 students with wonderful results. Now that ISOM has make-up and review classes online, it is even more friendly for use by pastors and churches. Please note, however, that ISOM is NOT focused on high theology, but on practical training and impartation.

….

Many people who previously graduated with doctoral degrees from another institution have commented on how ISOM was so impartational and so different to their previous studies. It is possible for people to start ISOM at a higher level, but not recommended as ISOM core really contains some classic content. We allow students of any age to participate in ISOM. I have graduated two 11 year old students and one 91 year old.

The Gilfillans also give pastors an opportunity to have an ISOM in their church. According to a previous iteration of the ISOM website, “ISOM is the world’s largest video Bible School and is being used in more than 15,000 locations, in 142 nations and in more than 70 languages.” The skeptic in me says, I would love to see ISOM’s and the Gilfillan’s financials. I suspect a lot of money is being made through “training” gullible Evangelical Christians for ministry. One such person is Lisa Haven.

Will Haven’s ISOM training encourage her to think critically? Of course not. The Gilfillans readily admit that ISOM ” is NOT focused on high theology, but on practical training and impartation.” In other words, all that ISOM training will do for Haven is reinforce her belief that she is called by God to expose the evil New World Order and all its attending conspiracies. Here is a list of some the classes Haven will have to take to get a degree from ISOM:

  • Foundations of the Faith
  • Supernatural Living
  • Praise & Worship
  • Fear of the Lord
  • Old Testament/New Testament Survey
  • Living by Faith
  • Jesus Our Healer, Today
  • Church-based training (or how you can start your own ISOM franchise)
  • Altar Call
  • Spiritual Breakthrough
  • Wilderness Mentalities
  • Spiritual Warfare

I have no doubt that the training provided by ISOM will only increase Haven’s conspiratorial delusions. While it would be tempting to put all the blame on Haven for her craziness, the truth is her church, pastor, parents, husband, ISOM, and hundreds of thousands of adoring YouTube followers have made Haven into the person she is today.

Is Lisa Haven mentally ill? I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, so I am not qualified to make such a diagnosis. I can say, based on the videos I have viewed, Haven does exhibit the signs of someone who is mentally disturbed. Sadly, as many former Charismatics will attest, mental illness is just a typical Sunday night worship service at the local Charismatic Evangelical church.

Unless Lisa Haven has some sort of rational epiphany, there’s little that can be done to help her. Sadly, being deluded is not a crime (even though Haven thinks she will one day be imprisoned for her beliefs). She has been taken captive by her Bible and literalistic Evangelical beliefs. She will remain imprisoned until she sees the light and comes to realize that her entire worldview is based on lies.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Ushering in the End of the World: The John Allen Chau-All Nations Connection

john allen chau

Last month, a 26-year-old man from Vancouver, Washington named John Allen Chau was killed by an indigenous tribe on North Sentinel Island, a small and isolated island in the Indian Sea. According to friends, witnesses, and his own personal writing, Chau made the dangerous journey to talk about Jesus with the world’s most reclusive and remote tribe, known as the Sentinelese, and convert them to Christianity. While some evangelical Christians hailed Chau as a martyr after news of his death broke, many others — evangelicals and nonbelievers alike — condemned him as naïve, reckless, arrogant, imperialistic, or all of the above.

What many missed while wrestling with the ethics of Chau’s decision, however, was a precise understanding of his likely motivation. Chau was affiliated with a Kansas City-based group called All Nations Family, which believes that missionary work is part of a 2,000-year-old game, the final element necessary to herald the Great Tribulation, the return of the Messiah and, at long last, the Final Judgment.

Far more than the desire to convert a few heathen souls to Christianity, global missionary organizations like All Nations Family, which was founded in 2000 by author and lecturer Floyd McClung, believe they are laying the groundwork for the Second Coming of Christ, ushering in the end of days, when the righteous will ascend to heaven and wicked nations will perish. For Chau, the unreformed souls of the Sentinelese people may have stood between us and the Apocalypse.

In his final letter to his parents, Chau referenced Revelations 7:9-10, which reads:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

….

The eponymous missionary organization states on its website that it wants to “make disciples and train leaders to ignite church planting movements among the neglected people of the earth,” and “to see disciple making movements in every people group of the world so that Jesus may be worshipped by every tongue, tribe and nation.” All Nations claims to train and support 150 workers in 35 countries, each year training 3,500 people in 35 cities to plant churches among purported “unreached people.” Fairly standard stuff, so far. But their website continues: “The Lord wants All Nations to be part of finishing the Great Commission in this generation by igniting church planting movement among the unreached.”

This “Great Commission” is traditionally believed to be the final words and instructions of Jesus, when he explained to his disciples what is required before he will return to earth. Though evangelical Christians have for hundreds of years used these verses to justify global missions, ministries, and baptisms, missionary organizations like All Nations want to “finish” the Great Commission “in this generation,” without further delay. While evangelicals largely share an eschatological worldview, a gap exists between those who believe Jesus will return suddenly, “like a thief in the night,” and those who believe he won’t return until the gospel is spread throughout the world, thus preparing the ground for his reign.

….

y planting churches “among the unreached” (an evangelical term to distinguish any ethnic group or community that hasn’t yet been introduced to Christianity) these missionaries are willing to violate international laws and risk their own safety to fulfill Jesus’s final prophecy. Missionary organizations like All Nations are spurred into action not by social goodwill or love of humankind, in other words, but by the belief that their works will precipitate the apocalypse. (Chau is hardly the first American to be killed doing missionary work; just one month earlier, a missionary named Charles Wesco was shot and killed during a shootout between soldiers and separatists in Cameroon. Further back, five evangelical Christian missionaries who traveled to the Ecuadorian rainforest to contact the isolated Huaorani tribe in 1956 were killed by members of that tribe.)

In their statements of faith, groups like All Nations, Brooklyn-based Christ Covenant Coalition, and Colorado-based Joshua Project declare their allegiance to the evangelical manifesto called the Lausanne Covenant, which was drafted in 1974 at the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. Considered to be the foundation of modern global evangelism, the authors and signatories of the 15-point document pledge to spread the gospel throughout the world, “to proclaim it to all mankind and to make disciples of every nation.”

The document goes on to declare that Christians should “reject as a proud, self-confident dream the notion that people can ever build a utopia on earth,” and that the promise of the Second Coming of Christ is “a further spur to our evangelism, for we remember his words that the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

— Santi Elijah Holley, The Outline, Was the Missionary Killed on a Remote Island trying to End the World?, December 4, 3018

You can read the entire article here.

Previous articles on John David Chau

Who’s to Blame for the Brutal Death of Evangelical Missionary John Allen Chau?

Quote of the Day: Did Christian Arrogance Get John Allen Chau Killed?

Things Christians Say: If the Lord Tarries . . .

imminent return of jesus

Most Evangelicals believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is imminent; that Jesus could either, depending on which particular eschatological viewpoint one holds to, come in the clouds and rapture (carry away) True Christians®, or physically return to earth to establish God’s millennial kingdom/new heaven/new earth. Evangelicals, since Israel became a nation in 1948, have been saying that this or that generation is the last one before Jesus comes again. Dates have been set for Christ’s return, yet Jesus remains on a 2,000-year-long vacation. Of course, the reason for this is that he lies buried in a grave somewhere in Palestine. Dead people — Jesus included — stay dead, so that’s the obvious reason for Evangelicalism’s coming Lord and King being AWOL. Deep in their heart of hearts, many Evangelicals know this. How can they not? Every person they know who has died has stayed dead. Yes, the Bible speaks of a resurrected Jesus, but until he actually makes a grand appearance – against which the odds are one gazillion to one — all we have in the Good Book are fanciful, fictional stories of a resurrected, coming-again Lord and Savior.

I am sixty-one years old. Evangelical preachers have been authoritatively saying that the return of Jesus Christ could happen at any moment — in the twinkling of an eye, as the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15 — my entire life. As the years have gone on without Jesus returning, preachers have taken to using various clichés to “explain” his absence. One I heard quite often as a teen at First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio was this: IF THE LORD TARRIES. Jack Bennett — married to my uncle’s sister — was the pastor at the time. He loved preaching on future events, and when he spoke of things we might do tomorrow or in the future, he would often say: IF THE LORD TARRIES.

The idea behind this cliché is that Jesus is at the start line revving his engine, ready to speed to earth to rapture True Christians® from the evil, lawless, wicked earth. A popular Evangelical children’s song from yesteryear best illustrates this point:

Somewhere in outer space
God has prepared a place
For those who trust Him and obey
Jesus will come again
And though we don’t know when
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

CHORUS:
10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4,
Call upon the Savior while you may,
3 and 2, coming through the clouds in bright array
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
BLAST OFF!

Jesus was crucified, suffered and bled and died,
But on the cross He did not stay
He made this promise true, I will come back for you,
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

Sing along with Brother Bruce, brethren! You know you want to!

Video Link

The countdown is getting lower every day . . . so low that it has been stuck on one for what seems like forever. Why is this? Because Jesus is tarrying; he is waiting. Ask Evangelical preachers what is causing Jesus to tarry, the most common answer is that there are more souls that need saving. If Evangelicals would only get off their lazy asses and go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, well, Jesus might get around to f-i-n-a-l-l-y returning to earth. It seems, then, that the moment Jesus returns is dependent on human volition; that Jesus can’t return until soul 7,000,000,000,000,666 is evangelized. Wait a minute, I thought Jesus’s return was imminent; that nothing was preventing him from splitting the eastern sky and planting his feet on the Mount of Olives. If Jesus is tarrying, this means his return is NOT imminent; that there’s at least one thing standing between Jesus and the finish line.

Further, if Jesus is God, doesn’t he know EVERYTHING? And wouldn’t everything include the exact date and time for his Second Coming? Or maybe, as a very old deity, it takes a long time after his first coming before he is ready to come again. Doesn’t Jesus, the lamb slain before the foundation of the world and the sovereign ruler over all, know exactly who will and won’t be saved and when they will have their come-to-Jesus moment? How, then, is it possible for Jesus to “tarry?”

Did your pastors ever use the if Jesus tarries cliché? In what context did they use it in? Please share your stories in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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This Is Your Life! Judgment Day

great white throne judgment 2

A Guest Post by ObstacleChick

Great White Throne Pictures presents: “This Is Your Life, ObstacleChick”
Presented in Technicolor

Starring:

ObstacleChick

Co-Starring:

ObstacleChick’s Mom
ObstacleChick’s Grandparents
ObstacleChick’s Extended Family
ObstacleChick’s Friends
ObstacleChick’s Dog

Special Guests:

ObstacleChick’s Schoolteachers and Administrators
ObstacleChick’s Sunday School Teachers
ObstacleChick’s Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Music Minister
The Pious Girls from Church & School

Limited Engagement Showing ONLY at Great White Throne Cinema   

When I was an adolescent and teen attending a Southern Baptist Church and Evangelical Christian school, my friends and I were taught as much fundamentalist evangelical doctrine as possible. Those who grew up in evangelical fundamentalist Christianity know that the number one priority of Christian parents is to make sure their children are saved; the sooner the better. Every teaching is geared toward indoctrinating children and making sure they know that they are sinners in need of salvation through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. There is no more important message that Christian parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, Christian schoolteachers, and Christian staff can spread than this one. All children need to know that if they do not repent of their sins and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they will spend eternity tormented in hell in the afterlife. And because you could be hit by a bus in the next few minutes, you’d better do it NOW. After death, there will be no do-overs. There will be no further opportunities. There will be no appeals granted. Nada. Zilch. End of the road.

As we teens grew older, our youth pastor made sure to impart to us as much information as possible about salvation, eschatology, and the afterlife to us so we would understand the urgency of making the right decision regarding salvation. He also made sure we understood that certain behaviors were unacceptable for young Christians growing in Christ and presenting a witness to the “world.” As the majority of students in the youth group attended public school, we heard less harping on “sins” of rock music, movies, magazines, etc., than those of us who attended Christian school heard, but it was clear that participating in many of these activities could hurt our “witness” to our peers, and they did harp on premarital sex and alcohol as mega-evils. At the Christian school, they didn’t hold back any punches preaching against the evils of rock music, the evils of dancing, the evils of alcohol, the evils of premarital sex, the evils of attending the roller-skating rink, the evils of movies, etc. There wasn’t really much left that wasn’t evil except for Classical music, the Beach Boys, Christian movies and books, church, and Christian school activities. (Yet two girls at my high school were still expelled for getting pregnant, and three boys were expelled for attending a party where alcohol was served.)

The eschatology is fuzzy to me now, with concepts of the rapture, pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, the mark of the beast, the anti-Christ, and so forth, but I did understand that at some point after death everyone would have to go to the Great White Throne Judgment where our fate would be determined. Would it be eternity in heaven, or would it be eternity in hell? (Cue music: DA DA DAAAAA!)

My teenage understanding of the Great White Throne Judgment was that that there would be God on a throne, Jesus on a throne, and somehow the Holy Spirit would be there too, though I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to see him as he was a spirit and whether a spirit could sit on a throne. Maybe we would get special afterlife vision that would allow us to see spirits. There would be angels and seraphim and cherubim and all people who had ever lived would be there, waiting to be judged, waiting to hear their fate.

At the Great White Throne Judgment, the way it was explained to us, each person’s life would be shown for all to see, and then the judgment would be handed out. As an avid reader, I was well-versed in visualizing scenes, and for the Great White Throne Judgment I envisioned a scene in which everything was white, the Trinity (were? was?) located on thrones on a raised platform, and masses of people stretched out before them. There was a very large movie screen near the Trinity, and when each person’s name was called that person would step forward so their life movie could be played on the movie screen. The Trinity would then render (their? his?) verdict, and the person would be escorted by seraphim, cherubim, or maybe St. Peter (I wasn’t clear on who the escorts were) to the proper exit to their eternal designation.

As we teens envisioned this Great White Throne Judgment, we were exhorted by youth ministry staff to make sure our movie was G-rated so we wouldn’t stand up there embarrassed before the masses of humanity. Who wants their sweet Grandma to see them participating in evils such as (gasp) dancing, or drinking alcohol, or — dare we even mention it — premarital sex? Surely not!  Not only did we need to keep our actions G-rated, we must also keep our thoughts G-rated as somehow those would be shown on the Great White Throne Movie Screen.

As the whole sequence of events was still confusing to me, I believed somehow that when people died, they could see what was happening on earth. When my great-grandmother Granny died when I was twelve years old, I was upset for several reasons. First, I really liked hanging out with Granny. She lived down the street, and she was my nice great-grandmother, not mean like Grandma F who lived with us. Granny would make biscuits and ham for me, and we enjoyed cleaning and rearranging her numerous knick-knacks while she told stories. Second, the only time I ever saw my grandfather cry was when he came home to tell us his mother died. That tore me up, and I cried too. Third, because I thought Granny could then see me that she would be able to see me taking a shower and doing other embarrassing things. In addition to grieving for the loss of Granny, I was upset for a long time just knowing that Granny was watching me all the time.

Not understanding the whole timeline of when the Great White Throne Judgment was, I thought maybe there was some sort of neutral after-death holding place where Granny and everyone else could see what people on earth were doing. My mom said when you died you went to sleep and woke up in heaven, but I knew there was a Great White Throne Judgment in there somewhere. And there had to be some sort of holding place because thousands of years might pass before the END TIMES. Another issue was how long would this whole Great White Judgment Movie Festival take? I mean, I knew eternity had no limits, and that a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day, but what were the logistics of this Great White Throne Judgment Movie Festival? It must take thousands of years, or days in deity terms. My mom said God wasn’t bound by time, so it didn’t matter, but I still couldn’t comprehend.

But what I did comprehend was how much I DREADED the Great White Throne Judgment. I was fearful of dying. I was afraid I would die and wake up in the Great White Throne Cinema with billions of other people, waiting in agony for my movie to be played and for everyone I knew to see all the naughty, mean, jealous, lustful thoughts I harbored. The Pious Girls at school and church would learn what I REALLY thought of them. My teachers would know that I sat in the back of class and talked and passed notes and then would be on the phone at night with my friends explaining what they’d all missed in class while I was bored and entertaining us all. My grandparents and mom would know that I had listened to rock music and watched MTV at my aunt & uncle’s house. It was going to be bad.

I dreaded death. The greatest relief of my existence would be if the Trinity told me I was destined for eternity in heaven. But getting through the movie viewing . . . I dreaded it beyond everything. Maybe I would get lucky and be last and everyone would have been sent to their fate, but I knew chances were slim to none.

What a damaging thing to teach impressionable youth, to manipulate their fear of hell and judgment to impress upon them the need to believe the right thing and to stay away from certain activities.

As an agnostic atheist, I don’t believe in any of that anymore. It took a long time to get over my fear of hell though. That was the last thing to leave me when I deconverted — even though I didn’t believe in god anymore, I was still afraid of hell. I had to literally reason with myself about my unrealistic fear of hell.  But now, I no longer fear death. Do I want to die today? No, because there are still things I want to do in life. But I don’t fear the Great White Throne Movie experience.

How Evangelical Theology Affects American Foreign Policy Regarding Israel and the Middle East

evangelical support of Israel

President Donald Trump, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have set in motion the withdrawal of the United States from UNESCO — United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Israel released a statement today saying that they too will be leaving UNESCO. What, you ask, did UNESCO do to warrant the Trump administration’s decision to cut American ties with the organization? News reports cite UNESCO’s recognition of the Palestinian state and anti-Israel bias as the reasons for the decision to withdraw. The withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018.

UNESCO was founded in 1945 by thirty-seven nations, citing as its purpose “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture.” What’s not to like, right? Remember, a new day has arrived in America. “America First,” along with the dismantling of everything accomplished during the eight years of the Obama administration, now drives domestic and foreign policy.  If President “my IQ is higher than yours” had his way, the United States would withdraw from the United Nations altogether. Much like Ronald Reagan, who also withdrew the United States from UNESCO in the 1980s, President Trump views the world through xenophobic glasses. “America First” has become “America Only.” Other countries are viewed as inferior, unable to match America’s power, prowess, and greatness. Millions of Americans rabidly support Trump’s flag-waving, national anthem-singing, pussy-grabbing Christian nationalism. Finally, white Evangelicals, KKK members, and white supremacists say, we have a president who understands the importance the CHRISTIAN God and guns; a president who “gets” the plight of white working-class Americans!

Key to understanding Trump’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO is the manner in which many Americans, especially members of Congress and presidential cabinet members and their staffs, view the State of Israel. Fueled by Evangelical theology, which I will discuss later in this post, the United States’ foreign policy is driven by the belief that Israel is God’s chosen people — a nation that must be protected and defended at all costs. Americans have strong opinions about Israel, much as they have in the current debate over NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Opposing Israeli policies towards Palestinians, for example, quickly leads to charges of antisemitism. On several occasions as I traverse the back roads of rural Northwest Ohio looking for photography opportunities, I have come across homes proudly flying Israel’s flag, right next to the red-white-and-blue. I doubt that the same scene can be found in Israel. Why do some Americans think that is perfectly normal to fly another nation’s flag right next to America’s flag?

The modern Jewish nation, officially called the State of Israel, was founded on May 18, 1948, and admitted as a member of the United Nations in 1949. Israel’s history, however, tracks back thousands of years to the mythical Bible figure Abraham. Genesis 12:1-7 states:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.

Four take-aways from this text:

  • God commanded Abram (later Abraham) to leave the country of his birth and, by faith, travel to a land that God planned to give Abraham and his descendants.
  • God promised to bless Abram and make him a great nation
  • God promised to bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse him
  • God said all nations of earth would be blessed because of Abram moving to a new land (that new land would later be called Israel)

While Abraham did not see the fulfillment of God’s promises to him, God promised in Genesis 15:18 that his progeny would indeed inherit the land:

 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates

When the mythical Abram (there is no non-Biblical evidence for the existence of Abraham) was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him, promising yet again to make him a great nation. Genesis 17:1-11 states:

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

Several things to note from this passage of Scripture:

  • Abram’s name is now Abraham
  • The covenant between God and Abraham/Israel is a never-ending covenant
  • God commanded Abraham to cut the foreskin off male genitals as a “sign” of the covenant between Jehovah and Abraham (Just remember men, the next time you look at your circumcised penis, blame God, Israel, and the Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.)

Abraham, married to Sarah, was, thanks to his wife’s infertility, childless. Sarah, wanting Abraham to experience the joys of fatherhood, gave her servant Hagar to Abraham so he could marry her and bear him a child. Hagar gave Abraham a son whose name was Ishmael. Sarah, at the ripe old age of ninety, finally conceived and bore a son named Isaac. When it came time for God to pass on his covenant, he skipped Abraham’s oldest son, choosing instead to bless Isaac. From that moment forward, there was conflict between Ismael and Isaac. The historical foundation of centuries of conflict in the Middle East rests on two brothers who couldn’t get along with each other. The same can be said for Isaac’s sons Jacob and Esau.

Keep in mind that the aforementioned Biblical “history” is what drives current Evangelical beliefs about the modern Israel, Palestine, and the Judeo-Christian war against Islam. In what other realm would mythical stories be acceptable reasons for foreign policy? Yet, that is exactly what currently drives American foreign policy as it relates to Israel, the establishment of the Palestinian state, and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Many Evangelical sects/pastors/churches/congregants believe that modern Israel is God’s chosen people; that the land inhabited by Israel (Isaac) was given to them in perpetuity; that Palestinian (Ishmael) land claims are baseless. President Obama was the first post-World War II president to challenge these assumptions, resulting in Obama being accused of antisemitism — the intense dislike (hatred) for and prejudice against Jewish people. Obama supported a two-state solution for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian state, but thanks to irrational (and immoral) support of Israel’s “right” to own ALL the land given to them by God, no progress was made on this front. Israel’s abhorrent policies towards Palestinians, and America’s blind eye to behavior that would be roundly condemned if done by any other government, are driven by the belief that a land covenant made between a fictional God and a mythical Abraham is still in effect.

Liberal and progressive Christians tend to not believe that Israel has a God-given right to their land. Many of the people behind the two-state solution and attempts to broker peace in the Middle East are people of faith. Unfortunately, not many of these people of faith are Evangelical. Thanks to their literalistic reading of the Bible and their commitment to the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, Evangelicals generally believe that Israel is the Judeo-Christian God’s chosen (covenant) people; that the land grant given to Abraham thousands of years ago is still in effect today, Further, Evangelicals believe that God blesses nations who support Israel and curses nations who don’t. This blind loyalty to God’s chosen people is held by countless Christian/Jewish congressmen/presidents — either out of a commitment to Evangelical theology or political expediency — leading to unwavering military funding and support for Israel.

We in Congress stand by Israel. In Congress, we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel. (Nancy Pelosi)

Now is not the time to be picking fights with Israel in what seems to be an attempt to curry favor with the Arab world. Now is the time when the United States must stand with Israel in the global struggle against the threats posed by radical Islam. We must remember what happens when Americans and decent minded people everywhere fail to stand up to evil. The message to us is: we must do all we can to ensure the survival of the State of Israel. At a time like this, it is crucial to stress the message that a strong Israel is in the best interest of American national security. Should any of us waver in our resolve, we must let the lessons of history propel us to action. If you deal with Iran, you are not welcome to deal with the United States. Our willingness to use force is on the table. (Eric Cantor)

Israel [is] the state where Jews entered into world history again like (the Biblical) ‘nation like all other nations.’ A state where Jews took up again after two millennia the precious burden of nationhood. Like all nations, our relationship has its trials and tensions. The disagreements of the moment cannot and will not undo the bond of generations. We (Eric Cantor and I) are sending a letter signed by a large number of Members of Congress to the administration to send the message that there should be no confusion anywhere in the world that whatever differences there may be on policy, at the core, there is an unbreakable, unshakable bond between Israel and the United States. (Steny Hoyer)

Through centuries of struggle, Jews across the world have been witnesses not only against the crimes of men, but for faith in God, and God alone. Theirs is a story of defiance in oppression and patience in tribulation — reaching back to the exodus and their exile into the diaspora. That story continued in the founding of the State of Israel. The story continues in the defense of the State of Israel. (George W Bush)

I make this promise to you: My Administration will always stand with Israel. (Donald Trump)

We love Israel. We will fight for Israel 100 percent, 1,000 percent. It will be there forever. (Donald Trump)

Pat Robertson, speaking to a gathering of Jews, had this to say about how Evangelicals view Israel:

Ladies and Gentleman, evangelical Christians support Israel because we believe that the words of Moses and the ancient prophets of Israel were inspired by God. We believe that the emergence of a Jewish state in the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was ordained by God.

We believe that God has a plan for this nation which He intends to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.

According to the virulent Evangelical site World News Daily:

The Jewish people have a biblical mandate to occupy and control the land of Israel.

Evangelical pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), had this to say about Israel in an introduction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

He also changed the path of Christianity in America, when he asked me in 2006 if he thought American Christians could unite for Israel. Ancient Israel had Moses who led them in the desert; during the golden era they had King David, who conquered Jerusalem, and today, when there are existential threats, Israel has a champion who can confront the challenge; please welcome the prime minister…

the israel pledge

According to their website, CUFI has three million supporting members; people who support the following statement:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Make no mistake about it, when push comes to shove, the United States will stand behind and in front of Israel no matter what that nation says or does. Donald Trump, along with many congressional Republicans, is itching to destroy Iran — one of Israel’s archenemies. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if someday Israel, at the behest of the American government, attacks Iran in an attempt to destroy its nuclear facilities. This, of course, will lead to war, and the United States will be standing at the front the battle to defend Israel’s action. Why? Because thousands of years ago a mythical God promised a mythical man that he would make him a great nation and give him a plot of land in perpetuity. And this same mythical God promised to bless the United States if she politically and militarily defends Israel and give her billions of dollars a year in aid and military support, and curse her if she didn’t.

Is it any wonder that foreigners increasingly view America as a land of religious nut jobs, enslaved to a Bronze Age religious text? My God, they think, here’s one of the most scientifically advanced countries on earth, yet their foreign policy is driven by the belief that the events recorded in the book of Genesis are real history, and not myths and fables.

As long as the Bible is given preferential and serious treatment by politicians, rational Americans should expect to see policies driven by Evangelical interpretations of the Bible. We see the same ignorance behind demands for creationism to be taught as science in the public schools, global climate change denial, anti-abortion laws, the execution of murderers, and other issues deemed “Biblical” by Evangelical leaders. At times, knowing this leads me to despair, but I remind myself that Evangelicalism is hemorrhaging Millennials, leading to numerical and financial decline. Someday, reason, not fanaticism, will triumph. Although I do not expect to see it myself, I hope my grandchildren will see a day when the Bible is finally relegated to the dustbin of human history.

As long as the Bible is given preferential and serious treatment by politicians, rational Americans should expect to see policies driven by Evangelical interpretations of the Bible. We see the same ignorance behind demands for creationism to be taught as science in the public schools, global climate change denial, anti-abortion laws, and the execution of murderers, along with any other issue deemed “Biblical” by Evangelical leaders. (sentence seems clunky, but I am too exhausted to think) At times, knowing this leads me to despair, but I remind myself that Evangelicalism is hemorrhaging Millennials, leading to numerical and financial decline. Some day, reason, not fanaticism, will triumph. Not in my lifetime, but perhaps my grandchildren will see a day when the Bible is finally relegated to the dustbin of human history.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Bruce Gerencser