Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Friday, January 19, 2007

goodbye, cruel world

Are we nearing the end of the world? A lot of people think so. According to a recent poll by the Associated Press and AOL News, 1/4 of all Americans expect the return of Jesus in 2007.

The Rapture Index attempts to estimate, based on current events, the likelihood of true Christians being taken away soon. In addition to floods, earthquakes, and crime, some of the warning signs are ecuminism, liberalism, the peace process, and civil rights.

I am completely mystified as to why so many people could be so devoted to such a blatantly heretical doctrine as the rapture. Is there something about this gruesome theology that actually appeals to people? Or are they just unaware that this is not the historical teaching of Christianity?

Can someone explain it to me?



At 1/20/2007 12:27 PM, Anonymous Antony said...

They are unaware...and if they have been made aware at all that there is another way to think about these things...they don't want to hear it, because the "rapture" is so ingrained in the thinking of most evangelicals that they consider any other view to be heresy. And "history"? Ha! I'm sad to say that the average joe in the pew know very little about the histosry of his faith or the thought and doctrine that have shaped and influenced it, and probably doesn't really care to know.

Do I sound very cynical here? Well, this has been my own expereince when I was an evangelical pastor who actually cared about history, and did not accept this doctrine that you correctly characterize as heresy.

The quickest way to get unemployed as a pastor in some churches is to tell the people that the rapture is bunk. I speak from too close to personal experience on this one.

At 1/22/2007 9:22 AM, Blogger Jacob said...

I generally don't pay attention to people's claims about Biblical prophecy and the end of the world. I've noticed that even seemingly straight-forward OT prophecies were often fulfilled in the most unexpected (one might even say suspect) ways, and this makes me suspicious of those who claim to understand far more cryptic prophecies about the end of the world.

But I'd be interested in hearing why the rapture is "blatantly heretical", where it came from, and what the historical teaching of Chirstiantiy on the matter is.

In answer to your questions, I think most Christians are largely ignorent of Christian history. I can also see the appeal of a doctrine that says the world is destined to go to shit (so don't bother trying to fix it) but God will rescue you out of it before things gets really bad.

At 1/23/2007 7:21 AM, Blogger BruceA said...

I'd be interested in hearing why the rapture is "blatantly heretical", where it came from, and what the historical teaching of Chirstiantiy on the matter is.

Short answer:

The traditional teaching of Christianity is that Christ will return to judge the world. The rapture teaches that Christ will return not once but twice -- first to take the faithful away, then again several years later for judgment day.

The idea of the rapture was popularized by John Nelson Darby in the 1800s, based on a creative misreading of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

I may do another post on this subject.

At 1/24/2007 2:57 PM, Blogger Andy said...

This topic came up recently on the Lutheranism forum at Beliefnet. Our shared suspicion is that this heresy continues to spread because the mainstream churches continue to ignore the book of Revelation.

Of course, there are a lot of really good books on Revelation by mainstream authors, but our congregations tend to ignore those too.

At 1/25/2007 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one, looking honestly at the state of the world,can deny that this world is heading towards a climax of sorts. So many issue are all converging in the same time frame that it's hard for people to take.
Busy Pastors ( at least from what I've seen in the last 20 years )find it easier to preach escapism than to thoroughly ground people's faith in a God who is big to care for them no matter what the course of history throws our way.

At 1/25/2007 10:22 AM, Anonymous Jeremy Pierce said...

I don't think your response explains why you consider it heresy. The only thing you've explained is why you think it's false. I agree that it's not a biblical doctrine, but exactly how does it deny the gospel? I'd be extremely hesitant to consider someone a heretic for believing in the rapture. A very large number of people I would consider genuine believers who hold to orthodox theology have this thing tacked on to it, and even if it's unmotivated it is not a denial of any teaching required for orthodox Christian belief.

At 2/02/2007 10:58 AM, Anonymous Alex said...

I grew up around Christians who pretty much based their entire theology around the book of Revelation, and I can tell you what I think appeals to people about it: It's a sense of sheer hopelessness concerning the world. Many people see how screwed up the world is and feel powerless to be able to make things better. Many people (myself included) also might hate a lot of modern-day culture and see things just getting worse and worse. (I have to disagree with the people who say that everything was better in the old days, however; I personally think we've traded one set of evils for another.) I suspect that rapture beliefs tend to appeal to people who feel very powerless to change anything and who are very afraid of what the future might hold.

I wouldn't take the Rapture Index too seriously myself, altho it does inadvertently explain exactly what I think is wrong with much of modern Christianity. I'm personally all for peace and civil rights (and I self-identify as a political liberal because it's the closest match for my political leanings), but sometimes I wish I held typical rapture beliefs because then I might have more hope that things would get better. (Right now I have no specific beliefs about Revelation.) Right now I'm pessimistic about the future, and it would be so nice to believe that things will get better after they get worse. That's what the rapture doctrine provides: it provides hope for these people. In my opinion (I could be very wrong), that is why the rapture doctrine is so popular.

I seriously wonder if the current dominant brand of Christianity is going to signal the decline of Christianity in America, after predictions of Jesus coming back fail. I certainly hope not. I think a lot of people are driven from Christianity because they think the currently popular brand of Christianity is the only kind out there; on a political note, I think that the current political climate also drives people who aren't political conservatives away from any kind of Christianity.

At 2/02/2007 9:11 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

I think the rapture invites a philosophy that how we live now doesn't matter, which, in what I've read in the Bible, seems to be contrary about what the Bible teaches. All I see Jesus doing is talking about the kinds of people we are becoming in the here and now. So the point becomes how many people we can get "saved" before the world goes to hell in a handbasket.

I see a God in the Bible who has reclaimed creation and is putting th e whole world back together. I think there's a lot of hope around the world, but I think our American culture is so rooted in fear and pessimism for us to see it.

The Rapture doesn't give me any hope for living today. And while from an intellectual/theological standpoint it's such hogwash to me, on a practical level I don't see any life in it for others.

I need saving today, not just for someday. I want to be the kind of person that helps God bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth (I remember someone praying that somewhere...).

Just my 2 cents, and probably what it's worth.


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