Questionable Assumptions, Unwarranted Conclusions

On being careful in our public statements:

All believers are commanded to love God with their minds – among other things. We are also told repeatedly in Scripture that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Thus a really important thing we must do as Christians is seek to love God intelligently and not foolishly, yet to also remain humble in the process. Often it is hard to get this balanced.

I am still trying to get this right, as are many others. Examples of how not to proceed are many. Let me deal with one case in point. A while ago I posted something on the social media which ties in with all this:  

Believe it or not, as I get older, I am less inclined to argue – that is, to have to correct others, or rebuke others, or straighten out sloppy thinking and false information and dumb ideas, and so on. Sure, I still do all this stuff when necessary, but not quite as often any more. Maybe I am learning to be a bit more forgiving and a bit more gracious – and perhaps a bit less Pharisaic as well. If so, it is not because I am such great shakes, but because God is still at work in me. He still has a long way to go however!

I am certainly still a stickler for theological and doctrinal truth. The trouble is, not all doctrines are to die over. The deity of Christ and the Trinity? Yes, those are non-negotiables of the faith. But in areas like various views on eschatology there can be room to move, and in that sense we can be less dogmatic – and arrogant!

Indeed, given the complexity of even trying to get our heads around just what the book of Revelation is all about, or the second half of Daniel, caution and humility should be the order of the day. For various reasons neither Calvin nor Luther penned a commentary on Revelation. That is telling.

Yet many believers want to go to war over their pet view of the end times. Moreover, their views can allow them to cancel out other vital biblical truths. I encounter this so often. Examples would be legion. Two comments on the social media by someone are representative of this. She will remain nameless.

The two comments she made both had to do with her take on the end times, and the outworking of those views. In the first instance, I had posted a humorous meme dealing with the WEF and the need to stand against it. As an aside, when I posted it, I thought that a few folks might come along asking what WEF is. Sure enough, it happened. So in a separate post I said this:

Self-education is always a very good thing. As but one example, I am often asked what a particular acronym means. I am sometimes surprised at this, given how often I speak of such matters in which it appears. I of course can simply answer (and usually do), but with things like google, it takes but a few seconds to find out what most of these acronyms stand for. It is the same with words you might not be familiar with. Yes, you can ask, but looking it up and learning for yourself is a good thing too. Just sayin’! Two morals of the story: we should always want to keep learning, and we should avoid being unnecessarily lazy!

But I digress! So this gal entered the discussion and left this comment: “Nice gesture, but I don’t think even the smartest of us can stop biblical prophecy to come. Its going to happen whether we like it or not eventually.”

Based on what I said above, I decided not to reply to her. I am learning to hold my tongue a bit. But as a general sort of discussion about these matters, if I had responded, I would have said something like this:

Thanks, but a remark such as that is of course based on a number of crucial assumptions, none of which are clearly evident nor entirely proven:
-Are we that certain that we have a full and sure understanding of biblical prophecy in all its depth and detail?
-Are things like the WEF and fighting against it a clear part of biblical prophecy?
-Are prophecies about the end times meant to render us inactive and apathetic about evil and injustice?
-Is the command of Jesus to be salt and light nullified and rendered void in the face of our viewpoint on current events?
-Is it in fact the case that the fulfilment of prophecy and the Christian obligation to stand against evil are mutually exclusive?
-Is this sort of fatalistic thinking really all that helpful?

Again, folks are certainly entitled to have their own fave eschatological views. But I appreciate it when these folks recognise that there are in fact other views that one can hold to, and none of us have ALL the truth on these matters. As always, a bit of humility goes a long way here.

A major concern I had is this: her particular slant on the end times seems to have pretty much ruled out any sort of place for Christian social involvement. It is the old “you don’t polish brass on a sinking ship” attitude. They seem to think the world is going to hell so it is a waste of time trying to do anything good in this world, whether it is resisting the evil agenda of the WEF (the World Economic Forum of Klaus Schwab and the Great Reset fame), or helping out in other ways.

I have discussed all this countless times. This sort of stance means we must conclude that Wilberforce was quite wrong to seek to abolish slavery. After all, everything is predicted and therefore gonna happen, so to try to fight evil means we are fighting God. Needless to say, I do not buy this. But see more on it here:  

Also see this much newer piece which addresses similar issues:

And the second example offers more of the same. I shared a post featuring a Jewish woman speaking about how peace will elude us while those like Hamas are clearly not at all interested in it. That is certainly true. Dr. Sheila Nazarian had said this:

“To everyone ‘just wanting peace’ you assume all people want peace and share your core values. Many in the world don’t want peace and value death over life. You must make the jump mentally. I know it’s hard. But thinking everyone wants peace is naive and, yes, dangerous.”

Yet this same gal came along once again, offering more of her view of things: “The world will never have ‘peace’ till the Antichrist comes on the scene and confirms the peace covenant with many nations for 7 years. Dan 9:27. Wanting peace is probably the most naive thing Christians could want IMHO.”

Once again, her particular version of end time events has her thinking rather unbiblically about other key areas of biblical truth. Firstly, this post was about politics and geo-politics. What is happening right now in the Middle East is very important, and all Christians should take a careful interest in it, including praying for the situation.

Indeed, we are even specifically told that we are to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Yet this gal seems to think it is a complete waste of time, and any Christian who does is just being naïve. This is where a pet theological peeve can cause so much mischief if one is not careful.

Now, if a person were to say something like the following, he would be entirely correct: ‘In a fallen sinful world we can work for peace and we can pray for peace, but we know that until the prince of peace returns to planet earth, there can be no complete and final peace.’

All biblical Christians can agree with that. But that is much different than what my friendly critic had said. In fact, we have countless passages that speak about how believers ARE to seek after peace and work for it. Passages such as these come to mind: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9); and “Seek peace and pursue it” (Romans 15:13).

Sure, some of these texts deal with interpersonal relations, but there is nothing wrong with praying and working for an end to hostilities, be it in your own neighborhood or workplace, or on a more global scale. Sure, we are not foolish enough to think that full-blown world peace can be achieved in this life, but no biblical Christian that I know of is calling for that.

As I have said before, when I pen a piece like this, I am not picking on any one person. I am using some real-life comments which are all rather common, turning them into a bit of a teaching tool. And what I want to teach here are a few obvious things:

-None of us have all the truth.
-Staying humble, certainly with secondary doctrines, is crucial.
-We must be careful when we seek to affirm something we consider to be a biblical truth that it does not become a tool to cancel out other biblical truths.
-None of us know when Christ will return, and we are told to “occupy till he comes”.
-We are called to be salt and light, and we are called to stand against evil and injustice.
-Christians are not fatalists, and one’s particular view of eschatology should not turn us into fatalists.
-We all need to be careful and prayerful when we share any biblical truth in public, even in a brief and hastily posted social media comment.

[1627 words]

13 Replies to “Questionable Assumptions, Unwarranted Conclusions”

  1. Thank you Bill. I recall that one of our Pastors at the church where I grew up was a dispensationalist, like this lady appears to be, but he said roughly, in a sermon on the Second Coming, words to the effect that “when we get to Heaven we may find our prophecy views are wrong”.

  2. So true! I’ve been guilty of the rapid retort….less than the whole truth.

    Bill a Q…. The 10 virgins…were they all saved? Or is “I never knew you” the final word on the 5 foolish virgins. Unsaved.

  3. Thanks Pearl. Although it is a parable, the 5 foolish ones are told, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.” So that would indicate they were not his people.

  4. Thanks Bill.
    Although in broad terms I of course agree that we must insist on the main things: the Deity of Christ, His atoning death, His resurrection and ascension, and the hope of His Second Coming, etc; it is also true that with perhaps lesser issues we must be more restrained. Since you have often in the past waxed eloquent against people majoring on what you believe are minors, I have a sense of deja-vu about all this. Matters of eschatology may, or may not, be matters of lesser importance. For example, I happen to believe that the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture is both unScriptural, and a dangerous delusion. However, I also note that many Christians adhere to it passionately, and they are otherwise godly and sincere believers. Similarly with other issues of doctrine.
    So my point is this, as I have often thought: if there are doctrines which are of lesser importance, who is to say what these are, and on what criteria? Perhaps issues which we have traditionally put in the “lesser importance” category are of supreme importance after all. Whatever, it is not merely for the Bill Muehlenbergs of this world to arbitrate on these, nor for that matter for the Murray Adamthwaites of this world either.
    Just a couple more examples to drive home the point: Lutheranism magnifies the sacraments, and holds that their “consubstantiation” view of the Lord’s Supper is both Scriptural and of vital importance. Shall we merely dismiss their view as a minor matter, and so slam the door in their faces?
    Greek Orthodoxy rejects the doctrine of penal, substitutionary atonement. Shall we in the face of their insistence on incarnational theology put substitutionary atonement in the “lesser issue” category, perhaps in the interests of ecumenical concerns?

  5. Thanks Murray. But given I have penned tens of thousands of words on all this over the years – including here – it would be silly to try to repeat it all here in a short comment! So let me just quickly mention once again a few themes that I have often discussed – take them for what you will:
    -No one could ever accuse me of being indifferent to the importance of sound doctrine.
    -Christians can differ as to what is a core doctrine and what is not.
    -If one believes that all or most doctrines are essential, then those who will be saved will be far, far fewer than most of us thought! Will one’s views on church government or one’s take on typology exclude one from heaven?
    -None of us have all the truth.
    -There will be many surprises in heaven.
    -How much perfect understanding of doctrine is needed to be saved is a moot point.
    -I have changed my views on theological matters over the years, and likely still will.
    -If my salvation is conditional on having a near perfect take on what are ‘correct’ theological positions, I would be rather worried.
    -I am not an ecumenicist.
    -None of have the total truth on what exactly the atonement entails and how it is to be understood (although I have my preferences), and there may be a place for more than one view complementing each other.
    -As always, a little bit of humility can go a long way!

    But thanks again for your thoughts.

  6. Thanks Bill.
    In reply, I think you have misunderstood me. I am not saying that you are indifferent to the importance of sound doctrine, nor am I alleging that you are an ecumenicist. Some of your points above are really extraneous to the issue. I simply ask, if the distinction between core doctrine and doctrine of lesser importance is valid and to be observed, at least in principle, how is one to determine which is which, and follow through with this programme?
    For example, an ancient canon, attributed to Vincent of Lerins, asserted the principle that only what is always, everywhere, and by all believed should be required. But this is far too restrictive: it would leave out many vital doctrines. However, It does show that even the ancient church struggled with this whole concept or major and lesser doctrines. Hence, how should we arrive at a satisfactory conclusion? What are the criteria?

  7. Thanks again Murray. I for one am quite relieved to know that I do not need to reinvent the wheel here. Historic Christianity has long ago helped us out greatly in this. Just think of the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. They lay out the core doctrines that define orthodox Christianity. I do not see how they no longer suffice. Adhering to these core beliefs means you are heterodox (although mere belief alone does not save, as we know – see James 2:19 eg.).

    Yes, they too had to decide on what was core and non-core. They too were mere men. But most Christians acknowledge that the “mere Christianity” contained therein is a pretty useful guide – not perfect, but quite useful. And it has been considered to be that way for centuries. If modern-day Christians think documents like this are not up to scratch, I guess they can produce their own documents and see if they can do better.

    And we note how both creeds speak of Jesus coming again to judge, the future resurrection, etc. In their wisdom they thought that this was a sufficient minimum of important belief. They did NOT go on to say that only a person who held to a particular end time scenario would be saved. They might have had some eschatological preferences here, but they were wise enough not to turn them into theological straightjackets which Scripture never did.

    Not to keep belaboring all this, but let’s say I died around 1975. Back then I was a hardcore pre-mil, pre-trib dispensationalist who defended it to the death. Would I have been barred from heaven for holding that view, if it is indeed quite wrong? And just to let you know, I have long ago abandoned that particular eschatological stance. My former self would have condemned my current self for doing so. The point should be obvious. Holding many views which others disagree with is at least an important matter of discussion, but how many of them will keep a person out of the kingdom of heaven is a moot point. As I have written elsewhere, I am quite content to be known as a Nicene Christian –

  8. A helpful warning on how certain eschatologies could lead to inaction in the present. It could be argued that because prophecy declares that everything will only get worse and that there will be a great falling away, therefore the day of the great workings of God’s power in saving souls is past.

    Surely, however, the Lord is still well able to do mighty things in the nations by means of vigorous gospel preaching. We must surely be out there proclaiming Christ’s salvation in the belief that many can yet be wonderfully converted.

  9. To me the biggest problem with most escatological views is they are way too simplified. An example from many would be the 1,600 stadia of blood up to the horses bridle (Rev 14:20). I believe a “stadia” is something like 607 feet which means this is over 190 miles of blood or over 290 kilometres. If this is simply linear it still must mean probably at least a cubic metre of blood per metre or over 290,000 metric tons of blood. If this is from biggish men with about 7 litres of blood per person that comes to around 290,000,000 / 7 = over 40 million men, bare minimum and this is assuming the 1,600 stadia is linear. If it flows out in all directions you could easily be talking about all the people who have ever lived.

    There may be peace eventually but Jesus and prophecy seem very clear that a “sword” is brought first. I believe one reason people simplify eschatology is because they can’t cope with what it actually says.

    The warning in Rev 14 is clear that we should fear God and avoid the “immoral passion” which is a central part of the kingdom of Babylon; which will be destroyed. It seems clear to me that those who avoid the warnings of eschatology are those who avoid all the warnings scripture gives.

  10. I think the useful point Bill makes about eschatology here is that some of us are prone to over-emphasising its role in our Christian lives. Surely what should be at the core of those lives is maintaining our faith and loving obedience to our Lord and Saviour as well as doing good works, or enabling them to be carried out. We are therefore to live each day regardless of when our Lord has appointed the end of time. Otherwise, we spend time obsessing about whether events A, B or C are the prelude. I’d rather get on and fulfil my biblical obligation and duty to get on and help care for the weak, vulnerable and poor in our societies, thanks.

  11. The “end-times” prophecy to which I’ve been repeatedly directed recently is Jesus’ in Matthew 24-25 (also Mark 13 and Luke 21).

    Derek Prince’ book on this teaching quotes another Bible-teacher, that the Matthew chapters are “the spine of Biblical prophecy” to which everything else attaches.

    I’d agree. Revelation, Daniel, and all other prophetic scripture must be taken in the context Jesus gives.

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