Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ignoring Eschatology

“It is time that the church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialize the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now.… People are no longer interested in a possible heavenly state or a probable hell. They need to learn that the kingdom is here, and must express itself on earth … The way into that kingdom is the way that Christ trod. It involves the sacrifice of the personal self for the good of the world, and the service of humanity …”
—Alice Bailey (Cited in chapter 15 of In The Name of Purpose,

For the past 150 years there has been an ongoing emphasis -- first among liberal church leaders, and now among the evangelicals -- to shift the emphasis away from biblical eschatology to the doctrine of building the kingdom of God on earth. One of the most effective ways to do this has been to focus the church's attention on "service" and the pressing needs of here and now, while at the same time ignoring the many comforting Scriptures about Jesus' imminent return and our heavenly home.

This particular strategy is acutely observed by Warren Smith in the Chapter 10 Update to his recently updated Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel, now posted online.

Not Focusing on Eschatology
Another link to Schuller and the New Age/New Spirituality – and perhaps one of the strangest and most unbiblical teachings in The Purpose-Driven Life – was Rick Warren’s discouragement of studying eschatology. Eschatology is the Bible’s description of last days events that include the return of Jesus Christ. Instead of acknowledging all of the prophetic detail in the Bible concerning Jesus’ return – including Jesus’ own words – Rick Warren tried to use Acts 1:6-8 to convince his readers that the details of Jesus return are “none of their business.” He wrote:

When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, “The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that!”

…If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.

Brian McLaren, one of the pastoral leaders of the controversial “emerging church” movement, also uses Acts 1:6-8 to discourage any interest in last days prophecy. In fact, he sounds just like Rick Warren as he tries to convince his readers that the details of Jesus’ return are “none of their business” – that they need to focus on their mission, not on eschatology. In The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything, McLaren wrote:

…Instead, he tells them it’s none of their business to speculate about how God plans to work out history, and then he gives them a mission to accomplish. (42)

C. Peter Wagner, Rick Warren’s faculty “advisor” and “mentor” at Fuller Seminary, (43) describes how Rick Warren and Brian McLaren are actually just echoing what Robert Schuller has been teaching for years. Wagner divulged how it was Robert Schuller who pioneered the idea of focusing on one’s mission in the world as opposed to focusing on the prophetic details of Jesus’ return (eschatology). Wagner wrote:

A pioneer of focusing on the mission of the church to the surrounding world is Robert H. Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral of Garden Grove, California. (44) [emphasis in original]

Robert Schuller’s advice to young church leaders would seem to apply to new apostolic Christians: “Don’t let eschatology stifle your long-term thinking."

But Schuller, as it turns out, was just repeating what New Age matriarch Alice Bailey wrote as she prepared the way for the New Age “Christ” in her 1948 book The Reappearance of the Christ. In chapter seven, “Preparation for the Reappearance of the Christ,” she said that the details of the Christ’s return were “none of our concern.” She stated that the Christ’s coming was dependent on everyone staying focused on their mission – fulfilling their work in the world:

…If our work is rightly done, He will come at the set and appointed time. How, where or when He will come is none of our concern. Our work is to do our utmost and on as large a scale as possible to bring about right human relations, for His coming depends upon our work. (46)

Looking again at what Rick Warren wrote:

…He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, “The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that!”

…If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy. (47)

Fifty-four years after Bailey’s channeled teaching from the spirit world, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, and Brian McLaren are saying almost the exact same thing. Don’t worry about prophecy. Focus on your mission. Yet my experience coming out of the New Age taught me just the opposite. In Deceived on Purpose I described how understanding the prophetic details of Jesus’ return had helped me to see how deceived I had been and was absolutely essential to my salvation:

Coming out of New Age teachings, I had learned in a very personal way that the details of Jesus’ return are definitely our business. Understanding the events surrounding His return was critical to understanding how badly I had been deceived by my New Age teachings. I had learned from reading the Bible that there is a false Christ on the horizon and that for a number of years I had unknowingly been one of his followers. Because the Bible’s clear authoritative teachings about the real Jesus and His true return had been brought to my attention, I was able to see how deceived I was. By understanding that there is a false Christ trying to counterfeit the true Christ’s return, I was able to renounce the false Christ I had been following and commit my life to the true Jesus Christ. (48)


The Truth:

"For I would not have you to be ignorant, Brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." (1 Thess 4:13)

"Now we beseech you, Brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the Day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." (2 Thess 2:1-3)

"Looking for that Blessed Hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:13)

"For our conversation is in Heaven from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His Glorious Body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself." (Philippians 3:20-21)