Friday Challenge — Find the Freedom in the Gospel

Key to Freedom

Church and Kingdom

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” [Mt 16:18-19].

Good dispensationalists [which Independent Fundamental Baptists are] reliably push kingdom into the future. They are well aware that that any interest in social justice likely means theological and spiritual rot. People who are interested in kingdom eventually question a system which values profit over people and wealth over work. This means they question the Good News of Capitalism and its false promise of infinite growth. So it is for good reason that God’s kingdom has no place in your local IFB sect.

But kingdom was the theological core of Jesus’ preaching. If you push that into the future, wouldn’t that make a markedly different church? That ‘difference’ may be behind yesterday’s cartoon at the Naked Pastor.

My observation suggests that IFB preachers are very clear that kingdom concerns Israel and the future. God brings the kingdom in his own good time. Our concern is with building the church. As you know, that means building the IFB pastor’s fundamentalist empire.

What’s curious is that Jesus appears to have gotten it backwards. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’ and ‘YOU get the keys of the kingdom.’

See the difference?

We can now dispense with those pesky questions about hungry masses, closed schools and failing communities while our allegedly cash-hungry nation blithely poured nearly 5 trillion into wars over the past 15 years.

Where’s the Freedom?

In his temptation, Jesus refused to align himself with the powers of this age — War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. He formed a kingdom in which we would be freed from the domination of demonic powers. That truly was/is Good News. But it isn’t ‘Good News’ you’ll hear in IFB sects, or in many broadly evangelical congregations for that matter.

The truth is, we’re far better at locking people up than setting them free. And we enlist many ‘present age’ narratives to rationalize it. You can’t help those people. The only thing they understand is force. If we cut them off, they’d learn to fend for themselves and become stronger.

Today’s Challenge

But sometimes, people are better than their theology and better than their stated convictions. Today’s challenge is to tell/find a story of genuine redemption experienced in an IFB setting.

This does not mean substituting one form of death [addiction/slavery/etc.] for another [legalism/hypocrisy/etc.]. It means that despite its theology, some IFB sect somewhere used the keys of God’s kingdom to redeem a situation and set someone free to the praise of God’s glory and grace.

Recovering the Much Tortured Book of Revelation

Apocalypse in Springfield

Personal Observations

In retrospect, I think he was amused. An extraordinarily gifted scholar with broad learning, our church rector was ever a gentleman. But he’d never mentioned it one way or another. So when I met dispensationalism ever so many years ago, it seemed natural to ask him if he’d heard of it.

Surprise — he had!

He then explained that dispensationalism rests largely on a misreading of apocalyptic texts. He continued by saying that while this genre is used in the Bible, it is very different. Reading it correctly requires an entirely different set of interpretative rules.

I then asked whether he’d made this any particular study of his own.

Another surprise — he had!

A fine, little book had just been written on topic called, ‘Apocalyptic.’ The publisher asked him to write a few lines to publish on the cover.

Years later, I was browsing a book store when I noticed a little book by Leon Morris. In his day, Morris was deemed by some the most capable NT Greek scholar in the English-speaking world. The title? ‘Apocalyptic.’

Discovering ‘Apocalyptic’

I read the table of contents, the bibliography, fanned it to glance at its headings, and then flipped it over. Among the reviews was this statement by the Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Ward:

“Dr. Morris has established a tradition, and it is here maintained: evidence of wide reading, mastery of the sources, the exercise of an independent, critical judgment, courtesy and fairness towards all. Apocalyptic sets out the main points clearly, and will be a great help — especially to young seminarians.”

At ‘seminarians,’ I recalled another of Dr. Ward’s observations: that day in church narthex, he said ‘the vast majority of theology students graduate from seminary having read not a solitary title on apocalyptic literature.’

He might have said that after a lifetime in pridefully ‘pre-mill/pre-trib’ sects, the vast majority of Independent, Fundamental Baptist pastors had yet to hear John’s message. But again, Dr. Ward was ever the gentleman.

Yet for anyone who cares to read them, these few posts recapitulating one chapter in Richard Bauckham’s book hold more perspective than most prophecy ‘experts’ will gain in a lifetime.

Anyone interested in further reading of apocalyptic literature can find a discussion of it here. Oh, and needless to say, I bought Morris’ book.

But you can download it free.

Dispensational Blues

Dispensationalism in Blue

A Fundamental Necessity

Remember when dispensationalism was guaranteed a ‘pass’ just about wherever it went? For long years, admitting you were not dispensational put you on the same social level as the guy who poisoned the town well.

How could you keep your fundamentalist credentials in good order unless you hosted at least one or two prophecy series a year? And if you wanted to draw crowds and build your church, you’d consider even more series.

A Frightful Development

Then things changed. We know this because dispensationalists admit it. It seems that this is why Dr. Randy White is now inventing something called ‘Dispensational Publishing House.’ He writes:

‘While dispensational theology once had a very strong presence in the United States, today it is often looked upon with disdain and contempt in many evangelical—and most scholarly—circles.’

That’s rather like saying that if someone disagrees with dispensational theology, there’s a good chance they may actually know their onions.

Who are we to argue?

A Frivolous Endeavor

Many have spent their lives hearing sermons, participating in conferences led by guest teachers, listening to tapes, reading books, attending church Bible studies and classes on dispensational these things. Results?

  1. They don’t necessarily mature in their Christian faith because of it.
  2. They still cannot read Revelation without charts and books in hand.

Now good fundamentalists are experiencing Dispensational Blues. Speaking only for myself, I couldn’t be more pleased.