Okay…here’s the one I address with the most trepidation.
Growing up, I didn’t have much religious instruction. My Mom was a non-practicing Catholic. Dad was not much of anything. His Navy dog tags said ‘Baptist’, but he had no strong convictions about any of it. My parent’s policy was to be open minded and let the kids decide for themselves when they got older…more or less.
In high school I had one friend in particular who was a committed Christian, Scott. I eventually became a Christian myself in April of my senior year.
I started out at an Assembly of God church, a Pentecostal denomination. I got a taste there of what is called Word of Faith teaching that didn’t really agree with me. When I came to California, I was so mobile in the first couple of years that I didn’t really have a church home. When I finally was stable enough to find one, it was a Calvary Chapel. Calvary Chapel is charismatic, which is basically a toned down Pentecostal.
After getting married, we found ourselves in churches open to spiritual gifts, but not really even charismatic. Do you detect a pattern here?
Over the years, I had also been more and more interested in the history of the church…where it had been, and how it got here. The more I studied, I came to the conclusion that the Christian church in America (in all of Western civilization, for that matter) has drifted from some very significant issues…in particular, soteriology (how people get ‘saved’) and eschatology (the End Times). This is where I worry about lifelong Christian friends considering me to have lost my marbles! All I can say is, there is a method to ‘my madness’, and just bear with me as I explore particulars over the course of this blog.
In a nutshell…I think the Reformers were right in their interpretation on how Scripture addresses salvation. If you don’t know who the Reformers are in church history, don’t feel bad. You are not alone. Typical American Christians think that anything that happened before 1980 is ancient history and irrelevant for their faith today. Sadly, they couldn’t be more wrong. The Reformers are a group of theologians and clergy who broke away from the Catholic church over the course of the 1500’s and started the Protestant Reformation…hence, Reformers, or Reformed theology. You are probably only familiar with two names from this period…Martin Luther and John Calvin…and most of what you have heard about them is probably wrong. And I have discovered that there is a lot more to Reformed theology than TULIP. (The infamous…and commonly misunderstood…Five Points of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.)
The other area in which I think American Christians have largely steered a wrong course is in their End Times theology. Are you familiar with the Left Behind series? Well…that ain’t how it works. Not even close. The basic outline of typical Evangelical eschatology is that there will be a rapture of the church (believers will be gone in the twinkling of an eye) followed by a seven-year period (called the Great Tribulation) of the most unimaginable horrors ever suffered by humans. At some point in here, Israel will restore worship at The Temple and all of Israel’s enemies will surround her and close in for the kill. The only thing that will save Israel is the triumphant return of Jesus Christ with all of the hosts of heaven. Christ will vanquish Israel’s enemies and establish a 1,000 year reign here on Earth (or The Millennium), with Israel restored to her rightful place and the Temple sacrifices once again being performed. At the end of the Millennium, Satan and his minions will be unbound for one final round of their rebellion before their final, ultimate, and permanent defeat. This is called the pre-Tribulation, pre-millennenial view of eschatology, or the end times.
I used to believe most of that. The biggest disagreement I had with it was over the timing of the Rapture. Most of my teachers insisted the Rapture would happen before the Great Tribulation, or a pre-Trib Rapture. I didn’t see anything in the Scriptures that absolutely ruled out the Rapture occurring after the Tribulation…in fact, I saw some Scriptures as requiring a post-Trib Rapture.
I’ve since discovered that the pre-, mid-, or post-trib Rapture is the least of our worries over this scenario. The pre-Tribulation, pre-millennenial view is relatively new in church history and was never even seriously considered before about 1830. Again…I think the Reformers more accurately handled the Scriptures over this important topic as well.
Details to come…