Anthony G. Payne
Reports are beginning to surface indicating that retail sources for emergency preparedness or survival gear, dehydrated foods, seeds and such cannot keep up with demand. It isn’t hard to figure out why with articles and tweets and such appearing almost every few minutes on what is happening or lies ahead in term of climate spawned global upheaval, tectonic activity that is triggering volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other calamities, fracking induced quakes, super droughts and massive wildfires, epidemics, increasing social conflict & unrest and gun violence, economic instability in nations great and small, the unrestrained barbarity of ISIS, not to mention terrorist acts taking place worldwide by people of every extremist stripe, and a seemingly endless litany of calamities both human-made and natural that are sending millions of refugees streaming into Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere. And this hardly begins to scratch the surface of how many ways life is now making various doomsday movies, books and such that appeared in the 1950s, 1960s and beyond almost prophetic.
As you might expect, many well known televangelists and other prominent figures in the evangelical world are frantically linking headlines to their reading of ancient prophecies in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelations and other biblical books. Some are even offering emergency preparedness or survival supplies for donations.
At this moment messianic Jewish Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s books such as “The Harbinger” (2012) and especially “The Mystery of the Shemitah Unlocked” (2015) are selling like hotcakes and keeping him booked on various religious programs aired on TBN, CBN and such. Just in case you haven’t read anything by Cahn or about his spin on prophecy, he basically claims that certain laws, principles and promises originally given solely to Israel and restricted to her, apply to the United States.
Of course, it is almost a given that any attempt to tie in “end times” prophecies to America (which isn’t remotely alluded to anywhere in the Bible according to both Jewish and Christian scholars, historians and others), requires building a house on speculation and linkages that are typically tenuous at best.
Mind you, I very much believe that the ancient prophecies will be fulfilled. And yes, I see many, many patterns and events unfolding that indicate that what was promised will be fulfilled. But this does not lend credence to futurist predictions that are based on reading prophecies that apply solely to Israel into unfolding events in the US (and the EU for that matter).
Now let me sit back and throw a few thoughts at you:
(1) As I write this (9-2-2015) world economic markets are in upheaval. Economists and others see this as an expected “course correction”. Many proponents of “The Shemitah” thesis argue that this signals a fast approaching economic tsunami and all the chaos and sociopolitical insanity this would likely unleash.
While it is possible Rabbi Cahn and those in his camp could be right, I would not see such a major economic crisis as prophecy fulfilled at all, as the “Shemitah” has no connection to the US. I would put it on the same level of prognostication as the old joke that “even a broken clock is right twice a day”.
If you need convincing that spinning predictions that plug America into biblical prophecy is problematic, go online and buy used copies of prophecy-based books such as Hal Lindsey’s “The Late, Great Planet Earth“. Then go through historic records and see how much of the speculation in these tomes came to pass.
(2) Now a word about ministers and others who are urging their congregants and TV/virtual viewers to donate money to get literally years of dehydrated foods, grains, etc., plus solar power generators and such: I think having a preparedness stash to make it through a 3-14 day power outage or such is a prudent move (Hurricane Katrina and other recent natural disasters alone argue for this). But for most people buying and storing years of supplies and solar generators and such is not only cost prohibitive, but would actually make them targets if our society was plunged into total chaos. I have often wondered how long these people think it would be before roaming hordes of hungry people would break into and pilfer their stockpiles. Some of these “Christian survivalists”, yes, are probably setting up underground bunkers to hide in and also have enough firepower and ammo to fend off scores of the desperate, but it is doubtful they can hold out interminably (The last 3.5 years of the “Great Tribulation” anyway, when evil has its way on a grand scale). And how, I ask, is this living out the Bible and Yeshua/Yehoshua’s admonition to share with those who are hungry, cold, etc.? It amazes me that neither the ministers and Bible teachers who are feverously hawking these survivalist supplies or their supporters see the inherent problems and (biblical) contradictions in what they are advocating and doing.
If you are interested in reading exposes on the biblical difficulties presented by Rabbi Cahn’s books (“The Harbinger” and “The Mystery of the Shemitah Unlocked”) read these articles:
That God expects or will impose a Shemitah upon any nation other than Israel has no scriptural basis. Neither do the Scriptures provide any indication that the Shemitah is some sort of universal principle that operates throughout or even at various times in history.
And these “yours truly” penned:
If you are a believer who is fearful the “end times” is fast approaching — and it may well be (But be aware of those things that must precede it as laid out in When these specific events happen, you will know “doomsday” is near) — my advice is to steep yourself in faith-edifying teachings and prayer, bring your conduct and actions into obedience to what the Almighty requires, learn to discern what is evil from what is not (And yes, they are getting increasingly confused these days, i.e., evil is called good and good, evil), and connect with other believers who worry less about “worshipper friendly” banter and political correctness and more about holiness and empowerment (Spirit baptism, Grace, the fear of God). I highly recommend these books as a sort of “Faith & Empowerment 101” crash course:
Breakthrough Faith: Living a Life Where Anything is Possible by Larry Sparks
Go and Sin No More: A Call to Holiness by Dr. Michael L. Brown
Good or God? by John Bevere
But let me add this caveat: A lot of Christian theology and beliefs (including portions of the books above) draw on the very flawed letters (epistles) of Paul (Saul of Tarsus). It is therefore important that you also acquire the knowledge and insight to identify what is edifying and true from what is not. These two free, online resources will help you mightily in this regard:
Jesus’ Words Only (Second Edition 2007) (Free online in its entirety) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.
I am, by the way, a novice monk in the Knights of Prayer Monastic Order (Full monk in 2018) as well as in service as a monk to several other religious communities & monastic organizations which are part of the New Monasticism movement, and have my own website devoted to spiritual matters and resources at http://summerclouds.weebly.com/ which is geared to help people “sort the wheat from the chaff”. Unlike some believers especially clerics you might have read, watched or listened to (especially fundamentalists and many evangelicals), I do not have all the answers in every area of life and faith. I have come to adhere to certain core truths and am morally conservative, yes, but like many of you am still wrestling with and working out some aspects of what is most consonant with God’s word (Hebrew & Christian scriptures).
Anthony G. Payne (American Indian name “Summer Cloud”)
© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.
Few reading this, I dare say, have any qualms about seeing religious extremists who believe they please the Almighty by dealing with nonbelievers, sinners, so-called apostates and “infidels” with intolerance and especially cruelty and butchery, contained and even eradicated (Mandated when an armed response is the lesser of 2 evils — kill or else have more innocents killed).
At the moment (October 2014) a coalition of nations including many predominately Muslin ones are involved in rolling back the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) whose atrocities and wanton evil are regularly showcased and discussed on TV and in newspapers, not to mention web, blog and social media outlets galore worldwide.
In the midst of all this most justifiable righteous indignation with extremist violence and monstrous wickedness, there is also a growing hostility towards Muslims in countries throughout the world in which peaceful, law-abiding ones are not only suspected of being sympathetic to Islamic extremists like IS/ISIS/ISIL but are thought to be fellow travelers, even members of planted “sleeper cells” who lurk in the shadows awaiting conditions to favor their popping out and engaging in terrorism.
And, even though Muslims including scholars have come out and denounced the extremist evil of IS including their cherry-picking of the Quran to support their beliefs and actions (Examples: Here & here), this is oftentimes ignored or eclipsed by our all-too-human in-group/out-group sentiments (wiring?) which in many instances has given rise to xenophobia and then paranoia. There is something both ironic and paradoxical in the fact that many who decry the intolerance and acts of cruelty championed by extremists began to treat anyone or anything that “smacks of the enemy” with intolerance and cruelty (ranging from subtle ostracism to physical violence).
It is also tempting to filter out contrary evidence within the Islamic world and conclude that IS/ISIS/ISIL actually reflects the heart and soul of Muslim beliefs and heartfelt convictions. It doesn’t help that stories and accounts come out of how many Muslims actually do believe that certain Islamic extremist groups, often dominated by clerics, are an antidote for deviating from a literal interpretation of the Quran or “creeping liberalism”. This sort of thing is naturally seized upon by those who argue that Muslims who bomb, shoot, crucify, bury alive, behead and otherwise dispatch “infidels” in bestial ways represent the real Islamic McCoy. Here is one of many posted articles on the Web that take this position (This one claims that the Oklahoma Muslim who beheaded an ex-coworker represents the “real Islam”): http://www.wnd.com/2014/09/oklahoma-beheader-represents-real-islam/
If this doesn’t should familiar, you’ve either forgotten your high school history lessons or slept through them. How so? At one time the Christian world, especially many of its leaders both religious and secular, sanctioned draconian measures against “infidels” which included torture, imprisonment, exile and cruel executions. What did these “defenders of the faith” base their actions on? They certainly didn’t need to make up scriptural justification for this sort of thing. The Bible provided them abundant material that when taken literally and narrowly applied, sometimes out-of-context and sometimes not, justified the cruelest imaginable treatment and horrific execution of gays, occultists, nonbelievers, heterodox believers (heretics), infidels (non-Christians) and more. Click to read a rundown of such verses.
Historic examples? Thankfully, a chap by the name of Mark Humphrys saved me having to dig out all the applicable historic incidents and practices and such, as he researched, organized and posted this to http://markhumphrys.com/christianity.killings.html (Readers are also encouraged to peruse what’s posted at http://www.heretication.info/_heretics.html).
Of course, most modern (Western) Christian believers and organizations including churches and denominations would never entertain taking verses such as Leviticus 20:10 as (ahem) gospel and acting on them: If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death (Albeit some especially aggrieved wives or husbands might wish this was the law of the land)
But ask yourself: What stopped the waves of church-sanctioned persecution, torture and cruel execution of heretics and those declared apostates, sinners or such who would not repent or otherwise bend their knee to those who held their lives in-the-balance? History reveals no sudden turnabout. However, over time a number of shifts and changes occurred that gradually undermined and eroded intolerance and forced conformity to orthodoxy: Among these, the church lost secular power and influence while Biblical literalism and militant, extremist Christian policies and actions lost steam as more moderate views won the day (And these because to a great extent religious scholars and others critically examined archaic beliefs and practices and even the scriptures themselves in light of contrary or mitigating factual evidence and reasoning).
This is viewpoint is reflected in comments made by Southern Baptist Theological seminary faculty member Dr. Timothy Paul Jones to the Baptist Press which were incorporated in a July 2014 article titled “Why Christians killed and why Muslim violence continues” by David Roach:
“Christians used to kill with some frequency over matters of doctrine. There was the Spanish Inquisition, Calvin’s Geneva, England’s notorious Bloody Mary, the drowning of Anabaptists, the Crusades and more.”
Dr. Jones, the author of “Christian History Made Easy“, also stated that “it was the intermingling of church authority and civil authority that made it possible for persons who claimed to be Christians to have the state execute others who also professed Christ.”
But,…and this is a big but…..this shift was not without acrimonious debates, calls for a return to “that old time religion” (i.e., a church with secular power that punished heretics and others), fist fights and open warfare, and worse, in various quarters at various times.
Now ask yourself: Does all that’s happening in the Middle East — the theocratic Islamic governments who rely on oppression and cruelty and public executions to hold the pot lid down on dissent, the pitched battles (literal and figurative) between proponents of a Muslim religious worldview that is exclusivist literalist, and radically fundamentalist and those who champion the opposite, etc. — represent the kind of “Future Shock” cultural, social and religious clashes and upheavals that arose from and signaled the transition from a Europe that was ruled by clerics and which burned heretics to one of nations largely democratic and essentially tolerant? (But not without periodic lapses into darkness when conditions favored the eclipse of reason and tolerance by fear, hatred and bigotry). I tend to think so.
The question of whether such a complete transition will occur may not be one of if but when. But at what cost to the Muslim world and Israel, the EU, America, and other countries before the dust settles?
Beyond containing militant/radical Muslim extremists, there are other variables at play that could up the ante and the “dust” that gets kicked up before it settles to the ground. Assume for a moment that those who warn that Iran is dead set on building nuclear weapons — something underscored by alarming developments such as this — are right and they do. What happens if a major offensive is launched by one or more Arab countries against Israel and Iran joins this? If so, it is not inconceivable that Russia, which has longstanding ties to Iran (not to mention Assad’s Syria), might seize the opportunity to support such military adventurism. This would surely result in America rightfully jumping into the fray to help Israel repel this armed assault and intended invasion. Bingo, WWIII or, if not something this dire, surely a major regional conflagration that will come awfully close to unleashing it.
A major war in the Middle East, too, seems less a matter of if but when. Certainly a great many Jewish and Christian believers view this as inevitable based on prophecies in the books of Daniel and Ezekiel (Among others). Read my blog entry on this by clicking this link.
However, whether a great war hits the Middle East in the near future, later on or not at all, we can all expect a lot of craziness and bloodshed not only there but in Europe, the US, Canada, and elsewhere before the Muslim world breaks free of the forces of extremism, oppression and such.
Our challenge here in the US lies not just encouraging and waiting out the hoped for transition among Muslim countries, but also in preventing terrorist acts by Islamic extremists and their sympathizers in our midst, while at the same time avoiding letting their occasional successes drive us into the arms of authoritarian solutions…or worse.
Dr. Anthony G. Payne (Br. Anthony of the Resurrection)
Additional/supplemental reading penned by “yours truly”