That a great persecution of existing Christians in the West, including the U.S. will occur, I have not doubt. A fabulist, pre-Tribulation Rapture requires fantastic elasticity of Biblical interpretation to mould this fanciful speculation into doctrinal orthodoxy. It coagulates from pockets of Scriptural mist, more vaporous than those justifying the ever-virginal quality of Mary, the mother of Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55). Even the Mormon doctrine of baptizing for the dead has clearer outlines of justification (1 Corinthians 15:29); even if there exists only one verse, which gives that birth.
It is not an issue of whether there will a resurrection of the dead and rising of those living, when Christ appears. It is a question of chronology and number of Second Comings. It is a question of fidelity to an interpretative key in Scriptures; that a doctrine can be garnered, only through a minimum of two or three clear Scriptural witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1). I have read too much Christian history. I have observed too much irrationality, too many absurdities, travesties and atrocities, originating from the creative innovations of peasant seers and vainglorious theologians.
The fluff that is proffered to support this doctrinal contention defies integrity and rationality. Serious persecution of Christians is proliferating around the world. Tentative forays are occurring in Europe. Initial probes are occurring in Canada. It is astonishing Exceptionalist vanity that the American Church should avoid that which 95% of the world is experiencing.
Nevertheless, even if one holds the pre-Tribulation Rapture position, it might be prudent not to hold the position too tenaciously. If it comes to pass, well and good. But if it does not come to pass, one might not be prepared for that any “hell that’s going to break loose on us”. If the doctrine has vaporous foundations; the basis for any anathemas against those who doubt it floats in total ether. Requirement of that belief in order to be a Christian and even for church membership, adds “mental works” to faith in Christ.
Where I might detour from Paul Washer’s warning, involves perhaps speculative eschatology and sociological prophecy in the light of political theory, psychology, history and Scriptures. I don’t have, at all, a bad record in this sideline. I would not dare consider myself a prophet of Biblical proportions. But while some Southern Baptist radio station owner is astonished at recent turn of events about same-sex rights, one of my essays in Grade 13 journalism class (1977-8), saw the writing on the wall on the coattails of the Black civil rights movement. This is a good decade before the self-interested Andrew Sullivan was given credit for that prediction.
In the aftermath of reading some of Francis Schaeffer’s books and the promotion of the idea of co-belligerence, there was an unease that this concept for mutual loose collaboration against the forces of secular humanism by various religious groups, which had hitherto mutually held doctrinal and organizational distance from each other, was a backdoor to becoming unequally yoked. It would become the vehicle by which the Evangelical Church would become a member in that Great Harlot of Babylon. Unlike Luther and the Reformers, I don’t necessarily see this Great Whore as being the Roman Catholic Church necessarily; although the papacy might represent a ranking member due to its large global constituency.
Rather, I look through the prism of the ancient Roman religious pantheon, whose ideological roots go back, at least, to the Persian Empire. Hitherto, Mesopotamian empires had tendency to massacre its defeated enemies and/or force the defeated to adopt that empires’ ways. The Persians, and perhaps even Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonians before them, adopted a policy of religious pluralism, in order to keep the peace and promote a social cohesion of kind. The succeeding Hellenists tended to retain this policy of religious and cultural pluralism. And on the one major occasion they reverted to a culturally imperialistic mode, the Seleucid Empire suffered loss of territory at the hands of the Maccabean Jews. The Romans adopted this policy. The Jews did not go along with the pluralistic tolerance (all gods are of equal value). However, because of the population size and anticipated tenacity of the Jewish population within the Empire, the Jews were given special dispensation. The Christians, particularly after Emperors Domitian and Nerva, were able to suss out Jew from Christian, were not fortunate.
But contrary to the Roman pantheon, from which the Judaic and Christian faiths set themselves apart; the modern Christian church and Jewish synagogue will enlist in this modern resurrection of the religious Pantheon. And they will enlist because of such fears of global persecution, which Paul Washer speaks of.
In my youth (early 1970s), the Evangelicals set themselves apart from the ecumenicism, championed by Vatican II and the mainline Protestant denominations. However, the rapid moral degeneracy of the 1960s and 1970s and the political laïcité (separation of religious values from the public square) rattled Evangelicals out of its separatist and mildly non-political isolationism into ‘loose understandings’ with other conservative sects and secular parties. Of course, they could not possibly be called alliances. However, that is what I fearfully anticipated and this is what has happened. Republican and self-proclaimed Evangelical, Gary Bauer declared, on the recent elevation of Pope Francis:
They [dissident Evangelicals] need to realize that they, too, have a stake in who is elected pope, because without a strong pope, evangelicals will lose their best allies in the most important cultural and political battles of our age.
Catholics and evangelicals (and to a lesser extent orthodox Jews and Mormons) have formed a formidable partnership in recent decades against the threats of secularism, relativism and Islamism.
Doctrinal differences remain, of course, but the Catholic-evangelical alliance has reshaped American politics. In many cases, Catholics have provided the intellectual framework and vocabulary to discuss Christianity’s vital role in our democracy, while Protestants have contributed fervor and youth.
We do not agree on every issue. But on the essential ones — those both faiths consider “non-negotiables” — Catholics and evangelicals are allied.
We both champion the idea — the truth — that there are reliable standards of right and wrong to which all institutions, including government, must adhere. We stand together in proclaiming that all human life has equal dignity and worth. And we stand together in defending the traditional and time-honored conception of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.1
The issue is not about hating those nasty Catholic hobbitses. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). It is to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The war of ideas has historically proven to be ultimately, far more influential than clashes of armaments.
Be it granted that these words are the utterances of a worldly-minded, spiritual sell-out. But the striking idea, to which I believe, is representative of the larger plurality of Evangelicals, is contained in that curious list of “non-negotiables”. It ought not to amaze after a couple of generations of Evangelical Nothingness, denuding the Gospel of all but Hallmark mantras, in worship of self in the reflection of a malleable but inscrutable God; the distinctives between the Faiths are devoid of theological content.
This coagulation of religious, moralist and conservative partisans into one grandiose philosophical faction is the mirror counterpart of the cosmopolitan secularist liberal, progressive and socialist faction. One can see a global gelling and ‘civilizational’ conflict seeping out between the two, throughout the whole world. And I believe that it is only matter of time that Islam is invited and joins this confederacy of the bastard children of Plato and Abraham against the descendents of Thales and Pyrrho. And America seems, because it is so equally and intractably divided, to be a primary flashpoint in this monumental struggle.
None of these elements are particularly prophetic. They describe undertones of contemporary geopolitical history.
In common understanding of Christian eschatology, there is a view of an alliance being forged between a future Antichrist and the Jews. The current state of Israel seems to be experiencing the same dynamic nationally as they have experienced historically in every nation to which they fled from the persecutions of prior host countries. After an initial acceptance, even celebration of the merits of the Jews, it is followed by increasing and universal hostility.
In anxious fears of national isolation; in the exorbitant and exhaustive costs of bearing the defense of the state alone, and in the desperate search for allies, one can empathetically understand how the Jewish state would couple with the Antichrist. And although I am skeptical of the application of Old Testament Scriptures to reference the visible Christian Church (Supersessionism); what if there was a corresponding spiritual allegorical dynamic, which matched the physical (blood and national) in those prophecies
By the end of the 19th Century, most Europeans were nominal Christians. Membership was high. However, the ideological premises and increasingly, the ethical mores (since Christian ethics really lacks coherence without a Christian cosmology) that Europeans lived by, reflected non-Christian ideas. Thus, when the Nazis came to power, the bulk of Protestant and Catholic Germans either celebrated or ‘went along’ with Nazi attempts at Gemanification of the churches. The Nazis represented a political bulwark against the third of the country of leftist forces, which had proven in the French and Russian Revolutions, to be oppressive persecutors of the Catholic and Orthodox religion. In the Soviet case, even dissident Protestant and Jewish religionists suffered depredation.
Without certainty of faith, which had been undermined by a century of German-founded Higher Criticism, even those religionists, opposed to the Nazi regime, had little rationality or moral strength to resist. There was a minority of dissidents. Many were oppressed and persecuted by the right–wing faction, which included religionists, of a national philosophical war. And it is known in documents of the Nuremberg Trials, that Hitler had intentions of squashing the German (and European) Christian churches.
I can see the true Church of believers becoming the modern dissidents, belonging to neither side. They don’t get with the program, in the parlance of the above-mentioned Gary Bauer. They will thereby suffer persecution by a philosophical faction that includes that great resurrected religious Pantheon that now will include Christian denominations. And after aligning itself with the Great Harlot to put down strong opponents within the secularist liberal camp, “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (Romans 17:16). The Beast will put down strong opponents within the religionist camp. This maneuver is classic Machiavellian political machinations for the consolidation of autocracy. All throughout the period, regardless of which mode the Beast is in, the true Church will suffer persecution.
These ideas are all mere speculation; even if Scriptural passages fit well into it, and they pose reasonable projections. It is only put out there as a framework of understanding, which seems to have survived 25 or more years of personal inquiry and speculation. NOTHING MORE.
- Gary Bauer, Why evangelicals should care about new pope: Column”, USA Today, March 17, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/03/13/gary-bauer-on-why-pope-is-important-to-evangelicals/1985291/