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Eschatology and Syncretism

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Eschatology

The challenge that Zephaniah gives the student of the Bible is immense.  As with most Minor Prophets, there’s constant friction between immediate and far-off future prophecies.  This is why studying end times (eschatology) is so challenging.  There are immediate prophecies that are fulfilled and far-off prophecies that can have multiple meanings.  You can see this in Zephaniah 3, particularly in the historical study.  I think this is why John Calvin wrote, “What the Prophet says of that day is to be extended to the whole kingdom of Christ.  He indeed speaks of the deliverance of the people; but we must ever bear in mind that it is not one year or a few years, which are intended when the Prophets speak of future redemption; for the time which is not mentioned began when the people were restored from the Babylonian captivity, and continues its course to the final advent of Christ.”  

Now, with that in mind, it’s important to note how many opinions there are about eschatology. For most American Churches, for the last 50 years, there has been one mainline view of certain things.  It’s dominated the landscape, and people see eschatology as “gospel” or “close-handed.” But our perspective at CLF is that eschatology is “open-handed” because it’s not as “clear,” as many would like to say.  

To make matters more challenging is remembering how the original hearers would’ve received these prophecies.  They would not have thought:  “this is going to be 2000 years down the road, and we don’t need to pay attention.”  Sure many were unrepentant.  For example, when Jesus warned about the Temple being destroyed and Jerusalem going down in Matthew 24, the Christians who heard that talked about it with their other Christian friends.  We know this is true because the early Church Fathers and other historians confirm that Christians had fled Jerusalem before Titus came and destroyed it.  They did this because they heeded Jesus’ warnings.  They didn’t think, “this is for 2000 years down the road, so we don’t need to listen.”  

That’s one reason I think it’s concerning when we make non-gospel issues gospel issues.  Remember, the clearer something is in the Bible, the more “close-handed” it becomes. 

Some have asked what’s CLF’s official position on eschatology, and our answer is we don’t have one.  There are members of our elder board who are post-millennial, some who are a-millennial, and some who are historic premillennial.  I’ll let you look those terms up for right now.  But we all agree that a great “starter” book for eschatology is R.C. Sproul’s book, The Last Days According to Jesus.  I think you’ll find that challenging, biblically, and easy to read (which is typical for Dr. Sproul). 

Syncretism

Syncretism: mixing religions for “whatever works” is an issue that has faced the American Church for quite some time.  It’s an issue for the church of all time, too, as evidenced by Zephaniah.  But I thought I would mention a few areas where I see this at work in the American Church:

  • The mixing of biblical principles with business methods in leadership and understanding success.  To be fair, I do believe that many leadership principles are derived from biblical principles, and I believe that when those principles are applied in church and business, they will honor the Lord.  But where syncretism takes root in the church is that we start “judging” success or fruitfulness by profit margins, productivity, and marketing expertise.  Success should be seen as long-term faithfulness to God and His people.  Further, the pastor is not a CEO or a “face of the franchise.”  He’s an under-shepherd who serves Christ’s people. 
  • The mixing of biblical principles with secular, humanistic, therapeutic methods.  We live in a therapeutic culture where everyone wants to “feel good” rather than “be good or do good.”  This has perpetuated the increase of syncretistic counseling methods.  People will do whatever it takes to “feel good” and want quick fixes.  Often, a biblical approach to counseling is more long-term and tries to get to the root of the issue, not just the symptoms.  
  • Mixing biblical parenting principles with what is popular or whatever works.  This is true in parental discipline and educational decisions.  In discipline, the Bible is clear that if a parent doesn’t discipline their children, they don’t truly love them.  Our culture has taken the approach to “let a child express themselves” or let them “do what feels good to them.”  But what happens when a parent disciplines a child?  They cry, get mad, or call us ‘mean.’  The immense pressure and sometimes from our friends or kids is: to stop the discipline.  But God’s word tells us that all discipline is sorrowful, but it brings about the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”  In education, parents are to be the leading educator according to Scripture, which means that no matter which education choice you make (homeschool, private or public), parents need to educate their kids.  But many parents have acquiesced the education of their kids to others.  This seems to be due, in some parts, to “this is the way I was raised” or “this is what everyone else is doing.”  

Again, these are just a few areas.  I could spend time on politics, governmental theories, finances, and others.

Elder/Wives Retreat

As you heard on Sunday, we’re heading out on Wednesday for our annual Elders/Wives Retreat.  Some might think this is a relaxing, entertaining time where we get away to rest and play.  But most of you know that this isn’t the case.  Our retreat is a working retreat to pray and plan for the upcoming year and the future.   So here are some particular things that we would ask you to pray for:

  • Pray for our health.  There are a few of us that are sick or are on the mend.  
  • Pray for wisdom about the church growth we’re experiencing.  It seems evident that we need to pursue building a new building, but the question is:  what do we do while we’re raising money and building?  We need to make room for folks to hear the gospel because our church family is very inviting!  
  • Pray for wisdom about the generational transfer of gospel ministry and church building.  We believe we’re at an exciting time in the history of CLF.  Our founding generation is getting older, and biblical principles about church building and gospel ministry need to be transferred to the next generation.  

From the Cheap Seats

  • I honestly thought that at 28-14, the Cowboys had the game in hand.  I’m not sure why I thought this because I sat through the misery of this team for the last 30 years.  
  • The Ranger’s hiring of Bruce Bochy hiring has me cautiously excited.  I realize the move back to older managers is in vogue right now (congrats Dusty Baker).  But I know that without pitching, it’s not going to matter.  
  • Dumpster fire = Texas A&M Football.  
  • The Civil War, at this point, seems like it’s going to be an excellent game.  

Have a great week!

To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here. 

In Christ, 

Dave York

More To Explore

Musings

Eschatology and Syncretism

The challenge that Zephaniah gives the student of the Bible is immense.  As with most Minor Prophets, there’s constant friction between immediate and far-off future prophecies.  This is why studying end times (eschatology) is so challenging.

Musings

Ramblings About Sunday and the Conference

This week’s edition of musings will be more like ramblings.  It’s been a few weeks since I last posted anything, but I thought I would touch on several things in this post that might be of interest.  

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