Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Identifying Dispensationalists

by Ken Gentry, Th.D., Director, NiceneCouncil.com

In that my post on "Witnessing to Dispensationalists" was so popular, I thought we might re-visit the humor department. Not that dispensationalism is laughable -- it actually causes me to cry a lot. Normally, my crying doesn't occur until I look at the New York Times best-seller list and see it crowded with dispensational fiction books. Indeed, that is why I stopped subscribing to the NY Times -- in addition to the fact that I live 800 miles away from New York (the "movie showings" section was not helpful to me at all).

Several blog readers sent me emails suggesting that I give some insights into how to recognize a dispensationalist. This, they thought, might help them in their quest to seek them out for an "intellectual" (I use the term loosely) encounter. Attempting an intellectual discussion with a dispensationalist is a lot like saddling a giraffe: It is a whole lot of trouble and there's not much point in it. (This is why you never see me riding a giraffe through the neighborhood.)

So then how can you recognize a dispensationalist? Jeff Foxworthy has developed one of the most useful psychological profiling systems for determining a person's identity. So I will follow his well-argued principles and apply them to the task at hand. I will even apply them personally to you, my reader, just in case you fear you may be succumbing yourself (out of saddness that you are never invited to Rapture parties).

You Might Be a Dispensationalist IF:

If you like to chew gum constantly so that your ears won’t pop in case of the Rapture.

If you subscribe to the newspaper simply to keep up with biblical prophecy.

If you always leave the top down on your convertible — just in case.

If bar code scanners make you nervous.

If you have been a Christian for less than one year and you have already studied through the Book of Revelation twelve times.

If you attend a church that sings as a Christian hymn the 1960s pop song "Up, Up and Away."

If you think general revelation is the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of Armageddon.

If you can name more dispensations than commandments.

If you forget your wife’s birthday, but you know the latest predicted date for the Rapture.

If you have already forgotten the last date predicted for the Rapture but you are excited about the most recent prediction, confident that "this is it!"

If you are a book collector and you long to locate a copy of The Late Great Planet Earth in the original Greek.

If you believe that the term "Early Church Fathers" refers to J. N. Darby, C. I. Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer.

If you would like a copy of Hal Lindsey's personal study Bible with penciled in corrections.

If you have on your den wall a framed, aerial photograph of Jerry Falwell.

If in casual conversation with friends and fellow employees at work you begin every sentence with: "According to biblical prophecy...."

If more than one of your children is named Ryrie, Chafer or Darby. (However, you may deduct this from your overall score if you have a child name Calvin.)

If you get excited when you see a sentence with a parenthesis.

If your license plate reads: "IM PR TRB." (You get extra credit if you have a friend who actually knows what it means -- and wishes he had one.)

If you believe the musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" contains an apocalyptic message. (You get extra credit if on the basis of the coded message you have sold your house and cashed out your retirement investments and moved to the top of some mountain -- on the side facing towards Jerusalem.)

If you ever thought you sealed a victory in a theological argument by introducing your rebutal by stating: "Nevertheless, as Tim LaHaye has saliently argued...."

If there are more underlined sentences in your copy of Late Great Planet Earth than in your Bible. (You get extra credit if you have a thumb-indexed edition of Late Great Planet Earth.)

If your Pastor gives a sermon exclusively from the Scofield Reference Bible study notes. (You get extra credit if he doesn't realize he has done so.)

If you own a leather-bound, red-letter edition of the Left Behind series.

If you have to have a full-color foldout chart before you can understand salvation by grace through faith.

If you’ve ever had more than three candidates for the AntiChrist at one time. (You get extra credit if you justified it by arguing from the doctrine of the Trinity.)

If you can read Stephen King novels and chuckle, but you see 666 on a cash register receipt and you run screaming out of the store, crying out: "I told you so!"

If you took Hal Lindsey’s advice forty years ago not to make any long term plans and are now broke, uneducated and in a dead-end job. (You get extra credit if your sanctification is such that you are not miffed at his raking in millions and investing them in long-term real estate ventures.)

If you always make sure there’s at least one non-Christian pilot on every flight you take. (You get extra credit if you discount the argument that: "If God had meant for us to fly he would have given us tickets." You must deduct points, however, if you are convinced Matt. 28:20 is a compelling argument against Christians' flying, because you understand that in this passage Jesus warns that: "Low, I am with you always.")

If you believe the concern about "population explosion" refers to Muslims blowing themselves up on a daily basis to make a salient theological point, and you are convinced there must be a verse in Revelation that mentions it (because explosions produce fire, fire occurs often in Revelation, and Revelation contains the letters "M," "U," "S," "L," "I," "M" scattered throughout the text).

If you still hold a lingering suspicion about Gorbachev’s birthmark on his forehead. (You get extra credit if you never confuse the shape of his birthmark with a map of Texas.)

If you believe that Grant Jeffrey, Dave Hunt, Hal Lindsey, or John Hagee is a theologian.

If you know the location of the European Central Bank because you believe you have properly exegeted Revelation 13:17 from the original Belgium version.

If you count trampoline aerobics as "Rapture Practice" in your 4:00 am devotions each morning. (You get extra credit if you believe the neighbors who live in the apartment below you are non-Christians and are persecuting you because they complain.)

If you think Texe Marrs’ books belong in the "Reference Works" section of your local Christian bookstore. (You get extra credit if you think they belong in your Christian bookstore at all.)

If you look for Chick Tracts in the "Theology" section of your local Christian bookstore. (You get extra credit if you shop at a Christian bookstore that actually has a "Theology" section. Note: The WWJD supply section is not considered a "Theology" section.)

If you ever stand on your head out of the fear that the Rapture will occur when Jesus returns over China, because you are confident of your exegesis of Rev. 9:16 regarding the battle involving 250,000,000 million Chinese soldiers. (You get three extra points if you can name each one of the 250,000,000 million soldiers without making the sound of a spoon hitting the floor.)

If your baby’s stroller has a break-away sun bonnet. (You get extra credit if it also has a bumper sticker on it stating: "In case of Rapture this vehicle will be unbabied.")

If you have five children, but refuse to buy life insurance on yourself because "I won't be needing it."

If your personal hymn favorite is: "My hope is built on nothing less, than Scofield's notes and Moody Press."

If Clarence Larkin is your favorite artist and you scoff at Norman Rockwell's meager artistic attempts.

If you think there are only two millennial positions: Pre-Trib and Liberal.

If your favorite party game is "Pin the horns on the Beast."

If your favorite Christian TV game show is: "Name that Antichrist."

If after reading the Left Behind series you file formal legal papers leaving your body to science fiction. (You must deduct points, though, if you realize the error of reading too many dispensationalist books and you donate your eyes as an organ donor before you die.)

A final note on this profiling technique.

I believe that if you master this YMBI ("You might be, if") Analysis you will be able effectively to ward off early-onset dispensationalism (some medical researchers call it by its more technical designation, Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type [SDAT].) Be aware, that after thirty-two years of intensive research by scores of left-handed scientists working in tandem, it was proven that that there was once someone who had heard of Reformed theology, but who became a dispensationalist nonetheless. No one is safe as long as there are newspapers to exegete.

Furthermore, you will be better equipped to identify chart-carrying dispensationalists even when they accidentally leave their charts at home. Admittedly, this doesn't happen often, but it can happen and you must prepared.

I hope you will use this YMBI Analysis tool often. You don't want to fail in your Christian life because you failed to take into account the biblical warning that states: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

Once you are secure in your non-dispensationalism (having passed the YMBI Analysis), you may enjoy playing the game of Spin-the-Dispensationalist. To play the game, simply ask a dispensationalist the question: "Why do your Rapture predictions always fail, but you continue to adopt new ones with even greater enthusiasm?" Then step back and watch him spin the facts to account for his gullability. (Be careful though: Stand back when playing the game, because if he spins too quickly, inertial forces may cause his WWJD necklace to slap you in the face thereby causing a bruise that looks like "666.")

This game is more fun than watching Aardvarks fight. Or at least, that's what an ant friend of mine has told me. (Although I am not sure I should trust this ant. This ant and some of his friends were recently accused of dressing up as rice and robbing a Chinese restaurant. His character is now under suspicion. But I did appreciate his giving me a free Chinese Fortune Cookie.)

7 comments:

socialupstart said...

came to your website by referral by a theologian, expecting to be informed, not mocked. i come from a dispensational paradigm and only recently discovered that there were other points of view worthy of exploration and study. if you continue to express your theology in this manner, you will get the same number of converts as fred phelps

NiceneCouncil.com said...

I take it back. I don't won't to end up like Fred Phelps.

Jacob and Dawn said...

You might be a dispensationalist IF...

You did not have to Google "Fred Phelps" after reading the last two comments.

Jacob and Dawn said...

OR......

While NOT being ignorant of the the perils, pestilences and apostasy that this world has seen in centuries past,you are still compelled to somehow connect the latest word of a war, natural disaster or wicked leader to end times prophecy.

OR......

If you refuse to entertain the idea that word for word translation can leave the reader a far cry from the intention of the original author when we fail to understand the expressions, stories, traditions and such of the intended audience. (Yes we are certainly the intended audience of the Word, but not of the original text).

My observation lately has been that too many approach the the bible with the supposition that there can be one standard hermanuetical method for all of scripture. The fact is that scripture contains some very cryptic and strange writings and some that are not so wierd but can be extremely elastic in meaning,especially when droped into a very different culture,millennia later.
Go to the link below and imagine living 2000 years or more from now in another country with not much knowlege of this ancient America. You discover this poem. Imagine how difficult it would be to understand. Is it literal or discriptive? Who are these "Giants"? Did the giants have wings of silver? The poem sounds tragic,people wrung their hands in fear, so why did people cry when these giants died? Did the sky really fall? It is easy for us to interpret these things because it is part of our nations history. Even those who were born in following generations were told about it or read about it in history books. What really perplexes me is that we today have the Jewish history books in the Old Testament and if we accept the fact that much of the New Testament and pretty much all of Jesus' original audience was Jewish, why are the obvious connections between the New and Old,which disprove dispensationalism and pre-millinial thinking,ignored by so many?

http://www.poetry.com/us_tragedy/display.asp?ID=25

Daniel Nelms said...

I agree with socialupstart in saying that we shouldn't mock them. I intensely bought into zionist dispensationalism, and I now am reformed. Yet I do not think it is appropriate to mock the dispensationalists. We must handle this in a biblical, serious, bold manner.

Even though I did laugh a bit at reading this (because many once applied to me), I think you are in error for outright mocking them.

NiceneCouncil.com said...

Daniel: Thanks for your comment -- and concern. But be aware: these are jokes. They are not intended in a mean spirit, but as thought-provokers. Apparently, they served that purpose for you in that you write: "Even though I did laugh a bit at reading this (because many once applied to me)." Too many of these foibles apply to too many dispensationalists. Sometimes it takes gentle "shock therapy" to goad them into looking at how naive their system is. Sadly, dispensationalism's populist proponents make Christianity and easy target for secularists, thereby subjecting our holy Faith to mockery.

John Calvin: Calvinism My Way said...

You might be a dispensationalist if: you think Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are the "two witness" of the book of Revelation.