Tag Archives: pre-millennial dispensationalsim

Learning from David Wilkerson: A Reflective Moment

David Wilkerson died Wednesday in a tragic car wreck on a rural East Texas highway bridge. I wrote about this yesterday and have had more time to reflect on Reverend Wilkerson’s life and ministry and what struck me again and again as I read his blog posts and some of his books, was how he defied being put in a neat box.  It is a time for us to reflect on the life of the man and the content of his ministry so we might learn from him and serve God’s people.

If you cherry picked his writings you could paint a picture of him to make him in your own image. His theology was classic Pentecostalism and he was a Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist. These two pillars were foundational to his ministry. He was a young Pentecostal minister before Pentecostalism hit the mainstream and became a fashionable faith for well off political conservatives.  Pentecostalism began as a movement among the not so well to do back in the early part of the 20th Century. I think that gave David Wilkerson a heart to go into the slums of New York City and begin a ministry to gang members, drug abusers and prostitutes, people that most churches across the denomination spectrum of the day held in distain kind of like the religious crowd back in Jesus’ day.  He certainly didn’t go there for the money or for that matter with the goal of building a mega-church.  He went there because he heard about the violence and the suffering and he was used by God to change a lot of lives.  Likewise he never lost sight of that ministry but took it worldwide and then in the late 1980s when New York was in the tank awash in poverty crime and gang violence he went back. He took a former theater in Times Square which was the hub of all sorts of nastiness and planted a church there which is there to this day attracting a wide variety of parishioners and pilgrims.  By the church-growth school models it was not a smart move but he was obedient to the call that God had placed upon him two decades before.

His message was influenced by his Eschatology or belief in the End Times.  That message saturates his writings as he called people to be ready for the coming of the Lord, something that if I recall correctly is scriptural even if one does not embrace Wilkerson’s Dispensationalism as their eschatology. The Creed even says it “and he shall come again to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Wilkerson was a Pentecostal in his understanding of this and also believed that God still speaks today and that the spiritual gift of prophecy was still operative in the church. In this he was not unique even if some of his warnings seemed overblown or did not take place.  However his messages were always full of sadness when he spoke of judgment and he obviously was not watching CNN on a daily basis to check out what changes he needed to make to his message to sell more books and tapes.  He was authentic and honest and the message that he preached came out of a heart that was broken for the people of the earth. Through his work with the least, the lost and the lonely he was very sensitive to injustice, greed and the cult of personality.  When he preached a message of impending judgment it was because he believed it and because like so many of the Biblical prophets, especially Jeremiah who he reminded me of.  One could disagree with his interpretation of the signs of the times but one could never doubt that he actually cared about those he was warning.

If that was all that you wanted to believe about him you could paint him as just another Fundamentalist preacher.  But he defied that label.  His work, preaching and life showed that he was a man who also embraced the call of Jesus to care for those who were not welcome in respectable circles making him somewhat of a social Gospel type as well. In his prophetic preaching he condemned the Social Darwinism of unfettered Capitalism and some of his harshest messages were to the financial elites especially the banking industry.

Another interesting thing about him was that as he grew in ministry he refused to judge or condemn individuals and unlike many popular preachers had friends who were homosexual.  He did not agree with their lifestyle and he was honest in what he believed about homosexuality when he dealt with them but he did not drive them away.  He hated what he believed were the sins of homosexuals but he actually had compassion for them and maintained friendships with homosexuals, in other words he hated what he believed to be their sin but loved them and had compassion for them.

Wilkerson held himself and others to very high standards of Christian conduct a direct outgrowth of Pentecostalism’s roots in the Holiness movement.  Again he wasn’t a hypocrite, in his writings he admitted his own struggles in regard to his faithfulness and what he believed were his own failings. When one reads his last several months of essays on his blog you see a man engaged in an intense personal spiritual struggle even as he sought to encourage others going through similar times.  His willingness to write about this was remarkable by present standards where so much allegedly Christian preaching is shallow and insipid pop-psychology covered with a veneer of Bible verses and baptized as “Christian teaching” by men and women that never admit their weakness or faults until a scandal erupts and they have to apologize.  His writings as I pointed out last night reminded me of Jeremiah the weeping prophet who undoubtedly suffered from severe depression and even a bit of Martin Luther who struggled with his own worthiness even as he proclaimed the message of being saved by grace through faith.

I think that we can really learn from David Wilkerson’s life without putting him on a pedestal and proclaiming him as some sort of extra-special Christian that he would tell us not to do.  He was not a man of pretense and if you read his writings there are in them a sense of humility and unworthiness that at times comes to the forefront.  I think we need to remember him as someone who was obedient and authentic in the way that he lived his life and conducted his ministry.  He didn’t seek out the approval of the rich or powerful and was not one who was a partisan political activist. Where he was politically active it was mostly at the local level in trying to help those without a voice.  He was not a pawn of either major political party. Liberals could agree with his messages against corporate greed while conservatives could agree with his message of personal responsibility.  He was simply a Christian minster who cared about the kind of people that Jesus hung out with most of the time.  He embodied the traditions of his Pentecostal faith and was not a man that pursued the latest and hottest ministry fads.

I think that those things make him unique and hard to copy. There will be those that seek to emulate him and if they do it in his spirit versus trying to “claim his mantle” as some would want to do they will do well. I hope that those that emulate him will do it in humility and seek to be who they are as Christians and ministers and care for those that he cared for rather than trying to mimic his prophetic messages.

As I read article after article about Reverend Wilkerson today I was struck that even those that disagreed with him had nothing bad to say about him. The closest thing to a snarky attitude in an article came from the Wall Street Journal which appeared attempt to smear him by noting that Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart were fellow Assembly of God ministers and was the only paper to make light of his preaching.   The “liberal” New York Times, USA Today and others were much classier than the journal in writing about Wilkerson and good on them.

I didn’t agree with his eschatology and some of his teachings as I theological moderate from a catholic tradition. Likewise I see his struggle in his writings and I wonder about the circumstances of his death in light of those writings, but none of that takes away my admiration for his authenticity and willingness to care and be a voice for the least, the lost and the lonely.  We can only hope than in our time of economic crisis and political division that we will have more men like him who are authentic and faithfully proclaim the Word of God while caring for God’s people without seeking their own aggrandizement or power.

We thank God for David Wilkerson and for the lives that were changed through his ministry even as we pray for his family, friends and co-workers.

Peace

Padre Steve+

21 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Religion

More Lies and Distortions from WorldNet Daily’s Bob Unruh

Note: It has been a good number of months since I have addressed the Lies of WorldNet Daily and it’s leadership Joe Farah and his designated hit man Bob Unruh. I stumbled across an article yesterday evening when my curser hit the Worldnet Daily link on my “favorites.” I seldom go there unless I think that they might be getting crazy, but this was accidental, or if I was a Calvinist possibly God’s will. Unfortunately late last night I saw an attack on a fellow officer by this influential “Conservative Christian” website.  The attack was gratuitous and directed at an officer currently serving in Afghanistan Major Brian Stuckert who as part of a military education course published a monograph which is in the public domain entitled “Strategic Implications of American Millennialism.” As I mentioned the last time that I wrote against something that Unruh and WND published that I would limit myself to military issues as I do in this article.  I try to ignore the folks at WND but feel in this case that that are again in the process of attempting to stir up opinion against an officer who has done nothing wrong but to disagree with their political-religious ideology. While the folks at WND and those like them have every right to their opinions an beliefs, which are defended by those of us in uniform, they are way out of line in this article and owe Major Stuckert an apology. Unfortunately the WND leadership doesn’t do this as is evidenced in their past treatment of the Commanding Officers of Gordon Klingenschmitt. These men have no honor and stoop to the basest means to attack those that disagree with their narrow point of view. Some will not like what I write. That is fair, I do not claim to be infallible not do I practice censoring those that disagree with me. But I will not let a fellow officer who is serving in a combat zone be the subject of an egregious attack by the folks at WND. If it were an attack by a “liberal” website I would feel the same way. The fact that it is a “conservative” website which claims to “support the troops” that attacks Major Stuckert and other military officers who disagree with their point of view only makes me angry.  Now to my response:

Just when you think it is safe to go in the water and just enjoy the Christmas season Joe Farah and the good folks at Worldnet Daily come out with another whopper to attempt to whip people up against those in the military with differing opinions than that of their own.  Written by noted propagandist Bob Unruh who helped spin the lies of former Navy Chaplain, defrocked Evangelical Episcopal Priest Gordon Klingenschmitt into a frenzy that had many Christians believe that the Navy was attempting to muzzle Klingenschmitt’s religious rights, the article takes aim at an monograph written by Army Major Brian Stuckert ( the link to Stuckert’s monograph is here: http://www.wnd.com/files/Millennial.pdf ) for the Advanced Military Studies program. Officers who attend courses such as this are often required to produce a research paper on a subject that deals with political, military and foreign policy topics to include how social, ideological or religious can impact military operations at the strategic and operational levels including effects on foreign policy and diplomacy.  The Worldnet Daily article is linked here:   http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=119315

Unruh in his usual manner has manipulated the facts to make it appear that Stuckert and the Army is attempting to silence what Unruh calls “Evangelical beliefs.”  In fact the title of the article U.S. Army Major: Lose evangelical Christian beliefs” is a straw man intentional thrown out by Unruh to chum the waters so to speak.  Unruh takes a research paper which he does not agree with and demonizes the writer.  These papers are akin to any research paper done for a graduate level academic program. They reflect the opinion of the author and not the institution.  Like all papers of this type they have to be evidenced based, in other words the author has to have data to show that his hypothesis and conclusions actually are not simply whims but have impact in the world in which the writer serves and for the topic that he or she addresses.  One does not have to agree with them and in fact in the future other officers might actually write articles to refute what Stuckert says.  This is an academic program and as such differing points of view are sought.

Instead of just leaving this be both Unruh and undoubtedly Joe Farah is using this article to again whip up the faithful against any idea that might contradict their political-religious views.  Stuckert has criticized the foundational philosophy of the Worldnet Daily leadership that of Pre-millennial Dispensationalist theology which does have very real foreign policy implications for the United States.   As such Stuckert’s article is important because it draws attention to how Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist effects how many Americans view the world and international relations to include how such beliefs can influence policy making.  Stuckert’s premise is found in his abstract:

“Since the beginning of the Republic, various forms of millennial religious doctrines, of which dispensational pre-millennialism is the most recent, have shaped U.S. national security strategy. As the dominant form of millennialism in the U.S. evolves, it drives changes in U.S. security policy and subsequent commitment of the instruments of national power. Millennial ideas contribute to a common American understanding of international relations that guide our thinking irrespective of individual religious or political affiliation. Millennialism has great explanatory value, significant policy implications, and creates potential vulnerabilities that adversaries may exploit.”

This is a fair characterization of the effect of pre-millennial dispensational theology on American national thought.  Thus it is fair to examine its effect on current policy both foreign and domestic.

Instead of taking Stuckert’s observations and critiques for what they are Unruh and his co-conspirators turn this into a conspiracy of people in the Army and government against true Christians. In the usual manner Unruh quotes someone that he agrees with on the article: Unruh quotes John McTernan a writer on Biblical Prophecy who says that Stuckert’s article is “the most dangerous document to believers that I have ever read in my entire life” and “After reading this document, it is easy to see the next step would be to eliminate our Constitutional rights and herd us into concentration camps.”

I am sorry, this is beyond reason: “eliminate our Constitutional rights and herd us into concentration camps?  That is nothing more than propaganda. In fact it is delusional paranoia designed implicitly to scare people and move them further into WorldNet Daily’s orbit turning good people against honest and decent military officers.  Unruh did this with Klingenschmitt in grand fashion through character assassination of Captain Carr, Klingenschmitt’s Commanding Officer on USS Anzio and Captain Pyle, the Commanding Officer of Naval Station Norfolk.  This got so bad regarding Captain Pyle, a conservative evangelical Christian of the Assemblies of God denomination that he was ostracized by his own church and demonized by the Christians who were the closest to his theological views.  It was shameful; people still believe the lies about Klingenschmitt spewed by the WorldNet Daily crowd.  Now they attack an Army Major who is serving in combat in Afghanistan.  Such conduct is beyond crude and unseemly, it is dishonest, disingenuous and dishonorable.

Unruh, no stranger to such behavior ends his article with a totally unrelated reference to the terrorist who killed 13 and wounded many others at Fort Hood just a month ago.  Major Stuckert’s article was published in 2008 and has nothing to do with the actions of Major Hasan.  The implication is that Stuckert supports the traitorous terrorist Hasan. This is another disingenuous attempt to link someone who disagrees with them with terrorists or other extremists.  Such behavior by alleged “journalists” is simply dishonest and to use a term from American history is “Yellow Journalism.”

The conduct of WorldNet Daily and in particular Bob Unruh is shameful and shows none of the graces associated with true Christian faith. Lying and mischaracterizing what others say and demonizing them in apocalyptic terms is not Christian behavior. It is crass cynical propaganda and WorldNet Daily is one of the worst offenders around.  Unfortunately these people are vicious in their attacks.  The article talks of “losing evangelical beliefs” however many evangelicals either oppose or have out rightly condemned pre-Millennial Dispensationalist as heresy. Yet many pre-millennial dispensationalists, especially the type found at WorldNet Daily effectively write off all evangelicals who do not hold to one of their several Rapture theories: “All people who believe the Bible believe in a Rapture” Mark Hitchcock “What Jesus Says About Earth’s Final Days” (p. 96).  This is just one example of how this camp views other Christians. If you do not believe in the Rapture as they define it you do not believe the Bible. The deduction is that Christians believe the Bible, you disagree with the Rapture, and you don’t believe the Bible and are thus not a Christian.

Even Prominent Evangelicals such as A. W. Pink (1886-1952) have disagreed with the tenants of Dispensationalism:

“Dispensationalism is a device of the enemy, designed to rob the children of no small part of that bread which their heavenly Father has provided for their souls; a device wherein the wily serpent appears as an angel of light, feigning to “make the Bible a new book” by simplifying much in it which perplexes the spiritually unlearned. It is sad to see how widely successful the devil has been by means of this subtle innovation.”

Many conservative Christian churches and individuals do not hold this position; in fact to take the view of Unruh is to assume that Stuckert is attacking Evangelical Christianity.  Stuckert is not doing so, he is simply critiquing one of several competing Christian Eschatological theories and how its influence helps shape US foreign policy and the worldview of many Americans.  He asserts that such beliefs when not recognized by those that propagate them can leave the United States vulnerable to our enemies, nothing more, nothing less. In fact Stuckert is careful to differentiate the various factions in what is considered by some radical secularists to be a monolithic “Evangelical” movement.

“Millennialism, and especially dispensational pre-millennialism, derives in large part from extraordinary literalism of even the most figurative passages of the Bible. In America, literalism in biblical interpretation is most closely associated with fundamentalism. Theologically, it is best to begin a discussion of American millennialism with a brief review of fundamentalism as the term applies to the contemporary American religious tradition. Fundamentalism is a frequently misunderstood term in America. Although it has connections to each, fundamentalism is distinct from evangelicalism, the charismatic movement or conservative Christianity in general. Fundamentalism is also poorly understood when we attempt to define it as a personality style, a form of militancy, or a particular worldview.” (Stuckert pp. 6-7)

Stuckert is fair in this; to not admit that religious, ideological or philosophical views do not serve is “filters” as McTernan and Unruh seem loathe doing is simply wrong. To understand the prism of how religious, ideological and other beliefs can influence worldview and decision making is important. This is what Stuckert does as pre-millennial dispensationalism is one of the major shapers of American thought; not only for Fundamentalist Christians but anyone who follows the popular fictional writings of Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series.

Stuckert continues his monograph by discussing the importance of how Christian Fundamentalists view the Bible and the influence of pre-millennial eschatology on American political thought and foreign policy.   Since the popularized version of this eschatology influences the way that many Americans view the world it is appropriate that the effects of it be analyzed by those who study foreign and domestic policy. In his summery and conclusions Stuckert makes an erudite observation that is lost on many people:

“Because religion in America directly impacts policy, military leaders and planners must learn to recognize the tenets and implications of American millennial thought. Millennialism has always been a feature of the American culture and has shaped not only the objectives of U.S. government policy, but also the way in which we interpret the words and actions of other actors on the international stage. Millennial ideas contribute to a common American understanding of international relations that guide our thinking regardless of individual religious or political affiliation. Millennialism has great explanatory value, significant policy implications, and creates potential vulnerabilities that adversaries may exploit. By gaining insight into and embracing intellectual honesty where our own prejudices and proclivities are concerned, we can greatly improve the quality and clarity of our decision-making.” (Stuckert pp. 58-59)

Unruh “cherry picks” what he wants from Stuckert’s monograph in order to paint Stuckert as some kind of anti-Christian officer.  The use of McTernan’s claims to buttress his article shows how biased that Unruh as since McTernan’s livelihood is based on writing books and speaking about Bible prophecy from a pre-millennial dispensational point of view.  He claims to be a “student of American history” but has no academic credentials save a BA from Virginia Commonwealth University in an unnamed field. He has no military experience, no education in military or political theory other than what he may have learned on his own “study” and is in no position to be a legitimate critic of Major Stuckert’s work.  McTernan claims that the “last third (of Stuckert’s work) is an interpretation of Bible belief on world events. “This report blames all the world evils on believers! World peace would break out if it were not for Bible believers in America.” In fact it says no such thing.  It is not a “report” as McTernan calls it, but simply the equivalent of a graduate level thesis. This is nothing but a hit piece on a fellow officer who disagrees with McTernan and the crowd at WorldNet Daily.  McTernan talks about an argument that he had with Colonel Stefan Banack of the School for Advanced Military Studies who McTernan attacks:

“The conversation was extremely heated between us, and he hid behind the freedom of speech to produce it. He refused to let me write an article to refute this attack on Bible believers. He refused to tell me what this study was used for and who within the military was sent copies. I believe that it represents an official military view of Bible believers as Col. Banack said there was no study or article refuting this one.”

The fact that these papers are in the public domain and on the center’s website makes no difference to McTernan. He attempts to paint this is a some kind of conspiracy against Evangelical Christians when in fact it is the equivalent of an academic thesis in a Masters Degree program.  The fact that he says that Colonel Banack “hid behind the freedom of speech to produce it” sends a chilling message. Freedom of speech for McTernan goes only for McTernan not for those who disagree with him. Likewise McTernan uses the refusal of Colonel Banack to allow him to “refute this attack on Bible believers” is a red-herring. The School’s academic publications are for students to publish not for people with no standing in the military to use the platform to propagate their beliefs.  Mr. McTernan to my knowledge is not a student at the Advanced Military Studies program and would not be using the forum for actual academic debate but to advance his own cause which he does on his own website without any restriction.

So once again WorldNet Daily drops a whopper on its readers and attacks the character beliefs and academic thought of a military officer. Their conduct in this is much more like the Taliban and the Iranian Ayatollah’s than anyone who claims to value the right to freedom of speech and religion as they do. Like the early Puritans who came to the New World for “religious freedom” the only religious freedom or freedom of speech that Unruh, Farah and other like them value is their own. Those who dissent from their narrow understanding of eschatology stand condemned as do those who ask legitimate questions about the policy implications of their belief system. If they were ever to be in a position to impose their beliefs in this country men like Major Stuckert and probably yours truly would be persecuted.

Although I am but a “pip-squeak” in comparison to the WorldNet Daily behemoth but I cannot let a fellow officer who is serving in harm’s way be the subject of a gratuitous attack by these people. May God keep Major Stuckert and those he serves with in harm’s way safe and may they accomplish the mission that they have been sent to do.  As far as WorldNet Daily goes…I hope that they continue to have the freedom to speak in the manner that they would deny to those who disagree with them, especially those who serve in the uniform of the United States of America in harm’s way.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

10 Comments

Filed under Foreign Policy, Lies of World Net Daily, Military, national security