As part of my ongoing research into why support for Israel is declining among American churches, I am increasingly drawn to the parallel growing apostasy.
Having spent a considerable amount of time and research in this arena, I am convinced that there is no wide-scale effort being made to explain Israel theologically to the masses, particularly Millennials.
(Now, a new generational label has arisen: the “Z Generation.” This comprises young people born between 1995 and 2010. In short, the vast majority knows almost nothing of the Bible. Any wonder ministries like Rick Warren’s and writers/speakers like Steven Furtick and Jen Hatmaker are thriving?)
When I say explain Israel theologically, I know eyes are even glazing over now. However, there is such a need for such an explanation. What are the origins of the Jews? Who are they? What is Israel?
Such basic questions are not being answered by pastors who are building their personal brands, and listening to Andy Stanley podcasts. I must admit, growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, in the ‘70s, there was little actual Bible teaching. There was a lot of emphasis in sermons about salvation, and the dangers of drinking and dancing. But if you had asked me when I was 17 a lot of theological questions, I couldn’t have answered them.
I personally believe America was reasonably biblically literate until the post World War 2 era. Since then, we have seen a noticeable drop-off. My first two teachers in elementary school were Bible-believing women, one near retirement and the other in the middle of her career. From that point on, my teachers wore miniskirts and were barely out of college. It was then we moved from a solid Christian influence to heavy emphasis on our hominid ancestors, other cultures, and zero discussion of the Bible.
There was a wave of interest in Bible prophecy, but that emphasis is largely gone from the modern American Church, based as it is on the seeker-driven model. By the way, the modern church-growth model is the opposite of the model presented in the book of Acts.
As I write this, “anarchists” are fomenting violence all over the country, turning violent on “May Day” (today presented as a day of protest for “worker’s rights” and a lack of awareness that this was a major Communist holiday for decades). Barack Obama gave license to lawlessness, and the genie is out of the bottle. Young people today see these lawless figures as engaged and on the right path.
As we look at the Millennial Generation and Generation Z, we are told by church growth experts that we must tailor the Gospel message to them. We are asking the wrong questions; the younger generations are asking different questions and if we aren’t answering them, then we aren’t doing our jobs. So we’re told.
Yet Paul said to stay the course, and preach the Word in and out of season. He said nothing about making people comfortable.
My point in all this is what I mentioned at the outset: erosion of support for Israel is an outcome of all these changes in the American church over decades. There are many outcomes, but that is a big one.
Good people for decades would not vigorously oppose false teachers. Few challenged the false teaching coming from seminaries. Today, there is an echo when brand-building hirelings in the “pulpits” spew their humanist messages.
To my knowledge, few large-scale ministries or groups are spending much time teaching the Bible and in the specific area of Israel, explaining the specialness of the Jewish people. Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel movement has been one exception.
You probably surmise that I have a different view of things than many do. A part of that is my belief that rather than “tailor” our message to the new culture, we should plainly explain it and then move on. Trying to hug people into the Kingdom is a largely empty premise. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t love people. Of course we should; that’s what preaching the Gospel is.
Yet the general view in America today is that the Bible needs new marketing; it needs new PR, per people like Andy Stanley and Shane Claiborne.
This is a false Gospel. It is dangerous in that such an approach has left many churches as whitewashed tombs. The faith of millions has never taken root, calling to mind Jesus’s parable about the sower.
Here are a couple of quotes from men who have been teaching your children and grandchildren for years:
“The Bible is not considered an accurate, absolute, authoritative, or authoritarian source but a book to be experienced and one experience can be as valid as any other can. Experience, dialogue, feelings, and conversations are equated with Scripture while certitude, authority, and doctrine are to be eschewed! No doctrines are to be absolute and truth or doctrine must be considered only with personal experiences, traditions, historical leaders, etc. The Bible is not an answer book.” (Brian, McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, p. 52.)
“If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection, also is not believable.” [Bishop John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Fransisco: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 238.]
Notice where such teaching leads:
“I was a member of Brian McLaren’s church for 10 years before he was famous. The only folks he ever criticized were what he called Fundamentalists. Most of the rest of us would probably call them committed Christians. I left after 10 years when I found my faith in Christ was destroyed.” (Comment to OneNewsNow column “Emerging Church leader promotes lifestyle rather than faith,” by Jim Brown, 8-1-08)
A hundred years ago, a few scholars and pastors understood what was happening:
“Attacks upon Isaiah, Daniel, and other books, because they abound in wonderful predictions, will have weight only with those who deny the fundamentals of Christianity.” (Robert Dick Wilson, Princeton)
Today, our Millennial, and alphabet generations are being targeted by wolves, as noted by Bob DeWaay:
“[Francis] Schaeffer warned about the despair that results when ideas take us away from the validity of God’s self-revelation in Scripture.
“The result of this theology is despair because under it there is no hope of knowing the truth.”
This has given rise to the so-called Social Gospel, with its emphasis on providing for people’s physical needs but ignoring the spiritual void noted by Solomon.
So, we have millions of young people today in this country being told that the Israelis are oppressing the Palestinians…in the latter’s own ancestral land.
This is a complete inversion of the truth. But because most people are illiterate when it comes to the Bible, this is where we’re at in 2017.
I do not hold out hope that the major groups advocating for Israel will mount an aggressive effort to explain the Jews theologically to the masses. I have tried to generate interest, with zero results.
My friend Bill Koenig, a terrific researcher, writer, and speaker, totally understands the need to blend Israel advocacy with solid teaching on Bible prophecy. A few years ago, I watched him raise this issue with a major pro Israel figure. As Bill articulated perfectly the necessity of utilizing teaching of Bible prophecy, the “major pro Israel figure” smiled politely. His annoyance broke through, however.
So, good. Keep advocating for Israel by citing statistics and explaining the marvelous ways in which Israeli technology helps people around the world.
But until the masses understand deep in the heart why God loves the Jews with an everlasting love, I predict support for Israel in this country, particularly and specifically within the Evangelical community, will continue to erode. My own children’s generation will see the Church go from Eden to the desert.
Simply call me negative if you wish. I stand by my assessment.