Tuesday, September 11, 2007

James Dobson's Focus on the Family and...Eschatology?

Today as I drove my Mom home from her dental appointment, we listened to Focus on the Family. All this week, FoF is focusing on "Radical Islam and the Family." I'd like to make a few observations.

1. Granted, we only caught the last fifteen minutes, but at no point was there any discussion of "the family and Islam," unless by this, one means something like, "Radical Islam wants to overthrow America and we should support the Iraq War."

2. Most, if not all, of the broadcast focused on Joel Rosenberg's bestseller Epicenter.

3. Consequently, we were treated to a short discourse on Ezekiel 38 - 39 on Gog and Magog.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that, except the words "evangelical Christians should..." were repeated several times. The insinuation, in my opinion, was that if you don't believe as Rosenberg and Dobson say, you aren't really an evangelical Christian. Further, no alternative view was ever presented.

Of course, none of this ever got around to topics like:

a. How do we interact with Muslims in evangelism?
b. How do we interact with them in apologetics?
c. How does Muslim family structure / relationships within said structure, fall short of the biblical standard and how can we show this when evangelizing Muslims or discipling those coming out of Muslim backgrounds who are now Christians?

Rather, it was "We must protect ourselves from Islam by supporting President Bush," who, as we know, has Dobson's approval - which he was sure to state many times.

This leads me to a few more observations:

4. It appears to me that FoF is trying to use eschatology to further its political agenda. It matters not what I think of the war, rather, I object to eschatology being used to ground a political agenda in this manner.

Are amillenialists or post-millenialists not "evangelical Christians?" Surely, they didn't mean for that to come across, but it sure sounded that way to me.

What I particularly object to is them not having someone like, say, Kim Riddlebarger, on the show to actually present another point of view. No, that wouldn't fit with Dobson's agenda, would it? Rather than let people know there is, indeed, another point of view, one that has roots deep in church history, one that has an exegetical foundation as well, he chose to engage in question begging theological presentation to further his political agenda.

For example here's a little something from Dr. Riddlebarger:

Typically, dispensationalists like Rosenberg appeal to this passage as a yet unfulfilled prediction of a Russian-backed Islamic invasion of the modern nation of Israel, at or about the time the seven-year tribulation begins. Dispensationalists believe that the nations listed in the prophecy refer to people living in Ezekiel's time, who can then be traced to modern nations. Following this method, Gog is the mysterious leader of Magog, a land north of the Caucasus mountains inhabited by the ancient Scythians. This is in modern Russia. Meshech is supposedly Moscow. Tubal is variously taken as Turkey or Tolbosk (a city in Russia). Persia is clearly Iran. Put is Libya. Cush is Ethiopia. Beth-Togarmah is Turkey. Some have even identified Gomer as Germany. But since the fall of the Soviet Union, Gomer is more often identified with Russia. Since the bulk of these people live to the northern parts (Ezekiel 38:15) and since the predicted invasion of Israel will come from the north, Rosenberg's thesis is simply a new variation of an old dispensational theme. At some point near the beginning of the tribulation, Israel will be invaded by a Russian-Iranian-Islamic confederacy, only to prevail militarily through God's amazing grace.

To be fair, the dispensationalists were not the first to tie this prophecy to contemporary events. Ambrose identified these same figures as the Goths who were then threatening the Holy Roman Empire. Luther applied this prophecy to the Turks, who were at the gates of Vienna at the time of the Reformation.

But there are two significant problems with this approach to Ezekiel 38-39. First, as Edwin Yamauchi (a noted evangelical archaeologist and historian) has pointed out in his book, Foes from the Northern Frontier: Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes (Baker, 1983), this identification is based upon a number of unsubstantiated assumptions. For one thing, Gog and Magog cannot be directly tied to the Scythians. Yamauchi believes that their identity is not certain at all. Furthermore, he contends that Meshech and Tubal cannot be tied to Moscow or Tobolsk in any sense. He believes these are references to ancient Assyria which did invade Israel from the north. This means that Ezekiel is speaking of Israel's immediate future (an Assyrian invasion from the north), which also prefigures an end-time event.

How do we know that to be the case? If you follow the basic hermeneutical principle that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament (something dispensationalists are want to admit when it comes to interpreting biblical prophecy), then in Revelation 20:8-9, John speaks of Gog and Magog as symbolic of the nations of the earth, gathering together to make war on the saints (the church).

This leads to the second problem with the dispensational understanding. In Revelation 20:8-9, John is universalizing Ezekiel's prophecy of Israel being invaded from the north to the church being attacked from the four corners of the earth--this "spiritualizing" of the Old Testament as practiced by John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is, of course, the very thing dispensationalists claim is illegitimate. The fact of the matter is, this is exactly what John does.

In Revelation 20:8-9, John sees a vision of Gog and Magog leading all of the nations on the earth to wage war against God's people (the church), after Satan has been released from the Abyss. These enemies of Christ and his church are ultimately and finally destroyed at Christ's second advent (see Beale, The Book of Revelation, Eerdmans, 1022-1024). This means that the Assyrian invasion of Israel from the north foretold by Ezekiel, is actually typological of the end-times war upon the entire people of God as witnessed by John in his vision.


He concludes by saying:

Rosenberg tells a great story and has gathered much interesting evidence about Islamic and Russian intentions. But he also misuses the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 to make his point.
It is high time that Rosenberg and his kind be challenged. This sort of eschatology has become so rampant in the US today that even atheists think this is the historic position - something I've had to correct many times on other boards. This is the very sort of thing that "the world" (defined as the world system) sees and, pointing to it, concludes, "See, their theology is driving their politics." Well, on this one, yes, they are right - and it is bad theology at worst, debatable theology at best. It is so rampant that there are Christians where I live who think those who disagree with it are, for lack of a better term, "heretics."

Dobson and FoF should know better. I, for one, am thankful for popularizers like Hank Hanagraaf who have publicly challenged this sort of thing in recent months, even though Brother Hank and I disagree about many other things. People are untaught, and this sort of presentation by FoF only feeds it. If FoF really wants to do this series (which will continue until the end of this week), then they should get a man like Dr. Riddlebarger on to present a different view. It is wrong to present one side like this, particularly for a very plain political agenda. It's fine for a Bible study program or local church program or a theology class broadcast where there are clear confessional standards that are being upheld; pastors have a right to teach the Bible as they exegete it, but FoF is not any of these. Indeed, the announcer at the end plainly stated that today's topic was outside of their bounds. I thought, "If that's true, then why did you do it?"

Likewise, I am hoping that we get so hear about evangelizing Muslims, etc. It's high time FoF talked about the gospel as the tool to counteract Islam, not supporting the war and keeping an eye on Iran. Sure, the latter has its place, and I don't deny that; but, as Christians - as Christians in a ministry - they should be helping people realize that our ultimate tool is the gospel itself.

So, I'd like to conclude this article with a challenge:

1. Granted, I doubt anybody from FoF reads this blog, but if so, I'd like to challenge them to bring on somebody like O.P. Robertson or Kim Riddlebarger to present an alternative biblical presentation.

2. I'd like to encourage the readers here to contact FoF and ask them to do just that as well - and to get FoF away from "Insert Issue Here Alert of the Day" and how many petitions to sign or which representatives to contact to actually discussing the biblical foundations of family life, evangelism, discipleship, etc.

21 comments:

  1. I sat in my office today and listened. Rosenberg was talking about how God reveals certain events that are going to happen to certain countries so that we can be ready. What? I'm not sure what he based this on. Sounded mostly like more newspaper eschatology.

    He did say that we don't know the time of Christ's return though.

    Mark

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  2. That's what he said, and then he talked about Ezekiel. I think that was his basis.

    The whole point was "God has revealed these events so we can be ready" by supporting President Bush and keeping an eye on Iran, etc.

    How this ties into "Radical Islam and the Family," I don't know.

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  3. It ties in the following manner:

    "Radical Islam" has 12 letters.
    "George W Bush" has 12 letters*.

    (Anyone who thinks this is 11 letters doesn't realize that W = "double U" = 2 letters.)

    This would seem to make an equivalence between the two, but for one mitigating circumstance.

    "Family" has 6 letters.
    "George" has 6 letters.

    6 is 1/2 of 12.

    Bush is 1/2 of a family--Laura is the other half. "Laura" has 5 letters, just like "Islam"!

    Therefore, the 1/2 of the Bush family that is Islam is Laura, and George is NOT Islamic at all.

    Now, if you look up Ezekiel 12:6, you will read: "Put them on your shoulder as they are watching and carry them out at dusk. Cover your face so that you cannot see the land, for I have made you a sign to the house of Israel."

    This passage is clearly a call for George Bush to put Muslims on his shoulder and carry them out at dusk (i.e. "the Iraq war").

    Clearly, anyone who doesn't understand this is obviously unregenerate.

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  4. How can we permit our politicians to continue to lie to us in saying that the war on terror is a war for freedom? Our freedoms are vanishing quickly AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT STILL SAYS NOTHING!! They are absolutely silent on these issues. They're arguing over federal vision nonsense, postmodernism, cultural relevance, the religious intent of the founding fathers, and rallying support for unjust war!

    There, I said it.

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  5. The religious right is arguing over the Federal Vision?

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  6. Anonymous said:
    How can we permit our politicians to continue to lie to us in saying that the war on terror is a war for freedom? Our freedoms are vanishing quickly AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT STILL SAYS NOTHING!! They are absolutely silent on these issues. They're arguing over federal vision nonsense, postmodernism, cultural relevance, the religious intent of the founding fathers, and rallying support for unjust war!

    There, I said it

    ***************

    Well, for one thing you're leveling a lot of vague, unsubstantiated allegations, so you've offered us nothing to respond to.

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  7. You listened to 15 minutes of what will be 2 hours of presentation. Don't you think you may have just jumped the gun a bit. Come back to us after you have listened to the rest, and then we can discuss your views on eschatology

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  8. On the contrary, Wayne, this isn't about my eschatology. It's about the use of a particular eschatological POV for political ends.

    If Rosenberg is incorrect, then God did not, in fact, include Ezekiel 38 - 39 for us to prepare ourselves, so having him present eschatology on the program is 100 percent irrelevant.

    What he's doing is playing up a particular eschatological POV in order to further his own political agenda.

    Surely we can discuss Islam apart from Ezekiel. That, Wayne, is the point. Hanagraaf is quite right, dispensational eschatology is sending Jews to Israel believing full well as mass extermination of them is coming and nobody bothers to stop and think that they are promoting another Holocaust.

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  9. Oh, and today it was more of the same. We did get to hear Rosenberg talk more about his book and more about Ezekiel. We also learned that Dobson is happy that the CIA and others are turning to Rosenberg, it seems, for information on "the end times."

    Rosenberg did say we are to learn (about the end times of course), pray, and send. This, of course, was not enough, said Dobson, we must vote as well, with the caveat that Dobson isn't telling people who to vote for - as if we don't already know. Dobson was sure to tell Rosenberg that his action plan - the Great Commmission no less - was incomplete unless we vote.

    What I'd like to know is how, other than keep an eye on Iran and support the Iraq War, this has to do with the family in something more than these vague ways. What we heard is how Islam is threatening to America, but I'm an American, but I'm also a Christian. Islam is the enemy of the Faith and the Church, not simply "America," and "America" is by no means synonymous with "the Church" or "the Faith." I'd like hear them talk about how to interact with Muslims in the marketplace of life. How do we share the gospel with them? How do we deal with them apologetically? Nothing was said.

    No, we were told that Rosenberg represents "biblical Christians." So, amills and postmills aren't "biblical Christians?" These sorts of comments peppered the broadcast, and, tomorrow, Wayne, Rosenberg isn't going be on. Rick Santorum is going to be on...another day of politics on FoF.

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  10. Anonymous said:
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    Our freedoms are vanishing quickly AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT STILL SAYS NOTHING!!
    ---

    This is so true. Why, just the other day I was crossing the street and a police officer had the gall to look at me and point at the "Don't Walk" sign I was disobeying. This completely disrupted my train of thought, which is a total invasion of my privacy. He ruined my day completely.

    This is just a step, my friends. A step down the steep cliff into totalitarian regimes! Today I get a glance for breaking a trivial law--tomorrow, GITMO!

    And the religious right says NOTHING! I mean, sure it's one thing that the religious right doesn't even bother to complain when eighteen South Korean Christians are kidnapped by the Taliban--I mean, it's the Christian's fault for trying to fulfill Jesus' command instead of obeying the South Korean government's command to not go to Afghanistan. That's fine and dandy to ignore because, face it, it's their fault for being kidnapped. And the guys that were summarily executed...they had it coming for violating international law. So the religious right has a reason to ignore that.

    But I'm a freaking AMERICAN, not some Korean person. And I have the right to walk across the street whenever I feel like it, and I shouldn't have to watch over my back to see if some pig is gonna glare at me inappropriately for such a stupid offense. Don't they have donuts to eat or something???

    That such an absurd travesty should happen to me--a born and bred AMERICAN--is proof beyond all doubt that my freedoms have been eroded to the point that I might as well already be in a gulag.

    There, I said it.

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  11. I think that anyone who thinks we have more freedom than we used to is blogging way to much. More than other countries yes but that is hardly the point, trivialize it all you want Peter but the government has its nose in our business more and more. As a business owner I know first hand. I don't want to trade privacy for safety, and because they are not busting in our houses unwarrented now doesn't mean it won't happen eventually, the constitution that protects us is eroding year by year. Whos's to say we are untouchable from a totalitarian regime.

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  12. I actually just cut and pasted that comment on freedom from a chalcedon blog just to see what sort of reaction it would get. Interesting. I'm a different anonymous than the previous post too by the way.

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  13. Anonymous said:
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    I think that anyone who thinks we have more freedom than we used to is blogging way to much.
    ---

    I think someone who doesn't have the basic reading comprehension to realize that I never said "we have more freedom than we used to" is a product of publik edjukashun.

    Anonymous said:
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    More than other countries yes but that is hardly the point
    ---

    No, that is exactly the point. Assuming you're the same anonymous my satirical response was directed toward the first time, you came in here whining and complaining about the religious right not doing what YOU want them to do because of an issue YOU perceive to be of vast importance which is, in comparison to the real events that occur in this world, not even rising to the level of trivial.

    My satire doesn't say the US Government is perfect. It points out the stupidity of your coming on here and simply asserting that the religious right has the wrong focus based on some unnamed rights that are being trampled. You haven't named a single right that has been oppressed in the first place, but leaving that aside, even if the worst of the Daily Kos were happening, this country is still freer than any other country on Earth right now.

    Anonymous said:
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    trivialize it all you want Peter but the government has its nose in our business more and more
    ---

    In principle I don't disagree. What I disagree with is your notion that the religious right needs to make THIS their issue.

    Why should the religious right care about whether a business gets taxed? Render unto Caeser and all that, ya know.

    As a Conservative, I agree that Bush's domestic policies have been dismal failures. But as a Christian, I have more pressing concerns than whether or not you think you're being fairly taxed.

    Anonymous said:
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    I don't want to trade privacy for safety
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    This is such a naive sentiment. You can only make that statement because you are already safe. If you didn't live in a society that gave you such a high degree of safety it would be impossible for you to say that. As it is, you show contempt on the safety already provided by our country in saying that you'd value privacy over safety. But if someone was trying to harm or kill you, you'd quickly find that your privacy is of secondary concern to ensuring your well-being.

    Anonymous said:
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    and because they are not busting in our houses unwarrented now doesn't mean it won't happen eventually
    ---

    Which was the point of my satire. Today a stern look...tomorrow Gitmo. THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF DOOM!!!!

    Anonymous said:
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    the constitution that protects us is eroding year by year. Whos's to say we are untouchable from a totalitarian regime.
    ---

    We're never "untouchable" from a totalitarian regime. One could always spring up.

    But Christianity doesn't stand or fall on America being a free country. America could become the next Nazi Germany and it wouldn't change the truth of Christianity, nor would it change the responsibilities that Christians have to live by.

    Again, as a political Conservative I empathize with your position and agree that the Constitution is being mistreated by the left and by many who claim to be on the right. But this doesn't mean I'm going to go into a blog post that's not dealing with Constitutional issues and anonymously try to hijack the comments by whining about how the religious right isn't doing the correct politicial action in America.

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  14. Gene,

    I wouldn't be too bothered by Dobson and other like him. Every day more Americans are getting an understanding of people like him and how far out on the edge of the spectrum they are. Ironically, people like FoF are much less interested in Christ than they are forcing their desparate opinions upon us. While the failure of the Bush administration (in virtually every aspect) is recognized (now) by the vast majority of Americans there remains a shrinking number of Christians who remain gullible enough, still, to think that Bush has it right. Dobson and his ilk are part of that group of misguided political toadies. As far as morals and ethics are concerned, Americans don't need FoF to do their thinking for them.

    Barry

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  15. Whoa whoa slow down Pete! Remember that I'm the anonymous who cut and pasted the religious right clip. The anonymous who posted the comment you are refering to never said anything about the religious right. We are two different anonymous's! Im sure it's hard to tell anonymous people apart but I did clarify the difference. I dunno, maybe you went to public skool too?

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  16. Geez Peter Im sorry I didn't post up to your satisfaction, Well I was educated in public school I didn't grow up a christian, sorry I couldn't tell the nature of your satirical post. It seemed as though you didn't think our freedoms were taking a hit. Im not the anonymous that sent the post as he stated in his second post. Im not as smart as you, God has not gifted me with the ability to think like you, maybe my Post was silly in your eyes but it affects me how it affects me. All your points are way better than mine and I appreciate your position and clarity with which you answered. I appreciate the work you guys at triblogue do, presenting tight arguements for your positions on things. If I haven't thought clearly about something I don't mind being corrected. Thanks

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  17. Anonymous said:
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    Whoa whoa slow down Pete! Remember that I'm the anonymous who cut and pasted the religious right clip. The anonymous who posted the comment you are refering to never said anything about the religious right. We are two different anonymous's! Im sure it's hard to tell anonymous people apart but I did clarify the difference. I dunno, maybe you went to public skool too?
    ---

    Whoa whoa slow down anonymous! Remember that I was responding to an anonymous who immediately posted a comment to my satirical post directed toward the first anonymous as if he was the same anonmymous who posted the first comment, with only a vague statement by another anonymous who claimed to be the same as one of the anonymouses but not the other. In the process this other anonymous who claimed to be the first anonymous claimed to have copied and pasted a comment from another blog post despite not having provided a link to the other blog post, and despite having not indicated that the original post was a copy of another comment in the first place. The other other anonymous never bothered to differentiate his position from the other other other anonymous. Furthermore, there was another anonymous who posted "The religious right is arguing over the Federal Vision?" as well. Be that as it may, I feel no need to apologize to someone who now admits to having plagarized a quote that has absolutely nothing to do with the context of this blog entry because I got "confused" as to which of the dozens of anonymouses posted the comment here.

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  18. I'll try to keep it clear for you. This is the first anonymous--the one who copied and pasted the quote from Chalcedon which I never claimed was my statement anyway so I'm not sure how it's plagerism. I explained that it was from another blog altogether. It was just an experiment to see how much self righteous indignation I could drum up around here! And I never asked for an apology either so no worries there! I'm not sure how vague "i'm not the anonymous from the above post" really is, but sorry to confuse you. I mean you actually didn't have all the info, so I understand the mess. I did sort of enjoy the blustering "how dare you bring such illogic to this blog!!" rhetoric however!

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  19. Anonymous said:
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    which I never claimed was my statement anyway so I'm not sure how it's plagerism
    ---

    A) You didn't put it in quotations.

    B) You didn't attribute it until TWELVE HOURS after you posted it (and note that in that time there were 6 other comments, three of which dealt specifically with the substance of what you quoted).

    C) Your "attribution" of it after all that is the vague "from a chalcedon blog" as if this cleared up the issue.

    How is this NOT plagerism?

    You said:
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    It was just an experiment to see how much self righteous indignation I could drum up around here!
    ---

    In other words, I've characterized your post correctly the entire time. It's irrelevant to the topic, it's factually wrong, and now you're trying to get off by saying, "Just kidding."

    You STILL haven't sourced it.

    Furthermore, you could have avoided all confusion off the bat (and still been able to conduct your "experiment") had you simply opened with:

    ---
    I read this on the Calcedon blog [link to actual source so we could see if you were telling the truth]:

    "How can we permit our politicians to continue..." blah blah blah.

    What do you think of this comment?
    ---

    You would have avoided all the problems with this SIMPLE, HONEST, and CORRECT way of presenting someone's views. Instead, you violated all kinds of ettiqute, pawned it off as if it was your own post, and you continue to hide behind your "anonymous" label.

    Fact is, we cannot tell if you are lying or not. We cannot even tell if you are the same anonymous, or if you're just a different anonymous making stuff up about the first anonymous. In fact, to prove how pointless this all is, I'll post THIS comment anonymously too.

    But don't worry, I'm the *FIRST* anonymous, but not the second, third, or fourth anonymous. Aren't I so smart! Such a devilishly clever man am I to be able to obfuscate with ambiguity!!!!

    Yeah. Go play in the sandbox where you belong.

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  20. You spelled etiquette wrong.....

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