19. And now for a word from the historicists

(The post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=19 )

The discerning reader may have noticed that we have spent time comparing rapturist teaching to amillennial teaching but relatively little time on the historicist method. (And none on the Eastern Orthodox position; your host was unable to obtain even one book.)

(2016 personal aside: your host did find some reviews written by an Eastern Orthodox Christian. Look for them in the “What others are saying: by denomination” post.)

Other sections have been long (or long-winded). This section is short and sweet. Well, it’s short.

Carl Olson phrases it about as gently as it can be phrased.

Since the early 1800s [historicism’s] popularity has waned dramatically, corresponding to the rise of futurism. Today, adherents to this interpretive method would include Seventh-Day Adventists, for whom equating the whore of Babylon with the Catholic Church is a key premise within their entire eschatological system. Many Seventh-Day Adventists propose that the futurist and preterist views were created by Jesuits for the purpose of undermining the truth of the historicist method. (page 80)

(Personal aside: Wuh oh, I thought I heard something from the peanut gallery … Sister said, “I can’t receive that.” But which sister was it? The sister with hatitude—“you workin’ that hat, girl!”—or the sister in the black habit and white whimple?)

It’s true. The four historicist groups have different complaints against the Catholics, but on this point they hold firm. Historicists believe that when the Catholic Church could not get rid of its futurists, the Catholics simply recycled them.

This is why your host did not include Adventist Steve Wohlberg’s Truth Left Behind among our major sources, though it got a look. This is also why Wohlberg’s response is so short. (It’s only 191 pages.) By way of comparison, rapturist Tim LaHaye’s Rapture Under Attack is 255 pages long, and the preterist response to Left Behind (Rapture: the End Times Error that Leaves the Bible Behind by David Currie) is a staggering 526 pages. Currie’s book needs to be twice as long as LaHaye’s book because there is supposedly more to be debunked. In contrast, Wolhberg’s book is shorter than LaHaye’s book because there is supposedly less to be debunked. All Wolhberg has to do is to prove to Adventist sensibilities that Catholics invented futurism. Once that point has been established, Wolhberg could reintroduce the arguments against Catholicism that his fellow historicists have been polishing for almost 200 years. The Revived Historicists in the States began documenting their beliefs in writing as much as eighty years before rapturists put their beliefs in writing. So yes, their sales pitch is more concise and polished. They have been practicing a lot longer.

The Gentle Browser will recall that, as is customary on the net, we have used the term “rapturist” to refer to rapture-believers who are non-Adventist. Many Adventists believe in the rapture and the tribulation—but they do not believe that Gentiles can hope for salvation after the rapture. For these reasons, many Adventists reject the Left Behind series. Indeed, some Adventists have called these novels a “delusion,” much as they sometimes call preterism a “delusion.”

In the eyes of rapture-believing Adventists, the Roman Catholic Church invented preterism to prevent questioning Catholics and weak-minded Protestants from wandering down the street to the Adventist church that could have “saved” them.

In the eyes of futurists (which includes non-Adventist rapturists), the Roman Catholic Church invented preterism to prevent questioning Catholics and weak-minded Protestants from wandering down the street to the (dispensationalist) rapturist church that could have “saved” them.

But in the eyes of Adventists and other historicists, the Catholics also invented futurism (which includes all non-Adventist rapturism) to prevent questioning Catholics and weak-minded Protestants from wandering down the street to the historicist church that could have “saved” them.

In the eyes of Adventists and other historicists, mainline Protestants are still a type of Catholics. They are just bad Catholics. In the eyes of historicists, (non-Adventist) rapturists are still a type of Catholics. They are just very, very, very bad Catholics.

Meanwhile the Catholics (at this point somewhat close to hysterics) insist, “We did not invent futurism! We did not recently invent preterism! We have always been preterists, we just didn’t put it in writing until the 1610s but we have always believed it! We did not invent futurism! Did not!”

Finally the rapturists, to my knowledge, have not addressed the historicist interpretation of rapturist eschatology, possibly because rapturists have not heard it.

Where do mainline Protestants stand on all this? Honestly … I have no idea from one day to the next. They seem to stand torn between the adult impulse to play peacemaker versus the high-school-hallway wisdom, “it’s a chickfight, dude; just back away.”

What about the mainline Protestant approach? You have been reading it all along. “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess. 5:19-21). That is what we have been doing.

There was a time when all Protestants were “historicist” in the sense that to be Protestant once meant that one desired (or at least expected) to see the end of the papacy. Things are more mellow now. Catholics and Protestants have made deliberate steps to work out their differences in the past few decades. Mainline Protestants still get called “Catholic pawns/dupes/lapdogs” but it simply does not have the sting it once did. This is because Revived Historicists and their fraternal twins the rapturists increasingly desire to distinguish themselves as “double Protestants,” and that is a bridge that mainliners do not care to cross.

Mainline Protestants know they are unlikely to make much ecumenical progress with the historicist groups. (Witnesses do not like to be called Christians; they see Christianity and other religions as heretical. Adventists … as long as Protestants continue to worship on Sunday while the Adventists believe that worship on Sunday is the Mark of the Beast, and a sign that one will be excluded from their rapture, there is not a whole lot of room for negotiation. And so, and so on.)

Meanwhile as rapturism continues to gather strength, mainline Protestantism finds it harder to connect with rapturism. (Rapturism itself is doing much of the distancing, particularly when it portrays the mainline as “effeminate” and too accommodating). This may accelerate the ecumenical negotiations between Catholics and mainline Protestants. For if mainliners are not preterists, they are not futurists either. Both Catholics and mainline Protestants distrust the historicist belief that anyone can identify the Antichrist before he strikes, or the rapturist belief that anyone can know the time.

Next stop: Does it matter?


Author: The_Old_Maid_of_Potluck

Author of Potluck2point0: The resource formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net (a.k.a. My humongous [technical term] study of "What's behind 'Left Behind'").