Some of the responses to my article “Atheists are Duped by Bad Eschatology” are interesting. Not a single atheist offered a rebuttal. I suppose an atheist would say that it’s all poppycock since there is no God. It doesn’t matter what Jesus said or didn’t say. The prophetic Jesus—right or wrong—is a myth. At that point, the debate becomes epistemological: How do you know what you claim to know which moves the discussion to fundamental principles. See Greg L. Bahnsen’s Against All Opposition.
A few dispensationalists responded. For example:
All three schools of eschatology have viable & substantive exegetical explanations for this atheistic view. The issue here is not any of the Christian answers but the heart of the atheists trying to find fault from a hard heart.
It’s always the atheist’s heart that’s at issue. Does this mean we can be hypocrites, immoral, contentious, or advocate for biblical positions that cannot stand up to scrutiny because the atheist’s unregenerate heart is the issue? Paul writes the following about one of the qualifications for being an elder or deacon: “And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7). Jesus demonstrates the positive side of how our actions affect others: “Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Peter combines these principles in the following:
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Pet. 2:12).
Should Doug Wilson have ignored Christopher Hitchen’s objection and declared, “Christoper, it’s just that you have a hard heart”? We are to “answer the fool as his folly deserves” (Prov. 26:4–5), not dismiss his attempt to attribute folly to the Christian worldview. We are “always [to be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). Hitchens and the atheist Morgue are attributing folly to Jesus of the worst kind. Wilson turned the folly tables on Hitchens as I and others have done to Morgue.
Of course, eschatology is not the endpoint in any discussion. But if it is put forth as an objection, it can be easily dismissed in less than two minutes as Doug Wilson demonstrated. The longer debates Wilson had with Hitchens in the film Collision and Greg Bahnsen had with Gordon Stein in “Does God Exist: The Great Debate” were comprehensive. See my comments on the debate here. They covered the fullness of the Christian worldview demonstrating that it was and is a package deal.
Another dispensationalist commented this way:
I don’t find ANY person who has a 100% grasp of God’s Word and can be considered in error at times, including me, and depends on how much in error as well. However, God is 100% accurate.
I responded: “Yes, Jesus was 100% accurate when He stated that He would return in judgment before their generation passed away.” Jesus was either 100 percent accurate or 100 percent inaccurate. Either He returned before that generation passes away or He didn’t.
This next one surprised me. It, too, is from a dispensationalist:
[Morgue’s] interpretation(s) of the Matt 24 verse, which is his major hurdle, is in no way a “dispensational” reading of the passage.
It is exactly a dispensational reading of the passage since Morgue brings in the antichrist, the rapture of the church, and the great tribulation as end-time themes. Of course, dispensationalists don’t say Jesus was lying. What they have to do is make Matthew 24:34 say something it does not say. “This generation” becomes “this race,” “the generation that sees these signs” even though Matthew 24:33 tells us what generation would see the signs, any generation except the generation of Jesus’ day, “this type of generation.”
Where did Morgue get his understanding of the end of the age and the last days? From the prophetic writings of dispensationalists. Hundreds of millions of copies of prophecy books have been purchased by eager readers in the past half-century. “The nonfiction bestseller of the 1970s, with 9 million copies in print by 1978 and 28 million by 1990, was a popularization of premillennialism, Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth (1970).”
The multi-volume Left Behind Series has sold around 80 million copies. Similar books were popular more than a hundred years ago: Sydney Watson’s Scarlet and Purple (1913), The Mark of the Beast (1915), and In the Twinkling of An Eye (1916). Each volume has gone through multiple printings.
Numerous other end-time books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies even by dispensational scholars like John Walvoord’s Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis. It was first published in 1974 and revised in 1976 and 1990. In 2007, after Walvoord’s death, it was revised again by his son and prophecy writer Mark Hitchcock. Charles H. Dyer’s The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times. Who’s pictured on the cover of The Rise of Babylon? The late Saddam Hussein. Both books are woefully outdated, as is Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth where he predicted that Jesus would return to “rapture” the church before 1988. Chuck Smith made a similar prediction.
My library is filled with such books. When critics deal with end-time speculation, they home in on the dispensational variety. For example, see When Time Shall Be No More by Paul Boyer and American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism by Matthew Avery Sutton. What’s the cover illustration? The Rapture by Ryan Heshka (see article image above) that first appeared in Blab World #1.
Showing the foolish atheist that there is an answer to his argument will show how serious the atheist is. If he or she moves on to another point after being shown the folly of the initial critique, then the nature of the debate changes. What’s the atheist’s real objection? We know it’s a heart issue. The goal is for the Christian apologist is to use these side arguments to move the debate to the heart of the gospel.
Apologetics 101: Defending the Christian Faith
Apologetics 101 is an in-depth study of defending the Christian faith. The Greek word apologia simply means ‘defense,’ and apologetics is the art and act of giving a defense. Christian Apologetics then is the art and act of defending the Christian faith, not a proof of God in general. The Christian apologist must be ready to answer truth claims about the Bible, not claims about Hinduism, Islam, or any other false religion. The Bible makes the bold claim that Jesus is the ONLY way, and the Christian apologist must set his sights on the Bible alone, not on a defense of arbitrary theism.