Monday, January 2, 2012

My Eschatological History

As a infant I was baptized Presbyterian. Their eschatology would have been amillennial, unless it held to a stricter Reformed concept, in which case they might have been post-millennial. My Grandfather and father had long been members an EUB (Evangelical United Brethren) church that was built by my Great Grandfather in 1900. It was an Evangelical church until it united in 1946 with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. The eschatology in this church would have been premillennial. In 1968 (four years after the picture below was taken of me standing on the stairs of this church) the EUB joined with the Methodist to form a denomination known as United Methodist. At that point, as I now can recall, the United Methodist appeared to be uninterested in eschatology. From a few comments I remember from Methodist in the '60's and the '70's it seems to me that they really didn't believe Jesus was physically coming back and every verse in the Bible was spiritualized. This created an amillennial position that referred all the promises into the sweet-by-and-by.
The church my Great-Grandfather built in 1900. I am the four year old standing on the steps in 1964.
My father still attends this church outside Spencer, Iowa.

 A Methodist neighbor told me the Second-coming of Christ occurred when we died. I remember thinking that it wasn't much of a Second-coming because: 1) My death is not Jesus' Coming back to earth, and, 2) If this was the case then the "second coming" was followed by a "third coming", and a "fourth coming" and by the time I died it would be like the "ga-zillion-billionth-coming". In these early years I didn't have too much confidence in what people said about God. They all seemed kind of uncommitted. Yet, I did realize they didn't like bad language and it really bothered God if you were loud or talked in church. So, I obliged them and God. I didn't swear nor would I run in the church sanctuary. But, I always felt like no one really had a clue; that is not to say I knew anything, but I just kind of knew that God could do better than what I was hearing and seeing.

Now, a couple of reasons why I had the impression there was more to this church stuff than what most people let on was this:

  1. Whenever I came down stairs in the morning my Grandfather (whose family had come over from Germany in the 1890's) would be sitting in his chair by the window with a cup of tea, and everyday...everyday...he would be reading his Bible. When I opened the door from the steep staircase to enter the dining room I knew the first thing I would see was my Grandfather reading from the Bible. He would look up at me and say something like, "Are you up for all day?"...but, why was he reading the Bible? Why didn't he tell me to read it? Where was my Bible?
  2. At night at my home whenever I would see my dad before he went to sleep...he would be reading his Bible. Why? It was just an observation I made, and I saw it all the time. My dad didn't preach in church. Although he was always there and he was one of the best Sunday school teachers I had. He was good because he was a great teacher no matter what he taught, but he was better than the other teachers because he knew the Bible. My Dad and my Grandfather didn't say much about the Bible at home, but they were always reading it at home. Why? 
Here the family is on my Grandpa Wiemers' farm in 1962 outside Spencer about half a mile from the church my Great-grandfather had built. I am the furthest to the far left sitting on my Dad's lap. My Grandpa is in the other chair to the right.
I specifically remember the night when I was a freshman in high school (months after my junior high Methodist Confirmation class and ceremony)  that I saw my unread Bible in my room. I recall thinking something like, "Well, it is probably time I read this Bible. I'm not going to be a kid forever." My impression was that men read the Bible and it was time for me to man-up and read it. So, I picked up my Bible and started to read a chapter out of the Old Testament and a chapter out of the New Testament every night. I did not miss. I would not miss. I went for over 450 days without missing a night. I refused to miss a night reading my Bible. Now, I did not understand everything, but I believed it was important for my eyes to look at every word and read every verse. Obviously, after a year and a half I had read through the Bible and had started again.

When I was 16 I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior when I clearly heard the gospel presentation at a Christian concert. I went forward on the last time through the song, "Just as I Am." My life had changed. Then, during the summer before my senior year in high school I was working on a construction job with a carpenter named Bob Hill. One afternoon the carpenter stopped working and started to teach me from the Bible dispensational-pre-tribulation-pre-millennial eschatology. Of course, I did not know these theological labels, nor did he use them when he taught me. What I do remember is how amazed I was at how the Bible verses snapped into a sequential order, how my heart was filled with joy and how my mind was rushing with excitement.
Galyn Wiemers writes down measurements for Bob Hill that will be used to install a new ceiling
during a construction project in Thompson, Iowa. (July 1977). It was on one of these days in July
that Bob Hill explained premillennial eschatology to Galyn for the first time.
 The summer of 1977 was my introduction to a dispensational approach to scripture. It was the first time I had heard the verses concerning the Kingdom of God be spoken of as being literally fulfilled in a 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. Of course, being Methodist since 1968 I had never heard the word "rapture" and the concept was unmentioned. All of a sudden the Second Coming of Christ was no longer a fictional fantasy with a spiritualized interpretation applied in a nonsensical fashion that even a child doubted its significance. Now, the whole of history seemed to vacillate between two absolute realities: 1) God was the Creator, 2) Jesus would establish his kingdom. And, me, a seventeen year old, what was I to do with the introduction to this biblical reality? I had been introduced to a fantastic system of eschatology, and I was grateful!

Now, 33 1/2 years have gone by. I have taught dispensational pre-millennialism with a pre-tribulation rapture to hundreds of people publicly starting in 1985 up until now. I have diagrams and charts in books that I have written and handouts I have made. Never have I doubted Christ's return or a literal kingdom on earth. Nor do I doubt this now. But, there are several stones that I have not turned over. There are other "good" eschatological approaches that cannot simply be dismissed. I find the Preterist model a solid collection of information. I do not like it. I do not agree with it. But, I have to understand it, defend it, present it and let it stand or fall on its own. I am very, very interested in the Pre-wrath model, but I find LaHaye's and others who attack the Pre-wrath model to have very, very disappointing arguments against it. In fact, the very fact LaHaye's most stated arguments revolve around the statements that claim Pre-wrath is a "new" eschatology makes me laugh in disgust because that is exactly what our critics say about our position. Then the critics move to calling Pre-wrath unscriptural or unorthodox, and I sneer again because in a world of orthodox theology where historically all  Protestant Churches, and at many times, the Catholic Church, are virtually in total agreement concerning theology, bibliology, christology, soteriology, angelology, pneumatology and more, they are in total disagreement of multiple points concerning eschatology.

My point: The study of eschatology has to undergo a serious process of testing and proving. This has never happened in church history at, what I consider, a satisfactory level. In this study we will see how eschatological views have been driven more by the political climate of the church and by temporal situations in the world than by scriptural interpretation.

Indeed, my eschatological views are more inline with LaHaye than anyone else, yet at the same time LaHaye's apparent arrogance to stand on the top of pop eschatology and renounce and ridicule with out presenting the humility to allow a eschatological system rise and fall on its own commitment to truth is disappointing.

I guess after all these years I believe the Word of God can stand on its own. I have seen it change and impact lives over the last five decades, and now, in a sixth. Surely it can continue to preserve the Truth. Other areas of study that have to be considered and tested are hermeneutical systems which either correctly or erroneously interpret the Scriptures. Eschatologies also have to be proven with historical events, historical study of theology and consistency in the Word of God.

This is an enormous undertaking. I have a tremendous amount of material to read, information to study, history to be examined, etc. I have learned enough to know that there are some eschatological models that cannot be dismissed with flippant statements and spooky accusations of heresy. Grow up! If it is a heresy prove it! But, I am no longer entertained by eschatological closed mindedness motivated simply because some portion of an eschatological model doesn't agree with your best selling end-times novel series or because you  don't have the academic experience to think critically through an issue or the patience to educate yourself concerning the footnotes of an authors volume on eschatology. I am in pursuit of the Truth, and, from my past experience, it means I will have to leave camp to meet the challenge. This is one reason cowards camp together...they can find protection from what scares them. I might be back, but I cannot stay here simply because I fear leaving an eschatological camp. At least at this point, eschatology should not divide us. Very, very....very few have the background, the insight, the resources, but mainly the DESIRE to meet this challenge.

One of the toughest factors we face in untangling prophecy is that this battle must be fought on the ground of humility since all of eschatological teaching is blanketed in a mist of Jesus' words...

  • "No one knows about that day or hour" (Mt.24:36)...
  • "Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Mt.24:42)...
  • "The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of." (Mt. 24:50)...
  • "Watch out that no one deceives you." (Mt. 24:4)...
  • "So if anyone tells you, 'There he not believe it." (Mt. 24:26) 
My Sunday School pins from the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches from 1965-1974.

Galyn Wiemers
Generation Word


ND Diane said...

Thanks for doing hearing how this all developed in you. Will have to put my mind in gear...ouch!
ND Diane

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