Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Headline Theology

A minister in one of the smaller post-Herbal sects (let the reader understandeth) recently commented negatively on "headline theology"; the idea that you can - and should - read Bible prophecy right out of (or into) your daily newspaper. His particular church seems to have de-emphasised the "watch world news" call. This activity isn't the same thing, according to this worthy bloke, as actually preachin' the gospel.

And of course he's right. Whether in the dispensationalist camp of Hal Lindsey and Dim Tim LaHaye, or in the boggy marshlands of fringe Adventism, speculation on how the End Times fit in with the latest Time magazine is rife. The signs of the times have been legion: the Suez Canal crisis, the Six Day War, instability in Yugoslavia (remember Yugoslavia?), or the rise of Mussolini; you can be sure "prophecy marches on, brethren!"

You'd think by this time folk would have wised up. But no, the 'players' in Casino Apocalyptic have passed the point of 'prediction addiction' reversal. There are few plainer examples (or cautionary tales) of this than the magazine called (paradoxically) The Good News. The latest issue brings its cutting insights to bear on the Middle East. Just take a look at the table of contents! And yes, they also produce a dedicated magazine and website called World News and Prophecy!

Features called "World News and Trends"?, you'd think it was a current events magazine... which is exactly what it mimics. In case you think this is a one off, the January-February issue was based around the theme 'Signs of the Times'.

What has this stuff got to do with Christianity?

I guess all churches - especially those competing for a nice, fat tithe dollar - want to appear 'relevant,' and there's no straighter road to relevance than attaching yourself parasitically to the news of the day. But there's a small problem: a zero percent success rate in prediction.

The GN calls itself "a magazine of understanding," a subtitle it filched from the old Plain Truth. These guys, however, have so little understanding about things in general that they couldn't foresee, let alone solve, the very predictable crisis that engulfed their own organization over the past few years, leading to disenchantment and schism.

But here they still are, older but no wiser, playing the poker tables at Casino Apocalyptic, hoping that the real world will somehow suddenly conform to their half-baked assumptions about Bible prophecy.



  1. I no longer believe that the purpose of prophecy is to prepare us in advance so that we can escape before an assortment of dire circumstances hits. I also don't believe that prophecy's primary role is that of a "hook" by which individuals are called into specific church groups.

    God can protect His people wherever they may find themselves as prophetic events unfold. That, of course is more logical, as it gives such people an opportunity to help others to understand what is transpiring. That, it would seem, is the proper manifestation of Christian love for neighbor.

    In so many cases, one can only know that a prediction was God-inspired prophecy after it has been fulfilled. After the fact, this provides reassurance that God is in control. When humans attempt to co-opt prophecy, use it to underscore their authority, make it all about themselves, their church, their role, they are bound to fail.


  2. What an absolutely lovely opportunity to lampoon the whole thing with a biting satirical parody.

  3. I reckon it would be interesting to see how the prophecies about Assyria would come to pass. Considering that Assyria doesn't exist and Assyrians don't even have a homeland anymore...

    In case anyone becomes confused by Armstrongism, Assyrians are Semitic and Germans are Aryan.

    And no, bible students, Syria and Assyria are not the same thing.

  4. Gavin, I'd love to know which minister you heard preach against Headline Theology.

    Perhaps he's come to realize you can only cry "wolf" so many times. The folks at Family Radio may still need to learn that lesson.

    Bob, the SDA's have been famous for holding Revelation seminars - but when an Adventist evangelist came to my city for a campaign a few years ago, he switched the focus.

    That preacher says more people are interested in creation/evolution issues than prophecy nowadays - so that was the theme of his campaign.

  5. The "Headline Theology" thing comes up in an interview in the latest Journal with two CGI (as opposed to GCI) ministers in Texas.

    If the Adventists are switching from prophecy to creationism - and they champion the literal six-day version - I'd say that ain't much of an improvement.

  6. "If the Adventists are switching from prophecy to creationism - and they champion the literal six-day version - I'd say that ain't much of an improvement."

    I agree. Even pre-Adamic Man is better than YEC! But CGI is strange, anyway; their weird verbal tics, and constant references to popular movies/pop culture etc., is off-putting at best...their utter lack of Biblical knowledge or fluency is disgusting, at worst.

    That said, my only contact with CGI is yelling at a few of their video sermons they've posted online....

  7. Be careful here: CGI usually is thought of as the Common Gateway Interface -- one of the earliest Internet programming protocols, without which, would never have come into existence. It is also Computer Generated Imagery. More rarely, it also stands for Compacted Graphite Iron, Corrugated galvanised iron and Cell Global Identity, unique identifier of a cell site in cellular networks such as GSM and UMTS. is a Computer consulting company. There's also California Graduate Institute, an independent graduate school specializing in psychology and the Catholic Guides of Ireland, a girl guide association. My actual favorite is Coast Guard Intelligence, but only because the Canadian Coast Guard got aced out of

    Even in the Armstrongist Churches of God, branding is a problem with CGI, ICG, Eternal CoG, CoG Eternal and a whole host of variants including A Church of God. At least the last one will be near the top of the list.

    In fighting for ascension to the highest possible exposure, using Headline Theology is only going to be effective if the branding is right.

    And as we know, style changes so quickly these days.

  8. "In fighting for ascension to the highest possible exposure, using Headline Theology is only going to be effective if the branding is right."

    Yes, and no. If by "branding" you mean something along the lines of "Grace Communion International" returning to its roots, restoring the true name of the Church, and once again beginning to fulfill the Great Commission (from Matt. 28, if you're picky-choosy with the longer ending of Mark), that would be effective for me...I can't speak for anyone else, obviously. If you consider that "re-branding" and merely another "corporate church" ploy, Douglas, than so be it; but you need to drag those overly-large beams from the eyes of that other corporate religion, professing Christianity, before you accuse the WCG as a whole of being evil, wrong, etc.

    For example:

    "The 4,392 [Catholics] priests who were accused [of sexual abuse offences] amount to approximately four percent of the 109,694 priests in active ministry during that time. Of these 4,392, approximately:

    * 56 percent had one reported allegation against them; 27 percent had two or three allegations against them; nearly 14 percent had four to nine allegations against them; 3 percent (149 priests) had 10 or more allegations against them. These 149 priests were responsible for almost 3,000 victims, or 27 percent of the allegations.[15]"

    Did anything on that kind of a scale happen in the Worldwide Church of God, I ask you?

    Well, did it?