On February 17, 2011, Glenn Beck presented a Bible study showing the parallels between the “biblical view of the end times” and the view of the Islamic Twelvers. Why is this important? Because the Twelvers count in their number Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i, the Supreme Leader of Iran since June 1989. As Beck said, it doesn’t matter whether you and I believe this stuff. What matters is that some very powerful people believe it.
Beck presented the chart below to correlate the two views, claiming that this view is thee end times view presented in the Bible, as if there is no question or doubt that this view is the true view regarding the biblical prophecy of the end times.
His point was to show that the Islamic 12th Imam prophecy and the Bible’s prophecy about the end times prophesy are the same scenario from different perspectives. This whole scenario is hugely problematic because it seems to be true. However, it appears to be true only from a particular perspective—that of Premillennial Dispensationalism, a wildly popular but seriously flawed teaching about biblical eschatology.
There are so many things wrong with this picture, it is hard to know where to begin. But let’s begin with Glenn Beck himself. It is no secret that Beck is a Mormon. So, here we have a committed Mormon layman teaching Christian Bible study on national television and garnering a huge viewer audience. People are gobbling it up! The fact that Mormonism is heretical is accepted by nearly every Christian church and/or denomination. For starters, Mormonism denies the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. And yet, Christians of nearly every stripe are drinking down Beck’s end times cool-aid without blinking!
Without considering any of the details of Beck’s thesis, responsible Christians should simply not be listening to Beck’s biblical analysis at all. His foundational biblical beliefs are heretical. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t say some true things. Rat poison is ninety-nine percent rat food. Beck has said a lot of true and valuable things about Christianity. But so has every heretic in history. Being a heretic does not mean that everything said is false, it means that not everything said is trustworthy. But even more, it means that the heretic has misunderstood something very fundamental and essential. The problem is that a small foundational error makes for a huge mistake in practical applications.
Let’s examine what Beck has said about the 12th Imam on the basis of logic and common sense, forget Christian doctrine for a moment. He has said that the end times beliefs of the Twelvers is nonsense, that it is completely insane—and it is. But it doesn’t matter whether he believes it or you and I believe it because there are too many powerful people who do believe it. So far, so good. I’m tracking with Beck.
He went on to show the equivalence of the two end times views: that of the Bible and the Twelvers. They are the same, but differ in their perspectives. He said that the Twelver view is insane, yet insinuated that the fulfillment of the Twelver end times scenario correlates with the true biblical view of the end times. But if that correlation is a fact, then the biblical view of the end times must be equally insane—and it is! If the Twelver view is insane and the biblical view is just like the Twelver view, then it must be insane as well. This Pre-, Mid-, Post-tribulation millennial Dispensational view of the end times is cut from the same religious cloth as the Twelver Islamic Shīa view. That ought to be enough to see the problem. The problem is that this view is not faithful to the Bible, but is itself a misreading of the Biblical data. This errant view was popularized by Hal Lindsey.
Lindsey went to Dallas Theological Seminary in 1958, with the help of Lt. Col. Robert Thieme, pastor of Berachah Church in Houston, where Lindsey had attended. At DTS Lindsey studied with John F. Walvoord, author of the 1974 best-seller Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis. Lindsey received a certificate in theology from DTS. In 1969, he wrote his first, and most well-known book, The Late, Great Planet Earth.
What Lindsey should be known for is being the most popular yet consistently wrong Bible teacher in many generations. Lindsey’s sensational Dispensational end times view has been hugely and consistently popular in spite of his failed predictions, and the biblical demand to denounce prophets who get it wrong. Lindsey’s success has ridden on the backs of American Christian biblical ignorance. Indeed, heresy always flourishes amidst biblical ignorance. And conversely, the cure for heresy and the cure for biblical ignorance are identical. For a more in-depth treatment the heresy and failure of this still popular view, see Gary DeMar’s book, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, and the spate of books written on the subject since DeMar’s.
Granted, Glenn Beck’s treatment of the biblical end times and the Twelfth Imam is entertaining, even interesting. But it is also both wrong and dangerous. To believe it is to pit Christians and Muslims against one another in an end times struggle that will of necessity lead to violence and war. Such a scenario would fit well with the errant beliefs of Islamic Twelvers, Christian Dispensationalists and even Jewish Zionists. All would consider such a scenario to be inevitable because it has been “prophesied” in their respective Scriptures. And none of these groups will be cognizant of or swayed by contrary facts of any sort. Indeed, such religious zeal has always been blinding for the same reasons that it is wrong. The danger is that the belief that such a war is inevitable paves the way for the war, and the war once engaged will justify the errant ideologies. It all smacks of an ideological marriage made in hell.
There are two equally bad outcomes that are likely to come from Beck’s “analysis.” The first bad outcome is that unbelievers who listen to Beck will very likely come away with the idea that because Islam and Christianity seem to agree on this end times scenario, though they come at them from different perspectives, Islam and Christianity are equally false, equally nuts. Beck cannot claim that the Twelver view is crazy without tarring the Dispensational view with the same brush. And because Beck teaches that the Dispensational view is thee only and thee correct view of the Bible, the uninformed viewer will assume him to be correct and throw out the proverbial baby (the Bible) with the bath water (Koran). Thus, the first bad outcome of Beck’s teaching is that the veracity of the Bible is undermined by his “analysis.” To take Beck consistently at his word, logically leads to the dismissal of the trustworthiness of the Bible. Beck justifies unbelief by undermining the truthfulness of the Bible.
The second bad outcome reveals Beck’s underlying liberal assumptions. Lurking in Beck’s view is a potential cure for this particular problem. He has not clearly articulated this cure yet, and is not likely to do so because it will reveal his foundational position. What cure does Beck’s teaching logically suggest? Beck interviewed M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., the President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). Jasser is a moderate (read: liberal) Muslim who challenges the textual veracity of the elements of Islamic teaching that promote this Twelver view, and other “extremist” Islamic views. Jasser does to Islam what liberal scholars do to Christianity: they deconstruct the sacred texts to demonstrate that they are not reliable. In other words, liberal “scholarship” tends to undermine the reliability of Scripture, whether Koran or Bible. And the controlling perspective that provides them with the tools to do this work is the perspective I call Postmodern Academic Liberalism.
Thus, Beck’s biblical “analysis” provides a logical choice between two opposing solutions to this problem of the comparative end times scenarios. The first choice is the rejection of both Islam and Christianity in the name of sanity. This is the bad outcome number one. Many, many people have already made this choice, and call themselves atheists. Beck justifies it.
The other solution (bad outcome number two) is to embrace either Islam or Christianity, but to do so “moderately” on the basis of the Postmodern liberal (secular) worldview. This is the solution that appeals to most American and Western intellectuals. It is the solution that is currently being brokered by Western governments, many think tanks and intellectuals of various sorts. This solution would allow any consideration of either Islam or Christianity, except serious, consistent consideration. All serious, consistent consideration of either Islam or Christianity is branded as “extremist.” And the more seriously consistent the belief, the more “extremist” it is understood to be, according to this view. Here people are encouraged to believe anything they want, except the faithful and consistent readings of either the Koran or the Bible. Again, the Bible and the Koran are presumed to be equivalent because they are understood to teach the same end times scenario. The underlying theology of this view is universalism, where all religions lead to God.
Ultimately, Beck’s “analysis” funnels people into either one of these “solutions:” atheism or the universalism of Postmodernism. And curiously, both of these solutions amount to the same thing because both are grounded in the disbelief in the veracity of the sacred texts. Because people are afraid to take the Koran seriously and see that it actually teaches what the “extremists” believe it teaches, people are also afraid to take the Bible seriously because they mistakenly think that the Bible and Koran are in some sort of fundamental end times agreement. Most atheists and Postmodernists think that all religions are essentially the same, and especially the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). But these religions are most assuredly not the same!
The only way out of this false dichotomy is to take the sacred texts seriously and consistently at their own word. Thus, the better understanding of the Bible reveals that the Bible does not teach a Dispensational view of the end times at all, not of any poli-millennial stripe as viewed through any errant lens of modern popularism. It just ain’t so! The truth is that the Bible is the most well-read but misunderstood book in history. But this does not mean that it isn’t true. It simply means that it is still widely misunderstood—even by people who profess to believe it!
What the Bible actually teaches is pretty simple and perfectly true, and will be found to be true by anyone who is willing to grant the Bible the benefit of simple trust, and who is willing to take the time to actually study it out. Simply take the Bible at its word, as being what it says it is. Don’t come to it with doubt because doubt produces doubt. Don’t come to it with a boatload of popular misconceptions because misconceptions produce misconceptions. Come to it with simple trust, even if only temporarily until you can verify what it says to be true as valid in your own life.
Unfortunately, most people, including too many Christians, don’t actually do this. Few people today actually take serious time and effort to study the Bible. For the most part, Christians today have an overly simplified Gnostic, secular, Sunday School understanding of the Bible that makes them feel good about themselves. And it especially makes them feel good about being a Christian! This is a huge problem that must be exposed and corrected if we are to avoid the logical conclusions of Beck’s analysis—war or more liberal entrenchment through the acceptance of a liberalized Islam that is constitutionally equivalent to a liberalized Christianity.
Let me see if I can sum this argument up. The political left and the right will accept a liberalized version of Islam as it will accept a liberalized version of Christianity and Judaism, as long as it is agree that there is no ultimate truth and all views are relative. So, acceptable religious positions are atheism, liberal Christianity, liberal Islam or liberal anything—as long as there are no moral absolutes. Beck claims the reality of moral absolutes, but operates out of the assumptions of Postmodernism, as do most 912ers and Tea Party folk. How can I say this? Because I know the condition of Christianity in contemporary society. Every indicator suggests biblical illiteracy even among church goers.
What needs to happen is the abandonment of the pluralistic experiment that began in earnest in the 1960s and has dominated entertainment, academia, media and government of late. Pluralism is simply a modern version of paganism. The West needs to return to its Christian roots, not by attempting to return to some long gone version of Christianity or some dead theology, but by simply trusting the Bible. Indeed, we must trust every sacred scripture to mean what it says. If we can just do that, simply and honestly, we can sort through what is true and what is not. And the Truth will indeed set us free. The answer is to read the Koran and see it for what it actually says, and to read the Bible and see it for what it actually says. Only then can people see them for what they are and choose between them without abandoning reason and intelligence.