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Profits of Doom

By P. Andrew Sandlin
Published May 1, 2008

Doomsday-ism can be a profitable business. Some TV and radio evangelists have built their entire “ministries” on predicting the coming of Christ “just around the corner” (and “re-predicting” the return when the original date didn’t fly). In his November, 1990 Baptist Challenge article “Is the Night Approaching?” Buell H. Kazee writes more thoughtfully and sincerely than most of the doomsday prophets. He is convinced “God and Satan must be coming to grips for the last great conflict.” And what great theological insight has provided this juicy information?

“Because the struggle is in my own heart [emphasis added],” responds Kazee. He continues, “I am tested today as never before. Things do not seem to work out as I once preached. There were days in my youth when revival was easy. God permitted me then to see that manifestation of his power in conviction and salvation and to feel in my heart the urging, enabling power of the Spirit. The churches then often rang with the sound of rejoicing in the Lord. Sinners heard the Word, were convicted and confessed Christ in tears of joy.”

To his credit, Kazee manifests a sincerity a lot of the sensationalists and doomsdayists lack, and he does not engage in the sort of mathematical gymnastics supposedly proving the next-month return of Christ with whom we have been afflicted over the past decade over or so.

Kazee, however, has shifted his certainty of “the last great conflict” to an even more precarious sphere: his own heart. He is assured of this because he discovers his “brethren [are] saying the same thing.” When God’s people congregate, they “feel shut out by some invisible power which forbids us [sic] breaking through to God…. There is no sign of old revival power.”

Perhaps Kazee is romanticizing his past when he speaks of the revival in the “days in [his] youth.” The sage Solomon warned against romanticizing the past: “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this” (Ec. 7:10). The chief problem, however, is that one’s feeling in his heart is no ground of certainty. If Kazee and others feel that God is far away, they should be reminded that Job felt the same thing during the great trial of his life; nonetheless, greater blessings followed than preceded his trial.

One’s feelings — no matter how dedicated to Christ’s cause he is — are a flawed gauge of the work of the Holy Spirit and the unfolding of the plan of God in general.

And while Kazee’s opinions bear the stamp of sincere, spiritual motivation, unlike those of many other doomsday prophets, they leave the door wide open for the attitude that, Well, since we are approaching the last great conflict, we need to be faithful to our calling but we shouldn’t expect any big winnings.

“Let’s just Hold the Fort until the commander arrives,” they seem to imply, “and eat up all of our remaining provisions and when the Devil beats the church doors down while we huddle in the choir loft, well be holding the fort”

That sort of doomsdayism, you might expect, can be very profitable for people who do not want to engage Satan on God’s territory Satan and his followers have assumed because of Christians’ default.

It’s a lot easier to hold Awana clubs and Sunday school picnics than to attack the gates of Hell: preaching publicly, picketing abortion clinics, calling down God’s wrath on evil men, exposing corrupt politicians and false teachers, and so forth.

Indeed, doomsdayism can be profitable-and safe-business.$


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