I've written before about the emergent church and its apostasy. One of the tactics of the apostate emergent person is to constantly question the bible and its doctrines. "Does hell really exist?" "Would a loving God punish?" "Is hell really eternal?" These and other doctrines are opposed not from a hatchet, but from lightly sprinkled leaven. Leaven-questions are designed by satan to diffuse into the person's heart and chip away at the authority of the bible, the certainty of the Word, and by extension, the questioner's faith.
Here is one example of the questioning tactic, best perpetrated by Emergent Rob Bell, lately known for his book "Love Wins". This quote is from his book 'Velvet Elvis' in which he likens the membrane of Christianity to a trampoline where we all jump and jump:
"But what if, as you study the origin of the word ‘virgin’ you discover that the word ‘virgin’ in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word ‘virgin’ could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?"
Bell's 'what if' questions continue:
"What if that [trampoline] spring [the virgin birth] were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart? . . . If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it?”
What he is saying is that the bible is confusing, the plain meaning of virgin could mean several things, and if you apply one of those several definitions to Jesus' birth then the whole 'thing' collapses. But God is stronger than one word, "one spring" in Bell's trampoline he calls Christianity, and the only thing actually falling apart is faith.
One question leads to another. Taking away the plain meaning of a word under the guise of deeper intellectual study of the passages is a very good tactic for chipping away at faith, because the questioner can lull himself into thinking he is performing intellectual study with honestly spiritual intentions. You can read more about the false doctrines of Rob Bell and how to spot them,here.
I had a conversation the other day with a person who has been a Christian for 50 years. She is a pastor's wife. Her husband is not pastoring a church right now and hasn't been for a long time, but he teaches in a community ministry and also teaches adults at a Sunday School. Their son in law is going to seminary. In other words, they look like a faith filled family, but her certainty in the basic doctrines are slowly being chipped away by her husband and son-in-law's constant questioning in a pattern that exactly mirrors what I showed you in the Rob Bell method of hermeneutics.
'I used to believe in the pre-trib stance' she said, 'I was taught that growing up. But now I'm not so sure.' That lack of certainty is torturing her, because as a good Christian she knows the bible isn't unclear, and as a good Christian wife she submits to her husband's teaching. There's a dissonance there that hurts. She didn't say it, but I could see it.
The bible is tightly woven. It is a perfect book. That means you believe it all or you believe none. Once you start disbelieving a central doctrine, like the pre-tribulation rapture, then you have to adjust your thinking in many other doctrines to accommodate your new stream of thought. If you think the rapture will happen later, into the Tribulation (it doesn't matter if you think it will be mid or post tribulation, satan is happy just to get you over the threshold in the time of Jacob's Trouble) then you have to start questioning all of the following:
2 Thessalonians. In that letter, (esp. verses 1-10) Paul sought to reassure the believers there who had been infiltrated with false doctrine. They had been told falsely that they missed the rapture- 'our gathering together to Him' as Paul terms it. Persecution had begun, and so thought that the Tribulation had started and they were out of luck on the rapture doctrine. They were deeply worried. Now, if the default position is that we all go through the Tribulation, why would Paul need to even reassure the Thessalonians that they hadn't missed the rapture?
The Restrainer: The rapture is to occur prior to the Tribulation. When disbelievers start questioning this, they have to resolve the sign that Paul gave in 2 Thessalonians indicating the Day of the Lord. The rapture is distinct from the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is the period of time when Jesus punishes the corrupt earth. While the rapture can happen any time, The Day of the Lord cannot occur unless and until three things happen and one of those is the Restrainer is taken out of the way. In 2 Thess 2:6-7 Paul says the Day of the Lord won’t happen until and unless the antichrist is revealed, and the antichrist won’t be revealed until the Restrainer is taken out of the way. That’s a reverse timeline. The Restrainer is the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, indwelling you and me as salt and light in the world. We act as a preservative from the Spirit’s influence in us and in the world. Once He is out of the way, the antichrist can come to the fore in all his corruptness. Now this is timeline presents problems to the post trib believer. Dismissing the plain meaning of the verse is hard to do, so instead they re-define who the Restrainer is. They say 'maybe the restrainer is a lawless governmental system. Yeah, that's it!' [Note: the Spirit doesn't leave the world in the Tribulation, He simply changes ministries, dispensing with one of them: His restraint of evil].
Encouragement: Paul explained in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 about the Day of the Lord in a passage titled, "The comfort of the Lord's Coming". He ended with saying to encourage each other with these words. Jesus said the Tribulation would be worse than a time ever experienced on the earth and never will be so bad again. It will be so bad that no flesh would be left alive if He didn't cut the days short for the elect's sake. Are you encouraged or comforted by the words that Christians will go through the worst time ever, be squashed by hail, have our head chopped off, get hunted, starved, and then martyred? "Be of good cheer! It will be awful but then Jesus will come!" I'm not encouraged. I'm not comforted. It is counter-intuitive to think that Paul would try to cheer up the Thessalonians by reminding them they would be appointed to go through the worst time in the history of the world, even worse than the Flood that wiped out everyone!
Wrath: Paul had written earlier in 1 Thess 5:9 that we are not appointed to wrath. His sentence is very simple: "we are not appointed to wrath." But rather than accept that statement plainly, the emergent questioner poking holes in the pre-trib stance must now resolve that statement to coincide with the fact that the Tribulation is wrath and we will be appointed to it. Indeed, my friend said, "I wonder, what IS wrath, really." Because the bible is tightly woven, one re-definition of a doctrine elicits another. Now they have to figure out what wrath really means. Like Rob Bell wondering what 'virgin' really means. Soon we'll have people saying 'that depends on what the meaning of is is." Oops, we already had that happen. That was President Clinton trying to escape the plain meaning definition of sexual intercourse.
There are more things a post-tribulation believer has to re-define but you get the idea. You can see how, once you drift away from the solidity of the bible's plain doctrines, supported by each other throughout the entire book ("Scripture interprets scripture"), that you have to begin an alternate construction which, because it is a man-made structure, is a house of cards on sand. Believing in the pre-tribulation rapture satisfies all questions and upholds all other doctrines in the bible. Believing in mid or post tribulation rapture elicts more questions ... that must be answered ... which causes more questions ... which induces re-definitions ... and you see how "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." (Galatians 5:8-9). The evil diffusive properties of bad yeast permeates and spoils.
People have said to me, "It doesn't really matter when the rapture takes place, before or in the middle or at the end, does it? It's only a matter of timing." Yes it matters. It is not a matter of timing. It is a matter of leaven.
The glorified properties of truth and the leading by the Holy Spirit into wisdom and understanding uplifts and solidifies, He doesn't create confusion. "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:8).