Apocalyptic Christians Argue over Anti-Christ

An apocalyptically-minded “prophecy expert” casts a sceptical eye over Walid Shoebat’s claims that the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ. Over to David Reagan, of “Lion and Lamb Ministries“:

God’s War on Terror: Islam, Prophecy and the Bible…is a very expensive book ($29.95) and a very long one (512 pages). The writing is very tedious and difficult to follow. Even worse, the organizational format is chaotic and confusing…incredibly sloppy proof-texting can be found throughout Shoebat’s book. Whenever he wants to make a point, he goes fishing for a verse. When he finds it, he reels it in and applies it to the passage under consideration, whether it is related to that passage or not.

Indeed – and I’ve got more on Shoebat’s bizarre interpretations of the Bible here.

But don’t get your hopes up that Reagan has a more rational  appropach to Biblical interpretation; instead, he matches Shoebat’s pseudo-scholarship with an equally untenable, albeit more stale, “Hal Lindsey” scenario:

…The Middle Eastern Muslim nations will suffer overwhelming defeats in the Psalm 83 War and the Ezekiel 38 War before the Tribulation begins and before the Antichrist comes on the scene. The Antichrist, who will arise out of the revived Roman Empire will then launch a world war to conquer all nations, and during that war, he will be used of God to annihilate the remaining Muslim nations outside the Middle East.

Still, Shoebat can console himself with an enthusiastic notice from Ray Gano, who runs a website named Prophezine. Gano – who claims Jack Chick as his religious inspiration – tells us that

Walid has presented overwhelming proof that the Antichrist is not from the EU, and that he could come from the Middle East.

He has given overwhelming proof that the Catholic Church is not the one world religion, but the worship of Baal through Islam.

…Folks, all these years we have been chasing after some “decoy” called the EU and some false European Antichrist. Satan pulled the wool over our eyes really good on this one. While all of us have been looking to the west, Islam is here now, staring us in the face from the east…they await Satan’s anointed the Mahdi, they will return the world to the worship of Baal. He is named clearly in scripture as the Assyrian, The King of Babylon, The Prince of Tyre, The King Pharoh of Egypt. He hails from the Middle East and he is the Antichrist.

John Hagee, meanwhile, famously favours the idea that the anti-Christ will be a gay Jew.

Incidentally, the idea that Muslims worship “Baal” is a rehash of old Christian polemics, and is based on identifying “Baal” with a pre-Islamic “Hubal”, whose idol is said to have existed in Mecca inside the Ka’ba. Scholars suggest it was same as the “Abraham the Ancient” image that was removed by Muhammad (1). The 1996 Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible has the following for Hubal (I’ve Romanized the Hebrew script used for “Baal”):

…The comparison with Baalim is not convincing because Baal can also function as a generic term…Connections with the pre-Islamic deity Hubal are uncertain. There is too great a distance in time. The gap of nearly a millennium cannot be filled with the single reference to a deity hblw in a Nabataen inscription from the first century CE.

Muslims as “Baal”-worshippers is also nonsensical on phenomenological grounds. Members of a faith may reinterpret teachings and practices over the centuries, and we can see how a religion emerges from a context but comes to be seen by adherents having somehow dropped from the sky. However, the idea that a person can be deceived into thinking they are worshipping one deity when in fact they are worshipping another makes no sense. How is “Baal” worshipped if none of his supposed worshippers know anything about him or if they think they are doing something else? Some Christians object to Christmas because of its pagan origins, but it cannot seriously be held that therefore those who go to church on Christmas Day are somehow accidentally venerating a pagan deity. Once again we see paranoid conspiracy-mongering, this time raised to a cosmic level.

(1)  Francis E. Peters, Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, p. 109-110.

UPDATE: Shoebat has responded to his fundamentalist critics, explaining that he gets “challenges daily, not only by Muslims that want me dead but also from Christians who are dogmatic about their views.” As a rebuttal, he gives a list of prominent Christians from the past who believed that the Bible predicts an eschatological and Satanic role for Islam in the “Last Days”. Of course, this is simply an argument from authority using sources that either pre-date or ignore serious historical-critical Biblical scholarship. His list weirdly includes the observation that “Hilaire Belloc foresaw Islam’s rise”. Belloc, of course, was also notorious for his anti-semitism [UPDATE: although see here].