Apocalyptic Mega-Chuch Pioneer Chuck Smith Has Died

The Los Angeles Times has an obituary of Pastor Chuck Smith, who has died aged 86:

He was a biblical literalist who believed staunchly in hell, Armageddon and the sinfulness of homosexuality. But from the pulpit, and in person, he emanated a disarming warmth. His church became famous as a sanctuary for a generation of counterculture refugees. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and a big, benevolent smile.

…Smith’s movement contributed to the ascent of the modern megachurch, and he was a mentor to generations of younger evangelists, including Greg Laurie of the Harvest Christian Fellowship.

…He repeatedly predicted the end of the world, and his zeal for the notion seemed undiminished when it failed to materialize. “Every year I believe this could be the year,” he would say. “We’re one year closer than we were.”

Franklin Graham has released a statement describing him as his “friend”, while Rick Warren posted a picture to Twitter of himself and Smith together – the two men shared platforms from 2009, despite a 2006 statement issued by Smith’s church grouping that “the teaching and positions of Rick Warren have come into conflict with us at Calvary Chapel.”

The Times obit includes a quote from sociologist Donald E. Miller, whose Reinventing American Protestantism has been much appreciated by insiders and outsiders alike. However, Miller’s account should be read alongside Gershom Gorenberg’s The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, which notes Smith’s date-setting and support for Israel’s ultra-nationalist  right; apparently, at one time Smith predicted that the Rapture would occur in 1981, seven years ahead of the return of Jesus (like Hal Lindsey and others, he believed that 1988, as “one generation” after the founding of modern Israel, was of special significance).

Smith also invited Stanley Goldfoot to Calvary Chapel; Goldfoot, as the head of Lehi intelligence in 1948, had been involved in the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, and he later co-founded the Temple Mount Faithful. Gorenberg wrote: “Marginal in Israel, Goldfoot was now treated like a prophet by thousands. For years he listened to the tape of his talk  over and over to hear the applause.” Smith and Chuck Missler (discussed here) also funded an absurd attempt by Lambert Dolphin to find the Ark of the Covenant under the Temple Mount.

Smith kept producing apocalyptic paperbacks; in 2007 he brought out The Final Act; the blurb and endorsements will be wearily familiar to anyone who knows the Christian paperback prophecy scene (links added):

What exciting days we are living in! Like observers invited backstage before a play, we can see the director positioning the players and making sure the props are in order. We can feel the excitement in these minutes before he signals for the curtain to rise. This analogy is apt, for God is positioning nations and current events before our very eyes.

In The Final Act, Pastor Chuck Smith sets the stage for God’s prophetic plan, providing insight into current world events leading up to one climactic battle that will usher in eternity.

Explaining the rapture, the rise of the Antichrist, and conditions that favor the Lord’s soon return, The Final Act is a compact, hard-hitting expos on the last days of human history.

“This unique dramatic treatment is both true to the scripture and practical, both hallmarks of all Pastor Chuck’s teaching. I found it very interesting!” Tim LaHaye

The Final Act is a powerful, provocative end times primer.” Joel Rosenberg

“The Final Act will inform your mind and move your heart to be ready when the curtain goes up.” Mark Hitchcock