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

Ted Cruz’s Father and “The End-Time Transfer of Wealth”

Morgan Guyton (Associate Pastor at Burke United Methodist Church) has an interesting article at the Huffington Post on the theology of Rafael Cruz, father of senator Ted Cruz. I blogged on Rafael in July, after Andy Miller of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition wrote about meeting him at an anti-Islam event organised by Frank Gaffney: he is the director of Purifying Fire Ministries, the narrator of a Spanish audio Bible, and a member of the Tea Party speaker circuit

Guyton draws attention to a sermon  preached by Cruz on 26 August 2012 at Larry Huch’s megachurch New Beginnings in Irving, Texas. Huch is part of a movement that emphasizes the “Jewish roots” of Christianity. This does not just mean understanding the Jewish context of Jesus and the creation of the New Testament, or repudiating anti-Semitism: Jewish cultural forms are appropriated; Christianity becomes a set of esoteric “mysteries” that are unveiled in reference to Judaism; and the stories of the Hebrew Bible are used to create a pastiche of Israelite theology that is then applied to the USA. The most successful exponent of this kind of thing is Jonathan Cahn, whom I’ve discussed a number of times.

Guyton has transcribed part of Huch’s introduction:

It’s not a coincidence that in a few weeks, we go into what’s called in the Bible Rosh Hashanad [sic]… It will be the beginning of the spiritual year 2012. The number 12 means divine government… The rabbinical teaching is… that in a few weeks begins that year 2012 and that this will begin what we call the end-time transfer of wealth. And that when these Gentiles begin to receive this blessing, they will never go back financially through the valley again. They will grow and grow and grow. It’s said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers…

This is certainly a bold attempt to reconcile Christian apocalypticism with both Dominionism and the Prosperity Gospel, and Cruz warms to the same theme:

Priests were anointed primarily to minister the glory of God. They were anointed to pray for the people, to offer sacrifices, to care for the temple, to be God’s representatives before the people… Kings were anointed to take dominion. Kings were anointed to go to war, win the war, and bring the spoils of war to priests so the work of the kingdom of God could be accomplished. The king needed the blessing of the priest in order to be successful in battle… The priest also needed for the king to be successful in battle because the priest needed the spoils of war in order to repair the temple, in order to carry out the ministry that God had entrusted him.

Guyton is not impressed: he notes that the Bible “expressly forbade the Israelites from going to war for spoils”, and that Cruz appears to have mis-translated of the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 1:5-6, which says, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power for ever and ever!” In Rafael’s translation of the Bible, it says “kings and priests” instead of “a kingdom and priests.” In the Greek, the word is basileian (accusative singular) and no manuscript variants are indicated, but never mind that.

Given the warning in the final verse of Revelation, that’s bad news for Cruz.

Guyton notes that Cruz is also an enthusiast of a “Black Robe Regiment” of soldier-pastors inspired by the Revolutionary Era; the idea has been promoted by the pseudo-historian David Barton and by Glenn Beck.