Prophecy, Cults, and Cassettes
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Soooo, what should a new Christian who knows absolutely nothing about the Bible start studying? How about end-times prophecy and religious cults?
Yeah, I know. Not a great place to start, but I didn’t know any better.
Something had changed in me. I just didn’t understand what it was.
What I did know is that I was hungry. I wanted to learn everything I could about my newfound faith. But there was a problem.
As much as I loved Father Clarke and Trinity Episcopal, there wasn’t a lot of Bible teaching available there. I had gone through catechism but remembered almost none of it. I did take more notice of the words in the liturgy, though. (I’d been hearing John 3:16 every single week! Who knew?)
I watched Billy Graham as often as possible, but he was only on TV a few times a year. And he wasn’t a teacher.
I read the Bible and understood more than I had before, but that wasn’t saying much.
I was desperately thirsty and finding very little to drink.
Until I discovered an oasis.
Every Friday evening my parents and I made the trip to South Hills Village, a shopping mall on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. They ate dinner while I walked the mall and checked out all the stores, particularly the bookstores.
One Friday evening I stumbled across a bookstore I hadn’t noticed before: Zondervan Family Bookstore. I don’t know if it was new or just that my radar hadn’t been tuned to Christianity before, but if it wasn’t new then I’d walked past it many times without seeing it.
When I stepped inside and saw shelves and shelves of Christian books, it was as if I’d found a river flowing through my personal desert. I only remember two of the books I bought there. One was a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, which I still have. The other was The Book of the Revelation, a commentary on the book of Revelation by Lehman Strauss. I’m not entirely sure what moved me to buy the Revelation commentary, but it could have been because of my other bookstore discovery: audio teaching tapes.
Although I’m an avid reader, I am primarily an auditory learner. So when I discovered cassette albums by One Way Library, I thought I’d gone to heaven.
One album I bought was a series of lectures on prophecy by Hal Lindsey, titled The Late Great Planet Earth, after his bestselling book. It was a detailed explanation (or as detailed as you could get in twelve 30-minute lectures) of a view of prophecy and the last things that I would later come to know as Dispensational Premillennialism. (If you’re not familiar with Lindsey’s views, just think “Left Behind” and you’ve got the basics.)
Another album was The Kingdom of the Cults, taught by Walter Martin. I probably bought that one because I had some friends who were involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and I wanted to understand more about what they believed.
I followed these with other albums and books and soon began to specialize in my understanding of Christianity. I didn’t know much, but I had a handle on end-times teaching and I could describe 10-12 different cults’ belief systems and why they didn’t measure up to the Bible.
Beyond that I was biblically illiterate.
That’s why things got complicated when I discovered speaking in tongues and the charismatic movement.
But that story is for next week.
For those who know me or have been part of my journey over the years, I am trying as much as possible to keep this part of the story brief. These are blog posts, not an autobiography or even a memoir. So, I’ll be skipping forward in the timeline quite a bit as the story moves on. And because most of these events happened so long ago and my memory isn’t what it used to be, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the timeline at all points.
Next Post: Deconstruction: Good or Bad? Right or Wrong?
All Posts in this Series: A Deconstruction Observed