Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
“False Prophets; Real Profits”
The above title is one taken from an article of P. Andrew Sandlin appearing in 2000 WorldNetDaily.com. I’ll quote from that later. The reference is to the “prophecies” of many Christians who insisted that the Y2K bug would create havoc in the world and bring an end to civilization as we know it. They have entered the 21st century with “egg on their faces.” (Of course, they have still plenty of additional eggs on hand for the disasters they so firmly believed and proclaimed would happen.) They have not only made tremendous fools of themselves, but have given occasion for many to mock the name “Christian.” Many of these same prophets of doom made evidently a great deal of money selling their books about the disaster. Many also sold supplies to those who would be adequately prepared to live through this dreadful event.
One of these “false prophets” was Gary North, the Christian Reconstructionist who was willing to “stake his reputation” on his prophecy for doomsday on January 1, 2000. An erstwhile friend, another Christian Reconstructionist, Sandlin, wrote the scathing article (with the title above this writing) pointing out the horrible “crime” of North which has become the occasion of much mockery and scorn in the press.
An interesting report appeared in the Christian News, December 27, 1999, quoting from David W. Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service. I quote part of this.
For the last two years many influential Christian ministries have been proclaiming doom and gloom associated with the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem. Those who have joined the doomsayers bandwagon to one degree or another have included Gary North, Michael Hyatt, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson (who gave much airtime to Michael Hyatt), Don McAlvany, D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, Larry Burkett, Grant Jeffrey, Steve Farrar, Chuck Missler, and Hal Lindsey.
The doomsayers claim that the Y2K problem is so enormous and the time to fix it so short that it is insurmountable. The astonishing doom and gloom scenario that has been devised by Y2K prognosticators envisions the collapse of the banking system, long-term power failure, a breakdown in the police and military, airplanes falling out of the sky, public health systems breaking down, no more court system, social anarchy, and many other things.
Gary North, who says he decided to stake his reputation on his Y2K predictions, anticipates that the Y2K Bug “is going to take down every national Christian ministry” and will bring in famine, pestilence, failure of public health systems, no more court system, no more public schools, etc. North predicts an economic collapse that he describes as “the mother of all bank runs.” Not to be outdone, Don McAlvany warned of “the mother of all electrical blackouts” (McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, February 1998). Grant Jeffrey, in his book The Millennium Meltdown, predicts a global crisis, the scope of which we have not experienced since World War II. Dr. D. James Kennedy warned that the Y2K Bug is a dark cloud that “is going to catch the unprepared and drench them like they have never been drenched.” Larry Burkett predicts an economic disaster, with a 25 percent failure rate of small businesses in America and as high as 15 percent of large corporations. Dr. R.C. Sproul said we may see “the meltdown of civilization with one billion fatalities—the end of the world as we know it” (“The Great Collapse.” Tabletalk, April 1999). Hal Lindsey, on his television program, warned that Russia’s nuclear missiles might be launched due to the Y2K problem. Michael Hyatt’s book The Millennium Bug is advertised as a manual to “protect yourself and your family from the coming chaos as critical computer systems crash around the world.” The back cover of the book warns of planes unable to fly, military defense systems failing, and employers going out of business. Jerry Falwell has devoted at least three televised broadcasts and several articles in his National Liberty Journal to “the Y2K Computer Crisis.” Falwell’s video “A Christian’s Guide to the Millennium Bug,” which retails for $28, stated: “Y2K may be God’s instrument to shake this nation, to humble this nation.” Viewers are urged to stockpile food, water, gasoline, and ammunition.
Many of the Y2K doomsayers have made a lot of money from the anxiety they have helped to excite. For example, Michael Hyatt, author of the popular and influential book The Millennium Bug, which has been at the forefront of stirring up the Y2K craze, markets a “Y2K Food” package for $3,395.
The above was written in a publication of David Cloud dated December 14, 1999—weeks before the “disaster” which was supposed to occur on January 1, 2000. Well, all these “prophets” came with false prophecies about doomsday—and must join the ranks of so many others who have likewise been exposed in all of their foolishness.
Interestingly, a fellow Christian Reconstructionist but antagonist of Gary North, P. Andrew Sandlin, emphatically denounces North (of course, after January 1 passed by somewhat uneventfully) in an Internet “newspaper” called 2000 WorldNetDaily.com.
What we also know is that the Y2K doomsayers were wrong. Not mistaken. Wrong. Very, very wrong. Egregiously wrong. Horribly wrong. In the case of the explicitly Christian doomsayers, sinfully wrong.
Sinfully wrong? Yes. While the secular doomsayers simply capitalized on their profound lack of omniscience, a few Christian doomsayers boldly claimed to enlist the sovereign, Triune God in their predictive campaign of head-over-heels apocalypticism. It was, as we shall see, their collusion hatched in Hell.
These prophets did not only counsel preparation for certain, impending disaster — when, in fact, it did not come in any form. They did not only deny that the problem could be fixed — when, as it turns out, we are not fully certain it even needed to be fixed. They did not only attack a fundamental mechanism of the free market (division of labor) — when for years they had claimed to be rigorously biblical free-market economists.
They did not only counsel uprooting one’s family to move to Y2K-friendly rural areas and resort to pre-capitalist, poverty-inducing self-sufficiency — when those who followed their advice stood to suffer profoundly if their predictions were wrong (or if they were right, for that matter). No, it was not enough to jeopardize people’s lives (under the pious guise of trying to save them).
In addition, they acerbically attacked those who refused to jeopardize people’s lives, those that counseled moderation, like the Rev. Brian Abshire and Mr. Walter Lindsay. They positioned themselves as the only biblically faithful remnant, excoriating all Christians who refused to follow them down the primrose path to huckleberry-picking poverty. Their prophecies were unequivocal:
The millennium bug will hit all over the world. Every society will suffer the terrible consequences of the unofficial decision of a handful of technologists a generation ago to save two digits on an 80-digit punch card. The ludicrousness of that decision will be visible to all.
The article continues:
The Christian doomsayers were flying high, cocky and confident, characteristically insulting, intransigent, imperious. The lead-dog of the prophetic pack, an orthodox Calvinist, exulted:
I am placing the Christian Reconstruction movement’s reputation on the line. I represent this movement. … I have made yak (he meant Y2K; perhaps the Y2K bug infected only his computer system) my personal crusade. I am now widely identified as the doomsayer, which is correct. Links to my site are posted all over the world, from Red China’s Web site to the World Bank’s — even in the New York Times. So, if I prove to be wrong, Christian Reconstruction will be pilloried. Those pastors who are afraid I’ll be proven wrong are trying to separate their ideas from mine on yak. But it will do them no good. When a representative takes this strong a position on a widely known issue, he sets the pattern for those who are part of his movement. That’s the way representation works, for good or evil.
At the time, I publicly but gently (oh, so gently) reminded this doomsayer that while he was betting the farm on a Y2K disaster, it was his farm alone he bet. He was free to destroy his reputation, and he surely has. He was not free to destroy everybody else’s. Biblical representation is covenantal (
); it is not speculative. He may claim to represent whomever he wants to represent. But all claims are not true. Saying it’s so don’t make it so….
…Even if a prophecy were fulfilled, if it seduced the saints away from the Lord and the Faith, the prophet who issued the prophecy was proven false and was to be executed. False prophets can sometimes utter accurate prophecies.
Accuracy is not an infallible criterion of divine approval. The fundamental issue is ethical, not predictive. Further, we read in Deuteronomy 18:20-22:
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
This is all simple enough. God’s prophets must pass two tests: 1) their word must never lead the saints away from God or the Faith, and 2) their prediction must come to pass infallibly. If they do not meet these tests, they are not God’s prophets. “Thou shalt not be afraid of him.” We must never be afraid of men professing to speak in the name of the Lord, once we discover that they lie to God’s people. Liars are evil. Liars in the name of God are reprehensible.
Showing Their Inconsistency
If we hold the historic Protestant view of revelation and the canon of Scripture, we deny that prophets in the sense limned in Deuteronomy survive the canonical era. In short, we don’t need prophets, because we have the whole Bible. One Y2K false prophet assured his readers that these laws relating to the tests of and penalties for false prophets expired in AD 70.
He offered no Bible verses to verify this, and his argument did appear self-serving. It was especially ironic, since he claimed to be a theonomist — advocating “the abiding authority of Old Testament law.” Just not this Old Testament law about false prophets….
…In Old Testament Israel, these prophets would have been stoned by now (and not on millennium-celebratory Dom Perignon, either). They had better be relieved that their efforts to install a Christian commonwealth grounded in the civil laws of the Old Testament (the laws prohibiting false prophets, of course, being the notable exception) have not yet succeeded. (There is, I imagine, an up side to the incremental advance of the kingdom of God after all.)
So — the end is not yet. Gary North and others have made fools of themselves. Christianity has been accused of promoting panic among many. And it appears that some of these “prophets” have made large profits.
But, sadly, many say, “Where is the promise of His coming? All things continue as they always were.” Let us never be fooled by this thinking. His coming is at hand. We are called to watch! But let us not fall into the error of so many in the past, thinking we can declare the day and hour of His return — or the coming of His kingdom. The Word of God quoted above from the Old Testament is truly applicable: a “prophet” is revealed by the prophecy he utters.