by Phil Johnson
xactly ten years ago this week I preached in our church's morning service. I can't remember if John MacArthur was ill or suddenly called out of town for some reason, but I remember being asked very late to fill in. I had about 24 hours to prepare.
It being the first Sunday of 1999, I decided to preach an appropriately forward-looking message on Matthew 6:34 and its context: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."
In those days, the evangelical world was at the peak of the Y2K insanity, so I made reference to that issue in my message. At the time, Gary North was operating a heavily-trafficked website that included this:
North's Web site had links to more than 3,000 places where you could read similar doom-and-gloom predictions about the Y2K crisis. He grimly told visitors to his Web site that they had better heed these doomsday warnings, or they would certainly regret it.
Today, he admits, "I did not understand the Y2K thing in any sort of detail. I took someone elses [sic] word for it. . . ."
At the time, he was saying:
(It frankly amused me that a postmillennialist like North, who had frequently derided premillennialists by referring to them as "pessimillennialists" would himself make a career of fear-mongering. But that is just what he has done. So much for the vaunted "optimism" of theonomic postmillennialism.)
In my message that morning a decade ago, I pointed out that the spirit of that kind of panic-mongering was 180 degrees at odds with a whole string of Jesus' commands in Matthew 6:25-33. I mostly just explained the biblical text.
I admit I wasn't prepared for the reaction I got that morning. There was a smallish group of people in the church who were fully into the Y2K hysteria, and they approached me in a phalanx as soon as the service was over. The guy who would have been their spokesman (if his wife hadn't kept interrupting him) was so angry he was red in the face and spitting when he talked. He said he was going to meet with the elders and demand equal time to tell the people of Grace Church they needed to start stockpiling food and preparing for the looming crisis. He likened me to me a holocaust denier.
I stood there and listened to them for ten minutes or so until they began to calm down a bit. I let them talk and did not interrupt, except to ask how they thought Matthew 6:25-34 applied to our society in 1999.
As the spokesdude began to lose some of his steam, he said, "Look: all I know is that if you're wrong, you are guilty of placing the people of our church in mortal jeopardy by not encouraging them to stockpile food and prepare Y2K bunkers. But if I'm wrong, the worst that will happen is that I will have to come back and apologize to you for losing my temper."
"Will you do that?" I asked.
"Of course I would—if it turns out I am wrong," he avowed. "But I am not wrong."
"I will look for you on the first Sunday of the year 2000," I promised.
He moved to a remote part of Idaho that fall because he wanted to be as far as possible from any urban area when all the computers started spewing bad data. One of the hard-core Y2K aficionados in the group actually left his wife when it came to light that she did not share his fear of the coming apocalypse. He likewise moved out of state.
Ten years after the fact, not one of that group of Y2K cadets has ever come back and formally acknowledged that they were wrong, much less apologized for the scene they made that morning.
Gary North is now selling doomsday advice for a monthly fee—"approximately the cost of one movie ticket, a large box of popcorn, and a large soft drink per month."
My advice: the popcorn is much healthier for you.
Even if you load it with butter.