15 August 2012

Not a Literary Theme

by Frank Turk

SHAMELESS PLUG: GUT CHECK PRESS has published a juvenile and sophomoric piece of fiction which takes a massive pot-shot at the genre of end-times dispensationalist thrillers, aptly named Beauty and the Mark of the Beast.  I mention it for two or three reasons.  First, I wrote the foreword, which is probably the last time you'll see a piece of fiction with a foreword.  Second, it's available on Kindle and will only put you out $ 2.99, so at the very least you will get $2.99 worth of laughs out of it.  Third, I promised the guys to review it three weeks ago and rather than putting the 3 hours in it takes to write a decent book review I have been serializing my Sunday School Lesson on the Goodness of God because, well, why waste a really decent prep?

So that said, go buy you a copy before you don't have any more lazy summer days to do fun reading in.  

I think it’s important here to see that David is not saying, “wow: at least it’s not as bad as it could have been.”  David is in fact saying that God has delivered him from an evil end.  On the one hand, he has been delivered from the hands of Achish who is his true enemy.  David was not put to shame to be either killed or put in debt to the enemy of God’s people.  But on the other hand, David is also delivered from Saul – who ought to be his ally and friend, but is instead jealous of him to the point of madness.

David sees God as delivering from his enemies.  But how does David justify this statement?
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
     I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
In David’s view, God is the provider of Moral refuge and Moral guidance.  Think about this: David is stuck between two kings – both rejected by God because, frankly, they are evil.  Achish is the king of the Philistines, a godless people who have been at war with Israel for generations.  Saul was chosen to lead Israel, but this is what God says of Saul: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” Both Saul and Achish are, simply put, foolish men.  They both are enemies of God, and they reject the idea that God has a right way for a man – even a King – to follow.

This is why, by the way, David’s view of this is different than mine.  In my view, if God promised me something, he should deliver it right now – or else he’s the one at fault.  In my view of it, God should stop making me wait for things he promised me.  In Achish’s view of it, we ought to be able to trust in a Giant, and a wooden Idol.  In Saul’s view of it, the king should be able to trust in himself, and maybe his son.  But these are the tasteless views of God, the views not prepared to receive what God is really doing in the world.

David doesn’t see it that way at all.   David sees that Achish is in fact surrounded by madmen – in his own words.  And Saul is himself a madman – a murderous man who can’t decide whether he wants his son to be king or to be cursed – as long as David is no longer in the way.   For both, when trouble comes, there is no place to turn to.  There is no hope for a long life, good days, or peace.  In David’s view, the first provision of God to people in trouble is wisdom.  This is a huge theme in the Old Testament – a theme which gives us, among other things, the book of Proverbs.  But David isn’t talking about a literary theme here: he is talking about what God’s provision is in a world where we are literally surrounded by crazy people: God give us moral, ethical counsel so that we may live in a way which is actually good for us.

When trouble comes, what God has given us is instruction in righteousness.  That is: we don’t do these things because we are especially good.  We don’t even do them because we think it makes us better people – because our instinct in hard times is to be afraid of the future, and afraid of the consequence of not looking out for ourselves.  David tells us that we behave in a wise way because we believe God.  We have received good counsel from Him about the right way to live – and how to know that men like Achish and Saul are, frankly, wrong.

Maybe you’re nothing like me, and this seems really obvious to you.  But here’s the thing: Unless I am mindful of this view of God as Good, I will neglect his counsel to me.  In hard times, I am prone to look inside myself for what I ought to do to fix my own problems – rather than simply keeping my tongue from deceit and turning away from evil and toward the good.  I am prone to look for what looks right in my own eyes to fix what ails me.

But more tellingly: when things are good, I am no less willing to simply do whatever it is that occurs to me rather than taking the full counsel of God which is worth more than mere comfort.

David here cuts under both of these tasteless views and says it plainly: the fear of the Lord is found in obeying Him, and trusting His good counsel.


FX Turk said...


donsands said...


I have been reading 1st Kings and Solomon is now the king, and our Lord said to him: "if you will walk before Me, as David your dad walked, in integrity of heart and upright, to keep my commandments,... then I will establish your throne."

First thought for me is David had some horrible sin in his life, and yet God says David is upright.

Yet, David surely needed the Spirit to help him, as we do. It's nice to read a good teaching, and then throw out your heart a little. It was a crazy morning for me and my business, and yet I was able to say, "God had a few suprises for us this morning. He is a good Lord."

Thanks for the good post Cent.

Kerry James Allen said...

Cheer up, Frank. Spurgeon (and Christ Jesus) had more one-starrers than you or I ever will. I daresay whoever it is is absolutely worthless for Christ's service and does nothing for Christ's glory if he (she?) is even saved. "Those Christian people who do nothing are usually troublesome, for they are at leisure to find fault with those who are doing their best." CHS
And if they are saved, I suppose they will receive the ultimate one star rating: 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.

Luke Wolford said...

I came across this in my sermon prep this morning. It seems appropriate to the subject. He's speaking about Genesis 2:16-17.

"The inference of God’s commands in vv.16–17 is that God alone knows what is good (ṭôḇ) for man and that God alone knows what is not good (raʿ) for him. To enjoy the “good” man must trust God and obey him. If man disobeys, he will have to decide for himself what is good (ṭôḇ) and what is not good (raʿ). While to modern man such a prospect may seem desirable, to the author of Genesis it is the worst fate that could have befallen him. Only God knows what is good (ṭôḇ) for man. Only God can know what is good."

John H. Sailhamer, "Genesis" In , in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 45.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

So simple a child can understand it and so difficult for sinners like us we can't even learn it in a lifetime. Thank you for the reminder that we will always need.

Rubin O. Wits said...

I thought this blog was discontinued (?)

I'm glad it's not.

Anonymous said...

Re: your shameless plug...the title alone is worth the $2.99. Can't wait to read it!

Andrew Lindsey said...

centuri0n: Based on your "shameless plug," I must say that you are terrible at selling books. What do you do for a living?

FX Turk said...

I'm a wind farmer.

Solameanie said...

Given the subject of the book as I understand your intro to the post, does this mean that eschatology will now be discussed on Pyromaniacs? (Joel briskly runs for the nearest exit) ;)

DJP said...

Given the description of this book, maybe "Jealousy" or "Sour grapes"?

DJP said...

...except that Frank says he likes it.

FX Turk said...

We discuss eschatology here: Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. Those with faith in Him shall be saved from their sins as those sins have been categorically and finally dealt with in his death; those without faith in Him shall stand before the judgment of the only Holy God with no excuse, and will find know that their punishment is just and sure.

His kingdom will have no end.


Unknown said...

Well then! What further eschatology do we need?

James Scott Bell said...

is a knee-jerk one star "hater" different in kind from a knee-jerk five star fan boy? Just curious.

Yes, Left Behind is good spec-fic but terrible theology.

Yes, God is good. All the time.

FX Turk said...

JD -

Only if one of them is me, Johnny, in which case you will find a way to disparage them.


Anonymous said...

You know, putting "dispensational" on that book is really a gratuitous slap in the face to the CalviDispie brothers. "Pot shot" is the right way to put it; it's designed to provoke a lot of chuckles and elbow-nudgings between young, dumb seminarians who haven't yet learned how to love.

Further, haven't brothers LaHaye and Jenkins been ridiculed enough? Writing another satire on Those Crazy Rapture People is one thing, and throwing a tree trunk on the Reformed Bonfire of the Dispies is another. We'd like to pitch our tents with you, the doctrines of grace being more important than eschatology. Please stop throwing us under the bus.

FX Turk said...

brady: you obviously haven't read the book, and that makes you part of the problem.

Brady Bush said...

Part of what... problem...?

Unless it's an unfortunately-titled book actually promoting unity among the brothers, I can't imagine what you're talking about.

To head off any unnecessary dissension, let me clarify: it's the mere labeling of a send-up of popular rapture fiction as "dispensational" that I object to. It may be an uproarious book; I'm not really interested. I'd just like to see the label Dispensational pulled out of the semantic realm of pulp fiction and given the credit for the robust systematic theology it is. I bristle every time I hear it immediately connected to LaHaye. We don't give Covenantalists and, say, Doug Wilson, the same treatment.

Zachary Bartels said...

Brady, here is the first thing you see upon "opening" the book:


(Obligatory, Painfully Obvious, Over-the-Top Disclaimer)

"What you’re about to read is, of course, a Gut Check Press satire. But here’s the thing you need to know: it’s not meant to mock, parody, or satirize Classical or Progressive Dispensationalism as theological systems, nor to skewer any of the respectable theologians who have devoted themselves to the study of same. Although none of us subscribe to any form of Dispensationalism, we do believe in theological diversity as touches non-essential, outlying matters of faith, and have respect for all systems that adhere to and emphasize the core doctrines of Christianity, Dispensationalism included.

On the contrary, this is a satire of what Christian pop culture has done with these things; it’s a satire of (among many other things) what we like to call Dispensensationalism. In these pages, we are at times poking at our own foibles, but mostly offering up some healthy yucks at a yucky phenomenon which places non-essentials at the center of the Faith and revels in carrying these non-essentials to absurd extremes—a practice which is, at best, a distraction from the preaching of the Gospel and, at worst, an impediment to it."

The cover really should say "Dispen-sensational thriller," although without reading the disclaimer, most would probably just see that as a slap at Dispensationalists everywhere as well...

Brady Bush said...

Well then, I stand joyfully corrected.

Maybe that disclaimer ought to be placed at the top of this post....

GutCheckPress said...


Van Impe, Camping, and Jack Chick are skewered in this book. Phil Johnson, Dan Philips, and John MacArthur: not so much.

It's about the hysteria that seems to follow this topic around. And if we're not allowed to write a hysterical parody, how can we accurately satirize it? As to "hasn't Left Behind been mocked enough?" there's almost no overlap between this satire and the Left Behind books. If you doubt that the topic of insane eschatological claims is not relevant today, then you haven't been paying attention. It's 2012, after all...

Brady Bush said...

People are going to make the Left Behind connection, especially when you have "dispensational" emblazoned on the cover.

I liked the premise for Young, Restlesser and Reformeder. It was a much-needed send-up of young buck cage-stagers. The Covenant-Dispensational fissure is much more sensitive. We need unity in the camp. We need to talk to each other like adults, ignoring the fringe elements.

I suppose there are two ways to look at eschatological "hysteria" - an opportunity to sit in the seat of scoffers, or an opportunity to teach the Bible's clear truth on the end times. I'd rather we spent our last precious days as God's fools, insisting on the reality of the foolish, and not be found wasting our time taking cracks at brothers. The world's cornered the market on that.

FX Turk said...


Given that I did actually say what the Bible clearly says here in the comments, again you prove you are part of the problem.

Good Night.

Brady Bush said...

Sorry you feel that way, Frank. I'm picking at the bone here because many people, perhaps including me, aren't able to parse your irony. It sure did sound like you were endorsing the book.

Clear away the smoke. Dispensationalists are lepers in the Reformed camp. This juvenile potshot, as you say, is at least not worthy of our time and at most injurious to the - according to Covies - weaker brother. Enough, I say.

Everyone enjoys a good laugh at Harold Camping. Why not? He's low hanging, unrepentant fruit. But this is packaged as a hardy guffaw at the loony Dispies. Hopefully everyone will make it to the first few pages. If not, it's just lighter fluid.

That you dismiss me as part of an unnamed problem is disturbing. Do you think I'm one of those unhinged date-setters? I love the Lord, the church, and the word. I am not KJVO, I assure you I am perfectly sane. I only want to see more sobriety among us. I have a good sense of humor about some things; ridiculing the brothers isn't one of them.

Stephen said...

Frank, maybe whenever you get around to writing your book, you could make it a sensational (non)fiction thriller about when you had a near-death experience, visited heaven, then came back to life and personally ushered in the millennial reign of Christ.

Kerry James Allen said...

Wow. I never realized how many people Frank could enrapture just by writing a foreword.

FX Turk said...

Brady: That's what they all say. Hence: the problem.

FX Turk said...

Kerry: That's why I'm a menace and must be stopped.

Kerry James Allen said...

You will be stopped. At the Rapture! Until then, we will just be enraptured by your writings.

Tom Chantry said...

You will be stopped. At the Rapture! Until then, we will just be enraptured by your writings.

If Frank's gonna be raptured, how do I arrange to be Left Behind?

Brady Bush said...

Frank, like a brother, what is the problem? Tell me my fault without the snark. Is it that I'm dispensationalist? Or that I don't find the book funny?

Zachary Bartels said...

I'm surprised you bought the book and that you read it already! Surely you wouldn't say you don't find it funny without reading it?! Maybe you laugh until your eyes bled. Or maybe you can judge books by their covers because you have a chip on your shoulder. I can't speak for the one and only TURK, but that might be what makes you part of the problem. I'd say, "Learn to laugh at yourself," but you wouldn't even have to do that to appreciate (or ignore) a light-hearted ha-ha book that gets some yucks at Christian culture's tendency to blow things out of proportion. You can read Turk's foreword on Amazon (via the "Look Inside" feature), where you'll see that he's not taking a swipe at Dispensationalists for their Dispensationalism, but is making light of the scare-mongering-for-entertainment-and-profit that is so prevalent in pop-level eschatological writings, TV programs, and Christian movies.

If you're still mad, it's because you want to be.

Zachary Bartels said...

...and if the Rapture happened right now, my only response on the way up would be "WOOO HOOOOO!!!!!"

DJP said...

Zach, I think Brady's point is plain enough and valid, I think you're not listening to him, and I think the meta should get back to Frank's excellent post on the goodness of God.

And since I'm a blog moderator, unless Frank wants to overrule me on his own meta (which he certainly may), that means "do it."

Zachary Bartels said...

That's fine, although (as Frank has also stated several times), I think Brady's point is neither clear nor valid.

As to the goodness of God: I'm fer it!