"My family is paranoid about the end times." A conversation with a Friend

Hi Dr. Pendergrass!

I've really learned a lot from reading your blog and listening to your podcasts. Thank you for all your hard work and the effort you put into making all of this available!

I have 2 items I'd like to get your input on.  First, I listened to one of your podcasts that mentioned getting the Translators Study Bible.  Is this something that would be beneficial for a layperson?  Do you have any other suggestions for materials for study purposes?

Next question is concerning my in-laws and their (what I perceive to be) obsession with prophecy and the apocalypse.  They read every John Hagee, Perry Stone and Jonathan Cahn book out there.  They are thoroughly convinced that a big event is coming this September and are even planning to spend $6,000 on a back-up generator.  Now, I know it's their business how they want to spend their money...but I just wonder if there's a way to get them to think about these things rather than just whole-heartedly believing them.  They did the same thing during y2k and at other times.  

Not sure if you have suggestions for ways to get into conversations with them that will make them think?

Thank you for any input you have to offer.  I really appreciate it!

Columbus, Ohio

Hi Friend,

Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m elated that you have learned from my efforts.

Here are some thoughts:

First, the Study Bible I recommend the most is The New Interpreter’s Study Bible. (Click here to buy it on Amazon). What makes it a great study Bible is the fact that the notes below the text and the short essays throughout are almost always exceptional. Moreover, the team of scholars who wrote the notes are from a broad spectrum of denominations and are fine scholars.

The translations I prefer, regardless of the Bible you purchase or the app you use, are the NET, ESV, and NRSV. (I use this app often.)

Also, I'd download the app by Logos (click here). It is AMAZING. It has several Bible dictionaries that are really great and respected (they start with the name, Dictionary of...); anything that starts with IVP is great; the Hard Sayings of the Bible is great; and a few others.

Second, that’s a great question about your family. I know people like them. I used to think “that’s just crazy.” And perhaps it is. But…now in my old age…I have more understanding. J I think a few things about this:

(1)    I don’t know why there is such foment about this for certain persons. I have several theories mostly having to do with psychological/emotional motivations in such persons. But, the best thing to do is to ask them. “Hey, I notice that you really like to think and talk about some final event. Why is that? Why do you think your interest in it is so much greater than almost all other people?” A follow up question might be: “What do you hope to accomplish by ‘being ready’?” And then, "Where in the Bible does it say to get ready like the way you're doing?"

I say this because I think it’s very helpful (and kind) to attempt to see it from their perspective. I know it helps me to be more empathetic when I can “get in their shoes.”

(2)    Concerning prophecy and the apocalypse, I might ask them, “What it is about Hagee’s interpretation that you find so compelling?” A follow up might be, “Have you ever read other authors besides them?”

These questions help you know their side. But, ultimately, of course, as adults it’s up to them to care about what they want to care about. If they want to spend $32,000 on survival tools, so be it. Yes, I think it’s a bit silly; but, it’s not my money.

What I find helpful when I speak to people who hold such views is, after I ask them the questions and listen carefully, is that they are usually open to having a conversation. If your family does that, then it’s your turn to give alternative views. Be sure to familiarize yourself with at least some minimum other views. For example:

Hagee's views are indicative of a view called "Dispensationalism." I haven't written on this topic yet online (though I've taught about it for over a decade). So, here are some quick references to it from a person I really respect: watch this Video and read this PowerPoint presentation.

Also, this overview might be helpful (click here).

I might say something like this to them: “Well, first, I really appreciate that you want to take the text seriously. I do too. We’re on the same page with that. It’s just that, the great majority of authors, and nearly every biblical specialist/scholar on the planet, doesn’t read the Bible the way they do. I’ve read a few books that give really good, compelling interpretations of those events. They put what Jesus and Paul and others said in their historical contexts and boy…it just comes to life. They also believe in the authority of Scripture. It’s just that their views are radically different than Hagee’s. I’d really encourage you to read what they have to say too.”

Of course, it means you need to have read them.  I’ve linked them so you can click to Amazon. I’d start with Craig Hill’s work.

Here are some suggestions, for what it’s worth:

These are specific books on the book of Revelation:
Ben Witherington, III, Revelation

And...if I'm wrong...can we stay with y'all in September? I don't own a generator. :)