Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Is Ben Shapiro an Antichrist?

A few weeks ago, I heard that a televangelist named Rick Wiles had labeled Ben Shapiro “an antichrist.” I was already familiar with Shapiro, whom as many of you know is a practicing Orthodox Jew. Wiles, on the other hand, was new to me. Most of what I was hearing about him was critical, so I decided to check out his site and get the story straight from the horse’s mouth.

You can do that yourself if you want. In a sense, it could be a good idea. No one should just have to take my word for anything. I won’t go as far as to say I recommend it, though. Wiles and his people seem never to have met an anti-Semitic trope they didn’t like. The hatred for Jewish people drips from just about every link and video.

The Wiles Attack on Shapiro

I do not think Wiles would argue that point. He seems rather to revel in it. His beliefs about Jews would be more at home in medieval than in evangelical Christianity. To hear him tell it, everything evil in the world is their fault, and they are actively seeking to undermine freedom and truth by every subterfuge imaginable.

When it comes to Shapiro in particular, Wiles’ criticisms seem to stem from two issues. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that the first one is primary. Shapiro, as one might expect of an Orthodox Jew, is not a Christian. Shocking, I know.

Now, I can agree with Wiles in at least this much, that it is a shame Shapiro (like most other Jewish people) is missing out on the promised Messiah. I’ve heard Shapiro’s arguments against the deity of Christ a few times, and I know they do not really hold up. Largely, they depend on selective assumptions and contradictions having to do with the nature of God, the prophecies of the Messiah, and the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I don’t find his arguments at all convincing. Neither would he mine. That is sad. It is not, however, a reason for anger and personal attacks. Shapiro has never attempted to destroy the Christian faith. In fact, he is a staunch defender of the rights of others to believe in it. He simply does not believe in it himself.

The other reason Wiles despises Shapiro is because Shapiro is a darling of the political right in this country. As we all know, Christians make a great deal of common cause with the conservative movement. Sometimes that has been problematic, but in general, it is a natural alliance. As a result, a number of Shapiro’s biggest fans are professing Christians. Wiles sees this as a source of great shame.

According to him, Shapiro is a financial success because “schizophrenic” Christians are buying his books and subscribing to his website. Some of Wiles’ critics have chalked this up to jealousy. Perhaps that is the case, but I was not able to find an actual example of that. So far as I can tell, there is nothing where Wiles says people should be giving to him rather than giving to Shapiro. But that is beside the point.

The point is that the United States is not a theocracy. Our government and society do not exist for the sole benefit of Christians. We have benefited greatly by it, of course, and I see the providence of God in that. But the fact remains that while Christianity has been a strong influence on our republic, Christians are not the only ones with rights within it. The conservative movement is (or should be) dedicated to defending those rights, not to securing the ascendency of the Christian faith.

I don’t think Wiles knows that. I certainly do not think he would agree. But his failure to recognize this basic truth is not the fault of the rest of us who choose to find our allies where we can get them in this world. As I already said, Shapiro is stalwart in his efforts to protect the liberties and rights of Americans, including Christian ones. His dedication does come from his faith, that is true. But let us not forget, that faith shares the same history and principles as ours. That is what makes our alliance so natural. It is not a reason to keep from attempting to lead Shapiro to the full truth, as the opportunity arises. But it is a reason to recognize the good we can do here together.

One last point does have to be made about Wiles' and his attack on Shapiro. As I mentioned previously, he labels Shapiro “an antichrist.” He has been very careful about that in the at least three times he has used this epithet in the last year. It is important, when attempting to answer this charge, to be honest about it.

Defining Antichrist

Wiles is not calling Shapiro “the Antichrist,” the end-times figure who will bring the world to ruin in his war against the things of God. There is a good question as to whether this person should even be called “the Antichrist,” though I do think the shoe fits. But biblically speaking, the title has a wider application.

As Wiles points out, our understanding of this idea should come from 1 John 2:18, 22, and 4:3, which say,

Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. By this we know that it is the last hour…. Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son…. Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.

I am not going to deny any of this, and Wiles is right to bring it to our attention. What makes him wrong is his selectiveness in choosing verses. You see, he never mentions 1 John 2:19, on which the whole discussion hinges:

They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.

Everything has to be understood in its proper context, of which this verse is an important part. The Apostle John was writing into a situation in which the young church was under fire from a rising mysticism that eventually came to be called Gnosticism. Gnosticism (at least in the form to which John was responding) taught that sin did not exist for those who had the secret knowledge of God. They taught that Jesus was not divine, but that He was possessed by a divine spirit. And they taught that the God of the Old Testament was not the true God, but a lesser spirit being who had perverted the truth.

Much more could be said about the Gnostics, but the point here is that many of them appeared at first glance to be Christians and they often joined in Christian worship. However, as their true character became known and they attempted to mislead people into their false gospel, it required that they be shunned. Eventually, as they lost influence in the churches, they began to form their own communities and further develop their heresies. The fact that they left the truth proved that they were never in it.

Therefore, John was not referring to all those who refuse to accept the deity of Christ. He was referring to those who pretend to worship Christ while actually working against Him. That is the spirit of antichrist, the thread throughout history that joins them together. I would not even go so far as to say that Wiles can be described that way, but he certainly comes closer than Shapiro.

Ultimately, the flaw in Wiles’ thinking is that it creates a “them against us” mentality for the whole world. That is not how we are supposed to behave. Do people need to know they have made themselves the enemies of God? Yes, absolutely (Rom. 5:10). Does that mean we should treat them as our enemies, to hate and attack them at every turn? That would be to completely repudiate the word of Christ (Matt. 5:43–47). No one can be reached that way.

We have a responsibility to teach people the consequences of refusing the grace of God. That does not mean treating them ungraciously. Sometimes that can be a hard line to walk. Wiles stomped on it. He deserves the blowback he is getting.

Have a question about the Bible? Want to share this article on Facebook? Interested in becoming a patron of Quest Forums? Check out the links in the sidebar!

No comments:

Post a Comment