January 10, 2000
Dear ICE Subscriber:
As you can imagine, I received a lot of criticism last week! The computers did not die, nor did the systems they support. Clearly, as of this week, I was wrong in my predictions. No man wants to be wrong for all the world to see. Had it not been for the magnitude of the threat, as I perceived it, I would not have spent all those hours at my computer, posting summaries, extracts, and links to the documentary record (www.remnant.org). I knew the risk of making a major error when I began. I will now pay a price. I do apologize if I have embarrassed you or made your life worse. It was my intention to keep your life from getting worse that led me to start the Y2K warnings.
I realized from the beginning that I was risking my reputation, or as some call it, credibility. My view at the time was that there were lives at stake, and I was willing to state the worst-case scenario. We were told by men in authority, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." I was doing my best to describe what the worst- case scenario could be. Officials said it would be like a 72-hour storm. As of this week, they were wrong. So was I. They said to get ready for terrorism. It did not come. Governors went into "bunkers" -- command centers. They were planning for what they saw as the worst. They did not tell those who had elected them to take similar precautions. They told them not to!
This letter is in response to a recent Web site essay by a critic who says that I am the New Testament equivalent of a false prophet, and should be excommunicated. I can take the heat from secular critics who said I should have kept quiet. But the charge of false prophecy is very serious. It's one thing to be a bad predictor. It's another to be a false prophet.
The key passage is Deuteronomy 18:18-22:
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. 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 (Deut 18:18-22).
A JUDICIAL OFFICE
In the Old Covenant, God used specially designated men to proclaim His truth in public. The prophet was one of two such ordained ecclesiastical authorities. The other was the priest. The king also had authority to speak in God's name, but his office was not ecclesiastical.
All three officers had the power to impose sanctions. The king could impose physical sanctions. The priest could impose ecclesiastical sanctions. But what of the prophet? The prophet, unlike the priest, had the authority to impose physical sanctions, as Elijah did to the false prophets in I Kings 18. Thus, there was an element of kingship in the office.
He could sometimes call upon God to impose sanctions directly. The obvious example was Elijah, who had two troops of 50 men consumed by fire from heaven.
And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly. And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight (II Kings 1:10-13).
The prophet put the king's men to the test. He proved his office by God's direct and immediate imposition of sanctions.
Then there was Jonah. He told the people of Nineveh that God would impose massive negative sanctions on them in 40 days. They believed him, and they repented. God then did not impose the sanctions. Why not? Because they had repented. This bothered Jonah, of course: the prediction had not come true. But God reminded him that these people had not known anything. The implication: repentance had averted the sanctions. Prophetic judgment was always two- fold: positive and negative. Repentance was always available.
The Old Covenant prophet was one who brought a covenant lawsuit against a man or a nation. He said, "If you repent, God will spare you. If you refuse, He won't." He came officially in the name of God, and behind his words were the threatened negative sanctions. The prophet's words invoked the sanctions -- not nature, not social forces, and surely not missing digits.
The prophet possessed lawful authority to tell kings and priests to change their ways, on threat of sanctions. These ordained officers -- ecclesiastical and civil -- were required to change their ways. The prophet had lawful authority over them, based on a specific call from God. The mark of this authority was two-fold: prophesying things that will happen and invoking negative sanctions when those who heard his word, meaning God's word, refused to obey.
This Old Testament office no longer exists. This is the widely held view of orthodox Christians everywhere. No unordained man today has the authority to tell civil rulers or ecclesiastical rulers to change their ways, on threat of specific sanctions imposed by God. He who attempts to do this is clearly a pseudo-prophet, but not a false prophet, since there are no true or false prophets any longer.
There was a death penalty for a false prophet. This was because there was still an office of prophet. God had said He would raise up prophets to lead the people. He said that He would "put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." God had to protect the office against interlopers who would preach that other gods be followed.
The false prophet claimed that God had put words into his mouth. Because of God's word, he claimed, people had to obey him. The king or the priest had to listen to him, on threat of God's sanctions. These were not general sanctions; they were specific sanctions for disobedience.
This office no longer exists. No one should claim that he holds this office. With the closing of the canon of Scripture, no man's word can replace the Bible. No man's word is above the Bible. But every man is required to interpret the Bible and do his best to apply it to this world. If he says, "God spoke to me personally, and the following must take place," he has spoken out of turn. He is claiming an authority that does not exist. But this is also true of civil rulers and ordained ministers of the church. It has nothing to do with the misuse of the office of prophet, which no longer exists.
I dealt with this matter in the June/July, 1998 issue of BIBLICAL ECONOMICS TODAY, in an article titled, "The Lure of Magic: Something for Nothing." Here is part of what I wrote:
A false prophet was judicially analogous to a private citizen today who makes a policeman's uniform, dons it, and then tells people what to do in the name of the law. This is illegal: the assertion of civil authority not ordained by a lawful government. The false prophet in Israel made a similar assertion. The sanction against this illegitimate assertion was execution. If there were no office of policeman today, there would be no need of civil laws against imitating one. If every police uniform were regarded as merely a funny costume, there would be no justification for imposing civil sanctions against someone who wears such a costume and then announces his authority in the name of the law. If a costume does not imply sanctions-bearing authority, it is judicially harmless. If it is judicially harmless, it is beyond civil sanctions. (A trademarked costume is protected by civil law, but only as a matter of torts: private party vs. private party. The threatened sanctions are a matter of restitution.)
The Bible is now complete. It serves as the prophet that tells people what is required of them. The voice of God is in print. No other voice can claim equal authority. Thus, there is no judicial role for a prophet in the post-A.D. 70 New Covenant era. There have been no false prophets since A.D. 70 because there have been no true prophets. Today, there are only misguided or corrupt people who claim to be prophets. Their claim is to be dismissed, not by civil law, but by ecclesiastical law. Church members who make such claims, and who demand that Christians do what they say rather than obey lawfully constituted church authorities, are to be placed under negative church sanctions. If they persist in their claims, they may have to be excommunicated. They are not to be executed.
I received no comments on this passage, one way or the other -- which (sadly) has been normal for most of my ICE newsletters for 20 years.
I did not tell church members to disobey their elders. I know of no church that told people not to prepare for Y2K. Mostly, churches kept quiet about it. I admit that I did tell one man that he should disobey his church's elders. He was a pastor, and they had told him to shut up about Y2K.
I believed that Y2K would create havoc. It still might, depending on how many bugs are still in the systems, but I will not here appeal to the "still might" argument. So, let me say without hesitation that my predictions did not come true. The events did not take place.
I put up over 6,500 documents and links (where available), along with my comments, doing my best to explain my position. I did this free of charge. I sold nothing on that Web site. I invested about 3,000 hours of my time to create that site.
In retrospect, I have doubts about my rhetorical strategy. I may have been unwise to have stated things as boldly as I did. But I felt like a man on a river's shore, frantically waving to laughing people in a boat. I had heard the roaring of what sounded to me like a waterfall, and I wanted them to pull ashore.
Specifically, before I began my Y2K projects, I consulted with mainframe programmers on the impact of Y2K. They did not agree with each other, but all of them thought it would be a major problem if it was not fixed. When I started in the fall of 1996, not many of them were optimistic that it would be fixed. I posted as many of their opinions as I could over the next three years. I made it possible for anyone to read the evidence for himself.
In my ICE letters, I was sounding a warning based on my belief in God's coming sanctions, since anything as big as Y2K seemed to be should not be dismissed as covenantally random. But at no time did I claim that if any ruler would just change his ways, the disruptions would not occur. At no time did I imply that if nations would just change their ways, the bad events could be avoided. I did not claim special revelation on the matter. I saw the missing digits as the means of God's sanctions, and I recommended that people take steps to avoid these sanctions, prepare for them, and be ready to share food with their neighbors. I did not call the nation to repentance in order to avoid Y2K. That would have been a pseudo-prophetic message.
Understand, please, that the Old Testament prophet brought a covenant lawsuit that said, "if the nation repents, the prophesied disaster will be avoided." This is what it means to know God's mind prophetically. The prophet knew that specific ETHICAL actions on the part of the hearers would lead to an ENVIRONMENTAL change: the removal of the sanctions. Jonah is the best example.
For over two years, I have sent out tapes on LEADERSHIP AFTER 1999. My focus has been on localism, personal responsibility, sharing resources, starting help ministries, building up churches. It is possible that somewhere on one of those tapes, I said something pseudo- prophetic. I don't think so, however. I have received not one criticism from anyone regarding the contents of those practical, applicational tapes. No pastor has told me of those tapes, "you are way out of line."
I had hoped that pastors would warn people in their churches to prepare. A few did. I was invited by Rev. Ernie Fitzpatrick in Houston to give a presentation to local pastors and elders on just this topic. I think my two-day presentation was well received. His church produced videotapes of the conference. His church had already done a great deal to warn all members of the threat. I wish every church in the world had done half as much. Their members would now be better prepared for independence, and the churches would be in a far better position to help the poor.
The Joseph Project (http://www.josephproject2000.org) did the same. Shaunti Feldhahn worked tirelessly to persuade pastors to take the lead in preparation. She received very little support from pastors. Laymen did support her. I posted a permanent link to her ministry on my Web site as soon as I heard about her ministry.
I went to my pastor when I moved to Arkansas. I consulted with him on Y2K. He did not see Y2K as I did, although he said from the pulpit several times that it could be a disaster. When I had my company offer to buy enough food to feed the congregation for at least six months, he agreed. The elders and deacons spent a morning putting it into buckets. It is still in a warehouse owned by one of the deacons. This is what every church should have done. I have not changed my mind on this point.
With respect to the opportunity of making gains for the kingdom in a time of great disruptions, I was forceful in my ICE letters. I aimed those letters at people who were reading detailed essays on biblical economics and Christian Reconstruction, buying fat books with hundreds of footnotes, and generally advancing themselves intellectually. I presumed that they could spot the difference between a would-be New Testament prophet and a man convinced that this would be a great opportunity to make strategic gains against humanism.
I was always careful in my statements to the general public NOT to mention God's sanctions, or Bible prophecy, or all of the other things that the public is used to hearing from satellite ministries and self-proclaimed prophets. I did not want people who had never read my books or ICE newsletters to assume that I was passing along special revelation from God. I also did not want to imitate an Old Testament prophet: "If you repent, this disaster will not occur." For the most part, I think listeners understood this. I do not remember anyone calling in to Art Bell's five broadcasts, four hours each, and asking me about prophecy. Maybe someone offered his own opinion on the air, but I did not make any such claim. In fact, I have been criticized by some Christians for not using my Web site to preach the gospel. I made it clear on my site where I stood in terms of my Christian faith, but I saw the site as a means of persuading people to believe that the threat existed. If they thought that I was serving as a spokesman for a church or religion, they might have assumed that I was just another media church huckster.
Now, why was I so adamant that God's sanctions were tied to Y2K? First, because I believed it, but not because God spoke to me, prophet-like. I just looked at the evidence, published it on the Web, and decided what it implied. It implied, I believed, a depression and maybe a social breakdown. It is my view that breakdowns are a form of God's judgment. I said so in my ICE letters. If some of my statements were so strong that someone thought I was asserting some sort of inside information from God, then I do apologize. But I do not recall receiving any admonition from any pastor who said that I was adopting the prophet's mantle. What I do recall is receiving letters from more than one frustrated pastor saying that his board of elders had threatened him with dismissal for speaking about Y2K from the pulpit.
Second, I spelled out my belief that God's hand was in Y2K because I was fearful that the U.S. Postal Service might not make it. This was why I sold ICE's books at 70% off. I have told you why: better that they be warehoused in your home than in Tyler, Texas. That's how much I believed I was correct. And it cost me. Your positive sanction -- discount prices -- was ICE's negative sanction: lower inventory. Anyway, back to my main point. With my ICE letters, I wanted readers to be confident, even in the face of a major crisis that cut off the mails, that God had a purpose in the disaster. I was not sure that I could mail to them after the bug hit. The Postal Service had been almost silent on its Y2K status. Unofficial word from inside was that its Y2K repair project was way behind.
I wanted to make an orderly transition for ICE in a more decentralized social order. This decentralization is what R. J. Rushdoony was calling for when I met him in 1962. He taught me this principle. I was afraid that communications might fail. I wanted to move from a centralized ministry, dependent on physical deliveries of pieces of paper and plastic, to one based on local action and local leaders.
I don't care if this sounds crazy now. I did not think it was crazy then. I was willing to bet my reputation on the matter. That's how much it mattered.
A critic may say today that my evidence was not ratified by the events. That's easy to say after the fact. What evidence did the critic provide to disprove mine beforehand? A few did offer evidence. Dave Hunt did. I respect him for that. But most did not.
When it is all said and done, my work is basically ICE's books, and not just the ones that I wrote. If ICE's books are good enough, then the church, including congregations, will preserve them in some form, learn from them, and apply them. Newsletters fade. Authors die. A few books survive. I hope ICE's will.
I said early on that I was betting my future reputation on Y2K. I believed that it was an all-or- nothing bet. That's what I called my January 3, 1997 issue of REMNANT REVIEW. I believed that the stakes were that high. I was determined to put all I had into the effort.
So, at this point in the aftermath of the rollover, I look foolish. I was prepared for this. I thought that it was better to risk my reputation or credibility in a life- saving effort than to tell people, "yes, Y2K will cause problems," and then refuse to define what degree of problems and what to prepare for.
If I had been unwilling to risk my reputation to save the lives or capital of my relatives, friends, and supporters, then I would have been making an idol of my reputation. If you really believe people are at risk, you tell them. But you must be willing to provide evidence. That's what I did, 25-30 hours a week, for three years, free of charge.
The negative sanctions are predictable: fewer book sales (for which I receive no royalties anyway), fewer newsletter renewals, and lower income. Plus, I will be attacked for a couple of months by the media. So what?
If God plans to bring other, more severe sanctions, I hope I have the grace to accept them without complaint, even thankfully. Obviously, I prefer to learn all of my lessons without them, but there is always enough sin in any man's life to warrant God's displeasure. Only the positive sanction of grace prevents the imposition of His fully justified negative sanctions.
Theologically, I see no requirement that anyone bring formal charges of excommunication to my church's elders, if you are planning to do this. (A critic this week publicly called for this action on a widely visited Web site not known for theology -- not naming me, but quoting from my ICE newsletters verbatim.) But if you decide to bring charges, contact Rev. Paul Sagan, Covenant Church (PCA), 4511 W. Weddington Dr., Fayetteville, AR 72704. He will tell you the formal steps that you must take to proceed.
In an economic sense, I shall suffer sanctions. I see that my role will change. Some people will be hesitant to trust my leadership. So, may I make a suggestion? Don't follow me when you think I'm wrong. Just read what I write, think about it, and decide if what I am saying makes sense. Then do what I recommend, if I am actually recommending something specific. I have no organization with a chain of command beyond two secretaries. No one marches just because I say, "March!" I publish things. If you like what I publish, use it. If you don't, don't. I think this is what you have always done anyway.
There are some things I regret. I said that Christian Reconstruction would be blamed for my position if I turned out to be wrong. I knew that a few critics of my Web site would connect me with Christian Reconstruction. This has happened in a few cases. But I did not push Christian Reconstruction on my Y2K Web site. There were only two or three documents that had links to FREEBOOKS.COM.
I took a risk in order to save lives. I probably should not have been so adamant, but this was a one-time event like no other in history. There was nothing to compare it with. I feel like Col. Bratton, who read the deciphered communications from the Japanese foreign office and concluded that the Japanese would attack on the last weekend of November, 1941. He told his superiors. The next time he said this, he had a harder time to persuade them. What saved his reputation was Pearl Harbor. But if Pearl Harbor had not happened, would critics still criticize him today for having spoken out? (Actually, no one would remember him. He had no Web site.)
Let me make another prediction: I will not predict anything again with such forceful rhetoric. If I hear that a nuclear war is about to begin, I'll limit myself to sending you an e-mail with a link to www.megaton.org.
Meanwhile, I wonder what happened to the computer experts who recommended to Citicorp's senior officers in 1995 that they fund a Y2K repair project that finally cost the bank $950 million, only to see the 19 largest Japanese banks fix it (so far) for a billion dollars, total, in the final 18 months before the rollover.
ONTO THE WEB
I am now going exclusively to the World Wide Web to publish ICE's books: http://www.freebooks.com . My commentary on Deuteronomy went up last week. My commentary on Matthew will go up next week -- a prediction, not a prophecy! People all over the world will be able to download them for free. They can already download everything ICE has published except CROSSED FINGERS: HOW THE LIBERALS CAPTURED THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, which I hope to get on-line in February.
I hope to start an ICE Web site where several authors can publish essays, where people can join discussion forums, and there is interaction. The focus, as I have said, will be practical applications of Christian principles. It will be "bread and butter" Christianity, all tied to the whole Bible. If the software I hope will be available doesn't appear on the market in February, then the project will be postponed. If debates get acrimonious, as they are on so many forums, I will cut them off. But if people want to help each other build up kingdom projects, ICE's site will be there.
I started planning to do something like this as soon as I set up FREEBOOKS three years ago. I saw where the future is: "Give it away!" I have always known this, really. I have never taken a salary from ICE, nor book royalties. I have always regarded ICE as a ministry, not a means of employment. I have donated time to it and raised money for it. That's because, by God's grace, I have been able to earn a living elsewhere. For over two decades, I have given away my ideas. Now I hope to give even more away, through the Web -- the greatest giveaway tool for ideas in human history.
"Freedom of the press is a great thing if you own one," quipped some 19th century liberal -- I forget who. But with the Web, anyone with $50 a month to spend can get one. It's God's gift to Christians. (I say this, let me assure you, not as a prophet.)
CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTION and BIBLICAL ECONOMICS TODAY served a purpose, but I find that most subscribers prefer my cover letters and my cassette tapes. I have only rarely seen my essays in CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTION and BIBLICAL ECONOMICS TODAY quoted by anyone. Books get quoted. Cover letters get read. Old newsletters mainly sit, unread. I do not plan to publish separate newsletters through e-mail, once I have the new Web site. ICE's older newsletters are posted on FREEBOOKS. There are 800 newsletters there. It's time to stop wasting ICE's money on paper and ink.
I will continue to write my economic commentaries. I may write other books, but I have promised God that I will write the commentaries.
I hope you will continue to send donations to ICE, not to support me (they never have), but to support my two very faithful secretaries and the men who do ground maintenance part-time. ICE can and will cut costs, but not to zero.
I will even tone it down rhetorically. (My commentaries are already pretty tame stuff.) I was never a false prophet, but I am now a humbled forecaster.
P.S. Don't give away your stored food just yet. Those 19 Japanese banks that fixed their systems for what Citicorp paid may not have done it just right.