Feathers for Worms
I’m concerned that focusing our attention on “end-of-the-world” prophecies could bring an end to our credibility. Sharing social media posts about the latest apocalyptic theories from doomsday preachers could cost you more than you realize.
Let’s begin with a parable. One day long ago, over the hot sands of a Middle Eastern country, a white skylark flew in joyous loops about the sky. As she swooped near the earth, she heard a merchant cry out, “Worms! Worms! Worms for feathers! Delicious worms!” The skylark circled about the merchant, hungry at the mention of worms, but puzzled about what the merchant meant. Seeing that the skylark was interested, the merchant motioned her nearer. “Come here, my little friend. Come! See the lovely worms I have!”
Cautiously, the skylark landed and cocked her head to the merchant. “Come! Taste the juicy worms!” The skylark became aware that she was, indeed, quite hungry. And these worms looked bigger and tastier than any she had ever dug for herself out of the hardscrabble ground of the desert. The skylark hopped closer and put her beak up close to the worm. “Two worms for a feather, my friend. Two worms for merely one!”
The skylark was unable to resist. And she had, after all, so many feathers. So, with a swift motion she pulled out a feather-just a small one-from beneath her wing and gave it to the merchant. “Take your pick, my little friend … any two, your heart’s desire!” The skylark quickly snatched up two of the plumpest worms and swallowed her meal with delight. Never before had she tasted such wonderful worms. With a loud chirp, she leapt into the air and resumed her joyful flight.
Day after day the skylark returned. And always the merchant had wonderful worms to offer: black ones and blue ones, red ones and green ones, all fat and shiny and iridescent. But one day, after eating her fill, the skylark leapt again into the air-and to her horror, she fell to the ground with a thud. She was unable to fly!
All at once with a shock she realized what had happened. From eating the delicious worms she had grown fatter and fatter; and she had plucked her feathers one by one, first her body, then her tail, and finally her very wings had grown balder and balder. Horrified, she remembered how, slowly, imperceptibly, day by day, it had been getting harder and harder to fly, and how she had told herself it was no matter. She could always stop before it was too late. Now suddenly here she was, trapped on the ground. 1
Our Credibility is Vital to Our Mission
I don’t understand why men like Irvin Baxter spend their time coming up with one ridiculous end-time prediction after another.
Wait, actually I do understand it. It’s about money. He is selling something, after all.
Baxter’s family-run company generates at least a few million dollars per year. But his gain is our loss. He acquires money while we all lose credibility. What must the average person think when they glace at these predictions that you share over social media year after year?
” If the men making these failed predictions have been proven wrong so many times in the past, what else are they wrong about? Why should I believe anything they - or other Christians - say about the Bible?”
As followers of Jesus, our entire purpose on earth is to convince others to believe certain things that we ourselves have come to believe. In fact, the terms “Christians” and “believers” are used interchangeably. What is it that we believe? Well, everything the Bible teaches us about the value, purpose and meaning of our very existence. And our conduct is expected to be so effective at expressing those beliefs that others are persuaded to join us in learning and expressing them.
If we do or say anything that causes others to doubt our message or question our credibility, we have lost our most valuable asset and failed at our only purpose.
Someone once asked me why I respond so harshly to social media posts about end-time prophecies. Well, here’s why. When we are consistently wrong about our end-of-the-world predictions, we slowly erode others’ confidence in anything we say. And our credibility is vital to our mission.
Today, I actually found Baxter’s name mentioned in another article about the “blood moon” nonsense. He is mentioned along with notable “end-time prophecy” preachers like John Hagee, Mark Biltz, David Meade and others.
Here’s what the article says about Baxter:
Endtime Ministries' Irvin Baxter, who has made a number of failed predictions since the mid-1980s, is among those who point to passages in the Book of Joel. He has said: "The Bible teaches that end event is coming just ahead of us now and that will be the greatest prophetic fulfilment in the last 2,000 years."The Daily Star
Even if you believe everything that comes out of Baxter’s mouth, can you see how fruitless it is to invest ourselves in these kinds of predictions? Why should we even get involved in such nonsense? No matter how many times you guess about when the world will end, you can only ever be correct one time. Just once! But your chances of being wrong increase with every guess. So what is there to gain from all this guessing? What’s the point? To scare people into believing the Bible? Someone might say, “Well, the Bible does say, ‘And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire’.” But after “a number of failed predictions,” nobody is concerned by what you’re saying anymore.
I would like to ask Mr. Baxter, what are your honest expectations when you publish this nonsense? Are you hoping for something like, “Hey honey.. that guy who has been wrong about the end of the world on multiple occasions has released yet another article stating that the end of the world will now take place on Tuesday afternoon. Maybe we should give our hearts to Jesus sometime before then, just in case..?”
Instead of wildly guessing about possible dates for the apocalypse, why not make it a point to declare in public only those things which we know are verifiable and well-attested in Scripture? Why not use the public square for more fruitful discussions and interactions that actually increase our trustworthiness as representatives of God rather than destroying it? As Paul admonished us, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-9). Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed those remarks when he wrote, “Your life as a Christian should make nonbelievers question their disbelief in God.”
Worms for Sale
Now, I admit there is a market for the kind of content Irvin Baxter is peddling. People seem completely enthralled at the chance to give him their money in order to “know” something that the rest of the world doesn’t - in this case, when the world will end. And if there are some fools out there who are willing to keep paying the boy to cry wolf, so be it. It is a free country, as they say. My issue with Baxter (and others like him) is that he mingles Scriptures with his crazy opinions in order to pass them off as Bible prophecies.
Even if he genuinely believes his own nonsense, I wish he were willing to say, “You know what… As much as I enjoy this fool’s errand of trying to predict when the world will end, I recognize that every time I’m wrong, I lose more of the credibility I need to effectively convince the world of the truthfulness of the Bible’s claims. For that reason, I will no longer publicly share my opinion about such matters, and will instead pursue it only as a personal hobby.”
I personally think it’s a complete waste of time and energy to constantly try to fit every new political figure into end-time cast of characters or to explain how any random unique astronomical alignments almost certainly mark the beginning of the end. As a result, I don’t fund his “ministry” at all. But there are some who hang on Baxter’s every word, and others who apparently find his predictions amusing or diverting. Though they may not share his particular views, there are plenty of people who pay to hear him speak at events and buy his products. I can only assume they see it as some form of entertainment. So obviously it’s not a complete waste of time and energy for Irvin Baxter. After all, he has made a fortune peddling his entertainment-as-prophecy. But I’m not so concerned with what he has gained as I am in what we’ve lost - which is nothing less than our credibility.
Think of that. We’re willing trade our very purpose in exchange for something we could easily and cheaply get by other means. We lose credibility when we consume and promote the sort of nonsense he offers. Like the skylark in the parable, we exchange our feathers for worms, trading the invaluable for the worthless.
- I first read this parable in Alan Hirsch’s book, Untamed [return]