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Fight, Flight, or Faith: How to Survive the Great Tribulation by Charles Cooper
How should Christians respond to the Antichrist and Violence?
A Review and interaction with Charles Cooper’s book.
The Church in the United States has a wide variety of opinions on the end times. The majority of conservative Christian churches teach that believers (The Church or Body of Christ) will be taken out of the earth and to safety (Pre-Tribulation rapture) before the outpouring of God’s wrath occurs during what is often called the (7 year) tribulation. Those who believe they will be raptured before this terrible time see no need to prepare for a tribulation period. There is a growing movement in the Church though that teaches believers will not be raptured before the Antichrist begins to brutalize and kill Christians.
The first four years of my Christian life I also believed in a Pre-Trib rapture and that the Church would be gone before the time of testing. Later I read a book by Marvin Rosenthal (The Pre-Wrath Rapture) that opened my eyes of understanding an made many prophetic verses make sense to me. The last few years I have felt God’s leading to be prepared for tough times (whether that is the end times tribulation, or other situation such as a natural disaster or terrorism)
Charles Cooper has written a unique book on a topic that is very seldom discussed: What can a Christian do to prepare for entering and experiencing persecution during the tribulation (or "Great Persecution" as Cooper likes to refer to this time). How should a Christian respond to the persecution, difficulty obtaining food, and violence they may well experience? Charles Cooper’s book focuses on how a Christian should prepare for this time of great persecution and respond during it. Cooper’s book has some excellent points at times, but I was very disappointed with many of his arguments (His previous book: "God’s Elect and the Great Tribulation – An Exposition of Matthew 24:1-31 ad Daniel 9," I really enjoyed). I believe many of his arguments are filled with "straw men" and are not carried out to their conclusions. This article will discuss the ideas I agree with and disagree with in each chapter. In my conclusion I will summarize his ideas and then give what I believe to be a better response. My main goal is to help fellow Christians to think through the issues involved in survival, defending others, persecution, and hopefully encourage you to make good choices that will help you to be better prepared.
(Book) Introduction (p. 1-6):
Regardless of when we believe the rapture will occur, there will be believers who will be persecuted and killed (probably millions) by the Antichrist and Satan during the time of persecution (tribulation). The author discusses a little history and the other prevalent views (pre-tribulation and post-tribulation) of the rapture and end times. I agree with him totally that "one day there will be a final generation of humanity to experience the climatic events of this present world order. The old adage that end-time events "will pan out" will not be taken so lightly by that generation" (p.4-5).
On a side note, If the truth turns out to be a pre-trib rapture then I have lost nothing (I’ll be gone and have nothing to worry about). On the other hand, if the pre-trib rapture is wrong and Christians enter the tribulation then I believe most will not be prepared. Many may doubt the Christian faith as a result or suffer needlessly.
The introduction is the only chapter is Cooper’s book that I do not have major misgivings about. While I agree with him in the introduction, I believe the rest of his book will leave Christians ill-prepared for the time of testing that is coming upon the present or a future generation.
Chapter One: Survival Options (Flight, Fight or Faith)
Chapter 1 emphasizes that we need to be prepared "Should our generation be God’s sovereign choice to face it, you need to be prepared."
Cooper lays the foundation in this chapter for what I believe to be the central weakness of his book. Three possibilities are given for how a Christian can respond and prepare for this time of persecution:
This chapter is so biased in its representation it is difficult to know where to start.
There are two main errors in the authors presentation that I believe distort the rest of his presentations throughout the book. The two main areas disagree with are:
I have read a dozen books, dozens of articles, and hundreds of posts on "survival" websites over the last several years and none (not one!) would recommend that believers follow the examples that Cooper gives of those "Fighting" or "Fleeing." For example:
Cooper, in an effort to support his views on ‘faith’ creates two examples that are inaccurate and extreme from the start. The author could have emphasized the importance of faith during the great persecution without creating these distorted stories.
This brings me to what I believe may be the greatest weakness of this chapter: Faith is ONLY being exercised by William and Gracie. In Cooper’s view, it is not possible to prepare for the great persecution by stocking up on extra food and supplies… only by "building their faith." Nobody in Coopers view could exercise faith AND chose to defend their families. Nobody in Coopers view could exercise faith AND store extra supplies, food, clothing and other essentials (which parenthetically would come in handy in other situations such as a natural disaster or terrorism). Here is a practical example from my life: A couple of nights ago the temperature here in Nebraska was -20 degrees (actual temperature before windchill). I chose to prepare previously by purchasing a kerosene heater in case the heat or electricity were to go out. Was that a lack of faith on my part or prudent planning?
It has been my experience that many Christians are exercising their faith BY preparing for bad times. They understand bad times may be coming and so they are choosing to prepare to provide for their families and for the needs of those who may not have prepared properly. The Bible says that Faith without works is dead. If someone truly believes the Bible is true, can they not prepare? If I say I believe the end times are coming but choose to do nothing, is that true faith? Joseph (in the Old Testament) was instructed by God to prepare for a coming time of famine. Was he walking in faith by storing up food (which saved himself, his family, and many others) or should he instead have taken Coopers admonishment that "God’s Will shall be done" and "God has decreed the destiny of all believers" (so just build your faith and the rest will work itself out as God intends).
Who will people listen to during the great persecution: those who have developed their faith AND prepared (and as a result are able to feed and help others) or William who focused on ‘building his faith’ but did nothing to prepare? In the end I believe those who have built their faith and prepared for the end times will be the ones who end up feeding and taking care of people like William who knew the truth about the end times but did nothing to prepare for their needs (food, preps, protection).
Chapter Two: Fight
Cooper deals with the issue of self-defense (fighting back) in chapter 2. The author believes that a Christian should never fight back or attempt to defend themselves against the Antichrist. Cooper uses several verses in the chapter that are more general in nature than just the tribulation time period. He teaches that "anyone who attempts to stay alive by killing others will himself be killed…Violence as a means of protection or retribution…. will produce an effect opposite that desired by those who engage in such activity (p.14). Why should they not defend themselves? Because "Behind the Lord’s injunction is the recognition that God’s sovereign will shall be done." (p.14). In essence he is saying that if it is God’s will that you die a horrible, terrible death, it will happen so why fight it?
If I had to pick one word to describe Cooper’s position, it would be pacifism. Cooper takes a strong pacifist position that a believer should never use any kind of force to defend themselves. What is Cooper’s position on defending the helpless and other ‘third parties’? Cooper I believe conveniently does not discuss the obligation of Christians to defend the fatherless, widows, downtrodden and others in need of help. There are several places I disagree with what Cooper teaches in this chapter.
Chapter Three: Flight
The author believes that it will be "next to impossible" to hide from Satan and the Antichrist. Almost the entire chapter is devoted to the reasons Cooper believes Christians will not be able to hide from the Antichrist. Why would a Christian want to hide from the Antichrist? Cooper states "Naturally, the primary reason for this thinking is self-preservation." The author appears to take as fact that the main reason a family might want to hide from the Antichrist is self-preservation (which seems to be the wrong reason from Coopers perspective).
The authors whole argument (mainly that the technology is so advanced and powerful) seems to be based on faulty thinking. There just aren’t enough satellites and technology to track all of these Christians. The author believes that those who attempt to protect their families are not walking in faith. This division in Coopers thinking between Flight, Fight , or Faith is a weak and unrealistic division. Someone who prepares, plans, gets ready for a time of persecution can be walking in and exercising just as much faith as the person who does not prepare, plan, or get ready for persecution.
Chapter Four: Faith
"Since the Great Persecution has God’s sanction in that He will allow it, fighting or fleeing will prove poor options to sustain one’s life. The biblically mandated option is faith." (p.39).
The proper course of action according to Cooper is to ‘build their faith’ (and not attempt to do any planning or preparation that might help a Christian and their family to survive a time of testing.
I agree with the author that it is vital that Christians build their faith. I agree that having a strong, vibrant, and growing faith and trust in God is more important than the preparations and planning that Christians might do as the end times draw closer.
I disagree though that a strong faith is opposed to preparation and planning for the possible coming persecution. Cooper appears to believe that any kind of preparation or planning shows a lack of trust in God. Later in the book (p.184) he seems to indicate that planning/preparing shows a lack of total dependency on God. He gives as examples of planning and preparing several things that can lead to or show a lack of complete trust in God: buy health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, Social Security, and other things. Let’s just look at life insurance. I love and trust God. I believe I will have a long life, but it is possible that I may die tonight or tomorrow. I have two young children who would suffer greatly if I died (not just from losing a parent but my salary). Without my providing for them (through life insurance) they would very rarely be able to see their mom (who would have to work significantly more hours). A Christian who is not planning and preparing for their families future I believe is exercising presumption and not faith. Cooper’s conception of faith seems to have a lot in common with the "faith teachers."
At one point in my life when I was a young Christian I read and believed much of what the ‘faith teachers’ said about faith. While they might not tell you to not see a doctor, the underlying idea was that it was OK to see a doctor if your faith was ‘weak.’ I remember at one point I developed an ear infection. I was in the Army at the time and worked in an Army hospital. I could have seen a doctor at any time. Instead I believed that God was going to heal my infection through faith. After almost a week of the infection was so bad I could not lay my head on my pillow to sleep. God helped me to see that while He could have healed me instantly, He also could use medicine and other means to bring healing. Faith has many facets to it.
Coopers view of Faith seems to be only reactive and not proactive. His book emphasizes (over and over again) the importance of faith and building your faith, but stops there. He discusses faith in the context of how you will react when being killed by the Antichrist. His book lacks the proactive element: how the believer should allow his faith to influence what can be done now to prepare or plan for persecution. When faith is discussed and demonstrated in the Bible, there almost always is some action or behavior associated with it. Noah believed God and built an Ark. Abraham believed God and left his home country. Joseph believed God and stored 7 years of food to save the lives of thousands of people. James 1:22 says "But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." Please explain to me (if you have read Coopers book) how we are to put our faith into action… how we are to be doers of the word? The author repeatedly gives emphasizes that we are to build our faith so that when it comes time to die, we will be good witnesses. Is that the only reason to build our faith?
Chapter Six To Nine: The Nature and Character of Faith
"Faith cannot and need not be increased in increments…" (p.141). "… the issue is never a matter of the size of one’s faith, but whether one has faith at all." (p.141). If you have any faith, you have all the faith you need to ‘survive’ the great tribulation. Faith does not need to ‘incrementally’ grow. By gaining more knowledge on a specific topic, the more a Christians faith will grow.
I found many, many things I disagreed with the author on in the first half of the book. I had initially believed that I would at least agree with him on the meaning and basics of faith. Even here though I found I had to read several passages multiple times in order to make sure I really understood what he was saying. The author does not believe faith grows. Faith is fixed. What grows according to the author (and what makes for a ‘great faith’ is having knowledge. The author seems to believe that the key to great faith is having more knowledge and then knowing what to choices to make in specific situations. In internal change and maturing does not seem to be a part of his teachings. Here are some disturbing examples of his teachings:
A Christian who is suffering terribly for Christ in a foreign country but who is standing firm for Christ and winning multitudes to God may not have as ‘great a faith’ as a non-believing biblical scholar at a secular university. Using Cooper’s own teachings, ‘great faith’ is not dependent upon internal growth and change, but having more knowledge. I believe a person can have have a lot of knowledge, but that does not equal having great faith. If having more knowledge somehow equaled having ‘greater faith’, then Christians in the USA would have ‘greater faith’ than Christians in places where they are dying daily for their faith.
At this point I have decided to not review the rest of Cooper’s book. While there are others teachings I disagree with him on, I think you are able to understand why I am not able to recommend this book to anyone.
If this were a book on the millennium or some other minor topic I likely would not feel so strongly about it. I believe though that this is a dangerous book that may lead many Christians work at gaining "knowledge" and studying books on doctrine (which are not necessarily a bad thing) at the expense of preparing, planning, and getting ready for the terrible times ahead.
After coming to believe in the Pre-Wrath view of the rapture I was able to see how many who believe in the Pre-Trib rapture may enter the great tribulation unprepared (both spiritually and physically). This book encourages believers to not prepare or plan. God has given the opportunity for believers to get ready for the coming persecution. Many may choose to "sit on their hands" and do nothing to prepare. These believers may end up begging for food, and in the end, being fed by those who took God at His word and prepared for that terrible time.
Knowledge is good, Faith is good, but we must have an outworking of our faith in our actions and preparations.
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