Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ghosts of End Times Present: Bob Fraley

From the December 2010 E-Block.
You may not have heard of Bob Fraley, but a reader some time ago requested a look at his Last Days in America for our Ghosts of End Times Past series. Written in 1984, this book looked interesting because as part of my research I had wanted to find someone who made a case for America being found in Biblical end times prophecy. 

It turns out though that much of the book is not even about that. Fraley reiterates much of the standard dispensational eschatology first, and also uses up a lot of space with an extended personal testimony. More on that in a moment. I want first to ask the reader to ensure that they are seated, because what Fraley has to offer is simply so exotic that I suspect not a few readers will becomes casualties of incredulity after reading this. I’ll lay it out with three questions. 

Where is America in Biblical prophecy? Apparently, all over the place in certain chapters of Daniel and Revelation. According to Fraley [138f, 176f, 187f]:
  • America is the “beast” of Revelation, and also the little horn of Daniel. The three horns displaced by the little horn in Daniel are England, France, and Spain, which America had to “overcome…in different wars” to establish itself as a nation.
  • The deadly wound that appeared to have healed refers to the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • People asking who can make war against the beast is interpretable as them being awestruck by America’s power as expressed by the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • The “42 months” of Revelation refers to the time between when America entered WW2 in December, 1941, and the time Germany was defeated – that is, 42 months by the Jewish calendar. The period is not measured to when Japan was defeated because “[t]he Jewish people were not involved with our war with Japan.” [170] Why that should affect the count is not explained but is apparently taken to be obvious.
  • The lamb with two horns in Revelation symbolizes electricity and electronic devices, especially television and computers, which transmit the false messages of the beast and create the “image” that people will worship. The two horns represent positive and negative power charges.
There’s not much that can be said of this in terms of argument. These are little more than imaginative, forced readings of the texts in which the data is massaged as needed to get where Fraley wants to go. A case could be made just as readily for England as the beast, on this basis:
  • The three horns represent France, Spain, and Portugal, England’s three main rivals for overseas colonies.
  • The deadly wound that appeared to have healed refers to the revolution led by Cromwell.
  • People asking who can make war against the beast is interpretable as them being awestruck by England’s divine favor as expressed by the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
It would probably not be hard to find some period of 42 months in British history that could apply. It really doesn’t matter since the point is that a little flexibility is all that is required.

Where does Fraley get all this? Fraley reveals midway through that he’s one of those sorts of believers who thinks God talks to him, not audibly, but in the “inner man” [133] . But no, he didn’t get this message himself: It was all given to his brother Charles as a revelation. Yes, that’s it. Not serious research into source material – a revelation. Fraley took this so seriously that he resigned his job to write this book, then when he was finished, got another job. (Correspondingly, Satan is all over the place, too, and has his fingers in just about every vice industry and bad thought that comes your way.)
We’ve talked in many places about the sort of epistemological trainwreck that comes of this sort of thing, so we don’t need to discuss it further.

Does Fraley know his business? It’s hard to think he does, especially in light of his prime source of revelation noted above. There are also a few signs that he’s not a competent researcher:
  • Finding significance in then thirty year period between the Balfour Declaration (1917) and the UN mandate on Israel (1948), Fraley declares that, “Thirty years always has always denoted maturity in God’s dealings with the Jewish people.” He says there are “many examples in Scripture” but he gives only one: Jesus was 30 when he started his ministry. If there are more, they are hard to find. “Thirty” is used 174 times in the Bible, in many cases not by itself (eg, Adam lives a hundred and thirty years”). Where it is used alone, it is the height of Noah’s Ark and the tabernacle curtain in cubits, the noted age of a handful of non-notable persons like Salah when they begat someone else, the age of Joseph when he stood before the Pharaoh, the number of shekels paid for an ox, the age when priests start working (but note: as with Jesus, the age 30 was considered a time of maturity by other cultures, too), the number of days Aaron and Moses were mourned, the number of sons Jair had in Judges, the number of sheets and garments Samson offered as a bet to the Philistines, the number of people killed in a couple of skirmishes, the age when David started reigning, the number of measures of flour Solomon used daily…and so on. I don’t find anything in any of this that says that thirty somehow “denotes maturity in God’s dealings” with Israel, and actually, it’s hard to squeeze that even out if Jesus being thirty at the start of his ministry. Either way it’s made up numerical trivia by Fraley.
  • Disappointingly, in presenting a historical overview of the church, Fraley seems to have relied overmuch on the Helen Ellerbe school, as he reports many of the standard myths about the Inquisition, including giving the one in which Spains registered a death toll of 100,000, which is 50 times higher than it needs to be. [48] He also reports 1.5 million banished from Spain by the Inquisition, which would be quite a feat since the population of Spain at the time was about 7 million, which means the banishments alone should have crippled the country permanently. And where were all those people banished to, exactly? (To be fair, some of Fraley’s claims I checked regarding World War 2 did check out, but I may have just been lucky. Or he may just be abusing real facts for his purposes.)
  • Reciting a litany of figures meant to alarm us towards prophetic fulfillments – none of which are footnoted or sourced – we are told that, “Statasticians report God’s name is now used over one billion times each day in our country as a curse word.” [86] I’d like to know where that report is and how the data was collected, myself. But to be fair, perhaps the other claims are more realistic: Fraley’s account of the amount spent yearly in America on gambling (50 billion dollars +) does accord with a current totals adjusted for Fraley writing in 1984.
  • Fraley also offers the urban myth of a 666 being hidden in barcodes [225f]. You can find this debunked here and here. Other claims were made such as 666 being the world bank code number, but I can find no verification for the ones I checked, other than that Apple computers did offer one of their early computers for $666.66.
One last question, not really with this set: Where is Fraley now? Well, he’s still around with what is called the Christian Life Outreach ministry, and he still puts out books on eschatology that are essentially ministry publications. But thankfully, his ideas don’t seem to have gathered much of a following. We’ll look at what may be a more serious attempt to get American into Biblical prophecy with the next article in our series.

No comments:

Post a Comment