In the Late Great Planet Earth, Hal Lindsey said, “God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.” What an interesting, and yet, troubling statement. Before I spell out my problem with Lindsey’s quote, some context is in needed. Hal Lindsey is a dispensationalist; that is, a dispensational pre-tribulation rapture pre-millennial (a relatively new eschatological system). I say that with much respect because there are men who I have learned from who hold to the same view; men such as my own pastor, other local pastors whose fellowship I enjoy, the recognized pastor-theologian John MacArthur, David Jeremiah, etc. I, however, am not a dispensationalist, though I wrote on dispensational eschatology in an undergraduate class I took. Dispensationalists see us living the “last days” where the world is continually becoming more wicked and opposed to God. They believe Jews and the Church are two distinct peoples of God and after the rapture of the church, God will turn His focus back to the physical nation of Israel (another position I do not accept). They believe in a 7 year tribulation period which is the 70th week of Daniel, which also means we are living in a “gap” between the 69th week and this future 70th week. Anyway, all of that is just for context.
[Gary DeMar addressed this quote of Lindsey’s in this article, one which I will not quote from but commend to you for a better understanding of Lindsey.]
To my issue with this quote. The problem with this is ideology that if one doesn’t clean the fish bowl (culture), the environment in which the fish (people) live gets dirty and the fish die. I would respond to Mr. Lindsey like this. Do both. To forsake the culture, and essentially, earth in which we live flies in the face of God’s charge to Adam (and really mankind; Gen. 1:26-2) to subdue the earth and exercise God-given dominion over it. It’s God’s world; He owns it and He has told us that we need to take care of it. [I will only mention a few verses: Ps 2.6-9; 22.27-28; 50.10-12; Is 2.2-4; Matt 28.18-20]
We shouldn’t neglect it. Part of the reason our culture and world is in the shape that it is in is because Christians have not been active in maintaining what God has given us. In the last 30-some-odd years, Christians, who have bought into pessimistic eschatology (whether it be premillennialism or some amillennialism), have given up on being salt and light in our world. Many are looking for the rapture; they have given up on this world, which God gave to man to be stewards of. The late Adrian Rogers, a well-known and respected Baptist pastor preached a message about “saltless saints.” And he, a dispensationalist, even acknowledged the problem. He said, “What’s wrong with our world is not the Communists, the media, Hollywood, the liquor and gambling industries, or pornographers. The problem is sitting in church pews: saltless saints. Salt without savor in a world that’s rotting. Jesus said we are to be the SALT of the earth. (Matt. 5:13).” It is our duty, as Christians, to be active in culture.
Tens of millions of Christians in America; possibly a billion worldwide with the gospel reaching millions in China, Venuzeula, Russia, Korea, and yet, there is pessimism about the culture and its future. The Gospel of Christ is advancing! If all Christians were to stand firm and practice what we believe, if we were to educate and participate in all aspects of our societies (education, government, community), our world would look much different. So, no, Mr. Lindsey. We should not only be fishers of men (sharing the gospel), but we should also clean the fish tank (discipling the nations and be involved in our respective cultures) for the fish tank belongs to our Father.