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Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Truth Behind "Left Behind"

A few of my visitors (Faithful Progressive and Mainstream Baptist) have commented on their blogs about the influence of the "Left Behind" book series by Tim LaHaye. They are very concerned that the popularity of this book series indicates that most conservative evangelicals believe this particular version of "end times". Wesley Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America says this about the theology of "Left Behind":
"The theological assumptions built into these novels reflect an extremist interpretation of the end-times teaching of Scripture called "premillennial dispensationalism," espoused by preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Dispensationalists assert that the Bible spells out a predetermined schedule of cataclysmic events occurring just before and after the Second Coming of Christ."
I would also add that premillennial dispensationalism is a fairly new belief in the history of Christianity as Mark Noll discusses in his book "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind". It is this belief that has also caused Bill Moyers to claim that evangelicals don't care about the environment because "those Christians think Jesus is coming back soon so they don't have to care about destroying the earth".

However, I believe that there is a better explanation for the popularity of these books. Unfortunately within American Christendom over the past few decades, there has been a strong move to create a separate Christian subculture with its own music, books, art, etc. (I'll probably do a post on this phenomena at some point but if you are interested I highly recommend reading Dick Keyes' "Chameleon Christianity"). As a result many Christians have looked to find the "Christian version" of various secular things. Quite simply, I believe a vast majority of the readers of the "Left Behind" book series view them as the Christian alternative to John Grisham novels and the like. I would be willing to bet that most evangelicals that read these books have given little if any thought to the theology behind them.

This phenomena is also not new. In the late '80s, Frank Peretti wrote "This Present Darkness" and "Piercing the Darkness". These books were hugely popular yet had horrible theology.

While Revelations is certainly part of the Bible and worthy of studying, I actually find it the least interesting book. Regardless of our views of "end time", Christians are still called to be good stewards of the Earth, including all living creatures.

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