Essay / Literature

Left Behind is O.K.

the evangelical outpost: “But what do the millions of books and products represent? Does it reveal an interest in eschatology among non-believers or just a hunger for Tom Clancy-style thrillers with churchgoers? Is the dispensational theology inherent in the novels representative of evangelicalism or does it lead to misperceptions about our beliefs? Are the novels great popular art, good entertainment, or shoddy pulp being pawned off on a gullible public?”Another great thread at a great blog, Evangelical Outpost. However, when I read it I said, “Great.” in a different tone of voice. You can see what is coming already.Dispensationalists will often get treated as dim or as the cause of all the problems in the evangelical church. Too much excitement? Blame the dispensationalists. Not enough excitement? If only the evangelicals had not embraced dispensationalism!Is it possible for dispensationalists to get respect? I work at a dispensationalist University. The reader can be assured that theology at Talbot Seminary is sophisticated, attempts to be Biblically based, and is subtle. Robert Saucy is a careful thinker and scholar. Fred Sanders, my co-worker in theology, screams along at pentium speed in theology while I toddle along as a Commodore 64. However, most posts (I am not commenting on Joe Carter) give dispensationalism no respect.All forms of dispensationalism assert one core doctrine. What is it? They claim there is a future work for the Jewish people in God’s economy. The Church is not Israel. One may not agree, but since even the Roman church has moved in this direction, it cannot be considered a foolish position. Discuss it, but let’s stop the sneering. I have never been fond of attacks on Calvinism that start with assaults on the “monster god created by Calvin.” That is stereotype. However, in most discussions of the dispensational position all we get is caricature.The biggest problem with the “Left Behind” series is if folk confuse pop dispensationalism with the scholarly version. However, perhaps Biola could promise not to assume that Father Greeley’s novels represent Ratzinger (if anyone is so inclined) if the rest of the Church does not assume La Haye is Saucy.I confess to reading Star Trek novels. In a certain mood, I like them. They are comfort food for the mind. Kirk acts like Kirk and Spock like Spock. Plots are very safely predictable. Who would want anything else?I have read every Left Behind book (childrens and adult). They were not great or even very good. Jenkins has written better books. However, they are not nearly as bad as many a summer book I have read. The theology is simple, but so is the book. Taken too seriously, they could lead people astray. My view is that Left Behind is o.k. summer popcorn reading and that Christians should mellow out.

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