On October 3rd, 2014 American movie theaters will again be flooded with yet another Christian movie– a remake of the Left Behind cash cow that has taken Western Christianity hostage for more than a generation. Recently it was made public that one of the producers of the movie is none other than Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, who is imploring Christians to gather up their friends and take them to see the movie in hopes they’ll “get saved” on the way home.
The Christian movie industry is troubling to me on many fronts, but most notably because of the fact that it’s just plain ole dangerous for one to sit back and unquestionably absorb their theological worldview from entertainers. However, I don’t think this is a trend that will die down anytime soon, which means we’ll need to be continually dissecting these money making ideas clothed as “truth” when they unfold.
Perhaps you’re thinking of going to see the movie– or even worse, maybe you thought of bringing a friend who might actually take the movie seriously. If this is you, please take a moment to consider these 5 things about the Left Behind movie and the theology associated with it:
1. Whatever you believe about eschatology (the study of last things), you should be aware that good or bad, eschatology dramatically impacts your worldview.
In approaching any situation, how we believe it will end has a dramatic influence on our behaviors here and now. Eschatology is probably the most extreme example of this because what we believe about the end of the world, most undoubtedly affects the way we interact with the world. In light of this, one should use the most extreme care in what they adopt as a view of the end because the consequences are immediate and numerous.
2. The major events you’ll see described in the movie do not appear anywhere in the Bible.
The cold hard truth? There is not a single passage in the entire Bible that describes a world-wide event where millions of people go missing and the world is ushered into chaos. It simply doesn’t exist– not anywhere. Just know that when you see this movie, you are not seeing a depiction of a biblical event. Even Bible teachers who believe in this theology, such as John MacArthur, have admitted that it is not explicitly found in scripture but simply “implied”. I would caution one from building an entire world-view around something that even believers admit can be seen only through creatively reading between the lines.
3. Left Behind eschatology historically has had a negative impact on the world.
Church history, especially here in America, reveals a shameful fact: when rapture theology was invented in the UK and then transported to the US, Christians dramatically disengaged from society. Early Evangelicals were dedicated to making long-term investments to make the world the kind of place that Jesus would want to come back to, but after rapture theology was invented, we see that dramatically change as pessimism over the future took over. If you’ll know a tree by its fruit, the case on this one is historically clear: rapture theology brings bad fruit by cultivating fear, pessimism, and disengagement from society. In fact, the inventor of rapture theology, John Nelson Darby, actively rebuked Christians for being optimistic and taught that a Christian worldview must be pessimistic.
4. Left Behind theologians are constantly revising their interpretations to cover up for failed predictions.
The modern obsession with the end times is borderline divination, as folks who “get into it” become obsessed with attempting to tell the future– a behavior the Bible actually condemns. The most prominent proponents of this theology (take for example, Hal Lindsay) have all been found guilty of making false predictions and then forced to refine their stance to explain it away. Scripture teaches that we must not listen to people who wrongly tell the future, because if that doesn’t make one a “false prophet”, I don’t know what would.
The Jesus of scripture invites us to proclaim the “Good News” that his Kingdom is here, that he is Lord over all of it, and that we are invited to participate in building it. Taking movies such as Left Behind seriously however, pervert the message of Jesus (ironically, becoming “anti-Christ”) and turn “Good News” into: “Holy Moley! I had no idea that the world was about to fall apart! Good thing we’re getting the hell out of here soon!!”, which is a far cry from what Jesus taught. Jesus invites us to wage a beautiful revolution and to live in his Kingdom right here, right now. Rapture theology however, invites one to focus on escaping the world instead of transforming it, which isn’t the Gospel at all. Such a perversion of the message of Jesus is something Christians would want to not only avoid, but publicly condemn. We must follow Jesus instead of movie-makers trying to cash in on the proven money making strategy of predicting the future and making it sound frightening.
Please, my fellow Jesus people: don’t take this movie seriously. Certainly, do NOT take a friend who isn’t a Christian, lest they be led to believe that this movie represents the Christian message, as it does not. Instead of John Darby and Duck Dynasty theology, I’d recommend skipping the movie and investing the money in an eschatological book by one of the premier biblical scholars in the world, Surprised by Hope by NT Wright.