Anointed? … Evangelicals and Authority 4 (RJS)

I recently received, courtesy of the publisher, a copy of the new book The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age by Randall Stephens, an associate professor of history at Eastern Nazarene College and Karl Giberson, formerly a professor of Physics at Eastern Nazarene. Giberson has now moved on to concentrate on a number of writing projects. In this book Stephens and Giberson examine several different case studies to explore the manner in which “America’s populist ideals, anti-intellectualism, and religious free market, along with the concept of anointing – being chosen by God to speak for him like the biblical prophets” influence broad ranges of evangelical and fundamentalist beliefs.

This is a book that every pastor should read. Not because you will agree with everything that Stephens and Giberson claim (I certainly don’t). And not because you will find the style winsome and uplifting – it can be rather brash, cynical, and/or provocative at times. Rather it should be read because it is important that anyone who aspires to be a teacher and leader think hard about how we approach knowledge and authority. What role does truth play – especially when compared with charisma, story, and cultural clues identifying someone as one of us?

Chapter 4 of The Anointed takes on Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and the question of last times prophecy, Armageddon, and rapture.

Have you read The Late Great Planet Earth by Lindsey or the Left Behind series by LaHaye?

Do you think this understanding of eschatology is right?

If not, do you think it is a problem?

Both Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye developed enormous followings. The 20th century had witnessed two great wars, the Holocaust and the rise of the communist menace. The tumultuous culture of the 1960’s with images of free love, drugs, and antiwar protests weighed heavy on many.  Hal Lindsey, following his education at Dallas Theological Seminary, was with Campus Crusade at UCLA in southern California at the time.  He did not invent last times prophecy, this is dated much earlier in the 1900’s and even into the 1800’s,  but he popularized and promoted it widely. Lindsey published The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970 selling 20 million copies by the early 1990’s (p. 158) followed in 1980 by The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon which sold 360,000 copies in the first nine months (p. 159). Lindsey was and is a man with a message, and the message sells, he makes it sell.

Tim LaHaye’s fictional portrayal with Jerry Jenkins of last times prophecy in the Left Behind series is even more successful. “As of 2009 the 16 novels had sold 70,000,000 copies, making the series one of the all-time best sellers in American publishing history.” (p. 169) The series derides everything secular, liberal, and humanist. According to Stephens and Giberson:

The books offer little insight into serious global issues, but they do reveal the anti-intellectual and antielitist views of the authors. The chattering classes and the sophisticates are special targets in the books. (p. 170)

Like Lindsey, LaHaye has a story to tell – it is in fictional form to be sure, but cast in such a fashion to bring many Christians along. The details may be fictionalized – something like a historical drama … after all “the Bible is history written in advance” according to the reading of LaHaye and many others – but the context is straight from Scripture.

Although the premillenialism and end-times rhetoric of Lindsey and LaHaye or their predecessors were not central to my experience growing up in the church the influence was still felt. The rapture was something both a little frightening and a comfort. I recall praying that if it is going to be soon, please come before this or that big test or challenge. Songs like the following by Larry Norman were quite popular.

The critics. The populist view of Lindsey, LaHaye, and Norman is not favored by many biblical scholars. There are not many seminaries that teach the kind of premillenialism popularized by Lindsey and LaHaye. Yet lay Christians and pastors alike eat it up, preach it, and believe it. Stephens and Giberson bring up several well known Christian scholars and thinkers who urge caution and offer critique. Eugene Peterson reflected on “growing up with the burden of the rapture on his heart and mind.” He finds it irresponsible and damaging to take Revelation out of context and without regard for St. John the poet, writing in an apocalyptic form. N. T. Wright calls the approach and outlook of LaHaye frighteningly unbiblical.  Mark Noll in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind gave a scathing critique of dispensationalism and of rigid end-times dogmatism.

The Best Story. But Lindsey and LaHaye had the upper hand and their successors will continue to hold the upper hand. Stephens and Giberson conclude:

LaHaye and Lindsey shunned allegorical, poetic, and all nonliteral perspectives. Such interpretations looked fanciful, even dangerous to them. They assaulted their poetry-loving skeptics. “They are just liberal socialists, really,” LaHaye said in 2007 of those who doubted premillenialism. Premillenialism wasn’t an interpretation, it was the interpretation. Critics, in LaHaye’s estimation “don’t believe the Bible.” Millions of readers bought the Left Behind books, said LaHaye, because they took the Bible literally. And for all their sneering ivory-tower trumpeting of the Bible as literature, liberals and moderates, ironically, couldn’t tell a good story: “What [critics] probably will come up with is a plausible explanation from their liberal standpoint to satisfy their adherents that are reading our series and liked it.” But that interpretation “will be inferior,” he concluded, “because the story will be inferior.” (p. 178-179)

Not limited to end-times prophecy. When authority rests on mass appeal, on charisma, and on the good story told with a confident certainty and flair, people will always be susceptible to the “whims of the confident, if misguided and uninformed, prophecy experts.” If it isn’t prophecy experts, it will be  a Creation Museum, flood geology, and stories of the divine institution and providential place of America in world history. Careful biblical study, the pursuit of rigorous understanding in science, and detailed archival study of American history will never tell the same kind of confident and compelling story.

If we’ve moved past these issues, and many of the next Christians may have as these issues don’t seem as deeply ingrained for the 20-35 year olds as for my generation, we should be asking what the next convincing story is or will be.

Is the rapture and end-times theology a convincing and important part of the Christian story?

What is the point and purpose of Revelation?

What is the story we should be telling?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

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  • How do you spell “CAN OF WORMS?”
    Sadly, many in the mainstream will never read this blog, be exposed to other eschatological alternatives (except in the grossly negative or nasty perjorative), or change their minds. “We all like sheep” need an intellectual leader, whether or not that leader is intellectually informed.

  • Phil N

    i think its important because it shapes a persons view of world, others & God’s redemption that then affects our actions. I’ve heard more than one person comment smugly and with glee that its all going to burn anyway.

  • Georges Boujakly

    I’ve resisted reading these authors. It was never appealing to me to be an alarmist about my faith.

    I answer no to the first question, only because the focus of Scripture is not on the rapture. End times are of importance because we await our king, and our longing to finally see the world set right, not because of the guesswork with regards to the mysteries of how he might come back.

    All Scripture is given for living the God-life as 2 Tim 3:15-16.

    The proclamation is simply: Jesus is coming back to earth one day, live as if it were today.

  • Joe Canner

    Ironically, one of the biggest criticisms of Left Behind, aside from the hyper-literalist interpretation of Revelation noted in this post, was that it suggested that there were additional opportunities for salvation after the rapture. However, this notion did not attract nearly as much attention at that time, compared to reaction to similar ideas in recent months regarding post-mortem salvation (e.g., Love Wins).

  • MattR

    Growing up in the 80s in a fundamentalist leaning Baptist world, Lindsey and LaHaye both had enormous influence. Several copies of ‘Late Great Planet Earth’ were in the church library, and LaHaye was an influential pastor near where I lived in San Diego, teaching the same theology years before he ever wrote ‘Left Behind.’

    The legacy was fear based conversions, confused politics, and an irresponsible view of creation (‘it’s all gonna burn anyway’ was the motto).

    For sure eschatology should be a part of any convincing Christian theology… but there are several compelling alternatives. And yes, part of the issue is that LaHaye and Jenkins are telling a good story… story trumps mere presentation of info any time. Those of us with alternatives to this need to learn to tell a better story.

    As to the book of Revelation, it opens with the words, “A revelation of Jesus Christ…” this book is primarily about Jesus, revealing who he is and what that means for Christians in a particular time and place, not necessarily the times, dates and details of the end of the world!

  • waylon

    I think 2 Timothy 4:3 applies well to all this dispensational rapture nonsense

  • Kenneth McIntosh

    I was standing by Al Mohler at an informal discussion after his debate with Jim Wallis at Wheaton this year. Someone asked Dr. Mohler whether rapture theology (I believe they said dispensational eschatology)caused evangelicals to be unconcerned about social work. Dr. Mohler responded that none of his students had read the ‘Left Behind’ books or even knew of them. As far as he is concerned, that emphasis is in the past.

  • AHH

    Funny, in starting to read this post I was mentally composing a comment about how Larry Norman should get some of the credit/blame for spreading this for my generation (which is approximately RJS’s generation). Then I see RJS was in the same boat.
    And it was not just Norman, much of early “Christian Rock” had this viewpoint. Anybody remember the comedy albums by Isaac Air Freight (bits like “Rapture Hotline”)?

    I think part of the appeal of the end-times nonsense is the same as the appeal of conspiracy theories. Knowing (or thinking you know) deep mysteries that most others are missing is a very seductive thing — whether it is knowing the identity of the Antichrist or knowing the “real” story of 9/11 or the nefarious plans of the Trilateral Commission or the socialist conspiracy of climate scientists or the Muslim plans to take over Western societies, ad infinitum.

  • DRT

    I never heard of the rapture until moving to VA here. When they all started to talk about the rapture I sent them a copy of Blondie’s video from the 80’s. I was almost tarred and feathered.

  • rjs


    Of course that raises the question of how we are to discern sound doctrine and truth and differentiate it from myths and “what our itching ears want to hear.”

  • rjs


    I think Mohler is right here – only pockets remain. That’s why I framed the last paragraph the way I did.

    Although the left behind books are not all that old. At some level this was still going strong in the 2000’s. Let’s hope the 10’s have turned the corner.

  • rjs


    I thought some of the younger readers might get a kick out of the video.

    You are right – this was our generation; and Scot’s as well.

  • John W Frye

    Trained at two dispensational-leaning institutions, I was taught that the whole dispensational, premillenial system was grounded in serious *biblical* hermeneutics. So the arrogant claims of LaHaye about his populist views are certainly understandable. Thus an aberrant eschatological system gets connected to a sensationalized story and spreads through fundamentalist enculturation. No one would stop and question the sheer volume of ridiculous spectuation inherent in the system and story. LaHaye and Lindsey have simply popularized an evangelical, theological Disney World.

  • Just for the record, I don’t think it’s accurate at all to say “LaHaye and Lindsey shunned allegorical, poetic, and all nonliteral perspectives.” I haven’t read Lindsey, but LaHaye’s take on Revelation is extraordinarily allegorical and nonliteral. For example, where in Revelation does it say that the AntiChrist will be a Romanian politician seeking to establish a unified world government?

    I have very mixed feelings about the Left Behind series. I don’t share its theology and think the books were terribly written, but the series led my father to begin attending church again after a gap of 30 years. Interestingly, my father’s favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy, especially the apocalyptic sort, so I’m not sure how “literally” he took Left Behind’s vision of the future. He hasn’t bought into dispensationalism beyond a continued interest in LaHaye and Jenkins’ other novels.

    As with Ken Ham, my problem with LaHaye isn’t so much his theology, but his belief that no Christian could possibly disagree with him in good faith.

  • Rick

    Mike #14-

    “As with Ken Ham, my problem with LaHaye isn’t so much his theology, but his belief that no Christian could possibly disagree with him in good faith.”

    They become the sole voices listened to because the discussion of what is “essential” and “orthodoxy” is not defined. A tight group determines interpretations and orthodoxy, while people remain unaware of the larger, orthodox community.

  • Russ Hewett

    I was raised on dispensational/pre-trib rapture teaching, became thoroughly disillusioned by it and eventually sought out alternatives. I recently taught a series on Matthew 24 from a partial preterist angle that was very well received by my church. Comments like, “Why did nobody ever tell me this?” were numerous.
    My primary problem with futurist eschatology is the double-mindedness it creates. The parables of the mustard seed, the leaven, and the wheat and tares describe an ever-increasing kingdom, and Isaiah 9:7’s “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace” describe a future in stark contrast to the LaHaye/Lindsey/Scofield vision. This double-mindedness in parts of the church has caused them to disengage from demonstrating the goodness of God in the world in anticipation of escaping from it. I think it’s time to engage the discussion!

  • Steph

    RJS, you may be right that the good news is that this phase of church life in the US may be passing.
    The bad news is that there are a few like me caught in the gap.
    The input in my childhood was dispensationalism, rapture, soterian gospel.
    In my adult life, there has been no active reinforcement of those views, but they haven’t been countered either. Just silence.
    Some questioning I can do on my own. Some careful reading, I can do on my own. But for the bulk of it, I really do need to be initiated into new ways of thinking, new-to-me topics of discussion … and new terms. There’s a steep learning curve when you try to do it through a site like Jesus Creed (and the other blogs that led me here) when you have no Bible school or seminary training and the discussion is absent from your regular life entirely. (I’m in a mainline church, UMC, and there is a bit of the conversation happening if you listen hard for it in small group studies. I think the pastors hold back, though. The UMC seems to draw a diverse crowd…. In non-essentials, unity, and I think that the average pastor may draw the line at a different spot when considering what is essential from the average lay person. He embraces wide divergence on the question of origins of the universe/life/humanity, for example. As he said, he really doesn’t care where we fall.)
    Which brings me to a question: if the seminaries have moved on, what about the Bible schools? What do they teach and reinforce?
    (My dad did have a copy of The Late Great Planet Earth and it seemed to be a Very Important Book. However, all I ever read was the title page … catchy.)

  • dopderbeck

    Larry Norman! I loved Larry Norman when I was a kid!

    Yes, I grew up with this theology, and it’s unfortunate both as a matter of Biblical interpretation and theology.

    Just last month I had the privilege of teaching an adult class called “Reading Revelation Responsibly” in my local church. Here is the class website. I’m pleased to say that the class was very well attended, fully supported by the Church leadership, and very well received. The folks in the class participated thoughtfully and I think it was beneficial for many of them to be exposed to broader perspectives on Christian eschatology. BTW I’m happy to share my course materials with anyone who might want to do something similar.

  • expendable adjunct

    Many respondents on this blog do no really believe in the Rapture do they/you?

    I’m not trying to be contentious but am asking in good faith. I have been reading the responses to posts here for quite some time and am of the impression that many view the Rapture as figurative or symbolic or something else than what Hal Lindsey envisioned.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    I faced a god deal of this theology while in grad school in my 20s. I occasionally glanced at La Haye books in the bookstore when I was in my 30s. The most frightening thing for me was that I was dating an Anabaptist girl at a Reformed college, and these books were literally demonizing opposition to war as a creation of the anti-Christ. That tipped my opinion from “just plain trash” to “theologically dangerous trash that was entirely out of touch with the Bible as I know it.
    Randy G.

  • rjs

    expendable adjunct,

    I don’t think that the image of rapture as taught by the Norman song (or Lindsey or LaHaye) is right – I don’t think it is biblical. I do believe in the return of Christ, judgement (Christ will come to judge the quick and the dead), and the eschatological hope for new creation (resurrection of the body and the life everlasting).

  • dopderbeck

    Expendable (#19) — personally, no, I don’t believe in the teaching of a secret “rapture” of the Church. I’d echo what RJS (#21) said. I’d also add that in addition to not really being suggested by the Biblical texts, the idea of a secret rapture doesn’t make much sense theologically. It isn’t consistent with what the broader Christian tradition has thought about the role of the Church and God’s purposes for creation.

    Personally, I think that the period Dispensationalists refer to as the “Tribulation” is the present period, the time of the Church from Pentecost to the return of Christ. The various, recursive trumpet, bowl and seal judgments in the Apocalypse probably are figurative representations of the ongoing, present circumstance in which the Church must face opposition from the “powers” of sin, evil and death. The text of the Apocalypse doesn’t indicate that the Church is removed from tribulation — it calls us to persevere until Christ returns.

    The nature of the “Millennium” is another issue, and IMHO somewhat more difficult. I lean towards an amillennial view — consistent with the genre of the Apocalypse, the Millennium is a symbolic pause in the narrative that indicates something about Christ’s reign in the Church. But the post- and pre-Millennial views are possible readings.

    Just my two cents.

  • I have three short observations to make on this excellent post.

    1. A quick perusal of evangelical denominations shows that all but two of them are premillennial in their doctrinal statements. Since most of these denominations are a 100 years old or more, one has to ask whether LaHaye and Lindsey spawned the current interest or if Evangelicalism spawned LaHaye and Lindsey.

    2. Most of these denominations that are Premillennial are not dispensational and do not necessarily believe in a pretribulation rapture. Unfortunately, not enough is written wisely by evangelicals who abhor the dispensational approach to “dividing” the Bible up with scissors and glue. I am a Premillennialist who does not believe in the Rapture per se and I simply await Christ’s return to a fallen world.

    3. My first encounter with Tim LaHaye was as a graduate psychology student being forced to read his book on the Spirit-Controlled Temperament. It was useless tripe, (far out-distanced by Myers-Briggs) and reveled LaHaye had a complete lack of knowledge in the field of psychology. It didn’t surprise me in the least that he took the same approach to Eschatology as he did to Psychology – knee-jerk sensationalism.

  • megan

    I do think the influence of this is waning. I’m in my early 30s and I grew up with heavy doses of this stuff. Youth group screenings of horrible rapture movies meant to scare us into praying the magic salvation prayer. Literal bonfires used to illustrate how everything we loved in this world would burn up anyway. Etc. But I have several younger siblings and by the time the youngest few (10+ years younger than me) didn’t seem to get much of it at all. I suppose I caught the last bit of it, lucky me.

    It’s a travesty of hermeneutics, theology, imagination, and bad writing that the Left Behind books were perceived as the better story. The hope of the renewal of all things is an infinitely better story than the incineration of all things–and most of those in my age group, who have also been through this transition, agree.

  • expendable adjunct

    dopderbeck @22, doesn’t Hal Lindsey, Larry Norman, et al. use the Thessalonian correspondence and Jesus’ Olivet Discourse as their starting point? Jesus says, “two women will be grinding and one will be taken ….” Paul mentions Christ coming “like a thief in the night,” etc.”

    It seems that if one’s starting place is with Jesus and Paul’s teachings THEN Revelation is brought in one might come out differently than if one starts with Revelation and THEN incorporates Jesus & Paul.

    I’m not saying that I prefer one way over another but it seems there might be a direction to one’s exegesis depending on where one starts.

  • rjs


    I agree. This predates LaHaye and Lindsey and extends in various forms beyond them. Stephens and Giberson acknowledge this … but probably not sufficiently. There are a couple of places in my copy where I noted in the margin what you say – it is more accurate to say that these earlier influences spawned Lindsey and LaHaye than that they spawned this interest in rapture. They certainly fed it though.

  • dopderbeck

    Mike (#23) — I think your (1) is right. There is an important sense in which J.N. Darby’s Dispensationalism influenced the American Fundamentalist / separatist movement in the early 20th Century, and this continues to resonate.

    In fact, dispensational / pre-trib rapture theology, I think, was a major driver of the Evangelical post-war missions movement. The immanent Rapture and Tribulation were a spur to reach the world — either before the end, or paradoxically in some cases to speed the coming of the Rapture (Matt. 24:14: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”). And all of this was a natural fit with the zeitgeist of the Cold War era.

    Anecdotally, (I have no real data or experience on this), it seems to me that many of the Christian movements in Latin America and Africa that were originally birthed by these missionaries often retain a strong pre-trib rapture theology.

  • C.O. Fines

    On the positive side, “Bible Prophecy” in general and The Late Great Planet Earth in particular got me started on studying the Bible and I am still at it 37 years later. I do not believe anything else at that time could have brought me to say yes to Jesus. I could easily have ended up on the other side, so hats off to Herbert W. Armstrong, Hal Lindsey, and other folks I no longer agree with.

    On the negative side, I came to see the whole dispensational smorgasbord as self-centered and escapist, the complete opposite of the mindset that led Jesus to and thru the Cross. I do not think it too extreme to view the rapture syndrome as part of the spirit of antichrist. When Peter strongly urged escape on Jesus, Jesus just as strongly labeled this as Satanic thinking.

    I do not mean to imply that dispensationalists are hellbound any more than Peter was. For the most part in my experience they are sincere and committed followers of Jesus to the best of their ability. At the same time I believe that should catastrophic events come upon us all, those who have been depending on the Rapture in a literal sense are the ones most likely to be Left Behind, dazed and in shock, unable to help themselves or anyone else out of the rubble.

  • dopderbeck

    expendable (#25) — yes, that’s the sort of argument pre-trib Rapture folks make. 1 Thess. 4:13-18 is the most significant proof text. In my view, neither Jesus nor Paul’s eschatology fairly can be read to imply the removal of the Church in a secret rapture. This requires more than prooftexting, including some background on the sorts of Jewish eschatological expectations both Jesus and Paul were speaking into. And at the end of the day, you have to step back and look at the whole system that’s being constructed, in light of the whole canonical narrative of scripture and the story of God’s work in the Church. But all that said — yes, you can cite some texts that have been read to support the idea of a secret rapture.

  • Maim

    We don’t need to look at Revelation–as some cosmic calendar/crystal ball prediction of literal actual future events to occur within the next few decades/centuries–you miss the point if you do.

    If the locusts are supposed to be Apache helicopters, and 666 actually refers to Adolph Hitler or Saddam Hussein or Obama, then that means except for maybe the eschatological sections at the end and parts of the beginning, the original audience of John’s book had NO CLUE WHAT THE AUTHOR WAS TALKING ABOUT. That just does not seem unlikely. (lol, gematria, 666 refers to Emperor Nero, and there’s not a snow ball’s chance in Gehenna that you can convince this preterist theologian otherwise.)

    I dare say God used John to write a book that was made in a specific period in a specific time to a specific audience, early Christians around the first century near Asia Minor, and that they knew EXACTLY what John was talking about with all the fantastic imagery and symbolism.

    Prophecy doesn’t have to be foretelling; in this case, it is mostly FORTHtelling. It is revealing (hence, apocalypse, revelation, “unveiling,” hohohohoho) the transcendent reality for the audience: Rome (depicted as Babylon) is not this glorious shining empire of honor; it gets its authority, power, and prosperity through oppression and it persecutes those who follow Christ. John is telling the audience, Don’t be fooled by the merchants, by its wealth, by its power, Rome is a whore, Rome is rotten, Rome will be subject to the judgment of the One who sits on the throne. So don’t be tricked into worshipping the same gods as the merchants, don’t be fooled, be faithful.

    It’s telling the persecuted Christians to persevere, and to not give up. Its intense Christology points us to worship and glory and justice and vindication and eternal bliss.

    That should be enough to tell us how we should live our lives: God is just, God will come to dwell with His people forever. “The sea was no more” represents the source of evil and chaos in Jewish tradition; it doesn’t mean there will literally be no ocean come the Consummation. It’s a symbol pointing to a reality far more glorious than if this was supposed to be referring to an actual literal event as if Revelation is supposed to be some crystal ball.

  • Randy Harris at Abilene Christian University summarizes Left Behind this way:

    “For God so loved the world that he sent World War III.”

  • NW

    Part of the reason for dispensationalism’s decline is that it kept setting dates for the return of Christ that have come and gone.

  • I grew up in Tim LaHaye’s church in San Diego in the ’60s and well remember the attraction of the Sunday night services that were devoted to unwinding the prophetic future. I also remember listening to Larry Norman in concert under the stars and the spine-tingling words, “the Father spoke the demons dined, the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.” (Ironically, Larry Norman would not have been welcome in our church with his long hair and guitar; in fact, guitars were still forbidden at our wedding there in 1974, since it represented rebellion and anti-war protests.)

    I remember when Pastor LaHaye told us all one Sunday night that, although no one knows when Jesus will return, he the pastor would personally be surprised if it were not by 1984 … something to do with the establishment of Israel as a state and “this generation shall not pass away” and so on.

    Looking back, what impresses me is the power of a unifying story. Within our group, everything held together not as a set of doctrines but as an exciting tale being revealed before our eyes. Isn’t this one of the reasons for the popularity of LaHaye’s and Lindsey’s books? They’re not only entertainment, but they help us assemble the confusing picture of our world into a story we can understand an in which we are winners. Would this not be, in fact, one of the ways the book of Revelation would have functioned for Christians in the first and second centuries? A major difference, of course, would be that its events would probably never have been taken literally, unlike the future events laid out by LaHaye and Lindsey.

  • Dan

    dopderbeck @29, both you and rjs have tossed around the phrase “secret rapture.” I have not heard the rapture referred to like this elsewhere. Is this phrase analogous to a sudden rapture (ala “like a thief in the night”) or are you guys seeing it as something different? Is this something LaHaye & Jenkins develop (I’ve not read their books)? It seems to me a secret rapture is not much of a secret once people realize many have disappeared.

  • It’s one thing to have a misguided eschatology because one believes it is a “better” or “more complelling story”, but it’s a whole other issue when our misguided eschatology begins to inform international policies that promote war and injustice as is seen in Israel/Palestine. Those of us in the West can mess around with our theology all we want, but we must not forget that it has real life implications for those outside our immediate circles, namely the Palestinians. I recently wrote a three part series on the implications of Christian Zionism (a la Lindsey and LaHaye) in the Middle East for Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christians.

  • dopderbeck

    Dan (#34) — yes, “secret,” “sudden,” — just words to mean that the Church is removed from the stage of history before a period of “Tribulation” or temporal judgment. I think part of the contrast here is that the final judgment is a “public” judgment from which no one is exempt. Christ returns, history is brought to a consummation, and final judgment is rendered. Not, Christ partially returns (only “in the air”), the Church is whisked or secreted away, there is a period of temporal judgment in history, and Christ only then fully returns and touches down with the Church.

  • Dan

    dopderbeck @36, OK, got it. No U-Turns.

  • Thanks, Jon #35, for the pointer to RLC, looks like an interesting site. Yes, Christian Zionism certainly is one of the implications of this eschatology. I don’t know if that is characteristic of dispensationalist theology in general or specific to the LaHaye/Lindsey variety.

  • I was turned to their teaching early on, even as one raised Mennonite. But turned off later, and cared not at all for anything eschatological later. I was burned.

    But maybe that was good in that it made me attracted to the importance of the eschatological being present now through the coming of Jesus. As well as looking to the completion of what has begun now in Jesus.

    Yes, that was potent alright. I still have a hard time believing that it carries on in appeal, but hopefully ’tis no longer the case. Yet top selling books from time to time not that long ago, persist.

  • ….looking forward to the completion of what has begun now in Jesus when he returns–

    is what I meant to include.

  • gingoro

    “Have you read The Late Great Planet Earth by Lindsey or the Left Behind series by LaHaye?”

    No I could not stomach them although I did pick some of them up from a book table and scanned thro them. I have so much good stuff to read Have you read yet that these authors do not seem worth my time.
    Dave W

  • RJS


    I’ve not read them either actually, although I certainly know of them. If I were to read either of them now it would be out of academic interest (the same reason I read Lindsell’s Battle for the Bible a couple of years ago).

  • John W Frye

    A young lady went into an ecstatic trance while in prayer and the Lord assured her of the “secret rapture.” She reported this to others in her group and this “teaching” was passed on to J.N. Darby, who along with others at the time, believed that God was revealing something new, yet biblical. They were “rightly dividing the word of truth.” C. I. Scofield picked up this teaching and put into in his famous “Scofield Notes” Bible…the one that dates Genesis 1 at 4004 B.C.

    I find it ironic that most dispensationalist/ premillenialist are anti-charismatic and complementarian, yet the core distinctive of the theology came out of an ecstatic trance *of a woman*…oops.

    “Expendable adjunct”, you would profit greatly by reading N. T. Wright on the 1 Thessalonians 4 text.

  • How many copies of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings have been purchased over the years? Those would be the stories appropriately compared to/set up against “Left Behind.” I’d say those stories are much better. And that’s to say nothing of authors of literature that reveals a christian perspective such as Flannery O’Connor or Walker Percy.

  • I answered my own question.

    The Chronicles of Narnia have sold 120 million copies in 1 languages.

    The Lord of the Rings has sold 150 million copies and The Hobbit has sold 100 million.

    I’d say that these works present a Christian imagination and view of creation that make them candidates to stand for non-fundamentalist versions of “Left Behind,” i.e. they reveal where a Christian imagination goes when trying to express truths in a fictional framework. There will likely never be a non-premillenial version of “Left Behind” because non-fundamentalists simply don’t think the same way–it wouldn’t be seen as necessary or interesting.

  • the above should say “120 million copies in *41* languages.