L.B.: The Antichrist Checklist

L.B.: The Antichrist Checklist August 19, 2005

Left Behind, pp. 135-142

Buck Williams has his work cut out for him. He's in charge of investigating and reporting the biggest story in the history of the human race.

What caused the instantaneous disappearance of 1/3 of the world's population? Could this strange event have been the result of foul play? Are the missing still alive? Is it possible they could return just as suddenly and mysteriously? What does it mean to suddenly find ourselves in a world without children?

None of these questions occur to Buck or to his editor, Steve Plank, as they sit down to discuss his duties in the days ahead. They aren't yet able to answer even the most basic questions about the disappearances — who, what, when, where, why, how? — but none of this seems to bother them.

Buck thinks he should be investigating international financiers. Steve, on the other hand, thinks Buck should focus on the Jews. Yes, you don't have to be a member of the John Birch Society to work here … but it helps!

Here again we see the hurdle facing LaHaye and Jenkins: So much prophecy, so little time. They haven't got the luxury of following up on the aftereffects of the "rapture" because they've got a rise-of-the-Antichrist to follow. Buck and Steve have already moved on to this next plot point. Even though neither one of them is aware of the importance of the Antichrist in premillennial dispensationalist mythology, and neither is aware that Nicolae Carpathia will become the Antichrist, the authors know all of this, and so the authors begin Chapter 8 with an extended conversation about Carpathia.

The Antichrist of PMD is the same one you may have read about on old heavy metal album covers. Iron Maiden and Hal Lindsay may be cheering for opposing sides, but they share a common mythology.

These are the sources to which you'll have to turn to learn about this character, the Antichrist, and what he means to folks like L&J. Without this basic Darby/Lindsay/Scofield/Iron Maiden framework in mind, it's unlikely that you would come away from the Bible with this idea of "The Antichrist." The word "antichrist," after all, only appears in one book of the Bible and it's not Revelation. The term doesn't come from John's Apocalypse, but rather from his epistles. And there, actually, the word is plural: "you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come."

The singular, capital-A Antichrist of PMD prophecy is based on a variety of passages cobbled together from throughout the Bible. He is the Beast of Revelation; the King of the South and the King of the North from Daniel; the false Christ(s) that Jesus warns against in Matthew's Gospel and Paul's "man of lawlessness" from Thessalonians (which is a delightfully Nietzschean phrase). The composite sketch derived from all these descriptions yields a portrait that looks a little like Nebuchadnezzar, a little like Antiochus Epiphanes, a little like Nero or Diocletian, and a little like Victor von Doom.

The favorite passage of both metalheads and prophecy experts is from Revelation 13:16-18. Many of the items on the Antichrist Checklist are derived from this passage:

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

Later, we'll explore some of the details of the Antichrist Checklist. For now, the particulars of this list are less important than the basic point that the list exists, and that it forms the outline for the remaining chapters of Left Behind. This checklist is the subtext of today's section of the book, and why the authors have Buck and Steve improbably discussing the new president of Romania:

"Didn't they just elect a leader, what, 18 months ago?" Buck said, remembering Dirk's tip that a new leader would seem out of place and time.

"Big shake-up there," Steve said. "Better check it out."

Scarcely 36 hours ago the world was plunged into chaos. Against such a cataclysmic backdrop, it's hard to imagine how any change of political leadership anywhere could seem out of place. Apparently, however, not a single head of state was among the disappeared, so aside from Romania, every other administration remains intact. This means that every head of state is both a heathen and an expert politician — since each of them has been able to weather the turmoil that might be expected to follow the disappearance of all of their nation's children.

Their discussion of Carpathia continues, offering choice bits of dialogue such as:

"… the only wrinkle in Carpathia's history is some rumors that he was ruthless with his business competition years ago."

"How ruthless?"

"People took dirt naps."

"Ooh, Steve, you talk just like a mobster."

Plank does have a fleeting flash of perspective, but Buck talks him out of it:

"We're talking Romania here, Buck. Romania. Nonstrategic, scant gross national product, never invaded anybody, never anyone's strategically. There's nothing there but low-level internal politics."

"It still smells major to me," Buck said. "Rosenzweig was high on this guy, and he's an astute observer. Now Carpathia's coming to speak at the U.N. What next?"

Here again the United Nations is spoken of as an effective, powerful, prestigious authority. Buck seems in awe of the idea that Carpathia could rise to become the next Boutros Boutros Ghali.

This view of the U.N. only makes sense in light of the Antichrist Checklist. If the Antichrist is eventually going to rule over everyone and force them to accept his mark, then he will have to preside over a single, all-powerful World Government. If you believe that this One World Government is destined by prophecy, and that this prophecy is going to be fulfilled very soon, then you will look on any existing multilateral, international organizations — no matter how ineffectual or marginal they may appear to be — as the precursors of this global totalitarian reign.

This is why everybody in LB speaks of the U.N. as an all-powerful and malevolent institution. This is also how readers who swallow the LB perspective come to think of the U.N. and or of any multilateral cooperation or treaty. Another small reminder of the way these books and their popularity influences American politics and policy.

Steve reminds Buck that his assigned priorities are the upcoming conventions in New York of "Jewish Nationalist" leaders, "Orthodox Jews" (a separate, but equally Jew-y group) and "international monetarists setting the stage for one world currency."

All of these conventions are still on, their schedules unchanged and undisturbed by the events of the last few days. It doesn't occur to Steve or Buck or the conferees themselves that a global cataclysm might be expected to alter either their travel plans or their pre-cataclysm agendas.

Steve sends Buck home to rest before returning to the office later that evening. Mercifully, Jenkins only spends half a page detailing the logistics of Buck's cab ride.


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125 responses to “L.B.: The Antichrist Checklist”

  1. How do you keep reading this stuff?
    I mean, I’m grateful and everything—wouldn’t miss a Left Behind Friday—but how terrible for you.

  2. This is why everybody in LB speaks of the U.N. as an all-powerful and malevolent institution. This is also how readers who swallow the LB perspective come to think of the U.N. and or of any multilateral cooperation or treaty. Another small reminder of the way these books and their popularity influences American politics and policy.
    I’ve always found it appaling how so many “fellow Christians” can see better international cooperation as such a bad thing.

  3. apropos of absolutely nothing, I was wondering (you may have said, but if you did I’ve forgotten): did the babies disappear from the wombs of the unsaved?
    Also, are the unsaved now infertile? It seems a bit Old Testament to condemn an entire generation of babies for having irreligious parents.

  4. Is there any rational explanation for what the heck the author of revelation was talking about when he said that the “number” of the antichrist was 666?

  5. Apparently, babies in the womb disappeared overnight, along with all kids under 12 (?14?), but this is another of those things that everyone forgets about five minutes later. After all, the Jews are coming to town!
    But people can get pregnant now, if they like. On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like the kindest thing to do to kids, to bring them into a world ruled by the antichrist. On the other, if they haven’t been conceived, how can they get into heaven? It’s just weird all over.

  6. Apparently, however, not a single head of state was among the disappeared, so aside from Romania, every other administration remains intact. This means that every head of state is both a heathen…
    Hey, L&J can’t always be wrong. :-)

  7. I was wondering that myself, Filth. And is there any historical correlation that has already come to pass (from Diocletian or Nero or some other Roman ruler) about using a Mark on hand or forehead in order to buy things?

  8. Well, to me, the whole “marking” of people so they’re allowed to buy stuff makes at least some sense. It’s totalitarian control over your people, where the marked ones get to do something the unmarked don’t. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something similar had occured in more than one society in the past

  9. No reference, but Bart Ehrman’s New Testament course from the Teaching Company, says 666 is a direct reference to Caesar Nero. Cant give you any detail though, maybe someone else can elaborate.

  10. “This means that every head of state is both a heathen and an expert politician”
    See, there’s some realistic features of these books after all.
    “Buck seems in awe of the idea that Carpathia could rise to become the next Boutros Boutros Ghali.”
    Funniest line of the whole piece! But hey, do you have to be rankin’ on my man BBG?
    “Apparently, babies in the womb disappeared overnight, along with all kids under 12 (?14?)”
    Kids under 12 get in free!
    Seriously though, my understanding is that there’s a plywood cutout of an angel holding his arm out, with a sign that says, “You must be at least this short to go on the Rapture Ride.”

  11. I’m no numerologist, but I can’t help but observe that a sampling of Roman numerals — DCLXVI — adds up to 666.
    “If you believe that this One World Government is destined by prophecy, and that this prophecy is going to be fulfilled very soon, then you will look on any existing multilateral, international organizations — no matter how ineffectual or marginal they may appear to be — as the precursors of this global totalitarian reign.”
    Given how Pres. Bush has shown how ineffective the UN can be at its main mission (preventing invasions), I’m surprised there isn’t more of a backlash against him. Y’know, for throwing a wrench into the prophetic machinery.

  12. First, am I the only person here who continually pictures Hal Linden whenever Hal Lindsey is referenced?
    Second, Ooh, Steve, you talk just like a mobster. I’m imagining Buck (who looks like Les Nessman in my head (I’m getting Buck Williams confused with the Buckeye Newshawk Award, perhaps?)) grabbing Steve’s arm and shivering theatrically as he says this.
    And anyhow, “dirt nap”? The only place I’ve ever seen this used was a friend’s WWI-era novel. “Sleeping with the fishes,” I can see. “Wearing cement overshoes,” likewise. “Dirt nap,” not so much.

  13. As long as we’re making random associations, “dirt nap” makes me think “dirty nappy,” which makes me think Steve was talking more like a new mom, not a mobster.

  14. IIRC, Roman slaves were tattooed or branded to mark their status. The implication may be that everyone will be enslaved by the Beast.
    I assume the “the number of his name” refers to its numerological value. Maybe “Nero Caesar” has a value of 666. There must be other words and phrases that have the same value, so I’m not sure how you could identify the name with any certainty, but that seems like a reasonable guess.

  15. There have been LOTS of name associations with 666. Nero has already been mentioned, though to be fair, this one tends to depend on a varient reading, where the number is actually 616 (although I’m still not sure how they get there. It seems to involved transliterating the name from Hebrew to Greek to Latin…). Caligula has been suggested for similar reasons, also depending on 616. As to the generally accepted 666 version, one theologian suggested that the initials of all the Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Vespasian add up to 666 (admittedly omitted two to make it work).
    Modern figures have been suggested, as well. My favorite is the suggestion of “Ronald Wilson Reagan” (count the letters in each name).

  16. This Mark of the Beast stuff always ends up reminding me of Dr. Seuss’s “sneetches.” Specifically, the ones with “stars upon thars.”

  17. Hey! Whatever happened to the Common Market (precursor to the EU) as the one-world government? I remember hearing back in the ’70s that the Common Market was it, because the organization had a computer in Belgium called “the Beast” and because it was expanding from 7? to 10 members and when it had 10 members it would be like the 10 heads of the Beast in another chapter of Revelation.
    Of course, that was back in the days when barcode scanners were the Mark of the Beast (or could be) and Henry Kissinger was thought to be the Antichrist. O wait, wasn’t it Anwar Sadat? My memory fails me here.

  18. “It seems a bit Old Testament to…”
    I’d like to mention that Some People (not to name names or anything) believe the document mentioned above is really called the Hebrew Bible, and some (okay, me) rather dislike hearing it used as shorthand for unrelenting and probably disproportionate punishment.
    It’s a little as if all you knew of the New Testament was through seeing Mel Gibson’s (reputedly) gory movie, and you started saying things like “Wow, that Tarantino, he was really New Testament, wasn’t he? Did you ever see Reservoir Dogs?”.
    Sorry, had to pipe up.
    I also love your blog, BTW. Like a window into another world. Your whole voice of reason thing really gives me hope.

  19. The number 666 is derived, according to _Asimov’s Guide to the New Testament,_ from the numerical values in the Greek name for Nero, “Neron Kaisar.” In ancient times, letters were used to stand for numbers (they didn’t have separate symbols for numbers, as we do) and this led to a lot of weird-ball stuff. There were/are complicated systems for using the numberical values of Hebrew letters to find esoteric meanings in Hebrew writings. This is called “Gematria.” Similar systems existed for Greek.
    Since the number-values of letters were known to anybody literate, if you wanted to refer to someone without him necessarily twigging, you might come up with a number that could be derived from the numbers, and wrote it out.

  20. “Romania. Nonstrategic, scant gross national product, never invaded anybody, never anyone’s strategically. There’s nothing there but low-level internal politics.”
    Apparently, L&J couldn’t even be bothered to go to the library that is in LaHaye’s seminary and look at the Encyclopedia entry for Romania. Romania invaded Bulgaria in 1913, the USSR and Bulgaria (allied with Nazi Germany) in 1941, and Nazi Germany in 1944 (allied with the USSR). That’s just this past century. As to “never anyone’s strategically” (I don’t really know what that precisely means), Romania’s southern border is the Danube as it enters the Black Sea. L&J, master strategists that they are, are apparently infinitely greater strategists to ignore that as opposed to the Romans, the Huns, the Ottoman Turks, the Hungarians, the Austro-Hungarians, Nazi Germany and the USSR, since all of these powers considered Romania a prime strategic target (Nazi Germany needed to secure Romania’s oil supplies). Julius Caesar’s upcoming campaign before his assassination was against the Dacians in what is now Romania. The Emperor Trajan spent about 5 years conquering Dacia for Rome (Trajan was the great military genuis of the time – he didn’t go on 5-year campaigns because he thought it would be cool).
    Since LB was written in 1992-1993, apparently L&J had already completely forgotten the dramatic Romanian Revolution of 1989 just 2 years before, which ended with Ceausescu getting shot in front of a wall (very vivid image, that).

  21. Here again we see the hurdle facing LaHaye and Jenkins: So much prophecy, so little time. They haven’t got the luxury of following up on the aftereffects of the “rapture” because they’ve got a rise-of-the-Antichrist to follow.
    This only rings true if they didn’t know at the time that this was the first book in a twelve book series, which, given the blatent greed of the whole enterprise, I find to be unlikely.

  22. Let me see if I got this.
    A whole bunch of people have vanished. Planes, trains, and automobiles have crashed killed even more people. All children under the age of 12 are gone.
    So our cracker-jack reporter and his editor are discussing International Financiers (Jews), Jews (Jews), and Murder Incorporate (Jews). H’mmmm. Seems to be a trend here. Sorry Herr von Slacktypist, “The John Birch Society” is not *exactly* the political movement that immediately leaps to mind.
    As far as 666 I beg to notify the reader what is obviously being refered to is Route 666 a highway found in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.
    “[My husband] was driving this highway (in the middle of the night) headed for Gallop. He was alone and hadn’t seen a car for miles and miles. Suddenly, he saw a truck that looked like it was on fire heading straight for him, right down the middle of the highway. The truck was going so fast that sparks were flying up off the wheels and flames were coming from the smokestack. It scared him so bad that he pulled way off the road and walked 20 feet or so out into the desert away from his car and waited for the truck to pass him, going what he estimated was 130 miles an hour. He then got back into his car and continued on.
    In addition to the mad trucker, packs of demon dogs have been seen on this highway as wel1. They attack at night with yellow eyes and sharp teeth; shredding the tires of those silly enough to stop along this highway at night. Then there is a beautiful, young and frail girl in a long nightgown that roams the road. People see her walking along the side of the road, all alone in the dark out in the middle of nowhere. They stop to help her and as they approach, she instantly vanishes. There are many other tales of people who either disappear along this route or suddenly appear out of nowhere. There are even tales of the same person, disappearing at one point along the highway and then reappearing at another location miles away, without having any recollection of where they have been or what they have been doing.
    There are Native Americans tales of unwanted passengers appearing in the backseat of the car along such stretches of highway, but especially along Highway 666. It seems that skin walkers, or evil-minded Medicine Men, can shape shift often into animals such as crows, coyotes, or wolves and appear out of nowhere in front of your car on the highway. This, in and of itself, can cause unexplained accidents along the road. However, this is usually a warning and can happen several times before the evil shaman decides to appear in the backseat of your car, if you are driving alone.”
    Quoted from web article “Highway to Hell – Mysteries of Route 666 in Utah.”
    So Romania? The Carpathians? Pish-tosh. It’s actually the Lower Rockies in which the Anti-Christ will appear.

  23. “A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark [I think the writer means ‘number’] of the Antichrist.” Found online via Googling ‘616’.
    I am deeply disappointed that the Antichrist does not turn out to be a Jewish rock ‘n’ roll star turned politician. “He sold his soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll! Vote Antichrist!”

  24. the King of the South and the King of the North from Daniel
    Sigh…that passage is so incredibly obviously about the wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleutcids. It’s a pretty detailed recounting of the stuff.

  25. I’m reminded of a punk band in my old high school who had a song, the chorus of which was something like: “Six Six Six is just the number after Six Six Five.”

  26. There have been LOTS of name associations with 666.
    They made quite a game of it during the Reformation, with people on each side declaring that Martin Luther’s or Pope Leo X’s names could be calculated to 666 and therefore they were the ANTI-CHRIST!!!

  27. Of course what strikes a European reader is that the ame Americans most afraid of One World Government are those who find it almost literaly unthinkable that any part of the world should govern itsef without reference to their wishes.

  28. Of course what strikes a European reader is that the ame Americans most afraid of One World Government are those who find it almost literaly unthinkable that any part of the world should govern itsef without reference to their wishes.

  29. All they need is for Buck or rayford or which ever manly man is the reporter to go take a lunch break in a nearby park, the conspicuously absent sound of children would add pointiencey and if you had Steve (of “Adam and Steve”?) talk about romania there, but accept that the conversation is ludicrous but steve is still insistant that romania is an intersting story, but does so in all sorts of conspiracy theory type ways. That way Buck going to romania would make it seem like there is some strange as yet unknown reason why rayford must be in romania, adds mystery and gives us a pointient glimpse in the aftermath of the rapture.
    “It was quiet, too quiet. Buck’s senses kept screaming at him about something being wrong, but he couldn’t quite place it.
    Then it struck him – they were gone, the sounds of play, of youthful innocence spent getting dirty in the sun’s rays, all the children that usually congregated the park were not here, and may never be again.
    For the second time that day Buck cried for the lost, huge heaving sobs that felt like his very soul was being ejected from his body along with his tears. He cried for a long time, and just as he was pulling himself together, a figure sat down beside him.
    “Hi Ray.” Steve, his coworker, said.
    “huh? uh…Hi Steve.” Buck replied gruffly, trying to pretend that he hadn’t been crying.
    “So, did you hear about that election in romania?” Steve said, just as Buck looked as his coworker’s eyes, which were red and puffy as though he too had been crying not too long ago.
    “What? What does that matter now steve!?” Buck replied, anger tinting his voice.
    “Heard there was a big shake up there.” Steve stated, getting out his lunch clamly “I think you’d better check it out.”
    And then they can chuck in all the conspiracy theory stuff, a breif pause for the gone isn’t anethema to the gorramn story.

  30. Since LB was written in 1992-1993, apparently L&J had already completely forgotten the dramatic Romanian Revolution of 1989 just 2 years before, which ended with Ceausescu getting shot in front of a wall (very vivid image, that).
    On Christmas Day, too. How could L&J pass up on that plot detail?

  31. Ah. sorry. Didn’t think of that. My view of that particular group of books is a bit tainted by Leviticus and its use or misuse by generations of people whose view of the world I don’t admire.

  32. 666: The Number of the Beast
    0.666 Number of the Millibeast
    0.00150150… Reciprocal of the Beast
    25.8069758… Square Root of the Beast
    443556 Square of the Beast
    1010011010 Binary Number of the Beast
    1232 Octal of the Beast
    29A Hexidecimal of the Beast
    $666/hr Billing Rate of the Beast’s Lawyer
    $665.95 Retail Price of the Beast
    $699.25 Price of the Beast plus 5% State Sales Tax
    $769.95 Price of the Beast with accessories and replacement soul
    $656.66 Wal-Mart Price of the Beast
    $646.66 Next week’s Wal-Mart Price of the Beast
    $55.50 Monthly Payments for Beast, in 12 easy installments…

  33. And what will grumpy old men who used to yell at kids to stay out of their yards do now? (Assuming that bitter old age is not pleasing to God, of course.) Will they form support groups where they can reminisce about the missing kids, and how much damage the kids did to their lawns and flower beds?

  34. You know, if this little scene doesn’t prove that Buck and Rayford ar Mary Sues, then nothing can. There simple explanation for having Buck assigned ot a story like Romania after the disappearanc of 1/3rd of the world is that Buck is a rotten reporter and they want him out of the way. Simple, believable, and it makes complete sense within the context of the world they have created.
    But they cannot do that because, for some reason, Buck must be The Greatest Investigative Reporter in the World. In other words, he’s a Mary Sue. These things aren’t just bad theology and rapture porn — they are Biblical fan fic.

  35. It’s a little as if all you knew of the New Testament was through seeing Mel Gibson’s (reputedly) gory movie, and you started saying things like “Wow, that Tarantino, he was really New Testament, wasn’t he? Did you ever see Reservoir Dogs?”.
    Actually, that sounds pretty cool. I might start using that.
    BTW, the DCLXVI comment above was me; posted in haste.

  36. Another thought just occurred to me. As Ray points out, above:
    Seems like such an event would be catastrophic for the pregnant woman. Either the disappearing fetus leaves a void, causing an embolus in the uterus, or it creates a sudden vacuum, which would be just as deadly. And we already know that the engineer of these disappearances is unconcerned with collateral damage, given the plane crashes & such.
    (Granted, I’m the kind who believes that the bodiless piles of clothing seen in Rapture scenarios ought to be filled with the steaming contents of the departed ones’ digestive tracts.)

  37. Er, Ray points out above, “Apparently, babies in the womb disappeared overnight, along with all kids under 12….” Does that help?

  38. It’s ironic that the very people who are so against reading metaphor into the “Old” Testament can’t make any sense of the “New” without them. Revelation never belonged in the approved canon. Yet one cannot begin to grasp United States foreign policy in the Bush II Era without knowing something of the book & the screwy theologies it inspired in this nation’s knucklehead protestant right. Oh well, Christianity has throughout its history suffered occasional epidemics of mass stupidity.

  39. “Apparently, however, not a single head of state was among the disappeared, so aside from Romania, every other administration remains intact. This means that every head of state is both a heathen . . .”
    So how do the fundagelicals explain their rabid loyalty to the current administration? If God put the administration in power, then they all should have been raptured. But if they aren’t gone, then that must mean that, in the LB universe, Democrats are in charge. If the rapture is to take place, all of the prophetic moons of Jupiter must be properly aligned. So then it becomes obvious that for the rapture to occur (to take all the “good” Christians home, doncha know), all of the conservative fundagelical christians ought to be voting Democrat in every upcoming election.
    You can’t get raptured if you vote Republican.

  40. Interesting argument, Rev Ref. I suppose if people believe LB is factual and want the rapture to occur, they should try to create a world as close to theLB description as possible. So, in addition to voting Democrat, they should be putting all their efforts into encouraging serious interest in a single world currency and making the UN the most powerful governing body in the world. (I’m not sure how they’re going to go about lengthening Manhattan, but I suppose if faith can move mountains, it can move rivers too.)
    some (okay, me) rather dislike hearing it used as shorthand for unrelenting and probably disproportionate punishment.
    Me too. I know it’s done without any ill intent, but it still makes me wince.

  41. George Walker Bush = 664
    But since he is original last name is german then it is:
    George Walker Busche = 666

  42. George Walker Bush = 664
    But since he is original last name is german then it is:
    George Walker Busche = 666

  43. George Walker Bush = 664
    But since he is original last name is german then it is:
    George Walker Busche = 666

  44. Sorry I normally use Opera as my browser and it never completed the posting of my comments. So I resubmitted a couple of times.

  45. So, in addition to voting Democrat, they should be putting all their efforts into encouraging serious interest in a single world currency and making the UN the most powerful governing body in the world.
    But you’re forgetting: per the mindset at work here, the good Christians are vastly outnumbered everywhere by us heathens, unbelievers, Unitarians, gays, and so on. They can rest assured, voting for BushCo. won’t matter on a global scale because we are destined to bring our sinful lifestyles to the forefront and outvote ’em, thus bringing about the Rapture regardless. I’m sure many of these people had to have a lie-down after the election, as it is very hard to claim the “outnumbered” and “persecuted” cards and still have what amounts to a razor-thin electoral majority.
    (I didn’t say it made sense.)

  46. Thanks to various folks who posted the funny numerology references.
    And there, actually, the word is plural: “you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.”
    Of course, what’s very clear from the context of this Bible line is that it referred to events happening then not in today’s world. The whole concept of those “prophecies” having anything to do with the present is delusional.
    If the Xian right wants to find a one world govt, they DON’T have to look for any multilateral organization at all. In so doing, they’re ignoring the US military, which has a presence in 100+ countries, IIRC. That meets anyone’s definition of an organization that projects govt power globally, and is a lot more believable than the UN.(In fact, Christianity itself is also far more influential globally than the UN is.)
    These people never imagine that the administration they support might in fact BE the one they’re supposedly opposing, even though the Bible contains numerous warnings about false prophets, false messiahs, and the deceptive capabilities of the devil. I agree with Bob that this stuff is periodic… but he forgets than those periods of “mass stupidity” often reached the level of bloody, raging psychosis, with Inquisitions, crusades, and other kinds of brutality inflicted by “true believers” on the rest of us, Christian and otherwise.

  47. “Apparently, babies in the womb disappeared overnight, along with all kids under 12 ….but people can get pregnant now, if they like. On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like the kindest thing to do to kids, to bring them into a world ruled by the antichrist. On the other, if they haven’t been conceived, how can they get into heaven? It’s just weird all over.”
    Okay, so according to this theology, we’re going to have a God abort all the women who are pregnant at the time of the rapture (snatching the fetuses up to heaven, yes, I get that bit), likely killing the heathen women who had been pregnant at the time, since this traumatic God-induced abortion will likely be fatal, BUT women who are so evil as to want to CAN conceive children after the rapture, and those children will be condemned to everlasting hellfire?
    See, this is how we can tell it’s whacked mythology. It violates the asshat God rule. As any “any God who acted by those rules would be an asshat. If an asshat, not God.” Therefore…

  48. Yo, anyone who says Romani had no stratetic importance is an idiot–three words: Ploesti oil fields.
    And from the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network:
    “Romania held at least 517 million cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil reserves in 1994. Another 100 million barrels were discovered in the Romanian sector of the Black Sea in the late 1990s.”

  49. Right-wing Xian radio does have AntiChrist watchlist, according to a friend of mine who listen while taking a drive through Missouri last fall. At that time, John Kerry was the favorite of all the listeners calling in. I’m guessing his stock has fallen.
    The probably have Clinton back on top, a man from friend said one caller asked if it was OK to pray for his death.

  50. Fred, let me say how much I admire your efforts. I read the entire LB series (I hate not finishing something I’ve started, and I got halfway through the series before I totally lost hope that it would get better). Turning my brain off entirely, I was still in pain by the end of it. I’m impressed that you’re managing to read through even one with your brain so totally turned on.
    It’s the biggest problem with fundagelical thinking, isn’t it. The only way most people can understand/deal with it on its own terms is to turn off their brains, just when it’s most needed to question the most dangerous assumptions.

  51. Whether the LB’s president is Dem or Rep, though, it seems odd that he (or she – since we’re trolling for antichrists) hasn’t said anything or made any publuc statement. It would seem to be just about the ultimate photo op.
    If s/he didn’t want to express an opinion on the cause, how about a Presidential Committee of Inquiry?
    Perhaps he or she was just too busy gloating about the new 40-15 Democratic majority in the Senate.

  52. “Apparently, however, not a single head of state was among the disappeared, so aside from Romania, every other administration remains intact.”
    Actually, I have to say that that’s a rather American comment – in that you’re one of the very few countries in the world where the head of state is also the head of government. You and Saudi Arabia.
    The Head of Government in Australia – oddly enough, Queen Elizabeth – could be raptured tomorrow, followed by a prince a day to the end of the line, and it wouldn’t affect the Australian Prime Minister except by giving him a coronation to attend on the days when rain affected the Ashes. Likewise France, Israel, Ireland, Canada, India, etc etc.
    And, as it happens, Romania;
    Chief of state: President T. BASESCU
    Head of gover’t: Prime Minister C. Popescu-TARICEANU

  53. I have a question, don’t know if you’ve already covered it somewhere or if the books answer it later. What happened to pregnant women during the Rapture? Assuming that Jenkins and LaHaye consider fetuses fully human and no doubt fully innocent, do pregnant women find themselves suddenly unpregnant? Do women become unable to get pregnant after the Rapture? How does that work?
    PS, you’re amazing.

  54. Chris: Actually, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state for all Commonwealth nations. They each elect (though in some cases (Zimbabwe comes to mind) it barely deserves that word) their own head of government, normally with the title Prime Minister, or President.

  55. However, if you change Fred’s comment “Apparently, however, not a single head of state was among the disappeared, so aside from Romania, every other administration remains intact.” from “head of state” to “head of government”, it becomes more precice (and satisfies the distinction between the two roles) without affecting the meaning or intent.

  56. and those children will be condemned to everlasting hellfire?
    In all fairness to the fundies, post-rapture conversions are allowed (and figure in LB) – not everyone there or born after the rapture goes to Hell, according to their beliefs.

  57. Queen Elizabeth II is actually only head of state for some of the Commonwealth nations – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and about a dozen others (mostly Caribbean island nations). All of the monarchies other than the UK have governors-general who are officially represent the Queen, but are really figureheads appointed by the prime minister. The remainder have presidents, though often their presidents have a mostly ceremonial role (like the Queen does) and the prime ministers do the real work as heads of government.
    On the other hand, didn’t someone mention the Pope was raptured in this series? That’d mean one head of state gone.

  58. I don’t have the book on me, but I think the passages explored here also list German as one of the official languages at the UN, which it isn’t. LaHaye/Jenkins’ absolute refusal to do any research is astounding. But my favorite screwup is in Tribulation Force, where Jenkins uses the word “apocryphal” when they meant “apocalyptic”. Just unbelievable that anyone takes these things seriously.

  59. In all fairness to the fundies, post-rapture conversions are allowed (and figure in LB) – not everyone there or born after the rapture goes to Hell, according to their beliefs.
    But this next bit is supposed to be seven years, right? Are kids 7 and under considered able to make that sort of decision? These kids might, literally, be left in limbo.
    Now that everyone’s wondered about the pregnant women, how about the pregnant girls — those under the age of 12? Are they automatically exempt from the ‘child’ loophole, or do they get raptured right along with the fetus? And if they are raptured, does that mean they stay pregnant forever?
    And now, a moment of silliness:
    666 F – Oven temperature for roast Beast

  60. I have been reading this site (and enjoying it tremendously) for a while now. The series is illuminating and entertaining. I’ve also enjoyed reading the thoughtful and informed comments your readers post.
    I realise this is somewhat OT, but as a non-Christian who has been reading the Bible lately, I’ve been wondering. The dispensationalists obviously think that only those who believe in the right way and young children are going to be saved. If I’m not mistaken, most protestant denominations largely agree with the dispensationalists on this point. Following Luther’s maxim of salvation being only available through grace and grace only through faith, good deeds alone can not earn anybody salvation. Yet, as was noted in an earlier discussion on this board, when Jesus in the gospels addresses this issue he mostly talks about deeds, not faith. Faith seems to be a much bigger deal to Paul, who had never met Jesus in the flesh (and who seems to have been warding of some credibility issues on that account).
    As a non-religious person, the emphasis on faith has always mystified me. If something is convincing or just feels right, there is no need to make a big deal out of believing it. You just do. If the teaching is: You absolutely must believe this, it’s vital for your salvation. That seems to place quite a burden on any person’s faith. If believing is vital, do people not become fearful and fret over the question: Do I really believe? I really do not understand why faith should be so important. Can anybody here explain it to me? Could it be something Paul added to the mix for his own reasons?

  61. For those who mock at Bible prophecy…
    “Well, to me, the whole “marking” of people so they’re allowed to buy stuff makes at least some sense. It’s totalitarian control over your people, where the marked ones get to do something the unmarked don’t. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something similar had occured in more than one society in the past”
    Its happening now…
    http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1009_22-5793685.html
    Check out Revelation 13 again sometime.

  62. Apropos of Romania: today (August 21st) marks the 37th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country that refused to commit troops.

  63. Re “German as an official UN language”: Steve and Buck are discussing Carpathia and the languages he speaks. Steve lists “Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Romanian, Russian and Spanish.” For whatever reason Buck ponders about this and points out to Steve that these are “The six languages of the United Nations, plus the three languages of his own country.” Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish would be the six UN languages. Romanian is the official language of Romania and Hungarian is widely spoken, while ethnologue lists 45000 speakers of German in Romania. It appears L/J are for once correct, although I would expect Carpathia to speak Romani (i.e. the language of the “Gypsies”).

  64. gporch:
    George Walker Bush = 664
    But since he is original last name is german then it is:
    George Walker Busche = 666
    In German, it would be
    Georg Geher Busch,
    which is 555. Not quite up to Beast-level.

  65. Scott: in the Siamese twin case it would be the Rupture.
    Man, that looks worse in print than it sounded in my internal monologue. At least I got it out of my system.

  66. Ok, so we’ve got the conjoined twins sorted. But what if a person has multiple personalities, and only some are Christian (or the “right” kind of christian at any rate)?

  67. Oi!
    Maiden might have sung about the anti-christ, doesn’t mean they believed in that shit or “rooted for him”….
    Leave that to the Norwegians.

  68. Hosea:
    All religions are rackets, protection rackets.
    Someone, who can never prove that the soul or God even exists, convinces people that they are the one and only true messengers representing that which they can’t even prove exists. Then they use a carrot and a stick strategem. They claim that if everyone does as they (ahem, God) tells them to do, then their (unverifiable) souls will go to (unverifiable) heaven. Otherwise, the non-believers in their (ahem, God’s) dictates for humanity will go to (unverifiable) hell. In other words, if you obey them (ahem, God) then these self-proclaimed worldly represents of (unverifiable) God will reward you with largesse…or at least leave you and your family alone…while if you disobey their (ahem, God’s) dictates, then they will…give…you…hell!!!
    This is why I call all religions protection rackets.
    The religious leaders are only trying to “protect” their ego-driven power-hunger and power-madness. (Note: the same holds true for political leaders without a religious template).
    And Jesus Christ, according to the four gospels, didn’t want anything to do with the political and religious reacketeers of his day. He even called them all “thieves.”
    And it just so happens that Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) was a political/religious racketeer. Which is why the Catholi bishops kept his letters in their canon, while discarding and destroying all the other letters being circulated among the early Christian communities. The Catholi bishops were (and still are) just a bunch of religious racketeers.
    And the Protestants are no different. And the Jews are no different. And the Muslims are no different. And the Hindus are no different. In fact, all religions throughout the history of this world tend to end up being nothing more than protection rackets…fixated upon the flesh…and having no clue at all about Spirit. And Spirit is what Jesus came to tell and teach us about.
    So, faith versus works? The religious leaders idea of “faith” is that their loyal and blind followers will have faith in their (unverifiable) claim that they have a clue about God’s will. And the “works” are the way the religious leaders typically keep tabs on their loyal and blind followers to physically see if their con job is working. Which is why all religions have “rituals,” BTW.
    Anyway, I gave up on religion many years ago. I hate to be conned. But I continued my Spiritual Quest on my own terms, at my own pace. Because I have had (unverifiable) Spirit experiences of my own. And I sought out my own answers to try to explain these phenomenae. I have my own theories, therefore, about what is going on in this world. But they are only theories. Unverifiable.
    But, I will say this. In my view, religions actually impede Spiritual Awakening. Why? Because they all use “fear” as one of their tools to try to keep their loyal and blind followers in line. Just like the “Left Behind” Rapturists are using “fear” in their religious promotion. They can’t prove anything that they’ve written. Nothing is verifiable. In my view, they are the false prophets we’ve been warned about. But there is one thing that is verifiable. They are using “fear” as a tool of hate in their power-hunger, their power-madness. Typical. Predictable. All religions use the same tactic. Verily, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there?

  69. Does the Bush administration have a COG (continuance of government) plan in case of Rapture…?? Shouldn’t they? Some reporter should field that question to Scott at the next press conference.

  70. Wow – lots to add on this one – let me start with the easiest:
    1) L&J again show there lack of imagination. How simple a strategy would it be for, in the midst of all the chaos, Carpathia to have ALREADY been head of the UN and THEN unveil some grand plan to deal with the disappearance crisis that would make him beloved to all the world? Obviously some of the major problems would be looting, commerce operations, and trade. Now, wouldn’t one way to reign in the chaos to be to make EVERYONE use some sort of centralized aid distribution system – you know, a card or some unique identifier to get needed supplies? Isn’t that far more compelling and logical than what L&J concoct?
    More in next post….

  71. Next point:
    2) I stopped in a secular bookstore and saw a book about the rapture! The author’s names were in small type so I forgot them, but in large type was the name LAHAYE, who wrote the foreward!
    The book used passages from LB to “jumpstart the discussions” (from Lahaye’s foreward). I thumbed through it and one section really sickened me. In the section the authors wrote that the Rapture is an event Christians the world over look forward to!
    Yeah as a Christian I look forward to my friends and family (not to mention billions of people I never met) who don’t share my beliefs being “left behind” to suffer in the Antichrist’s dominion.
    I am especially glad to know that at least one or two of those will be spared that by dying in awful plane crashes due to disappearing Christian pilots. What a grand thing that while I feast in heaven they will all rot in eternal hellfire.
    I almost bought the book just so no one else would read it….

  72. Last thing – responding to Hopea who wrote:
    If believing is vital, do people not become fearful and fret over the question: Do I really believe? I really do not understand why faith should be so important. Can anybody here explain it to me?
    Absolutely on the button – Christians (and I imagine any believer of any religion) generally DO worry about whether they truly believe. It’s a perfectly normal thought, and I would hold that it is necessary and healthy. Questioning your faith, IMO, is necessary to growing in that faith. Fearful faith never holds up in the long run – it simply isn’t deep enough.
    Why is faith so important? I assume you are asking why it is important to Paul/relgious doctrine (not at a personal level)? I’ll be less cynical than The Oracle – I think for all it’s flaws orgainzed religion DOES bring people together in community, which enhances the individual experiences of its members. The fact that organized religion CAN become co-opted and subvert the truth of the message it conveys doesn’t mean it should be avoided. We learn both individually and communally – I think there is a biblical example for that….
    So why the focus on faith? I think the point Paul was making was that just doing (works) is not as fulfilling without having a legitimate reason (faith). If I do good things to just try to get into heaven (seems that is the prevailing message miscommunicated to non-Christians) then I miss the point. However, if I have faith, I act not from fear but from love – from a desire to do the right things not because of the reward I get but because it is the right thing to do.
    Does that then mean that a person who does good things without faith is evil? I don’t think so – certainly there are times when Jesus acknowledged that a person who DID good without first having faith had still been in accordance with God’s will. But, to have BOTH faith and do good works is the ideal, hence Paul made it a cornerstone of his message.
    Just my take on it – not gospel. To bring it back to LB, that is my problem with the whole theology espoused by L&J – you believe not because of love, but because of fear. You help others not because you are compelled by faith, but only for your own benefit. It’s extremely selfish, and to me that is pretty much directly opposite what Jesus was teaching.

  73. Re: All religions are rackets, protection rackets.
    “My Trinity, he’s clumsy. Cities break, you know.” I think this is from Robert Anton Wilson but it’s been a while.

  74. In re: the idea of a COG plan for the government and Christian airline pilots:
    In what kind of good conscience could someone who believes they could be raptured AT ANY TIME take a job where their disappearance would cause the deaths of hundreds? Isn’t that tantamount to murder with foreknowledge? Or does it not count because the people killed are the damned?

  75. Hopea, as a card-carrying member of the Bob-Jones’ condemned cultic Roman Catholic Church, I have an admittedly biased view of the Faith/Works issue, but with that caveat I’ll give you question a shot.
    First, when you reference Paul “adding [Faith] to the mix”, I assume you referring to the line in Romans that Luther translated as “we are save by faith alone, apart from works of the law”. Luther added the word “alone” to that translation. Paul was making a distinction between the Pharisaic practices of his time which held elevated outward adherence to the liturgical, dietary and discipinary aspects of the Mosaic law above the interior disposition of the heat.
    Second, the dilemma you point out does directly follow from a strict adherence to “faith alone” and results in a real cognitive disonance for the fundigelicals adherents. Note that I wouldn’t necessarily include the mass of Protestants within this sphere, just the literal fundis.
    Here’s the problem: They define “faith” as merely an “intellectual assent” to the proposition that “Jesus is Lord and died for our sins”. They’re told that this assent is all that they need to “be saved”. The way they actually live (their “works”) have no power to gain them salvation. If their “works” can’t gain them heaven, then their “works” can’t forfeit heaven either.
    So, they’re left with a theology that says that as long as you intellectually believe that Jesus is Lord, it ultimately doesn’t matter how you live. (they may place some importance on avoiding sin, but mainly for purposes of making God happy or being a better “role model” to bring in more recruits).
    Nevertheless, they have this nagging feeling that it just can’t be that as long as you have “faith” you can do whatever you want (cheat on your spouse, steal, etc.)
    So many come up with concepts like “said faith”, meaning that the person who professes faith, then really, really sins, probably didn’t have an authentic “faith” in the first place.
    The irony is that, for a scripture-only biblically literal group, this concept of “said faith” is totally abiblical. And it also totally undercuts the “assurance of salvation”, “once-saved-always-saved” bedrocks of their theology.

  76. Thank you for your comments.
    Oracle:
    I’m not quite as cynical as you seem to be. I think that bishops and other religious leaders are generally believers. There may well be the occasional timeserver among them but I guess they would be rare. Of course humans have a nearly unlimited capacity to believe what is advantageous for them personally, so many can certainly be both power-hungry and believers.
    My question was intended to be more theological than sociological. If I’m not mistaken, faith is less central in Judaism. Where did the Christian emphasis on faith come from? When trying to understand any thought system I have always found it advantageous to adopt a position of sympathy. If you read, say, Husserl and immediately conclude that it seems to be crap, you’re going to miss a lot of interesting stuff.
    Harv:
    My point about faith was actually a slightly different one. I meant that the importance of faith for redemption can actually be a force that weakens faith. If the teaching were to say: don’t worry whether you believe or not, it’s enough to be a decent human being. Faith could be given freely. The worry and fear, the compulsion aspect would vanish. But then you would lose the deepening of faith that you alluded to, no?
    About the deeds without faith part. Wouldn’t a complete atheist who does good deeds without any hope of reward, then rank highest on your scale of merit? His/her morals certainly couldn’t be considered mercenary.
    Ajb:
    Thank you for a Catholic perspective. I’m aware that catholic theology gives deeds a larger role in redemption. But what is the significance of faith for Catholics? I don’t think Catholics are exempt from the fear of not really believing, because only deeds are not sufficient, even in Catholicism. Or have I misunderstood that part?

  77. “If I’m not mistaken, faith is less central in Judaism. Where did the Christian emphasis on faith come from?”
    AIUI, this is because Judaism answers the “faith or works?” question with “blood”. The Jews are God’s chosen people, and they are defined by their lineage. Christians seek to convert people, and faith is central to the idea of conversion.

  78. Hopea:
    You are correct that, theologically, faith (vis a vis works)plays an absolutely essential role in Catholicism.
    Generally speaking, Catholic theology takes very much a “both-and” approach as opposed to an “either-or” approach. So we place great emphasis on the warning in James’ epistle that “faith without works is dead”. The two concepts of faith and works are often synthesized in the expression “faith working through love (or charity)”.
    Actually, the Catholic Church is open to the ability of a non-Christian (even an atheist or agnostic) to attain salvation, assuming that they haven’t been presented with the truth about Jesus Christ.
    Only a fully-informed, freely-given and knowing rejection of Jesus Christ warrants damnation in Catholic theology.
    So the proverbial native on a remote island who never hears the Gospel but lives a good life, in Catholic theology, can certainly go to heaven. We would say that the good life he lead (and indeed all goodness on Earth)was a result of God’s grace (even if he didn’t know it). The fundigelical would say that poor native is condemned to eternal hellfire.
    Obviously this is all abit too involved to exhaust in a combox, but you might want to look at Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter Dominus Iesus:
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html, which goes into the issue of salvation for Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, non-Christian believes, and non-believers.

  79. “I’d like to mention that Some People (not to name names or anything) believe the document mentioned above is really called the Hebrew Bible, and some (okay, me) rather dislike hearing it used as shorthand for unrelenting and probably disproportionate punishment.”
    HEAR HEAR!
    “It’s a little as if all you knew of the New Testament was through seeing Mel Gibson’s (reputedly) gory movie, and you started saying things like ‘Wow, that Tarantino, he was really New Testament, wasn’t he? Did you ever see Reservoir Dogs?’.”
    You know what? If I get ticked off enough, I’m going to start doing that. And given the wild imagery of Revelations, maybe we could start using “New-Testament” as a synonym for “psychedelic” too!

  80. “How ruthless?”
    “People took dirt naps.”
    “Ooh, Steve, you talk just like a mobster.”
    Shouldn’t this be nominated for some kind of Bulwer-Lytton Award for worst dialogue?

  81. Hopea:
    There are at least two different faiths that are conflated when talking about faith vs works. First, there’s the faith in God, in general. If you have faith in God, then you should be naturally inclinded to do good works. Second, there’s faith in Jesus. Not just in him, but in the fact that he died for our sins. Jesus dying for our sins is a gift from God. If you don’t have faith in that, then you reject the gift and will have to answer personally for all your sins. This faith has nothing to do with works and is the one Christians says is so damn important. It’s part of the current covenant and whatever the rules were before Jesus died were replaced with the new rules, namely, accept the gift or go to hell.

  82. ajb:
    Thanks for the link, I’ll read it.
    Devon:
    I’m sure this is not sound theology, but my instinct would be to say, okay I’ll take the gift if it was indeed given. But what is the ethical or theological value of me somehow acquiring an emotional (?) certainty that it was indeed given. That is, sort of the crux of my question.
    I’m not asking whether you think it’s necessary for salvation, you obviously do. But why it should be so.

  83. Hopea:
    Well, first, I don’t believe any of what I wrote. I was writing from their perspective, not my own.
    Continuing in that manner:
    God gave us free will, so we can choose to reject salvation. To accept the gift of salvation, you must also accept God, that Jesus was fully God and Man (because only God could truly bear the brunt for all humanity), and a handfull of other things. God will know when the time comes if you truly believe. If you don’t believe these things, if you don’t have faith, then you have rejected the gift. Having faith = accepting the gift. I don’t know why it should be so. Ask God at judgement time.

  84. On faith in Christian religions:
    I have a double book of Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and Sickness Unto Death; these are good introductions to an intellectuals struggle with faith and doubt in a religious context.

  85. Devon:
    Second, there’s faith in Jesus. Not just in him, but in the fact that he died for our sins. Jesus dying for our sins is a gift from God. If you don’t have faith in that, then you reject the gift and will have to answer personally for all your sins. … To accept the gift of salvation, you must also accept God, that Jesus was fully God and Man (because only God could truly bear the brunt for all humanity), and a handfull of other things.
    Where is this in the Bible?

  86. and those children will be condemned to everlasting hellfire?
    Nope. For the same reason that all the pre-teens were caught up in the Rapture, in less than seven years of Tribulation, no child would reach the age of self-determination. They get a free pass.
    In all fairness to the fundies, post-rapture conversions are allowed (and figure in LB) – not everyone there or born after the rapture goes to Hell, according to their beliefs.
    In further fairness to the fundies, this is not true of all of them. Some premillenial dispensationalists (including some to whom I am related) believe that after the Rapture, it’s too late for everyone, and the next seven years are just pointless sadism before Armageddon (Okay, they obviously don’t call it pointless sadism.). Note that this group have backed themselves into this corner by their acceptance of the “One-and-a-halfth” Coming, since the New Testament makes the Second Coming sound pretty definitive. That’s the problem with embracing as Scriptural something that Darby made up less than two centuries ago.

  87. “If you don’t believe these things, if you don’t have faith, then you have rejected the gift. Having faith = accepting the gift”
    Yeah! My nearly number one pet peeve of Fundementalist Christianity: God’s Gift or even better “FREE Gift.” Every explaination I’ve heard there’s always a condition with the “free” gift which I like pointing out makes the gift not a gift. A gift is “Here, this is yours; do with it as you will.” There are no conditions with a gift. A gift that has strings attached is either a bribe or a payment. Thanks to the warping of the Christmas message (something that alas is not the Funde’ies fault) a gift must have strings attached. A gift can either be accepted or rejected without conditions.
    “How much for the gourd?”
    “Nothing you can have it”
    “What’s wrong with it?!”

  88. “If I do good things to just try to get into heaven (seems that is the prevailing message miscommunicated to non-Christians) then I miss the point. However, if I have faith, I act not from fear but from love – from a desire to do the right things not because of the reward I get but because it is the right thing to do.”
    But if you don’t have faith, the only reason to do good deeds is because it is the right thing to do. There’s no reason to do it out of fear of hell or selfish desire for heavenly reward. Hence to inculcate good motives in people it would be best to preach non-faith. Furthermore a truly good God would hide his existence, and certainly that of heaven and hell, and let people choose right for the right reasons. Or so a strong argument goes.

  89. Ray wrote:
    Judaism answers the “faith or works?” question with “blood”. The Jews are God’s chosen people, and they are defined by their lineage. Christians seek to convert people, and faith is central to the idea of conversion.
    I was startled by your reply, Ray, because when you said “blood” I at first thought you were talking about the sacrifices in the vanished Temple. I think taking “blood” to be Jewish blood in one’s veins is also incorrect. The only sense in which “blood” applies is circumcision, which is the seal of the Covenant, signed in blood.
    Speaking as someone who was raised Catholic/Lutheran and is currently a practicing Jew, there is no direct Jewish equivalent of grace. Christian grace tends to be rather one-sided (God does all the heavy lifting), whereas for Jews the Covenant tends more to be A Contract with God. “Israel” means “wrestles with God”, and though Christians seem to mostly interpret that wrestling as “wrestling with the problems of life and one’s sinful nature”, Jews tend to talk about a more unsubmissive struggle — like Job’s.
    I always knew that, compared to Christians, Jews spend very little time worrying about Hell or damnation. I was surprised, then, to find that Jewish High Holidays services are all about Redemption. The formula goes, “Three things — t’shuvah (repentence, or turning back toward G-d), t’fillah (sincere prayer), tzedakah (charity or care for others) — avert the stern decree”. These are not exactly “works” in the Christian sense, because the thought does count for a great deal, but for me personally one of the satisfactions of Judaism is the stress on “works” as opposed to the slippery anxieties of “grace”.
    My general observation is that some people find “justification by grace” makes them anxious (are my feelings really the right ones?), while other people find “justification by works” problematic (am I really doing enough?) — and which side they come down on has more to do with personality than with denomination. For any particular Christian denomination to do well over the long term, I think it has to have places for people who need “works” and for those who need “grace”, because you *will* get people with different personalities.

  90. Thanks Dr. Science. There’s no single answer to what Jews believe about “grace” any more than there’s a single answer to what Christians believe. Still, I don’t know of any Jewish sect or denomination that believes in salvation through lineage alone. Some put great stock in lineage and believe “once a Jew, always a Jew”, but even for them the opposite is not also true. A gentile who sincerely wants to join “the tribe” and commits to studiy and practice can be a Jew regardless of “blood”.
    Someone earlier a tendency use “Old Testament” as a synonym for cruelty and vengence. I think this underlies a wider tendency to define Judaism by only its strictest, most tribal aspects. Though a few schools and denominations do emphasize those aspects, there is a long, liberal tradition within Judaism as well, which should be familiar to anyone who’s read the Gospels. Jesus was a radical, but he was a radical Jew. The split between His followers and Judaism, was not due to His teachings about the Law or God, but due to their belief that He was the Messiah, which the Jews of the time saw as heresy. Dr. Science’s list of the traditional Jewish requirements for redemption is really no different from Jesus’ (Love the Lord your God and you neighbor as yourself). Remember too, that when Jesus described the separation of the sheep from the goats, the distinction was based not on the individuals’ religious beliefs but on how they behaved toward the least of their brothers. This idea can be found throughout Judaism, which sees a place in God’s kingdom for the righteous of all nations,. (Strangely, it seems much less popular among Christians.)
    To get back to the original issue, Judaism has no definitive answer to the question of faith vs. works because it doesn’t really make that distinction in the first place. In traditional Judaism, faith is expressed in devotion to the Law, the commandments. When Jewish children, at the age of 13, consecrate themselves to the religion and become full-fledged member of the congregation, they are Bar or Bat Mitzvah (a son or daughter of the commandments). But mitzvah has a dual meaning. It can mean “a law”, but it can also mean “a good deed”. Keeping kosher and praying at the prescribed times are mitzvot, but feeding the hungry and relieving suffering are mitzvot as well. One Jewish text — I don’t remember the source — compares prayer and good deeds to the roots and branches of a tree. If you give all your attention to prayer and neglect good deeds, you’re like a tree with strong roots but weak branches, scrawny and poor. If you give all your attention to good deeds and neglect prayer and devotion, you’re like a great tree with with weak roots, vulnerable to every passing storm. Asking whether faith alone or works alone are enough for a human being is like asking whether roots alone or branches alone are enough for a tree.

  91. well, it’s obvious that the antichrist is about to come upon the world. In Seattle, every year, in public with the kids present, there are people who go nude at the “Fremont Solstice parade.” This is surely a sign of the antichrist or the reign of some evil-doer or something!

  92. To answer Ginger’s post:
    But if you don’t have faith, the only reason to do good deeds is because it is the right thing to do. There’s no reason to do it out of fear of hell or selfish desire for heavenly reward. Hence to inculcate good motives in people it would be best to preach non-faith. Furthermore a truly good God would hide his existence, and certainly that of heaven and hell, and let people choose right for the right reasons. Or so a strong argument goes.
    First, I think you sort of straw-manned my argument by adding an assumption to it – that being that faith is the only way to know what is right. I didn’t suggest that – and I doubt God cares if you do right because you believe or don’t believe in a specific religion. An all-good God would only care that good was done, not necessarily why.
    I’ll take your counter on in several of its assumptions – first, the argument suggests that the purpose of God for the world is to sift out the good people from the bad. Therefore, God would want to see if you choose right or wrong without being given the answer. I don’t think that makes sense – would not an all-good God want all people to do the right thing? So therefore would not God try to point the way for people to help them do the right thing? Therefore, faith would be one of the better ways to lead one to knowledge of the right things.
    It’s hard to argue something so complex as faith in a message forum – so many things can’t be laid out. I will add this to help others understand my position – I don’t believe that the purpose of life is to sort out people who will be saved and those who will not. Therefore, I also do not believe that *anyone* winds up in hell; the God I believe in is all-powerful but also all-merciful – there is no one whose sins can not be forgiven, no one who can not be redeemed. Wih that, my position on faith may make a little more sense – faith has no reward other than itself.
    Is it infallible – can it never be misinterpreted? Certainly not – and it doesn’t diminish faith to suggest that. But then again faith is not based on reason alone – it has other parts to it – mystical, emotional, spiritual. And that can’t be argued by logic – it has to be experienced directly.

  93. 666 grams – The molar mass of the Beast.
    Devon – “It’s part of the current covenant and whatever the rules were before Jesus died were replaced with the new rules, namely, accept the gift or go to hell.”
    I second the commentor above: what the heck kind of gift is that? It turns god into Prince Humperdinck with his marry me or die offer, and that’s just bloody inconceivable.

  94. Here in Finland a Lutheran pastor wrote a book about redemption with the title “Everybody goes to heaven” (rough translation), needless to say he got into hot water with his bishop. Although I have not read his book, I met him at a party and he explained his main argument to me. The gist was that he defined “faith” in a very special way. According to him faith was something close to hope, and that everybody needed hope and faith in order to live. Thus everybody has faith and because faith is the only thing necessary for salvation, everybody is saved. Through I had sympathy for the argument I could not but think that his theory was a piece of sophistry designed to update dated ethical thinking contained in Lutheran church doctrine.
    It was also a reminder how much depends on the exact meaning of terms like “faith”.
    Ajb:
    Heh, it occurred to me that what I’m doing is pretty hazardous according to Catholic doctrine: Only a fully-informed, freely-given and knowing rejection of Jesus Christ warrants damnation in Catholic theology.
    Perhaps it’s safer to be ignorant…
    Of course, I’m hardly a remote islander, so maybe I’m already in for it. Once again much depends on what exactly terms like “fully informed” and “rejection” mean. I haven’t had time to read Dominus Iesus yet, so maybe those terms a clarified there.

  95. Hmmm.
    From Dominus Iesus:
    Faith is a gift of grace: “in order to have faith, the grace of God must come first and give assistance; there must also be the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and gives ‘to everyone joy and ease in assenting to and believing in the truth’”.
    This comes close to predestination in my mind. I have always wondered about the supposed volitional character of faith. I could not choose to believe that the Moon is made of cheese. It’s contrary to everything I know about the natural world. Similarly, I don’t think I could start to believe in god, simply by deciding to do so. I could say that I believe, but that would be a lie. So the passage from Dominus Iesus certainly rings true. But that takes us back to square one. Who gets the grace that enables belief? Certainly not everybody, for I have not had any such experience.
    reading on….

  96. In Tribulation Force, the sequel to Left Behind, the president is a foul-mouthed Democrat in the middle of his second term.

  97. Hopea:
    Thanks for checking out the encylical.
    Your first comment, about “ignorance”, is actually true. In fact, we give it the cool, superhero title “invincible ingorance” (God can’t jack you for ignoring a teaching that you don’t know about).
    And, you’re right. Arguably by exposing someone to the Gospel, you’re putting their salvation in jeopardy should they choose not to believe! Of course, ultimately one has to consider WHY someone doesn’t respond to being evangelized. This undoubtedly has alot to do with our earlier conditioning and formation alot of stuff that probably works on a subconscious level that I’m not smart enough to understand. It also undoubtedly has alot to do with the hugely flawed, sinful, humans that God chose to spread his Word. For instance, many people would view exposure to the Gospel as just a “new set of rules” (all the “thou shalt nots. . . “). But we know that God should be a blessing and not a burden, and our Faith something to celebrate and not mourn.
    I sometimes wonder, if the Truth about God is as great as we Christians believe it to be, it doesn’t seem that anyone would knowingly, with full consent, reject that Truth. Is there a nanosecond in that amorphous point between “life” and “death” in which we’re presented with the unvarnished Truth (and by that I also mean the Truth stripped of the religious baggage that alot of “believers” attach to it) and challenged to either accept or reject it? If so, would anyone rationally reject it?

  98. Hopea,
    With respect to your second point, there are actually different types of “grace”, or rather, different concepts that we articulate using the label “grace”.
    For example being in a state such that we’ll go to heaven should we die at that moment is considering being in a state of “sanctifying grace”. We refer to other gifts, blessing, etc, that we receive from God as “actual grace(s)”.
    The Christian concept of “original sin” is the idea that, because of some defect in human nature that resulted from whatever happened that scripture describes mythologically as the “fall” in the “garden”, we are born without “sanctifying grace”.
    According the Gospel, Jesus said the ONLY way to get back into this state is through Baptism.
    But then, Scripture also tells us that God is all good, all loving, all just, desires EVERYONE to be save and calls EVERYONE to Himself.
    The reconilication of those two competing concepts is what Pope John Paul was grappling with in the encylical.
    Earlier in Church history, theologians developed concepts like “limbo” for children who die before being Baptized (this was never officially adopted by the Magisterium, though). The Church also speaks of “baptism by blood”, referring to those who die for the Faith even before Baptism. And also, “baptism by desire” for those who’ve begun the process of conversion but died before being Baptized.
    It seems that sanctifying grace is made available to all in some mysterious way, but that it also requires both the cooperation of each individual, as well as the assistance of the community of believers that Jesus left behind and commissioned to go out and preach the Gospel.

  99. Discussions getting to serious again, so here’s more Fun with Calculators:
    6.66×10^23 – Avagadro’s Number of the Beast
    1.0106×10^1593 – Factorial of the Beast
    2.82347 – log of the Beast
    I’d say that this is getting derivative, but the Beast is a constant, and the derivative of a constant is 1.
    Alas, I don’t have a good one for “999”.

  100. $6, 66/month Rent-a-Beast. For your own private affordable apocalypse.
    Since I’m spoiling the thread with seriousness.

  101. I sometimes wonder, if the Truth about God is as great as we Christians believe it to be, it doesn’t seem that anyone would knowingly, with full consent, reject that Truth. Is there a nanosecond in that amorphous point between “life” and “death” in which we’re presented with the unvarnished Truth (and by that I also mean the Truth stripped of the religious baggage that alot of “believers” attach to it) and challenged to either accept or reject it? If so, would anyone rationally reject it?
    The truth hurts, what if the truth is that God has been pretty much hands off since life started up in the primordial swamp, and that there is no plan, and that every single act of barbarism and hatred and pointless violence happens wihtout meaning.
    We’re a funny species, we’ll quite gladly reject a truth if it isn’t the truth we want, I could imagine many fundies denying that great truth if it involves them not being god’s special little elite children, if all the people they hate, the loose women, the homosexuals, the liberals and non-white non-americans were to get into heaven and the fundies had a choice to either go to this heaven or reject it for whatever else, then I reckon a great many would, or if not actively reject it, decide that the great Truth is a lie, and reject it anyway just because it’s not the answer they were expecting.
    Maybe that’s what a good life really is, just becoming a person who will accept that final Truth regardless of whether it’s what we wanted precisely. maybe not.
    What if it’s all just 42? how would you react?

  102. Well, not at all I guess, because if it is all just ”42”, there is no point when the pointlessness of all is revealed. Anyway, that is what I expect.
    WARNING POINTLESS MENTAL STRIPTEASE AHEAD
    _____________________________________________________________________
    When asked whether I’m an agnostic or an atheist, I find it difficult to answer. It turns into a word game about what exactly an atheist is supposed to be claiming. If you wade through the epistemology and semantics, I think that “atheist” would be a truer description, but I usually call myself an agnostic. Too many people believe being an atheist involves claiming to know that there is no god, which is logically impossible.
    I come from a home where religion played no role. I don’t think I have had any religious experiences and frankly, religion seems to me to be about projecting our human wishes unto an uncaring universe.
    My interests on this site are rather selfish. I have no interest in convincing anybody to share my opinions; rather I’m trying to understand those of others. I feel that religion and faith specifically is something I don’t really understand. While I think it rather unlikely that I would change my mind about religion, I’m open to the possibility.
    __________________________________________________________________________
    I’ve been posting on this site because a lot of smart people from different religious backgrounds and/or philosophies write comments here. It also seems almost miraculously troll free. But I realize this comment thread is about Left behind, so if there is a place that would be more appropriate for the kind of stuff I’ve been writing, I’d be grateful for any suggestions.

  103. Hopea,
    Hey it’s all fair game I think on the message boards – discussions evolve as they do because it seems we all tend to respect each other. No need to apologize – the nature of faith is very relevant topic for Left Behind.
    And I appreciate your honesty about your personal views – and I think anyone who is totally honest with themselves would admit *they* don’t understand religion and (especially) faith. I think you are commendable for asking honest questions and being open-minded. Just don’t be surprised if getting an answer never fully happens – for me (who grew up much like you)that’s been a lesson learned over time.
    I don’t worry about the people who express doubt concerning their faith; it’s the ones who assure me they have no doubts that I think are in peril. They give a false sense of what it takes to be a Christian to those asking the question – as if Jesus/God requires you to never, ever doubt in order to “join the fold”. That leads to either rejection based on false information, or acceptance under standards that can never be met (which leads to all kinds of nasty things like guilt and hypocrisy).
    Good luck, and hope to see your posts here in the future.

  104. Two Prophesies in the Garden of Eden.
    (Absolute Foundation Prophecy)
    God say’s, if you eat or even touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in the midst of the garden you will Surely Die.
    The Serpent / Satan say’s, if you eat or even touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in the midst of the garden you will Surely Not Die.
    Question: When the prophet Jesus comes and offers the gift of eternal life which/whose prophecy does he fulfil.
    Two schools of
    Food for thought Satan in the 21st century
    Yours Sincerely
    Tanya
    ——————————————————————————–
    There is a school of thought that say’s that the second coming of Jesus may have actually been Muhammad and that Islam is really christianity take two.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Holy Smoke
    There is an interpretation that when
    God was speaking too Moses from the Burning Bush Moses was actually smoking
    cannabis and having hallucinations / visions as is not all too uncommon with those
    who partake of the holy weed if this were true would it mean that Moses was
    inspired by Satan or God?
    Tanya
    ——————————————————————————–
    Left handed bible story ( Unorthodox )
    Ehud son of Gera the Benjaminite , the left handed man who saved Israel , [Judges 3;12-30, Holman Christian Standard Bible , Biblegateway.com]
    Ehud
    12 The Israelites again did what was evil in the LORD’s sight. He gave Eglon king of Moab (N) power over Israel, because they had done what was evil in the LORD’s sight. 13 After Eglon convinced the Ammonites and the Amalekites to join forces with him, he attacked and defeated Israel and took possession of the City of Palms. (O) [i] 14 The Israelites served Eglon king of Moab 18 years.
    15 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and He raised up Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed (P) Benjaminite, [j] as a deliverer for them. The Israelites sent him to Eglon king of Moab with tribute (Q) [money].
    16 Ehud made himself a double-edged sword 18 inches long. [k] He strapped it to his right thigh under his clothes 17 and brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was an extremely fat man. 18 When Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he dismissed the people who had carried it. 19 At the carved images near Gilgal he returned and said, “King [Eglon], I have a secret message for you.” The king called for silence, and all his attendants left him. 20 Then Ehud approached him while he was sitting alone in his room upstairs [where it was] cool. Ehud said, “I have a word from God for you,” and the king stood up from his throne. [l] 21 Ehud [m] reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and plunged it into Eglon’s belly. 22 Even the handle went in after the blade, and Eglon’s fat closed in over it, so that Ehud did not withdraw the sword from his belly. And Eglon’s insides came out. 23 Ehud escaped by way of the porch, closing and locking the doors of the upstairs room behind him.
    24 Ehud was gone when Eglon’s servants came in. They looked and found the doors of the upstairs room locked and thought he was relieving himself [n] in the cool room. 25 The servants waited until they became worried and saw that he had still not opened the doors of the upstairs room. So they took the key and opened the doors—and there was their lord lying dead on the floor!
    26 Ehud escaped while the servants waited. He crossed over [the Jordan] near the carved images and reached Seirah. 27 After he arrived, he sounded the ram’s horn throughout the hill country of Ephraim. The Israelites came down with him from the hill country, and he became their leader. 28 He told them, “Follow me, because the LORD has handed over your enemies, the Moabites, to you.” So they followed him, captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross over. (R) 29 At that time they struck down about 10,000 Moabites, all strong and able-bodied men. Not one of them escaped. 30 Moab became subject to Israel that day, and the land was peaceful 80 years.
    ——————————————————————————–

  105. Steve reminds Buck that his assigned priorities are the upcoming conventions in New York of “Jewish Nationalist” leaders, “Orthodox Jews” (a separate, but equally Jew-y group) and “international monetarists setting the stage for one world currency.”
    All of these conventions are still on, their schedules unchanged and undisturbed by the events of the last few days. It doesn’t occur to Steve or Buck or the conferees themselves that a global cataclysm might be expected to alter either their travel plans or their pre-cataclysm agendas.
    Clearly the reason these conferences are still on is because Jews derive their sustenance from eating non-reasoning children and now they need to figure out how they’re going to survive in this child-free environment.

  106. Two Prophesies in the Garden of Eden.
    (Absolute Foundation Prophecy)
    God say’s, if you eat or even touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in the midst of the garden you will Surely Die.
    The Serpent / Satan say’s, if you eat or even touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in the midst of the garden you will Surely Not Die.
    Question: When the prophet Jesus comes and offers the gift of eternal life which/whose prophecy does he fulfil.
    Two schools of
    Food for thought Satan in the 21st century
    Yours Sincerely
    Tanya
    For Tanya,
    There is one way both prophecies can be. God and Satan are one in the same! It makes sense, because they are both there at the beginning. We always assume there was some war in heaven with Lucifer becoming evil and Jehovah becoming good. Perhaps it was a split of necessity rather than a split of disagreement, a test to see what the creatures of Earth would choose between. That would explain why the Bible at times can seem so confusing. Of course it is when the person inspiring it has a split personality.
    Does that make what Jesus did wrong, no. It just means we as human’s cannot begin the phathom the true existence of God. In the end, the end times so to speak, God does not so much triumph over Satan, as much as they simply become one again. I mean let’s face it, if God already knows what is going to happen, what’s the real incentive for Satan anyway? Yeah, take a few billion souls to an inhospitable place, but don’t you think he’d really want to win? I would.
    That’s like saying one football team is destined to beat another. When that final game arrives, the chosen one knows its going to win, while the other loser does everything it can to shake it up. The destined team gets caught off guard while the loser looks more superior. However, the destined team plays up to its level and suppresses the loser team. If this is true, and continues that way, all they can do is tie. Neither can win. So what was the real point, other than trying to confuse people and get them to place all their bets on one or the other?
    You can either be good or evil, not both at the same time. Since neither would ever come to a common ground, they can either destroy one another completely, or become one and agree to disagree. And that person would be Jesus Christ. He has experienced what light and darkness are all about, as a human. The reasons, humans tend to ride the fence within themselves, dabbling in both light and darkness. It’s just human nature to be indecisive until something goes off in your head and makes you choose something. That’s why I believe in Christ, because he chose to be for something far greater than himself. It may have been predestined, the cards may have been stacked againts the bad guy. On paper, Jesus looked invincible. But until the game is played, you never know how things are going to turn out.
    That’s why I find the Left Behind books a bit uninteresting. They are trying to predict how the world is going to end. And its not even that interesting, I stopped reading them after half of Apollyon because it was obvious the books were simply regurgitating the Bible and not coming up with anything entertaining. Books are meant to entertain unless they are about something that is true. The end times have not happened yet and we’d better pray they don’t anytime soon. Because I don’t want to know how the end times will truly unfold. I know these guys were just writing to try and make an entertaining, christian story, but after the first book I feel the message just gets lost. And the worst part, people started thinking these books were like prophetic fact. I got sucked in too. But, I saw the error of my ways. They are just books and nothing more. But if they are true, if these books can predict the future, then you’d better really hope my book isn’t true. It is a far more gruesome end than Left Behind ever has shown.
    As far as Hell, I really do believe there is a place like that, where souls go. But not because God sends us there, because we send ourselves there. It is, once again, a choice. Whether it is because you don’t believe in Christ or simply cannot forgive yourself, I believe we put ourselves in that Hell. Ever since man sinned, we’ve been given the chance to control our own fates, which is why there is the choice to accept Christ’s salvation. A lot of people consider Christ’s sacrafice as a second chance, but maybe that is flawed. Perhaps, it just simply gives a way towards God since going towards Satan is so much more readily available? I mean, all it took was deciding to eat an apple to turn on God. But it takes a man being willing to give up his life to give us even some slim chance at redemption. It’s not a second chance, its the only chance. So why so grandiose? Well, its only grandiose after the fact and I think that is why people get mixed up with the end times stories. I don’t believe the end times will unfold in some grandiose series of events like in Left Behind. I believe it will be very subtle and catch us so off guard we’ll never see it coming, until it is too late.
    What that will be? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see won’t we?

  107. Assuming you’re the real hapax, you certainly don’t sound very hapax-y. :P

    Anyway, this?

    “Ooh, Steve, you talk just like a mobster.”

    Did Buck really say that? He sounds like he’s got a huge crush on Steve the way he sounds all gushy in that sentence.

    And that’s so weirdly un-Buck-like, TBH, because he usually avails himself of being a massive ‘splaining douchebag.

  108. Reading this I’m reminded a conversation with my Mum, years ago, in which she chastised me strongly for voicing a pro-EU membership opinion (I’m British) – warning me to recall the Left Behind books, and that “it all starts off in Romania”

    It should be said that, since then, my mother has had an attack of sanity and is no longer a PMD :) – but, still, it beggars belief that any sane person could make such a series of logic steps.