:: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 ::
Tim LaHaye Declares Armageddon Against Tyndale
Ok, not really. But he's really honked off.
This may be old news to many of you, since it came out on Saturday last, but I couldn't read the full article until today: http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/living/religion/10220385.htm
[Thanks to Rich Clark at http://www.deadyetliving.com/ for the link.]
I don't know what's making him more angry: the fact that Tyndale is offering a different perspective, or the fact that they're calling both book series "fictional."
LaHaye's Left Behind series either borders on heresy or dives headlong into it.
Heresy, you say?
Here's how: LaHaye's books are predicated on the notion that every promise made to Israel in the Old Testament must be fulfilled literally. Therefore, any promise regarding land, Jerusalem, Nations Streaming to Jerusalem, victory over enemies, the Temple, David's Kingly Line, etc. all have yet to be completely fulfilled. According to LaHaye (and his dispensationalist cohort), all these promises have to be fulfilled completly to the literal, physical descendents of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob, the Jews. Unless these promises are fulfilled, the end of the world cannot come. Now, why is that so important?
The church and the scriptures have long taught that Jesus Christ must return (in the same way that he left - See The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1) to complete his work of setting everything right that humanity has somehow messed up, destroyed, derailed or damaged. He will bring all creation back under the reign of God, and, in so doing, bring about the completion of what (St.) Paul calls "the new creation." This new creation was begun in Jesus Christ, and will be brought to fuflillment on the day he returns. At that time, what has been stated about Christ from the earliest days of the church will become literally clear: Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises of God. All the promises, prophecies and perspectives of God in scripture find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
It is at this point that LaHaye and the dispensationalist cohort break ranks with historical Christianity. If all the promises to Israel have to be fulfilled literally to Jews, then Jesus Christ is not the fulfillment of all the promises of God as the letters of (St.) Paul and the church throughout history have attested. Moreover, they believe that the only way anything is going to be "set right" is either (a) by the complete destruction of the current creation (the "it's all gonna burn" theory), or by (b) Jesus Christ literally coming back with an army and smacking people around or otherwise physically overwhelming everyone.
LaHaye et al. see the second coming as important for yet another reason: there's nothing good left here. It's our job to rescue everyone from this burning building and then run for cover before it really gets bad. God wants to get rid of this crappy creation of his and start over. This is the "turn or burn, flee or fry" mentality. And this is precisely the perspective of the New Testament Pharisees which Jesus challenged so often in the gospel accounts. There is a radical discontinuity between the old way of doing things and the new, divided by the actions and event of God's savior/deliverer/messiah coming to straighten things out.
Instead, Jesus and historical Christianity offer a different angle. In Jesus' scenario, the new creation enters and invades the old on the sly. Like a virus, it begins to infect the old and transform it into something different - yet with continuity to the old. Thus, we see a baby in a manger, a cross and a crown of thorns instead of a conquering warrior. The empty tomb, then, gives us a glimpse into what the new creation is like: continuous with the old, yet different. Jesus' body was still his body - it was not in the tomb and it even still bore the scars - yet, it was somehow different enough to be hard to recognize and, better yet, had the ability to pass through locked doors.
In Jesus' scenario, he must return to bring justice to those who are victims of injustice. He waits, showing forbearance and grace to the unjust, hoping they will cease their injustice and turn to him. But he will not wait forever. To do so would deny justice to their victims. He desires to redeem and transform his creation which he originally called "good." Were he to destroy the creation, he would deny the value of embodied existence - which at one point he found so important, so compelling that he became human himself to bring about our new creation.
This has become a much more long-winded explanation than I intended it to be. To explain it fully would take at least a book or two. But I hope that this explains why I'm so cranky when it comes to the Left Behind series. I welcome questions, discussion and critique.
:: Matt 11/24/2004 06:55:00 PM :: permalink ::