It’s become very vogue to chortle at the Left Behind series of books by LaHaye and Jenkins and their subsequent movie adaptations. Even many who share a dispensational (i.e., pretrib premil) eschatology, seemingly in order to fit in with the hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant cool kids crowd have taken up the laugh track.
You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.
I’d like to go on record as saying that I liked the series overall. Granted, the prose was…pedestrian. And the theology was a bit sensationalistic and took some fairly healthy leaps of poetic license. But come on, guys…it was a series of fiction books. Let’s all take a deep, cleansing breath, step back a bit, grab ourselves a nice, tall glass of ice-cold milk, and just chill.
Can we do that, mayhap?
Understanding that it was written for the broadest audience possible, I can excuse the somewhat less-than-inspired writing. (On that note, I find it more than a bit ironic that all the hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant cool kids, who put such a galactically huge emphasis on “contextualization” and “reaching and engaging the culture, duuuuude” got and get their underbritches all in a bunch over the purposeful accessibility of the Left Behind series… Things that make you go, “hmmmmmmm…”) And I can excuse the leaps the series makes – they’re adapting a prophetic scenario that, quite frankly, defies full visualization, and the authors didn’t do a singularly terrible job of filling in the gaps.
Mostly, the reaction against Left Behind has its genesis in and is fuelled by that segment of the church which hates severely dislikes isnt’ a huge fan of dispensational eschatology.
Okay, fair enough. Come up with your own fiction series, then, which emphasizes your own eschatological distinctives and go about your way.
What the Left Behind series illustrated (and actually continues to illustrate) is that there is a vast reservoir of interest in Biblical prophecy in America – people are very curious about what the Biblical scenario is and how it intersects if at all with their lives and current events in general. Should they rather get that information from the Bible itself – or at least from good, solid scholarly sources? Sure. But the fact that they’re so obviously and hugely interested in the subject in the first place is a very telling thing – and, frankly, when someone gets interested in Left Behind, they usually want to dig deeper – which means that they usually begin to ask questions that they didn’t even know how to ask before and seek out the answers in more reliable avenues.
Or at least, that’s been my experience here on the glorious west coast of Michigan.
Which is an incredible thing; West Michigan is a hotbed of both Reformed (and therefore usually a- or post-millennialism) and Emergent Christianity – two houses which in today’s climate tend to be decidedly hostile to dispensationalism (with, of course, notable exceptions). The hippest churches tend toward a very decidedly nonchalant attitude towards eschatology altogether.
And yet, even here in West Michigan, Left Behind remains a very popular fiction series.
That says something.
Oh, yes, I know, you can shake your head in mock despair and say that what it reveals is the rampancy of Biblical nescience, if only they’d get a hold of towering theological treasures like Blue Like Jazz and The Apocalypse Code they’d be cured of their benightedness…
…I choose not to assume that it means that the rank-and-file are, as a group, idiots.
Instead, I believe it speaks to a real hunger to know more about the Lord, and about what His Word says about history – they want to know, especially now, that there is a God in heaven who knows, who cares, and who is sovereignly moving the great and small events of life toward a determined (and ultimately very hopeful) end.
Left Behind tapped and continues to tap into that vast groundswell.
And so I say again, overall, I liked the series.
Excellent job, Tim and Jerry. Excellent job.
And to the hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant cool kids who spare no hauteur attacking both the books and their authors – get a hobby. Seriously. You’re embarrassing yourselves.