Monthly Archives: October 2014

Left Behind: A Good Thing or A Bad Thing?

Long before the popular Left Behind books and films by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, a Christian filmaker, Russell S. Doughten, in 1972 produced the classic (though some say a bit cheesy) A Thief in the Night, a visual experience that haunted a great many youth groups in dispensationalist churches throughout the 1970s.

Long before the popular Left Behind books and films by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, a Christian filmaker, Russell S. Doughten, in 1972 produced the classic (though some say a bit cheesy) A Thief in the Night, a visual experience that haunted a great many youth groups in dispensationalist churches throughout the 1970s.

Growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, things were not looking very good. The Cold War with the U.S.S.R., the Islamic Revolution in Iran with American embassy staff held as hostages, and runaway inflation were on everyone’s mind. So when I first heard Larry Norman’s song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” I really resonated with the message:

life was filled with guns and war
and everyone got trampled on the floor
i wish we’d all been ready

children died the days grew cold
a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
i wish we’d all been ready

there’s no time to change your mind
the son has come and you’ve been left behind
a man and wife asleep in bed
she hears a noise and turns her head
he’s gone
i wish we’d all been ready

two men walking up a hill
one disappears and one’s left standing still
i wish we’d all been ready

Based on Matthew 24:36-44, Larry Norman was singing about the coming Rapture, where all living Christians would be taken up into the air to escape the approaching seven years of the Great Tribulation, prior to the Second Coming where Jesus Christ sits in judgment as the righteous King and to rule the earth for a one thousand year millennium (previous Veracity post). While most of my Christian friends were hesitant to guess any particular dates, the general sense was that Jesus would definitely come within my lifetime. I was so taken in by this message that for the first few working years out of college, I never bothered to participate in my company’s 401K plan to save for the future. Why should I plan for the future when Jesus is definitely coming back so soon?

Years later, I now wish I had given greater thought to how my view of the EndTimes had impacted my life as a young person. Even more so, I wish I had learned that the Rapture theology narrative I had so readily embraced as being identical with the very Word of God is actually a bit more complicated. Let us dig a little deeper into what the Bible teaches on the subject. Continue reading


Ben Witherington and Darrell Bock on the Rapture

If you were a bit intimidated by my last (lengthy) post regarding the Book of Revelation, including its connection to the Rapture, you might be more interested in the following less-than-seven minute video by Ben Witherington, New Testament scholar at Asbury Seminary. Witherington, who was highlighted before here on Veracity, gets to the rub of the history behind the Rapture.

Witherington, as you will see, concludes with a negative assessment of “Rapture Theology.” Contrast this with Dallas Theological Seminary’s Darrell Bock who accepts the “Rapture Theology.” For those of you not accustomed to big words like eschatology, you can think of it in this context as someone’s understanding or theology of the “End Times.” Bock, also a New Testament scholar and a favorite here on Veracity, follows his brief assessment with a very helpful, three-minute way of evaluating how Christians should handle important issues in the church where Christians nevertheless disagree.

I hope you might benefit from both videos.


Revelation … (and the Rapture Reboot)

Clarence Larkin (1850–1924), a Baptist pastor, produced this intricately detailed chart showing the structure of the events described in the Book of Revelation according to a dispensationalist system of Bible interpretation. Note how Larkin splits the event of the Second Coming, into two parts: the first where Christ "raptures" the church and the second where the Christ comes in glory with his Church to begin the millennial reign. In between the two parts of the Second Coming is the "seventieth week of Daniel," which forms the basic narrative of the last book of the Bible.

Clarence Larkin (1850–1924), a Baptist pastor, produced this marvelously intricate and detailed chart showing the structure of events described in the Book of Revelation according to a dispensationalist system of Bible interpretation (Click to enlarge). Note how Larkin splits the event of the Second Coming, into two parts: the first where Christ “raptures” the church out of the world and the second where Christ comes in glory with his Church to begin the millennial reign. In between the two parts of the Second Coming is the “seventieth week of Daniel,” which forms the basic, if not sometimes terrifying, narrative of the last book of the Bible… You really need a chart to keep track of everything! (Source: clarencelarkincharts.com)

The subject of the End Times can be very daunting. Various places in the New Testament address the topic, but by far the most fascinating discussion in the Holy Scriptures that digs into End Times issues can be found in the very last book of the Bible: The Revelation.

As I was nearly completing this blog post on the Book of Revelation, I read about a new Christian movie coming out this year, Left Behind. What? Nicholas Cage in a Christian movie?

Yep. That’s right. What a great lead in on a blog post about the Book of Revelation! How did this all come about?

Well, the story is that some years ago, best selling Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins wrote a series of popular books of the same name. The only book series that has topped Left Behind in sales in recent years is Harry Potter.

In 2000, Cloud Ten Pictures released a theatrical version of the book, starring Christian actor Kirk Cameron. Left Behind: The Movie was a total bust at the box office. Unlike the Harry Potter films, Left Behind: The Movie never went very far.

In response to the poor sales and lackluster quality, author Tim LaHaye sued the film company claiming a breach of contract. LaHaye was expecting a much better movie and wanted Cloud Ten to make amends. Cloud Ten eventually settled with the author and agreed to remake the movie. As the subject of the film is “the Rapture,” you can call it a “Rapture Reboot.”

Well, here is the trailer. Does this look like your idea of a Christian film?

I am still working on the concept of Nicholas Cage being in this film…. Anyway… Undoubtedly, the film will be controversial, particularly among Christians. Fans of the book series might flock to the theatre, just to see if the “Rapture Reboot” with Nicholas Cage was really that much of an improvement over Kirk Cameron. Nevertheless, the film does raise a lot of questions about the Bible, the type of issues you simply will not be able to resolve just by going to a movie theater, or viewing later on Netflix.
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Lectio Divina: Spiritual Formation #3

Imagination. Is there such a thing as a godly imagination in the life of a believer in Christ?

Lectio divina: An ancient spiritual discipline of “divine reading” of Holy Scripture that is being revived among evangelicals today. Yet some Christians fear that such practices could be dangerous.

Over the course of my spiritual journey, I have often had trouble reading the Bible. Not only do I find some things difficult to understand from what the text is saying, I also have struggled with something closer to home. Does God still speak through the Bible to people today? Am I trying to read the Bible merely to gain information, or am I reading it to try to meet with God in a personal relationship?

It has been said that the ultimate objective of reading Scripture is not simply to know the Word of God. Instead, it is to get to know the God of the Word, to move beyond the Sacred Page to have an encounter with the supreme Author of the text.

Yet for some Christians, there is a danger associated with moving beyond the Sacred Page. There is a temptation, critics argue, even for Christians to view the reading of Scripture as some sort of talisman, a type of magic book where merely reading the words of the text will somehow subconsciously restore our soul. The imagination of the reader can easily get caught up in inventing one’s own private, personal interpretation, thereby introducing confusion between understanding our own thoughts and wishes and desires with God’s supreme and objective revelation that calls us to face reality.

The critics are right to have their concerns. I have sat through innumerable Bible studies where people have brought forward a cacophony of opinions of “what the Bible says and means to me.” I even have known people who simply opened up to some random page of the Bible, put their finger somewhere into the page, and then read that verse believing that God might speak to them through that verse. I remember opening up my Bible once to Genesis 41:46. There I read that “Joseph served in Pharoah’s court.” As I was struggling with my tennis game at the time, I could have easily mistaken the words of Scripture as God’s way of coaching me on my backhand, but I sincerely doubt that this would have been the proper use of Scripture!

These are some of the issues that we can encounter when we think about spiritual formation, particularly in terms of developing spiritual disciplines focusing around Scripture. One of the classic spiritual disciplines in this area is something called lectio divina. Some might even call lectio divina … dangerous…
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