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The Bible told me so... - SPK Live
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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Sun, Sep. 5th, 2004 07:07 pm
The Bible told me so...

When Newsweek recently did a cover profile on Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, I decided to see what the fuss over the Left Behind series is all about.  Interestingly, the LCMS has rejected the series as not being Biblically based and essentially the doctrinal equivalent of hogwash.  Even so, I know a lot of Christian people who are moved by these stories and what the authors have to say.  As such, I have read Left Behind and just finished Tribulation Force.  I will be starting Nicolae shortly, and plan to put Soul Harvest on reserve at the library.

Let's put it this way: Shakespeare, it ain't.  The writing is fairly juvenile and some of the concepts border on ludicrious.  I think much of the portrayal of the Antichrist and some interpretations of Revelation are flat wrong.  That being said, I admire the authors' passion and willingness to be upfront about the strife between good and evil.  It seems like we tend to gloss over evil today, no one is really "bad."  I believe there are demons, and that they work against angels in the battle for men's souls.  Ultimately, though, it is about free will and whether we accept God's saving grace that determines our destiny.  So, I think it's good that they show people praying for each other and calling on Christ for comfort.  It seems like Christians are ashamed to do that nowadays, like we don't want to offend those around us when we should be relying on The Big Guy Upstairs.  The books don't apologize for thinking Jesus is the only way to Heaven, that's for sure.

Anyway, it's been interesting reading them and reviewing my own thoughts on eschatology.  I don't pretend to know what's going to happen, and certainly don't think LaHaye & Jenkins have the definitive take on it all.  Still, it's fascinating to see the discussion their work has created, hence the Newsweek profile.  I think Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and these books show that there are still a lot of people who are curious about God, about Jesus, and how we fit into God's plans.  I'll need to dig out my catechism and see if there's anything in there that might be relevant to this line of thought.  Definitely some mindbending stuff in the Bible, it's nice to have a little help understanding it once in a while!

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
Current Music: Take 6 - "Take 6" album

34CommentReply

sh1mm3r
sh1mm3r
sh1mm3r
Sun, Sep. 5th, 2004 05:22 pm (UTC)

Growing up, my Mom sold Christian books to the local public libraries. She still does. But that meant I got the opportunity to read almost every book before the library got it, using my Super Speed-Reading Skills.

I have read this series as well as the "This Present Darkness" series. I think read with a critical mind they are fine. Fiction is fiction. I don't think it's necessarily very good, but to each her or his own.

My issue with this type of religious fiction is the intent. I have also been to a theatrical adaptation of Left Behind. The intent was clearly to strike fear into the audience so that they would "get saved." I have known people to come out of reading the Frank Peretti books and never be able to view the world without paranoia again. I mean, I guess the entire country's population could be controlled by demons, and that behind closed doors babies are being sacrificed to Satan, but even using Christian principles, should we be encouraging people to live their lives motivated by fear? I just don't think so.

Of course, I feel that quite a bit of the Christian literature out there, including the non-fiction books, is fear-based. I had a really interesting argument with the owner of one of the Family Christian Stores, as well as a heated debate through e-mail with the regional office over this same topic. But I won't get into that.


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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Sun, Sep. 5th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC)
Lutheran Witness

Interesting that you bring up the "fear" aspect. I was reading the "Left Behind Review" from Lutheran Witness, and thought you might be interested in this passage:

McGuire, G. Brent. Will You be 'Left Behind'? Lutheran Witness. March 2002. Internet; accessed Sept 5, 2004.

Jesus will indeed return. The prospect of His return as Judge should terrify unrepentant sinners. However, Christ will also come as Savior to those who believe in Him (1 Cor. 15:58). The preoccupation of "Left Behind" with final judgment and the future fulfillment of prophecy ultimately distracts from Jesus' chief message of comfort: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Because of the teachings of the Church in the Middle Ages, Martin Luther grew up imagining Jesus as a "stern Judge sitting on a rainbow." LaHaye and Jenkins portray Christ in that same way. They transform faith into a work one does in preparation for the Day of Judgment. And the Christian, troubled in conscience over past sins, is left to look inward and ask, "Am I doing enough? Am I believing enough? Will I be 'Left Behind'?"

Jesus invites us, however, to turn outward, to His Word, to Baptism, and to His Supper, where we find His assurance that "no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:29). "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17).


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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Sun, Sep. 5th, 2004 06:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Lutheran Witness

Excuse me, that should be March 2001 for the original publication. Click on the link to read the full article if you're inclined, it's quite interesting!


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innerslytherin
innerslytherin
Left in a basket on the steps of the FBI
Mon, Sep. 6th, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)
Christian art

Heh - spk1121 will regret getting me started on this issue. ^__^

The poor quality of so much Christian "art" is a really sore subject for me. I am a Christian and a novelist (albeit unpublished as of yet), and the number of truly horrendous novels I have read that have been published just because they have a Christian moral is just appalling to me. It drives me nuts to see some of the drivel that is put out. We Christians don't make a good enough showing of ourselves through art to the world in general.

That's why I fully intend to be published by houses like TOR or Baen or Roc, if possible. I want to start out mainstream and reach people that way. When it comes to it, I almost prefer the U2/Evanescence/Creed brand of Christianity, to the Stephen Curtis Chapman/Amy Grant/Jeremy Camp brand. Mind you, I love every single artist just listed (grew up with Jeremy, in fact, and it's truly inspiring to know men who really love Jesus). But as far as an art showing is concerned, I suppose my focus is more on reaching out to the unsaved rather than lifting up my fellow Christians. Not that I don't want to do that, too, but I feel truly drawn to non-Christians, and I think I have a calling to reach out to them.

*shrug* Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. Sorry. ^__^


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jedibuttercup
jedibuttercup
jedibuttercup
Mon, Sep. 6th, 2004 10:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Christian art

the number of truly horrendous novels I have read that have been published just because they have a Christian moral is just appalling to me.

I think part of the problem is that books are categorized as "Christian" with certain expectations, much like the "romance" category.

In the latter category, it's assumed that sole point of the story is for Character X to fall in love with, and usually form a permanent relationship with, Character Y. Alternatively, an existing relationship might be threatened by outside forces, causing much angst and mayhem before the proper balance is somehow restored. I read only a scattered handful of recommended romance authors for this very reason; I can't stand highly predictable, emotionally shallow formulaic tales.

In the former category, for a significant majority of stories, the assumption is quite similar: the sole point of the story is for Character(s) X to fall in love with (in a different way, of course) and form a permanent relationship with Character Y, who just so happens to be Jesus. Alternatively, an existing relationship might be threatened by outside forces, causing much angst and mayhem before the proper balance is somehow restored. If, in the course of an interesting plot, a character's faith happened to be highlighted and/or changed, I wouldn't mind in the least; however, I instead have found that usually the character's faith becomes the center of the story, and the plot becomes only incidental, throwing it straight into shallow, formulaic, unsatisfying territory.

Admittedly, since I started noticing this trend, I have started avoiding Christian novels like the plague unless recommended by an intelligent friend. So the situation might have changed in the last seven or so years, or I might have missed an excellent subcategory, or something. But from others' reactions, I'm betting not. And until I hear differently, I'm going to continue visiting Christian bookstores solely for NON-fiction purchases.


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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Tue, Sep. 7th, 2004 12:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Christian art

For the record, it's supposed to be Steven Curtis Chapman. It's a point of pride for me that people spell that particular name correctly. Can you imagine why? :)


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hellokitty138
hellokitty138
hellokitty138
Sun, Sep. 5th, 2004 07:11 pm (UTC)

I listened to all of 'em in the abridged form. They were pretty entertaining and certainly do inspire the fear. Personally, that doesn't offend me, because I think people need to be a little scared. I imagine it could be pretty off-putting to others, though.

To be honest, I haven't studied the Bible enough to know how true the books are to it. A number of people whose judgement I trust feel good about them. I haven't hidden what I believe, so it probably won't come as a surprise to hear that I feel that if these books help turn people toward Christ, it's a good thing.

The writing is not Hemingway, to be sure. It tends to get corny and melodramatic at times. I was glad to have the abridged version and normally I prefer unabridged. However, I wonder if they were written on a more basic level so they would appeal to more people. Just a thought.

I haven't read the Peretti books, though I have considered doing so. I would get a little freaked out on the LB audios when the ominous voice would say the scriptures from Revelation. Not sure if I can handle being as scared as the Peretti books might make me!


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innerslytherin
innerslytherin
Left in a basket on the steps of the FBI
Mon, Sep. 6th, 2004 01:03 pm (UTC)

I really enjoyed The Oath by Peretti. A refreshingly honest look at sin by a Christian novelist--very amazing. Then again, I was working at a Christian bookstore when it came out, and I sold enough copies to earn one for free. Still, I have been meaning to reread it. I want to read The Visitation too, but haven't got around to picking it up. I did like the two "angel" novels when I read them ages ago. I would highly recommend The Oath, though, if you don't mind being freaked out! ^_^

Also, I don't know much about the End Times prophecies, but I do know there's enough disagreement among scholars that it's one of those issues where I think, man, God isn't going to send anyone to hell for believing one way or another, and besides, He even says NO ONE SHALL KNOW THE DAY. However, my best friend has severe panic attacks about the end of the world.

I suppose I see what you're saying, that fear inspired by the books could lead people to the church--as long as when they get there, they are given peace through Christ. If it just inspires fear without getting them to act...not so good.


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innerslytherin
innerslytherin
Left in a basket on the steps of the FBI
Sun, Sep. 5th, 2004 10:59 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I got through the first two books before I said, "This writing is abysmal and my minister says it's not Biblically accurate," and chucked them. I just can't bring myself to finish the series. But I'm willing to hazard a guess--everyone dies and the Christians go to heaven and the evil people go to Hell with Satan for eternal damnation. Just a guess. ^_~

Also:

It seems like we tend to gloss over evil today, no one is really "bad."

This is part of why I like George W. Bush so much. He stands by his convictions and calls a spade a spade, and if it's an evil spade, he calls it an evil spade. ^_^

Of course he has policies I don't like. When have I ever agreed with all the policies of any president? I'm glad Lincoln freed the slaves, but it WAS unconstitutional for him to say the South couldn't secede. sheez. ^_~


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hellokitty138
hellokitty138
hellokitty138
Mon, Sep. 6th, 2004 08:37 am (UTC)

Of course he has policies I don't like. When have I ever agreed with all the policies of any president?

Thank you. This is exactly how I feel!


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refmansbn
refmansbn
Mon, Sep. 6th, 2004 06:03 pm (UTC)
I got to part 5

After a while, you just started cheering for Jesus to come and save the world. Then, the writing would stop and the books would stop being published.

I can't say they were bad, that would make them ok to some. They were horrible.

The God stuff, that was OK, just the writing. YIKES!


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innerslytherin
innerslytherin
Left in a basket on the steps of the FBI
Mon, Sep. 6th, 2004 01:12 pm (UTC)
Christian_Talk

Okay, spk1121, will you allow me to use the comments here to plug my community christian_talk? I'm taking a couple of my comments here and posting them over there, and it'd be great to get some response there, too.


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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Tue, Sep. 7th, 2004 11:28 am (UTC)
Re: Christian_Talk

You hijacked my LJ! ;) That's cool, I appreciate your input. Glad I was able to start a thread that interested you so much! Do you have to be a member of christian_talk to be able to post?

It's kind of funny how people look at things differently. As an author, you tend to focus on literary quality and how the books are written. As a religious studies major, I am interested in the theological rammifications. Anyway, everybody has interesting thoughts on the series and other Christian literature.


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phantomrain
phantomrain
phantomrain
Mon, Sep. 6th, 2004 09:58 pm (UTC)
End of the world

My favorite apocalyptic novel is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fantasy series fame) and Neil Gaiman (The Sandman graphic novel series).

A quotation: "God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time."

Here's a great quotation page that includes a synopsis. Not a book to be taken seriously; just fun! :-)


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spk1121
spk1121
Steve K
Tue, Sep. 7th, 2004 11:48 am (UTC)
Additional reading

For those of you who are interested in getting an analytical take on the Left Behind series, you may want to check out the following:

The "End Times": A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism - Sept 1989
Left Behind Review from Lutheran Witness - March 2001
A Lutheran Response to the "Left Behind" Series - April 2004

Obviously, these are all specifically Lutheran responses, but they can be appreciated by people of all Christian denominations. If nothing else, it's a good place for a person to start thinking about these ideas and go from there. Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns, I'd be happy to discuss them here or in person.


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