I was somewhat disappointed to read in The Bend Bulletin this morning that Tim LaHaye and like-minded evangelicals will be bringing their "message of biblical prophecy" to Central Oregon this month. LaHaye is the author of the "Left Behind" series of fictional end-times novels so popular among evangelical Christians today.
My take on this issue is similar to that expressed by Mark Noll in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which calls out the modern American church for its anti-intellectualism.
Paul Boyer's When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Harvard University Press, 1992) documents the remarkable popularity among American Bible-believing Christians--again mostly evangelicals and fundamentalists--of radical apocalyptic speculation. Boyer concludes that Christian fascination with the end of the world has existed for a very long time, but also that recent evangelical fixation on such matters--where contemporary events are labeled with great self-confidence as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies heralding the End of Time--has been particularly intense.Referring to the deluge of books like this that came out in the weeks following the start of the Gulf War, Noll writes,
The books came to various conclusions, but they all shared the disconcerting conviction that the best way of providing moral judgment about what was happening in the Middle East was not to study carefully what was going on in the Middle East. Rather, they featured a kind of Bible study that drew attention away from careful analysis of the complexities of Middle Eastern culture or the tangled twentieth-century history of the region toward speculation about some of the most esoteric and widely debated passages of the Bible. Moreover, that speculation was carried on with only slight attention to the central themes of the Bible (like the divine standard of justice applied in all human situations), which are crystal clear and about which there is wide agreement among evangelicals and other theologically conservative Christians. How did the evangelical public respond to these books? It responded by immediately vaulting several of these titles to the top of religious best-seller lists.I lament with Noll how an
unsound hermeneutic has been used with wanton abandon to dominate twentieth-century evangelical thinking about world affairs.An so, Tim LaHaye is coming to Bend, where, according to The Bulletin,
The prophecy conference... is being sponsored by more than 50 churches in the greater Central Oregon area.That means nearly every nearby Bible-believing church (excluding at least my own, Antioch) is perpetuating this problem, and thereby helping to make the true message of Christianity even more inaccessible to the reasonable people in need of it.