Articles from March 2009

Left Behind: Tribulation Force Review–Part 2

Part 1

On p. 53 is the ah-ha moment: Now we find out what LaHaye and Jenkins really think of other churches!  Check this out:

Most interesting to Buck was the interpretation of the event [Rapture] on the part of other churchmen.

A lot of Catholics were confused, because while many remained, some had disappeared–including the new pope, who had been installed just a few months before the vanishings.  He had stirred up controversy in the church with a new doctrine that seemed to coincide more with the “heresy” of Martin Luther than with the historic orthodoxy they were used to.

When the pope had disappeared, some Catholic scholars had concluded that this was indeed an act of God.  “Those who opposed the orthodox teaching of the Mother Church were winnowed out from among us,” Peter Cardinal Mathews of Cincinnati, a leading archbishop, had told Buck.

“The Scripture says that in the last days it will be as in the days of Noah.  And you’ll recall that in the days of Noah, the good people remained and the evil ones were washed away.”

“So,” Buck concluded, “the fact that we’re still here proves we’re the good guys?”

“I wouldn’t put it so crassly,” Archbishop Mathews had said, “but, yes, that’s my position.”

“What does that say about all the wonderful people who vanished?”  

Uh, Buck, what about all the wonderful people who were left behind, as one of your friends noted in the first book?

“That perhaps they were not so wonderful.”

“And the children and babies?”

The bishop had shifted uncomfortably.  “That I leave to God,” he said.  “I have to believe that perhaps he was protecting the innocents.”

“From what?”

“I’m not sure.  I don’t take the Apocrypha literally, but there are dire predictions of what might be yet to come.”

“So you would not relegate the vanished young ones to the winnowing of the evil?”

“No.  Many of the little ones who disappeared I baptized myself, so I know they are in Christ and with God.”

“And yet they are gone.”

“They are gone.”

“And we remain.”

“We should take great solace in that.”

“Few people take solace in it, Excellency.”

“I understand that.  This is a very difficult time.  I myself am grieving the loss of a sister and an aunt.  But they had left the church.”

“They had?”

“They opposed the teaching.  Wonderful women, most kind.  Most earnest, I must add.  But I fear they have been separated as chaff from wheat.  Yet those of us who remain should be confident in our standing with God as never before.”

Buck had been bold enough to ask the archbishop to comment on certain passages of Scripture, primarily Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

“Now you see,” the archbishop said, “this is precisely my point.  People have been taking verses like that out of context for centuries and trying to build doctrine on them.”

“But there are other passages just like those,” Buck said.

“I understand that, but, listen, you’re not Catholic, are you?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, see, you don’t understand the broad sweep of the historical church.”

“Excuse me, but explain to me why so many non-Catholics are still here, if your hypothesis is right.”

“God knows,” Archbishop Mathews had said.  “He knows hearts.  He knows more than we do.”

“That’s for sure,” Buck said.

Of course Buck left his personal comments and opinions out of the article, but he was able to work in the Scripture and the archbishop’s attempt to explain away the doctrine of grace.

WOW.  There are so many things wrong with that passage that it’s hard to know where to begin.  It’s supposed to shock us with how outrageously terrible the Catholic Church is.  Instead, it shocks us with how outrageously terrible this passage is:

You have an arrogant self-righteous condemnation of the Catholic church and the believers within it.  You have the Pope getting raptured not because he’s a man of God, but because he tried to bring in Protestant doctrines.

You have Catholics being raptured only because they’re too young to know the Catholic church is Evil, or because they are really Protestants in their hearts.  You have the guy in line to be the next Pope being portrayed as arrogantly and self-righteously condemning those who believe in Protestant doctrines.

And there’s more to come: The guy in line also drinks alcohol, even in the morning!  He rejects Christian doctrine in favor of joining with the Antichrist’s one-world religion!

Also note that we have no idea what the archbishop means by “Apocrypha,” or if it’s a good or bad thing that he doesn’t take it literally.  Does he mean the Deuterocanon, which is accepted by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches but not by the Protestants?  If so, wouldn’t he call them the Deuterocanon, since “Apocrypha” is derogatory?  Does he mean the many books which were rejected from the New Testament not just by the Protestants, but by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as well?

But there’s more!  You have Buck, a brand-new believer who barely knows anything about the Bible yet, telling an archbishop what the Bible says.  What about other verses which support the importance of good works?

What about the possibility that Buck doesn’t know enough about Catholic theology to truly understand the Catholic church’s position on faith and works, and is merely parroting what he’s been taught by Bruce about the Catholic Church?

Protestant Fundamentalism is full of polemics against the Catholic Church: Catholics are seen as not really “saved”; Catholics are seen as “mistaken” about baptism and the Eucharist; some even go so far as to call the Catholic Church the “Whore of Babylon.”

I have been in Fundamentalist and Evangelical churches for most of my life, so I can tell you this is true, not just anti-Protestant propaganda.  This whole passage is a big “na na na na na” against the Catholic Church for not “really” being Christian.

We find more of this on p. 275, in which Mathews promotes a New Agey view of religion, and on p. 401.  The Archbishop is now Pontifex Maximus Peter, the Pope and head of the one-world religion.

Anyone who believes in the Bible as “the final authority for faith and practice,” anyone who does not go along with the one-world religion instead, is proclaimed a heretic.

Essentially, we see here the “Whore of Babylon” condemnation of the Catholic Church and the Pope.

Another writer goes into this here.

My entire review is here.

Left Behind: Tribulation Force Review–Part 1

Tribulation Force by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 0842329218, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

As before, you can find plot summaries online, such as in the Amazon comments; one is here.

If you read the Slacktivist’s review of Left Behind, you’ll see that there are far too many phone calls.  Well, it’s the same in the next book.  In fact, we discover on page 5 why Buck’s new apartment is perfect for him: It has already-installed phones!  Oh, glee!  Then on page 10, we find Rayford using his car phone while driving.  Naughty Rafe!

And all for a conversation which is, plot- and character-wise, meaningless.  There is absolutely no reason why we need to listen in as Rayford and Buck discuss the time for the emergency core group meeting.  Like so many other phone conversations in these books, it would be far more efficient to just summarize it–or leave it out entirely.

Of course, it’s funny when Verna then says to Buck, “You’ll have your own phone soon enough.”  What more could Buck ask for?

Slacktivist also points out how the authors apparently have a very different concept of the characters than what they portray.

For example, Buck thinks he’s the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time (GIRAT), but we rarely see him actually write anything or investigate stories which are happening right in front of him.  When we do, and get some taste of his writing, it’s awful.  He thinks he has integrity, yet he makes a deal with the Antichrist, agreeing not to reveal the secrets he’s uncovered about Nicolae’s “friends.”

Also, Rayford congratulates himself for never having an affair with Hattie, and apparently we’re supposed to be impressed by how well he conducts himself with Hattie now–Yet in reality, he spent years playing with Hattie’s mind like a control freak, and now he dumps her and treats her like something he has to wipe off his shoe.

His wife Irene is treated as a saint by the authors, even though her conversion seems to have made her very annoying as she kept hounding her family about the Rapture.  Hattie is treated as a whore and a nasty person, even though we often end up rooting for her for standing up for herself.

On page 11 of TF, we find yet another example of Buck’s twisted view of himself, which is also the authors’ twisted view of Buck.  He’s just been demoted because somehow nobody remembers him being at a Very Important Meeting in the last book, and exiled to Chicago; his new boss is explaining his changed duties, while he acts very snotty with her, like some prima donna.  I found these sentences particularly funny:

He didn’t want to get into a shouting match with Verna.  But neither was he going to sit for long under the thumb of someone who didn’t belong in journalism, let alone in Lucinda Washington’s old chair and supervising him.

Funny, Buck, you just described Verna’s feelings about you!

On page 15, we’re apparently supposed to feel that Rayford is being persecuted for trying to convert people while on the job (which, by the way, is flying planes).  He obviously feels he’s done nothing wrong.

But hey, Rafe, dude, proselytizing on the job is generally considered a Bad Thing.  It annoys your co-workers, clients, passengers, customers, etc.  And if they don’t want to convert but you keep pushing, it turns into a hostile working environment for your co-workers.

Just imagine if you were working with someone of another religion or an atheist who wouldn’t leave you alone about converting, and kept trying to show you how your beliefs are wrong.  Would you think he was just exercising his freedom of religion, or would you be majorly ticked off?

On p. 21:

Buck didn’t know how to respond when Rayford Steele greeted him warmly.  He appreciated the warmth and openness of his three new friends, but something nagged at him and he held back a little.  He still wasn’t quite comfortable with this kind of affection.

Aww, not used to man-hugs, Buck?

And again on page 45: “This was something new for Buck, too, all this hugging, especially among men.”  Are you afraid of the man-hug, Buck?  You’d better see: How to Give a Great Man-to-Man Hug

P. 36 is just unbelievable.  The talking heads on news programs are all hailing the latest plan, to move the U.N. headquarters to the ruins of Babylon in Iraq.  One says,

If Carpathia is sincere about disarming the world and stockpiling the remaining 10 percent of the hardware, I’d rather he store it in the Middle East, in the shadow of Tehran, than on an island off New York City.  Besides, we can use the soon-to-be-abandoned U.N. building as a museum, honoring the most atrocious architecture this country has ever produced.

WHAT…THE…HECK?  (I’d use a stronger word except that I don’t swear.)  These books are obviously set not in our world, but in some alternate universe where the Middle East is like Alderaan (peaceful, no weapons) and New York City is a hotbed of terrorism.  (And what’s with the hating on the U.N.’s architecture?)

On p. 47, Bruce remarks about Hattie’s job as the Antichrist’s personal assistant, “I don’t imagine he chose her for her clerical skills.”

Poor Hattie gets so abused by the authors and by the “Christians” in this book.  I can tell you that we “assistants” (administrative, darkroom, secretarial, etc.) don’t appreciate being thought of as hired for our bodies instead of our professional abilities.

On p. 49, Buck called, but Chloe felt that talking to him would have seemed “too eager, too forward.”  What is this, the 50s?  Then on p. 61, in the midst of so many man-hugs going on around them, Chloe can’t bring herself to give Buck a soft, cuddly girl-hug?

On p. 53 is the ah-ha moment: Now we find out what LaHaye and Jenkins really think of other churches!–But we’ll leave that for next week.

My entire review is here.