Articles from January 2010

Left Behind: Soul Harvest Review–Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

On page 162, we find that old nature popping up again, but this time in Tsion’s “old nature” attracting him to private files on the late Bruce Barnes’ hard drive.  Funny how the old nature keeps getting blamed for things, as if they are already perfect Christians and any hint of wrongdoing is an aberration.

In this book, little crosses–visible only to other believers–now appear on the foreheads of those who have “made the transaction” of salvation.  If you want to know if someone has made that transaction, you simply look.  Funny how the sign of salvation no longer becomes, how you love God and other people.

On page 173, Rayford is with his pilot friend Mac: “Rayford could barely breathe as Mac stared.  ‘Unbelievable!’ Mac said.  ‘It is a cross.  I can see yours and you can see mine, but we can’t see our own.'”

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.  And you will stare and I will stop breathing at the awesomeness of it.

And then on page 185, Rayford has yet another awesome thing to show Mac, as he “threw an arm around Mac’s shoulder and drew him close.  ‘There’s also something I need to show you on board,’ he whispered.”  Cue the homoerotic porn music now.

Oh–no, it’s just the bugging device Rayford’s been using to spy on the Antichrist during flights.  Bummer for the slash fanfiction writers.

On page 206, Ken Ritz says to Buck, “Cause I figure if what the globe just went through was the wrath of the Lamb, I better make friends with that Lamb.”

I don’t think the authors quite understand human nature here.  Why would he want to be friends with the one who’s causing all this death and destruction, except out of fear for his own skin?  Isn’t conversion to Christ supposed to be out of love, and not dread of punishment?

I’d far more trust the sincerity and longevity of someone who converts while Christians are being persecuted and martyred.  In Ken Ritz’s case, if the punishment stops and he eventually thinks the Wrath is over, he’ll probably revert to his old ways.

Here’s an interesting little quote from Nicolae Carpathia on page 213, spoken to the masses via television and radio:

“I do not begrudge anyone the right to believe in a personal god.  However, I do not understand how a god they describe as just and loving would capriciously decide who is or is not worthy of heaven and effect that decision in what they refer to as ‘the twinkling of an eye.’

“Has this same loving god come back two years later to rub it in?  He expresses his anger to those unfortunates he left behind by laying waste their world and killing off a huge percentage of them?”

Carpathia smiled condescendingly.  “I humbly ask devout believers in such a Supreme Being to forgive me if I have mischaracterized your god.  But any thinking citizen realizes that this picture simply does not add up.”

Why yes, Carpathia, you are right: It does not add up.  It is a gross misrepresentation of what Scripture and the Church really believe about the End Times.  And the books, to this point, still have not given a sufficient answer to this question.

In Book 1, Chloe asked similar questions, but it seems they just vanished after her conversion to Christ–er, her conversion to premillennial dispensationalism–despite her never receiving an answer.  It seems that we are to just accept such questions as being from the Evil One.

On page 274, Buck tells his friend and pilot Ken Ritz that:

“It’s becoming pretty clear now, wouldn’t you say?  This whole period of history, this is it.  Just a little more than five more years, and it’s all over.

“I can see why people might not have understood what was happening before the Rapture.  I was one of them.  But it’s come to one giant countdown.  The whole deal now is which side you’re on.

“You’re either serving God or you’re serving the Antichrist.  You’ve been a supplier for the good guys.  It’s time you joined our team.”

How is it so easy now to understand what’s happening?  Maybe if you’ve heard of premillennial dispensationalism, you’ll understand it.  But even then, what about those who are horrified by all the destruction, blame God for it, and don’t want anything to do with it because no one ever answered why a loving God would be so vindictive?

Consider how only the children under 12 and Christians of a certain stripe got raptured.  Now all the rest of mankind is being mowed down no matter who they are, even Christians, or the reasons why they were not Christians.

Wouldn’t that lead many decent people to reject this book’s version of God?  How does that make them automatically on the side of the Antichrist and Satan?

John Cassian, a fourth-century monk and theologian and one of the Desert Fathers, speaks of the difference between following God’s precepts out of fear of punishment, and following them out of love of virtue: The fear of punishment and “greed of reward” is for beginners, and is a mark of servility.  But God wants us to pass on from that to “the fullest freedom of love, and the confidence of the friends and sons of God.”

Here the Christian fears not punishment, but a slight injury to God’s love, such as you find in any human relationship (friends, siblings, spouses, son and indulgent father) in which there is love, and no fear of being beaten.  This is true godliness and love of God  (Conference 11).

The converts in Left Behind, however, do not seem to be motivated by true love of godliness.  It may seem that way on the surface, when we read about their “hunger for the Word” (i.e., the Bible) and their claims to love God.  But remember that it took the Rapture and, for many of the converts, various Tribulation punishments to convince them to become Christians:

In chapter 4 of the next book, Apollyon, the character Jacov–who has been wavering for some time–is finally convinced to convert when he tries to drink a bottle of water, and finds it full of blood.

The Two Witnesses, Eli and Moishe, have just performed a Moses-like plague in which all water found in Jerusalem is either cold, pure and refreshing for Christians, or blood for non-Christians.  So anyone who is not a Christian is punished with this bloody drink, including and especially the Antichrist.

Jacov fears being “no better than Carpathia” the Antichrist, says the Sinner’s Prayer, and all of a sudden, his water is pure and refreshing.

So while the writers keep trying to convince us in various ways that the Tribulation converts are lovers of God, we see their conversions coming about because they fear the punishments of non-believers, because the preachers (such as Bruce Barnes and Tsion Ben-Judah) explain that the many plagues and earthquakes are the judgments of God on unbelievers.

To be continued….

Left Behind: Soul Harvest Review–Part 2

Part 1

On page 124, Rayford explains to Mac that “[j]ust about anybody who was raptured knew it was coming.  They didn’t know when, but they looked forward to it.”  Here is more evidence that the ones who are raptured are the ones who have the “proper” theology, while the others are left behind.

Also, I and others in my youth group hoped to do a lot more living before getting raptured: We didn’t want to miss college, marriage, kids, grandchildren, etc.

On page 132, Rayford tells “how a holy God had to punish sin but didn’t want any of the people he created to die.”  He explains about Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross: “All we had to do was believe that, repent of our sins, receive the gift of salvation.  We would be forgiven and what Billings referred to as ‘reconciled’ to God.”

He explains the proper wording of the prayer Mac is supposed to pray, all the points he needs to cover.  Mac says, “So if I believe that, I’m in?”

The problem here is the concept that God’s hands are somehow tied by some moral law greater than He is.  This fits in with the penal substitutionary atonement theory, that God’s justice was so offended by sin that, basically, blood had to be spilled.  (See Redemption, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, Satisfaction Theory, Soteriology.)

This is not the Orthodox view, which is often described as Christus Victor: The focus is not the business transaction of the Satisfaction Theory, but Christ rescuing us, paying the ransom to release us from slavery to sin and death, becoming like us so we can be like him (Irenaeus), entering into our humanity so he could redeem it.  (Theopedia, Christus Victor)

The often-used term “transaction”–and Mac’s If I do that, I’m in?–show the LB books are focused on a business transaction: You sign your name here, and your sins are forgiven; you don’t go to a fiery Hell after you die.

After Mac decides he believes that, Rayford tells him there’s more he must do: He needs to confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:9-10).  What does this mean, he asks?  Rayford replies that he’s supposed to tell somebody–lots of people, in fact….

Um, you’re reading in things that aren’t there, Ray.  You confess with your mouth at baptism; you confess with your mouth when you are ordered to relinquish your faith or die a terrible death.  It doesn’t say that you must go around telling a whole bunch of people about your conversion in order to be saved.

Remember that when Romans was written, the Church was enduring persecution; in fact, in many parts of the world, the Church is still under persecution.  (And I don’t mean milquetoast stuff like not being allowed to pray at a school football game.  Yeah, people saying nasty things about your religion is annoying, but I don’t mean that, either.)  Confessing your faith could mean losing everything.

It’s not about going around saying “I just got saved” to your friends, your family, the dog next door, the hair stylist, and the old lady on the subway, but about standing for Christ no matter what the cost.  Something which you would think Ray would understand, living in the Tribulation.

On page 156, Rayford can’t believe that Buck’s phone is busy.  Which is very strange, considering that Buck’s phone is practically soldered to his ear.  For four books, Buck has been obsessed with phones!  (Some have suggested on the Slacktivist blog that his attachment to phones is a strange sexual fetish.)

On page 159-60 we read the statement of the prophecy guru Tsion Ben-Judah, “Much bad teaching is going out on the Net, Cameron.”  Yeah, and much of it comes from the authors of these books.

To be continued….

Left Behind: Soul Harvest Review–Part 1

Soul Harvest by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 0-8423-2924-2, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

The “Buck was struck” tally: twice, on pages 78 and 159.

On pages ix-x, I’m confused: Nicolae shows no compassion for his fellow human beings, dying in the earthquake described in the previous book, preferring instead to find a working phone, so Rayford grabs him and says, “You’ve just seen the wrath of the Lamb”?

Two problems: 1) What about saying, “All this death and destruction and all you care about is a working phone?!”  2) Nicolae is no worse here than the deity described (and phone-obsessed Buck, for that matter).

On p. 7, how is it “selfish” to pray that Chloe has not “preceded [Buck] into Heaven”?  Death is a tragedy brought by the Fall, not to be celebrated.  And until Buck’s death or the end of the Tribulation, he’d be without her, a lonely existence.

On p. 15, Rayford is baffled at callous Nicolae, who ignores the people suffering all around him.  Yet Rayford was the same way in Book 1, ignoring the death and destruction all around him at the airport as he rushed to get home.  On page 25, he finds a plane in which most of the people could still be alive–but his heart sinks when he sees it’s not his wife’s plane:

He was struck with such conflicting emotions that he could barely sort them out.  What kind of a cold, selfish person is so obsessed with the survival of his own wife that he would be disappointed that hundreds of people might have been saved on this plane?  He had to face the ugly truth about himself that he cared mostly for Amanda.

It’s about time he realized that!

On page 31, he digs in to help the people, ruining his clothes and realizing that “the shine of his shoes would never return.”  Somehow I think that would be the last thing on his mind.

On page 34, pilot Mac McCullum is musing over the blood-red moon.  I couldn’t help but wonder at his surprise, since red moons are not uncommon.  Is the moon actually scarlet instead of the usual red-orange?

As Mac muses about Nicolae, the Wrath of the Lamb and the various natural disasters and phenomena going on around him, Rayford thinks, Man, this guy is ripe.  Does Rayford look at Mac as some sort of convert fruit ready to be plucked, or has Mac not showered for a while?

On page 55, we get the first hint that Amanda is actually a double agent working for the Antichrist, not the Real True Christian love of Rayford.  I’m impressed by this plot twist, and hope it turns out to be true, because of the potential for a good subplot here and Rayford’s feelings of betrayal.

On page 66, Nicolae Carpathia says to Rayford,

Perhaps you can understand my own feeling of loss over the many lives this calamity has cost.  It was worldwide, every continent suffering severe damage.  The only region spared was Israel….Surely you do not lay at the feet of some Supreme Being an act so spiteful and capricious and deadly as this.

How very odd–Isn’t this precisely the response most people would have to the earthquake supposedly being the Wrath of the Lamb?  Wouldn’t most people recoil rather than running to become Christians?  “Please, sir, may I have another?”

To be continued….

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