Remnant–Left Behind Review

by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 1414334990, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

This book picks up the pace, and even gets exciting for a while, as (during the Greece adventures described on Wikipedia) part of the Tribulation Force tries to rescue George Sebastian.  Ming Toy also finds a Boy Toy–er, boyfriend–while trying to get to China.  Steve Plank dies heroically, proclaiming to all that he is a believer, surprising and dismaying his co-workers, before deciding to go to the guillotine. And there are moments of humor between Albie, Mac and Abdullah, who apparently are the comic relief.

If only all the books had been like this, instead of waiting until Book TEN.

But the usual issues still come up quite a bit, such as the unrealistic language. Why would Chloe, herself only in her 20s, use “son” when addressing a man of her own age?  While the author did note the oddness of this, he did not give a reason for it.

On pages 121-124, I find it amazing that Tsion is so afraid of being considered a “wayward” brother, so afraid of giving the wrong message, knowing that it will “jar the sensibilities of many hearers,” that he asks Rayford for advice on whether or not his next planned sermon is correct–because he is going to speak on God’s mercy!

He has no trouble speaking of God’s wrath and judgment, but must ask for counsel and support from his Christian brothers before speaking of God’s mercy?  Or maybe it’s not so amazing, in the Calvinistic world of Left Behind.

On page 155, Mac has just used a 50-caliber rifle to shoot a car outside a cabin being used by GC Peacekeepers, the group which had been holding George.  He hit the gas tank, making it blow up.  This would cover him while he made a break for a hidden Jeep.

But did he have to wish “only that he could have heard what had to be the frightened cries of the young Peacekeepers on the dead run”?  This is not some video game, but people with eternal souls he’s dealing with here.  Having to frighten, shoot or otherwise deal with them should be inspiring sad necessity, not jubilation in their cries.

On page 203, as a Christian refuses to take the mark and begins singing while waiting for the guillotine, a guard tries to jab and stab her with a bayonet to get her to stop, but she keeps going.  Carpathia rages,

Tell the guards to stop making a spectacle of it!  They are playing right into these people’s hands.  Let the crowd see that no matter what they do or say or sing, still their heads belong to us!

Yeah, Judah-ites, remember that all your base are belong to us!

On page 228, Tsion is preaching again, to the believers assembled at Petra (their story is explained in the Wikipedia article).  He says that in John 14, Jesus “makes a promise we can take to the bank of eternity.”  Oh geez, not Evangelical sermon witticisms for hipster preaching.  😛

Then the authors make a little jab at the idea that the Bible has historical and scientific errors, as Tsion says,

From Eden until this present moment, God has given us in the Bible an accurate history of the world, much of it written in advance.  It is the only truly accurate history ever written.

The only?  What a rip on the many historians throughout history who have tried to gather all the facts together!–especially since scientists and historians often find things which, if the Bible is taken strictly literally, don’t match up.

Then he says,

Next comes the worldwide flood.  This flood had a catastrophic effect on the world and still boggles the minds of scientists who find fish bones at altitudes as high as fifteen thousand feet.

The trouble with insisting that everything in the Bible be taken literally–and some churches actually make Creationism a necessary tenet for members to believe–is that your faith could shatter if scientists are able to prove without a shadow of a doubt that evolution happened and the Earth is not so young.  Even the ancient Catholic church does not require a belief in Creationism!

I’m not going to bother going to Creationist or religious sites to back up Tsion’s claims about the fish bones.  I did find an interesting forum thread here.  It’s a debate on whether there’s evidence of extensive flooding at the end of the last Ice Age, while all those glaciers were melting, possibly causing many extinctions.

It’s one theory, though you’ll note that it’s not proven or necessarily accepted, which contradicts the claims of Tsion.

Unless Noah’s Ark is actually found, there is no evidence of the story being literally true, of one big flood covering the earth all at the same time.

But flooding is a common, natural phenomenon which is experienced all over the world, and melting glaciers could certainly cause a lot of it as the worldwide climate warmed.  Just imagine how much spring flooding is caused after a winter of heavy snowfall.

The thread also cites a BBC article about an Indian city that’s 9500 years old!  That’s only 1500 years more recent than the end of the last Ice Age, and the extensive glacial flooding may have extended over 7000 years.

If human civilization is truly far older than the Creationists claim, then racial memories of extensive flooding at the end of the Ice Age could easily have inspired the story of Noah’s Ark (and various other flood stories around the world.)  But a worldwide flood that happened all at once and killed all land-life except for those on one boat, has not been proven.

Flooding typically causes loss of life.  It’s easy for all that flooding–though naturally caused–to be seen by the Ice Age peoples as worldwide and divine retribution.  So there is no need to expect every detail of the biblical account to be completely accurate for it to be True.

Tsion’s cited evidence may indeed exist, but does not prove an all-at-once worldwide flood.  My faith can withstand the lack of evidence of such a flood, so I have no need to try to hammer all sorts of evidence–whether real or discredited–until it fits exactly the literal biblical account, in fear that if the account is not completely accurate, Christianity will be disproven and when I die I’ll go to nothingness.

On page 229, Tsion goes on to say that after Christ returns, stops the Tribulation/Armageddon, and imposes 1000 years of peace on Earth, “the population will grow to greater than the number of all the people who have already lived and died up to now” because of no war.

I suppose that also includes no disease or accidents, though he didn’t mention that.  But then he says “We will have plenty.”  How can that be if the earth is overpopulated?  Is he expecting a constant stream of people going to visit Christ every day and get him to do that loaves and fishes thing over and over again?

On pages 230-233, Tsion attempts to reconcile the wrath of the Tribulation God with a loving God.  But we’re dealing with a Calvinistic version of God which uses punishment to get people to turn to him.  Would you want to love a person who was killing thousands of people and animals and causing all sorts of devastation?

It makes far more sense to look at things in a more Orthodox fashion: Revelations was disputed before it was put into the canon, and is not read during Liturgies. God’s wrath is an anthropomorphic expression, used so people without extensive intellectual understanding of theology could understand.  God is not ruled by human passions.  “Wrath” is the consequences of our sins.  Revelations is what happens when Satan is allowed to rule over the earth for a time.  And the various bowl judgments are metaphorical.

But no, this isn’t how Tsion tries to explain that the vengeful god killing off all these people, is somehow loving.  I say “tries” because it falls short.  There’s more about God’s wrath on page 290, in which an angel says, “God is jealous, and the Lord will have his revenge.  He will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserves his wrath for his enemies.”  But Alexandre Kalomiros writes in “The River of Fire”:

God is good, loving, and kind toward those who disregard, disobey, and ignore Him.  He never returns evil for evil, He never takes vengeance.

His punishments are loving means of correction, as long as anything can be corrected and healed in this life.  They never extend to eternity.

He created everything good.  The wild beasts recognize as their master the Christian who through humility has gained the likeness of God. They draw near to him, not with fear, but with joy, in grateful and loving submission; they wag their heads and lick his hands and serve him with gratitude.

The irrational beasts know that their Master and God is not evil and wicked and vengeful, but rather full of love. (See also St. Isaac of Syria, SWZOMENA ASKHTIKA [Athens, 1871], pp. 95-96.) He protected and saved us when we fell.

The eternally evil has nothing to do with God. It comes rather from the will of His free, logical creatures, and this will He respects.

A fuller explanation of the Calvinistic god of wrath vs. the Orthodox God of love is here.)

On page 277, we read that the believers camping out at Petra, who basically have their own Moses (Chaim) and are being treated like modern versions of the Israelites in the wilderness, are also eating manna.

I don’t know where all this modern-Exodus stuff is coming from, because I sure never heard of it in the End-of-the-World prophecies.

We read that manna doesn’t need to be preserved during the day, but spoils overnight. But the next day, there’s more, “so saving it was considered a lack of faith, and forbidden.”  Forbidden?  Forbidden just because of a lack of faith?  And what is the punishment for anyone who does save it?

On page 290, I can’t help but cringe as angels try to convert a group of Muslims.  This group refused to take the Mark, and they are fervent believers in God, but because their beliefs aren’t the “correct” ones, the angels are trying to convert them so they won’t just automatically go to Hell now that the GC has found them and will be sending them to the guillotines.

One, Christopher, says to the Muslims on page 289, “We come not to discuss religion, but to preach Christ and him crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected after three days, now sitting at the right hand of God the Father.”  Um, that is discussing religion!

On page 294, Christopher says, “Resist the temptation to choose the guillotine without choosing Christ the Messiah.  You will die in vain.”

Some had been converted, but one shouts, “We will die for Allah!” and the others raise “fists of defiance.”

So–Even though they refuse to take the Mark and are doing it for the sake of God, as they have always understood Him, they’ll still be condemned as if they had taken the Mark and allied with Satan?  This makes no sense, and is unjust!

On pages 310 to 312, we find, once again, a rip on churches that are not the kind the authors like.  We read the testimony of Lionel Whalum, a black believer who wasn’t into church as a kid like his “emotional and showy” mama and aunties; when he got married, he and his wife only occasionally went to church, a

higher sort, if you know what I mean. Very proper, subdued, not demonstrative.  If my people had visited that church, they would have said it was dead and that Jesus wouldn’t even go there.  I would have said it was sophisticated and proper.

Gag!  This reminds me of the “Jesus Camp” documentary, with the little brainwashed girl saying that God doesn’t like churches where people just sit there and don’t do/say anything.

And of course, Lionel’s church “fit our lifestyle” (which, oddly enough, is how people often describe those “relevant” churches these days, where people–in the suburbs–dress in shorts).  Lionel and his wife could dress the same way they did for work or socializing!  (I’m not sure why this is considered so wonderful or convenient, since most churches are the same.)

We saw people we knew and cared about.  And we definitely were never hollered at or insulted from the pulpit.  Nobody called us sinners or hinted that we might need to get something right in our lives.

I’m not sure what churches actually avoid any kind of preaching about sin.  I’ve been in many different kinds of churches–Nazarene, Pentecostal, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian (USA), Orthodox, UCC, Anglican–and I don’t recall there ever being a hint that we’re all fine just the way we are and nobody needs to learn how to treat others in love.

But here, and in the following passages in which Lionel’s kids end up in the kind of church he grew up in, then start begging and pleading with him to get saved (since, apparently, he’s not saved because he goes to the “wrong” church), we get a very strong message that the “right” church is a Pentecostal church, “emotional and showy,” with pastors “hollering” at you from the pulpit.  Every other kind will send you to Hell…..

Um, really?

Oh, yes, and then there’s the Bible study, with the leader laying out how to become a born-again Christian and trying to get Lionel and his wife “saved,” even though they’re already churchgoers.  Because, you see, they’re not in the “right” church, and they don’t have the “right” teachings about how to be saved.

On pages 314-16, we have such examples of stilted language as someone in the crowd calling to Chaim, “If the leader will not beseech us to stay, why should we stay?”  Who talks like that anymore?

And, yet again, as with the manna and various other things, we find the Old Testament Exodus being brought into the End Times without any biblical justification, as the ground opens up and swallows people who argued with Chaim and Tsion.  But this is no longer part of the order of things since Christ came!

Then a false prophet begins performing wondrous miracles for the people who come to his show near Petra.  He makes the weather hot or cold by moving clouds in front of the sun, makes the mike stand into a snake, causes a spring to gush out, imitates the feeding of the 5000, even strikes people dead and raises them again.

Tsion says, “That man was not even human.  Surely he was a demonic apparition.”

But can a demon have this kind of power?  From what I see in this article by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, I see nothing about demons being able to do things like this.  They can delude and influence, yes, but move clouds and imitate the feeding of the 5000?  This is giving demons too much power, when we should be learning to not be afraid of demons!

On page 343, we read about a believer, Luis, who, at the time of the Rapture,

had had enough exposure to campus ministry groups that when he returned to Argentina and suffered through the disappearances, he knew exactly what had happened.

He and some friends from childhood raced to their little Catholic church, where hardly anyone was left.  Their favorite priest and catechism teacher were gone too.

But from literature they found in the library, they learned how to trust Christ personally.  Soon they were the nucleus of the new body of believers in that area.

Yet another slam on the Catholics!  You’ll note that even though Luis was Catholic, and had been through catechism training, he did not know about the “truth” of the Rapture except through campus ministry groups (presumably Protestant) he was exposed to in high school and college in the US.

Because, after all, the Catholic church does not teach the “truth” of the Rapture because it’s just wrong.

And you’ll also note that most of the people in that church back home had been Raptured–but probably because of the “literature” in the library about “how to trust Christ personally.”

So sure most of the Catholics in this church were Raptured, but only because they found this literature in their library, not because of Catholicism.  Luis went to the same church, even went through catechism training, but apparently nobody told him “how to trust Christ personally,” so he was not Raptured.

On page 351 is some humor, funny but not in the way it was intended. Mac sees a man by the river, which is full of blood as is all water at this point.  Abdullah, who is not a native English speaker, says, “I don’t see him, Mac.  Maybe this is one of your cowboy marriages.”

He meant “mirages,” but I couldn’t help thinking of Brokeback Mountain: You could call that a kind of “cowboy marriage.”

Turns out the man is an angel; when Mac comes back, Abdullah says, “So what was it, pod’ner? A marriage?”  Considering the angel is a guy–It is Brokeback Mountain!

On page 371, Buck says to Chloe, “How bad is it with Leah and Hannah?  I don’t know either of them that well, but Leah would get on anybody’s nerves.  She still pining for Tsion?”

I’m not sure why they keep picking on Leah about Tsion.  I’ve seen nothing at all demonstrated to explain why they do.

All I’ve seen are some snarky remarks about her “stalking” Tsion or wanting to go to Petra to be with him, but no indication that she’s actually doing anything that would qualify as “stalking,” not even in the modern broad usage of the term (which seems to include everything anybody does who cares even an iota about some other person in any way other than behaving like an unfeeling robot).

Not even anything about how much she likes him–no mention of pictures on her wall, or obsessive chatter, or anything at all to suggest she likes him any more than anybody else does.  Just a few snarky comments.

And what was wrong with her wanting to go to Petra?  It just makes no sense at all, and for the reader to take these snarks seriously, we need a lot more to go on than this. Otherwise, it just looks like people picking on her for no reason, accusing her unjustly.

And as for her getting on people’s nerves–Sure, now that Hattie is gone, let’s pick on Leah!

I’m not even sure how she gets on people’s nerves.  It seems to me more like, she only gets on their nerves because they’re hypersensitive, and that it’s usually Rayford the chauvinist who has trouble with her.

On page 393, more people and animals, and even plants and fish, die because of heat so intense that it burns people to death.  There’s just so much carnage in these books that it’s hard to stand, and not only do “sinners” die, but so does everything else.

On page 400, we read that the temperature has gone back to normal–no more blazing hot sun burning people and things to ashes–but now there is a plague of darkness.  The sun, moon, stars, electric lights, flashlights, emergency signs–everything that emits some sort of light, is now dark.  At all hours of the day or night, it is impossible to see anything.

People screamed in terror, finding this the worst nightmare of their lives–and they had many to choose from.  They were blind–completely, utterly, totally, wholly unable to see anything but blackness twenty-four hours a day.

We read how desperately people begin trying to find or make light of any kind:

Find a candle!  Rub two sticks together!  Shuffle on the carpet and create static electricity.  Do anything.  Anything!  Something to allow some vestige of a shadow, a hint, a sliver.  All to no avail.

As if this weren’t bad enough, “Chang wanted to laugh.”

Wait–What?

He wanted to howl from his gut.  He wished he could tell everyone everywhere that once again God had meted out a curse, a judgment upon the earth that affected only those who bore the mark of the beast.

Chang could see.  It was different.  He didn’t see lights either.  He simply saw everything in sepia tone, as if someone had turned down the wattage on a chandelier.

Why, thank you for your Christian compassion on the suffering, Chang.

Because the annoyance does turn into physical suffering.  As we read on, we find that the extended darkness does not keep people from getting food and drink, but they can’t work, or talk about anything but the darkness.  And then they begin feeling pain: itches, aches, until:

For many the pain grew so intense that all they could do was bend down and feel the ground to make sure there was no hole or stairwell to fall into and then collapse in a heap, writhing, scratching, seeking relief.

The longer it went, the worse it got, and now people swore and cursed God and chewed their tongues.  They crawled about the corridors, looking for weapons, pleading with friends or even strangers to kill them.  Many killed themselves.

The entire complex became an asylum of screams and moans and guttural wails, as these people became convinced that this, finally, was it–the end of the world.

But no such luck.  Unless they had the wherewithal, the guts, to do themselves in, they merely suffered.  Worse by the hour.  Increasingly bad by the day.

This went on and on and on.  And in the middle of it, Chang came up with the most brilliant idea of his life.  If ever there was a perfect time for him to escape, it was now.

Again–Wait–What?

Chang is surrounded by all these suffering people, and instead of having an ounce of compassion, or wanting to help them in their suffering, he thinks only of his own skin?

Like a sociopath he laughs at their pain, and just thinks how the believers being able to see, while everyone else is blind, means he and his friends can get him out of there without obstruction?

He cares nothing for the people who are so miserable they’re committing suicide?  He can’t even try to comfort them or tell them that Christ can take them out of their misery?

On page 403, we read Chang’s thoughts about what a wonderful break this is for the believers:

Now, for as long as God tarried, for as long as he saw fit to keep the shades pulled down and the lights off, everything was in the believers’ favor.  “God,” Chang said, “just give me a couple more days of this.”

Is this the Christianity we’re supposed to emulate?  Is this the Christianity that would inspire unbelievers to believe?  “God, please keep everybody around me so miserable they’re chewing their tongues and trying to kill themselves, so I can save my own skin”?

Is this the ultimate result of Calvinism: Christians good, unbelievers so worthless they deserve everything they get?

[2/13/12-3/12/12]

 

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