Left Behind: Apollyon Review–Part 5

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On page 321, Rayford and his new friend “T” are talking about the insects.  Rayford says, “Be glad they’re on our side….[T]hey’re moonlighting for God for a while.”  WHAT?  Demons on God’s side?  Blasphemy!

On page 322, Buck tells a suffering, stung Chaim that he’s in this position because of pride, that that’s the reason why he (a Jew, by the way) rejected the evidence of Jesus being the Messiah.  He says,

[Y]ou have ignored everything Tsion has told you about how to connect with God.  You have counted on your charm, your own value, your being a good person to carry you through.

You get around all the evidence for Jesus being the Messiah by reverting to your educational training, your confidence only in what you can see and hear and feel.  How many times have you heard Tsion quote Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 2:8-9?

But what about all the other reasons a person might disagree, which have nothing to do with pride?  Couldn’t Chaim have honestly disagreed that Jesus is the Messiah, without it having to do with pride?

While I do believe in the truth of the Gospel, I don’t believe that insulting people for disagreeing with us is going to bring most of them into the Church.

And, oh yes, there is also the unfortunate trait I’ve noticed in various forms of Christian media: characters who can quote Bible verses at any moment, to every objection a person makes, as if they’ve memorized the whole thing.

Despite growing up in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical subculture, I have never seen anybody do this in real life.  Most people have to use a concordance or run a Google search to find what they’re looking for.

(For an example, see The Prodigal Planet, 1:05:41.  Here you also find the belief, opposing LaHaye, that if you heard the Gospel and understood it before the Rapture, you cannot be saved afterwards–which makes it hard to figure out which of the characters can still be saved.  You also hear how Scripture can be twisted to fit various Rapture doctrines.)

The real trouble with such passages in these books is that they show God forcing people to choose him, which is not how it works:

Origen, and all rationalists who are like him, was not able to understand that the acceptance or the rejection of God’s grace depends entirely on the rational creatures;

that God, like the sun, never stops shining on good or wicked alike; that rational creatures are, however, entirely free to accept or reject this grace and love;

and that God in His genuine love does not force His creatures to accept Him, but respects absolutely their free decision.

He does not withdraw His grace and love, but the attitude of the logical creatures toward this unceasing grace and love is the difference between paradise and hell.

Those who love God are happy with Him, those who hate Him are extremely miserable by being obliged to live in His presence, and there is no place where one can escape the loving omnipresence of God (part Χ, Kalomiros, River of Fire).

And do the authors really think that people would want God after all this, or that they would not rebel against being tormented for not having said the right prayer or followed the correct religion?

Wouldn’t it be far better to make converts based on God’s love and wanting to be saved from our sins and made into what God always intended for humanity?  You want a convert based on love and a desire for righteousness, not a convert based on fear of punishment:

If the threat of punishment were withdrawn, whether for real or because of a loss of belief in Hell, the convert based on fear would go back to his old ways.  The one who converts for the sake of God and righteousness will continue even in the face of doubt, such as with Mother Theresa.

I’m a bit confused why Chloe, on page 329, “finally couldn’t navigate the stairs” because she was “getting toward the end of her pregnancy.”  After all, when I neared the end of my pregnancy, I still went up and down the stairs.  I had to!

Also on that page, we read, “Stories poured in of obscure tribal groups understanding [the 144,000 Jewish witnesses/missionaries] in their own languages and becoming tribulation saints.”

But–But–Are you saying that the members of these groups were under Wrath and not Raptured, even though they never heard the Gospel before this?  Does this mean LaHaye/Jenkins are of the school of thought that says such people go to Hell, even through no fault of their own?

This is an often-heard question in Christianity, what happens to the souls of people in isolated tribes who never had a chance to hear the Gospel.  I always heard/read in Evangelical churches that they’d be judged with this in mind, not automatically condemned.

The Orthodox view is that unbelievers are judged according to the natural law, the law written on the conscience which every human being has.  We are naturally good; to sin is to act against our nature.

Habitual sins can dull the conscience; the conscience is also the means by which unbelievers can ultimately be saved.  The goal is not man’s praise, but pleasing God.  This is based on Romans 2:14-16 and 29.

Also, those of us who are aware of the Mosaic Law (particularly the moral one, which still stands) are also aware that it is impossible to keep it perfectly; it cannot make us righteous.

We are accountable to both the natural and Mosaic Law.   Those who “become righteous by grace through faith fulfill in Christ both the natural and the Mosaic Law” (pp. 341-343, The Orthodox Study Bible).

Also see:

An Orthodox Christian View of Non-Christian Religions–Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou (Greek)

What about other Christians? (OCA)

Will the Heterodox Be Saved?–Archimandrite (Metropolitan) Philaret

On page 346, we read, “[Rayford] was thrilled when [Chloe] and Buck married, despite the ten-year age difference.”

A ten-year age difference is hardly a problem for a married couple, though it would be for a minor teenager dating an older man, and Chloe is a grown woman.  If I were Rayford, I’d be more attentive to how Buck treats Chloe.  As long as he treats her well, the age difference is nothing to be concerned about.  He’s not even old enough to be her father, after all.

As Chloe goes into labor on page 391, Tsion decides to pray, and tells the doctor he has a “waiver” on closing his eyes during the prayer.  Er, thank you so much for permitting the doctor to keep his eyes open during a prayer while Chloe is in labor.

It’s hard to tell if this is meant to be a joke, or if they seriously feel you must close your eyes during a prayer (unless you have a waiver from the pastor), since Tsion goes right into the prayer without even stopping to chuckle.

It’s no wonder these books move so slowly: We read every phone call and prayer, even though most are not important to the plot and can easily be summarized.

It feels like reading a badly-edited self-published novel by someone who apparently has spent little time reading the works of the masters or practicing the craft (which, unfortunately, is so many that self-publishers have a stigma to live down).

And it’s no wonder I read these books so slowly, since I’d much rather spend most of my reading time on books that are a joy to read rather than a chore.  Speaking of which, now it’s time to start reading the next book in the series.

[December 2009-end of January 2010]


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