In the theology presented in these books, preaching the Gospel turns into preaching vengeance on unbelievers. Salvation means to escape Hell.
Even though the authors try to tell us that the god in their books is loving, the one they present actually comes across as arbitrary and vindictive, only sparing those who have done their salvation “transaction.” Sign here on the dotted line and I won’t destroy you–at least, not in the next life.
(After all, even Christians are killed in some of the Tribulation afflictions. But at least they won’t go to Hell!) Alexandre Kalomiros eloquently describes the results on society of such preaching:
But why do men hate God? They hate Him not only because their deeds are dark while God is light, but also because they consider Him as a menace, as an imminent and eternal danger, as an adversary in court, as an opponent at law, as a public prosecutor and an eternal persecutor.
To them, God is no more the almighty physician who came to save them from illness and death, but rather a cruel judge and a vengeful inquisitor.
You see, the devil managed to make men believe that God does not really love us, that He really only loves Himself, and that He accepts us only if we behave as He wants us to behave; that He hates us if we do not behave as He ordered us to behave, and is offended by our insubordination to such a degree that we must pay for it by eternal tortures, created by Him for that purpose.
Who can love a torturer? Even those who try hard to save themselves from the wrath of God cannot really love Him. They love only themselves, trying to escape God’s vengeance and to achieve eternal bliss by managing to please this fearsome and extremely dangerous Creator.
Do you perceive the devil’s slander of our all loving, all kind, and absolutely good God? That is why in Greek the devil was given the name DIABOLOS, “the slanderer”.
…The “God” of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.
What is the Western dogma of salvation? Did not God kill God in order to satisfy His pride, which the Westerners euphemistically call justice? And is it not by this infinite satisfaction that He deigns to accept the salvation of some of us?
What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God?
Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!
How can one love such a God? How can we have faith in someone we detest? Faith in its deeper essence is a product of love, therefore, it would be our desire that one who threatens us not even exist, especially when this threat is eternal (from Parts I and II of River of Fire).
Some may accuse Kalomiros of attacking a straw man. It is probably true that he paints too broad a brush when he refers to “Western” theology, but the teachings he attacks, do indeed exist in many parts of the Church, in one form or another.
Some lean more toward “love that wants us saved” than toward “desire to torment sinners,” but there is still talk of “offended holiness” and “justice,” satisfied only by the Ultimate Sacrifice which you must accept or burn in Hell for all eternity.
I grew up and spent most of my young adulthood in Protestant Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, and I am quite familiar with such teachings. In fact, here they are in the Left Behind books!
When I think of the term “saved,” despite being in the Orthodox Church for a few years now, I still automatically think, “saved from burning in Hell for all eternity,” without including “saved from sins” or “saved from ourselves” or “perfected, made righteous.”
I am very familiar with being taught about the Rapture and how you want to get saved and be a true Christian, or Christ will snatch away the Church and you will be left standing there on Earth, alone, left behind, looking around wondering where everyone in your church went, and despairing that you will now go through the punishments of the Tribulation even if you repent immediately after the Rapture. (This video sums it up quite well.)
I am quite familiar with the concept of the Wrath falling on all those left behind. If, for example, a peaceful, loving Buddhist is left behind and Wrath pours out on him, it’s because he followed the Devil’s deception instead of Christ, and never said the “sinner’s prayer.”
But can we really expect every single person on Earth to know without doubt that Christianity is the correct religion? Is it truly right and proper for a Christian to determine who is saved and who is not, simply based on whether or not they chose correctly?
Isn’t judgment for God alone? Is it up to us to determine that a pious Muslim woman who never hurt anyone, is condemned to Hell along with a sex slaver?
Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a controversial game which came out a few years back, inspired me to read these LB books for myself, to find out just what they really say. I had read the criticism on the Talk 2 Action blog in 2006, and since it was so condemning, I had to see if it was really true. Was it really “convert or die”? From the game’s FAQ:
Are guns used by Christians against non-Christians? Why or why not?
The storyline in the game begins just after the Rapture has occurred–when all adult Christians, all infants, and many children were instantly swept home to Heaven and off the Earth by God.
The remaining population–those who were left behind–are then poised to make a decision at some point. They cannot remain neutral.
Their choice is to either join the AntiChrist–which is an imposturous one world government seeking peace for all of mankind, or they may join the Tribulation Force–which seeks to expose the truth and defend themselves against the forces of the AntiChrist.
Note the description of the Antichrist as “an imposturous one world government seeking peace for all of mankind,” against which the Tribulation Force must defend themselves. Er–How is peace for all mankind “Antichrist”? This is supposed to inspire gamers to fight the Antichrist?