Saturday, April 16, 2005

Neener neener, you got Left Behind!

I have raved before about Slacktivist's Left Behind critiques, but to be honest, that was only after reading several of the more recent ones. I finally was able to read through the whole archive and am more impressed than ever. Both the theological and literary criticisms are excellent, but it's the theological ones that are really important to me.

I want to point out two of them because they touch on the thing that most disturbed me about the first Left Behind book. (Unlike Slacktivist, I could only slog through one reading of the first book and won't even look at the cover art of the rest of them, let alone crack the cover or actually read them.) The thing that really disturbed me about that book was its portrayal of Salvation is ugly with a sort of "neener neener I'm saved and you're not!" attitude that I found creepy. In his most recent post, he explores this.

LB, in the chapters ahead, has a great deal to say about saving faith. LaHaye and Jenkins are clear that such faith only counts if it includes a very particular content, a very specific formula. For them, to be saved through Christ means to be saved by one's acknowledgment of certain facts about Christ. At times, they seem to say that salvation is possible because of God's mercy. At other times, salvation seems to be something we can compel the genie God to grant us by incanting the "sinner's prayer." There's a magical, gnostic element lurking here we'll get into a bit more down the line.

YES! That is exactly what I felt like reading that book. The heroes all "got saved" in exactly the same way by reciting exactly the same prayer. My worst moment reading that book was near the end (and Slacktivist is still only on page 80!) One of the heroes, Buck Williams, "The Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time" as Slactivist sarcastically calls him, is invited to an exclusive meeting with the Anti-Christ. Before this meeting, Buck finally has his conversion! (And there was much rejoicing!) He goes into the bathroom, prays "The Prayer," and gets his butt saved! Yay! Then he goes to the meeting, wherein the Anti-Christ shoots someone in the head. The kicker is, everyone else to a person remembers it as the victim killing himself. Everyone, except of course, Buck. Why? Because Buck said "The Prayer" and now is under God's protection! Yay! Had he not done that, had he still been wrestling with doubt, actively seeking to understand but still not there yet, too bad so sad. He'd have been on the outside and therefore not subject to God's grace. Neener neener! So that's their version of grace. Say the magic word and you're In.

An earlier post talks about the separation of works from faith. Slactivist notes how many "nice" characters are "left behind," an indication that salvation isn't about being good, but believing. Faith, not works. Good point, but very incomplete, forgetting that faith without works is empty and meaningless.

Fear of a doctrine of "works righteousness" -- salvation through good works -- has led to a fear of good works themselves. This is not unique to [authors Tim Lehay and Jerry B. Jenkins, aka] L&J, although they do exhibit a particularly virulent strain of the disease. They believe the road to Hell is paved not with good intentions, but with good works.

Although this Protestant phobia of "works" derives from Calvin, the reformer himself wouldn't have recognized it. His doctrine that "salvation is grace; ethics is gratitude" has been Americanized into "It's not what you do; it's who you know."

As we will see in the chapters ahead -- with their pornographic depictions of religious conversion -- L&J's soteriology is even further removed from that of the Reformation. Ultimately for L&J, salvation is not a matter of who you know, but of what you know. Left Behind isn't Calvinist. It's gnostic.

That was another thing I noticed about Left Behind. Not only were those Raptured true believers, they were Right Believers. They were absolutely Right about Everything. So right that one pastor left a videotaped message about the Rapture for those poor folks left behind to use as guidance. God's grace, apparently, can only be extended to those who don't have a single incorrect assumption about him. Neener neener!

Hmmm. Seems to me that would be an awfully small Rapture. Actually, I think that Rapture already happened. It was called The Ascension and happened some 2000 years ago to a crowd of one.


At 3:23 PM, Blogger catholic_girl said...

No, see, we missed it. It was two weeks ago.

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous the_methotaku said...

The "sinner's prayer" allways struck me as a fundamentally silly concept.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Knitress said...

I love the title of this post. I hadn't thought of it this way before, but that's EXACTLY what this theology amounts to. "Neener, neener, you're damned and I'm not! Bwahahahahhhh!"

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

You know what shocked me? The depicted the Pope as raptured. This is the kind of group that usually calls Catholics idolators for worshipping Mary. I could not believe they actually included the head of the Catholic church among the raptured.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger BobW said...

Barry Goldwater once said that all good Christians should kick Falwell in the ass. He must never have heard about LaHaye

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Jessica said...

Late late comment, but I finally saw SWIII, and read the XPFC discussion, and read your reviews here, and then read this post :)

The Pope gets raptured because shortly before the rapture, he very controversially changes Catholicism to be in line with LaHaye theology.

Most Catholics don't get raptured, which seems to contradict the assertation that huge numbers of Latin Americans disappeared.

Tim LaHaye's website just about woke Leif up from his nap. Oops.

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Alvin Miller said...

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions!


Your jaw will drop!

eschatology,End Times,second coming,rapture,secret rapture,Second Resurrection,Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead,
End of Days,Day of the Lord,Endtime,Judgment Day


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