Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Response to Tim LaHaye Interview

So Nathan has pointed us to a recent article by Tim LaHaye of the Left Behind money maker project.  For years now, LaHaye has been viewed as a Bible prophecy expert, even putting out his own Prophecy Study Bible.  Along with Jerry Jenkins, LaHaye has sold millions of copies of the Left Behind series and finally completed the series about a year ago.  Now they have pressed on with a new series along the same lines.  My first question is:  Is there any balance of biblical theology in this man’s life.  Some might ask me the same thing, since in recent days I have been preoccupied with biblical eschatology.  The difference is this:  I am trying to exegete books of the Bible, not try to cut and paste them together.  I am doing it in order that I might properly understand what the issues are and thereby be able to refute those who err, not make money off of biblical fiction (if there is such a thing).

With that in mind, it looks like we are in for another round of “Pin the tail on the Anti-christ”.  A recent interview with LaHaye with Newsweek’s Brian Braiker is online as of right now.  I just wanted to make a few comments in regards to this.  The first one will be very blunt:  When are we going to call men like LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Jimmy Deyoung, Jack van Impe and others on their teachings?  At what point in the future can we say they are false prophets or teachers?  I say the time came many years ago and continues till today and if the Lord should tarry and the world continues another 100 or 1000 years, then they would clearly be seen as such.

I will note that there is absolutely no Scripture that is referenced in the entire interview.  Also, the gospel is simply whittled down to “Call upon the name of the Lord”.   There is no clear point to the eschatology, except the Jesus returns, which I do think is significant, but I am trying to understand, why is there a 7 year Tribulation?  What is an Anti-christ?  What is a rapture?  All of these things and more are what someone who might not be familiar with Left Behind or had run ins with Dispensationalists might have, not to mention the “why” of calling upon the name of the LORD (the gospel).  This may or may not be LaHaye’s fault.  It could simply be the editor’s choice, but I tend to see that LaHaye is more preoccupied with eschatology, than in the gospel that drives the eschatology, which is the gospel of the kingdom or the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We must see how eschatology fits with the gospel, for it is extremely important to see Jesus as the Christ.  I am in the process of doing that now in some of my posts on Matthew and soon to follow Revelation, so I will not deal with that here.

The intro of the interview

The introduction to the interview starts out with this line:

The controversial books (referring to the Left Behind series), which have sold more than 60 million copies, depict the biblical end of the world, the Christian eschatology of the upheaval that precedes the second coming of Jesus Christ, known also as the “end times.” (emphasis mine)

I have a huge problem with LaHaye’s views on eschatology being defined as “the biblical” end of the world and “the Christian” eschatology.  This is simply not the case.  Simply because there are plenty of people who buy his books doesn’t make these things so.  Neither does the fact that many people across denominational lines holding to such views make them biblical or Christian.  That is simply faulty.  It should be stated as what it is:  The Dispensational view of eschatology, not the biblical one.

One should remember that for the Dispensationalist they don’t see any signs concerning a “secret” rapture, but instead see signs for the return of Christ.  Again, I don’t see this as biblical.  There is nothing in Scripture that would lead us to believe that the rapture and the Second Coming are separated by a gap of 7 years, nor are there signs of the Second Advent.

When asked if he sees the things going on in the Middle East as evidence of the end of days, LaHaye responds, “Biblically speaking, the very nations that are mentioned in prophecy—and have been mentioned for 2,500 years as occupying the focus of the tension of the last days—are the very nations that are involved in the conflict right now.  That may be one of the reasons there’s a sudden interest in bible prophecy because all of a sudden they realize end-time events could possibly take place and break forth right now” (emphasis mine).  Again, notice what is said.  Theses tensions among the same people have been going on for over 2,500 years according to LaHaye.  Actually they have been going on from before that.  Clearly Sarah and Hagar had tensions.  Isaac and Ishmael had tensions.  Israel and the nations around here had tensions.  There were tensions between Egypt and Israel.  On and on we could go even before that between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent we could reference, indicating the conflict between the people of God and the people against God.  As a caveat LaHaye throws in the words “could possibly”.  However, he definitely believes this is the way things will pan out ultimately.  Also, this is far from sudden interest.  How many times will unbelievers listen to you cry “Wolf”, until they finally say, “This guy obviously doesn’t know what he is talking about”?

He is then has a statement delivered to him, “But first century Christians believed that the end of the world could come during their lifetime.”

LaHaye completely sidesteps the issue by launching into a statement about imminency.  This totally misses the point.  It is an exegetical and hermeneutical fallacy on the part of LaHaye.  The generation that lived at the time of Christ was expecting the “world to come to an end”.  This was biblical imagery for the culture setting, nationality, and religious system of the Old Testament.  It was to be done away with just as Jesus said in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.  In fact immanency was not a particular part of the early church’s expectation for a number of reasons.  First, they knew that the Lord Jesus had told Peter how he would die in John 21.  Also we know that through Jesus’ own words in the gospels concerning his judgment upon Jerusalem and the specific words of Christ to Paul in Acts that the “imminent” return of Christ was not held by the church in the generation living at the time of Christ.  What Dispensationalists miss is that Christ is IMMINANT.  We live Coram Deo (before the face of God).  

The question logically follows from the interviewer:  “Couldn’t almost anything then be taken as a clue that any point in history might be the end times?”

LaHaye responds, “Down through the years that’s true.  But never the accumulation of events as we have today.  I have often said that no one knows the day nor the hour that Christ will come, but no generation has had so many signs of the times as our generation.  We have more reason to believe that Christ could come in our lifetime than any generation before us (emphasis mine).

And what signs are those Mr. LaHaye?  Are you going to point to Matthew 24 for those signs?  If so, then you have just shown that problem in your exegesis.  If you are going to point to Revelation, I believe you will have shown problems in your hermeneutic and exegesis.  There is no more reason to expect Christ’s coming today than there was 100 years ago, because quite frankly, Christ was clear and so were His apostles that we simply be ready, praying, and watching.  If there is any sign, it is the sign of mass apostasy, and remember that is not just in America, it is throughout the world among those in the visible church.

The interviewer then brings this up, “But my understanding is that current biblical scholarship reads some of the apocalyptic scenes in the Bible as metaphorically addressing events that were taking place as the Bible was being written.”

Sad to say, but LaHaye plays uses the “L” word.  No he wasn’t talking about a show on Showtime.  He said this belonged to liberal theologians.  “These are usually liberal theologians that don’t believe the Bible literally.”  That is simply nonsense.  I could point to a number of theologians past and present who would take this position (R. C. Sproul, Ken Gentry, Gary Demar, Gene Cook Jr., Tim Brown(, etc.).  Are these to be considered liberal??  Please.  Mr. LaHaye simply does not understand the biblical hermeneutic that is applied and he does not understand the position or he would not say such things.

But, he continues in with a “we” “they” statement concerning how it was written against Rome.  I think the interviewer should have been a little more guided in this statement.  For many of us who read Revelation do so understanding what is said concerning Rome and also see it as judgment against the nation of Israel.  He says, “We believe the Bible should be understood literally whenever possible (emphasis mine).”  I wonder if he considers Revelation 1:1-3 to be literal and I wonder what he specifically means by "whenever possible"?  I take Revelation literally.  However, I understand that it is using Old Testament imagery language to communicate a literal message, just as the prophets of old did.

He then states this incredible contradiction.  “The next big event is the second coming of Christ”, but then follows it in the very next sentence with it being preceded by a number of signs and then says just a few sentences before that that the Antichrist comes and sits in his kingdom and also that the Rapture occurs before that.  He then follows with a one world economy, one world government, and a one world religion.  Come now.  That seems like much more than the next big event.  However, we must point out that the Dispensationalist has two comings in the Second Coming (the rapture and the Second Coming (I don’t know what they would call that)).  So, the next big event is not the Second Coming, it’s, I guess, the rapture, or a number of other signs.

The interviewer then states, “Really?  It seems we’re a ways off from a one world religion.”  LaHaye responds, “That’s the least developed”.  What??!!  The least developed?  Hold on there partner, I’ve rode that horse before.  There are only two religions in this world:  The one grace of God atonement religion and the one world religion of man’s attainment.  So no matter if you are Muslim, Buddhist, Confusionist, Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, Arminian or any other man centered religion, you are a part of the one world religion and it has not waited till the end of earth’s history to be developed.  It was developed back in the Garden of Eden when Adam thought he could make it own his own apart from God and God’s Law.  This is the distinction between the gospel of the grace of God and the works righteousness that man tries to attain through various things (baptism, good works, confession, etc.).  The world is truly divided between those whom God saves and saves by the work of Jesus Christ alone and those who are attempting to save themselves by their own thinking, wills and efforts.

LaHaye is then asked about the threat of secular humanism.  He says, “Part of the opposition to our position is from the secular humanists, but part of it is from the liberal people of theology that reject the Bible.  I don’t see a great difference between them.  Their basic conclusions are often the same (emphasis mine).”  It appears that he leaves no room for those who are faithful exegetes of Scripture who are against his position other than liberals or secular humanists.  Again, that simply is not true.  If you hold to Dispensational theology, in my opinion, I think you are far from biblical theology, which also means you are farther from a biblical eschatology.

Let me say this:  THE CHURCH HAS EXPRESSED REFORM IN MANY AREAS.  NOW IS THE TIME FOR REFORMATION IN THE AREA OF ESCHATOLOGY.  OUR FATHERS HAVE HASHED OUT SOTERIOLOGY, CANONIZATION, CHRISTOLOGY, ANGELOLOGY, AND MANY OTHER AREAS, BUT WE NEED ESCHATALOGICAL REFORMATION!

LaHaye then goes on about millions being saved during the Tribulation, through 144,000 Jewish converts.  Now how these Jews become Christian is a mystery.  After all he states that the church is gone before this happens.  Who will preach to these and bring them to Christ?  How will they be saved?

Ro 10:14  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Then as a result of these Jewish “evangelists”, millions will come to Christ.  Again, am I missing something or has Christ not torn down a wall of partition between Jew and Gentile in Christ?  
Ga 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Let me make one thing clear.  There are only one people of God.  There is only one Israel.  Israel is made up in the Old Testament of primarily Jews, but in the New Testament, unbelieving Jews are referred to by Paul in Romans 11 as those branches that are cut of from Israel and now Israel (the ecclesia, the church, the people of God) is composed of believers from both Jews and Gentiles (predominantly Gentiles).  God has not forsaken His people.  If there are believing ethnic Jews, which honestly I question, then they come into the Church the same way a Gentile does and that is through Jesus Christ.  But Dispensationalism does not believe that those saved during the Tribulation are of the church.  Rather they view them outside the Church and refer to them as Tribulation saints.  There is a huge glaring disconnect with the rest of Scripture.

Here is where we will see one portion of how our eschatology impacts politics and life.  The interviewer asks, “Does this explain how living right with God, in a Christian sense, would entail supporting the Israeli state right now?”  LaHaye’s response is classic Dispensationalism.  “I think those two things are related.  Christians who take the Bible literally are generally supportive of Israel because God promises to bless those nations that are a blessing to Israel and curse those nations that are not.  And the history of America bears that out. (emphasis mine)”

Where Mr. LaHaye does the history of America bear this out??  Not only that, but the New Testament says that we are the children of Abraham

Gal. 3:7  Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

Paul goes on to show that the Church is Israel.

Gal. 6:16  And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

He states that those who are of faith are the true circumcision and are the true Jews.

Romans 9:6 ¶  But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,
7  nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called."
8  That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

National Israel, as it exists today is a geo-political entity.  It is not the fulfillment of prophecy.  It is the result of faulty dispensational-backed eschatology.  I certainly don’t say this without supporting the nation itself.  They are a sovereign nation and have every right to defend their borders and no other nation should tell them otherwise, but our government has no business putting its nose in their business.  As Michael Peroutka once said, referencing a proverb, “A man who puts his nose in another’s business is like a man who picks up a dog by his ears.”  It’s time to let go of the dog(

When asked whether or not the state of Israel is just what I stated LaHaye responded with, “No, that’s just a third of the number of Jews in the world.”  The interviewer was trying to understand the disconnect between “Jews” spread across the world and the state of Israel.  He was asking a good question.  However, LaHaye really misses the point and if he were to give his eschatology in full, he would also state that he believes 2/3’s of the Jews will be slaughtered during the Tribulation.  It doesn’t sound like a bright future if you are Jewish.  Also, it tends to not take such passages as Romans11:26  “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob”, as literal does it?

Later he shows his inconsistency in this understanding by stating, “…during the Tribulation period, there’ll be a sea change, and many Jews will accept Christ.  Not all.  Again, it’s an individual decision (emphasis mine).  From his commentary, you would think it would be a God decision.  He said all Israel would be saved.  Does that not imply all without exception?  In the reformed view, which he opposes, we clearly see that all Israel refers to all of God’s elect people, which is consistent with our theology.

They then got into some silly stuff about a hockey rink at Liberty University.  I wonder if Dr. Caner will be involved in that.  Maybe he can teach his hockey team how to smash those nasty Calvinists(  Dr. Caner definitely might even put on some pads and skates and get into a little scuffle on the ice.  I would love to see that.  He’s definitely built for it and seems to have the adrenaline and passion for it.  Pardon me……we are on hockey…..Go Canes!!!

He was asked about his investment in the rink since he believes the way he does.  I must admit it seems odd.  If you are so serious about these things that are soon to take place why waste time with games and gimmicks.  Why not let your preaching be serious and present a gospel that can save and bring life to sinners who are dead in their trespasses and sins?

In any case, I want to say that Mr. LaHaye may be a brilliant man in other areas.  He may be personably likeable.  He may even have good intentions (the road to Hell……well you know).  I am not questioning his motives.  I seriously don’t know if he writes all those books for money or not.  But he is in desperate need of repentance in this area and correction.  I truly hope that God would bring someone into his life to help him see his error and that God would grant repentance, so that he might boldly shine forth the truth and give God the glory.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Rapture Index itself, which LaHaye loves, is helping to fulfill the biggest endtime "sign" seen in the most verses in Matt. 24: DECEPTION. If the RI would add up the total numerical value of its own deception, it would self-destruct! Actually it should be called the "Second Advent Index" since all the "precursors" are fulfilled during the tribulation and point to only the final advent and not to a supposed "pretrib"
coming that no pre-1830 church ever taught. Besides, Todd Strandberg claims that his "pretrib" rapture is "signless" - unless, of course, one can fool folks and assert that "precursors" can't be signs!

Kim said...

Tim,

I have actually read the books – all of them. The first four are pretty decent fiction, but the rest, in my opinion, are just kind of stretching out the story to make money. But, I finished the series anyway…..

Below is the way the book series answers the questions you asked. I hope it doesn’t make your head explode. I want to be clear that I am just stating what the books state/teach, not my personal beliefs. If you start picking it apart, a lot of it is not even logical let alone biblical. It is odd because LaHaye and Jenkins are extremely literal in some instances and then take a lot of creative liberty in others. Kind of depends on the needs of the plot…..

Here we go:

“LaHaye then goes on about millions being saved during the Tribulation, through 144,000 Jewish converts. Now how these Jews become Christian is a mystery. After all he states that the church is gone before this happens. Who will preach to these and bring them to Christ? How will they be saved?”

In the books people who were left behind had Christian witnesses in their lives before the rapture and knew that the disappearances were because of the rapture. Therefore, they knew how to become a Christian. So, basically, the Gentiles become believers and “tell.” There is also a Jewish scholar who studies the Bible and realizes all of the OT prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus and he is converted and becomes the leader of not only the 144,000, but the Gentile believers as well.

According to the books, the rapture itself is a witness to the world. People realize that the gospel/Bible is true and repent.

“But Dispensationalism does not believe that those saved during the Tribulation are of the church. Rather they view them outside the Church and refer to them as Tribulation saints. There is a huge glaring disconnect with the rest of Scripture.”

In the series, the believers are called Tribulation saints (and Judah-ites by their enemies) and they are not portrayed necessarily as being outside of the Church – they are the body of Christ – but, they “missed it” the first time around. The consequence of “rejecting Christ” is that they have to live through the tribulation and be persecuted by the anti-Christ and his followers.

“I think those two things are related. Christians who take the Bible literally are generally supportive of Israel because God promises to bless those nations that are a blessing to Israel and curse those nations that are not. And the history of America bears that out. (emphasis mine)”

In the books the unconverted Jews are put into concentration camps by the anti-Christ and kept alive only to suffer. The converted Jews, however, are protected supernaturally when they all migrate to Petra. The Gentiles helping those in Petra are also supernaturally protected while they are helping the converted Jews. They don’t have that protection when they are not doing something to help the converted Jews.

“However, LaHaye really misses the point and if he were to give his eschatology in full, he would also state that he believes 2/3’s of the Jews will be slaughtered during the Tribulation.”

From the first book we are told that ¾ of the world’s entire population will be wiped out. LaHaye demonstrates this by killing off 3 of the original 4 characters in the book. Only one makes it to the Glorious Appearing.

There are two reasons given for so many deaths. First, for believers, it is a consequence of missing the rapture. If they had been raptured, they would not be experiencing the judgments of God. Second, for unbelievers, it is not only a consequence for their unbelief, but, God is preparing for the battle of Armageddon by reducing the world’s population. Why God would need to tip the scales in His favor is beyond me.

“With that in mind, it looks like we are in for another round of “Pin the tail on the Anti-christ”.

The books give pretty detailed descriptions about where the anti-Christ came from geographically and how he comes to power as the leader of the world. Three of the later books detail the backstory of each of the characters including Nicolae, the anti-Christ. His birth and whole life was carefully orchestrated by satan worshippers.

The authors believe the anti-Christ will be connected to Rome. Nicolae is Romanian. The original Romanian’s were Roman.

“LaHaye responds, “Down through the years that’s true. But never the accumulation of events as we have today. I have often said that no one knows the day nor the hour that Christ will come, but no generation has had so many signs of the times as our generation. We have more reason to believe that Christ could come in our lifetime than any generation before us (emphasis mine).”

The books clearly state that the rapture will happen shortly after Russia and Lybia attack Israel and Israel is supernaturally protected by God and sustains no casualties or property damage.

Something I have heard over and over again about the series, and years ago believed, is that the series clearly presents the gospel; it doesn’t. Several of the characters were professing Christians before the rapture but were not true believers and therefore, left behind. Well, the authors try to explain that the “church people” left behind were living the lifestyle, but never really “chose” Christ. The characters expressed great sorrow about having missed the rapture and about how mean they were to the family members who were Christians, but I didn’t see sorrow over sin. Granted, the characters led changed lives after they became Christians – most of them were martyred – but the books still promote the “pray the prayer” doctrine that is so prevalent in the real world today. If you see any of their interviews or look on their web site, the whole reason to become a Christian is so you will not be “left behind.” They even put together a book of testimonies from people who did not want to be left behind. Misters LaHaye and Jenkins are not all that different from the characters in their books.

Wow, I think I have gone way beyond putting my two cents in.

Blessings,
Kim

Tim said...

anonymous,

Thanks for your comments. I agree about the comments you made concerning LaHaye. He is definitely misguided and in error.

I also agree that last days are clearly mark by deception. However, I openly reject that it speaks specifically to our day. Matthew 24 is clearly in the past. I am attempting to go through the chapter, but began in the context of where verses 1-3 come from and that is in chapter 23 where the woes of Christ are laid out upon Israel. You can check the archives and read if you wish.

Kim,

Thanks for the time you took in relating those things from the books. Personally, I have not read Left Behind, because I have read his other "teaching" books. I understand his theology. I pretty much figured he was putting that same theology into the novels. In the end I think you made a good accessment: " the whole reason to become a Christian is so you will not be “left behind.” I couldn't agree more. As a matter of fact, reading back over my comments, I missed putting that in at the end. He even states that at the end of the interview in the last question. Great points though. LaHaye's motivation is not specifically that sinners turn from their sin and glorify God in Christ, but that they not miss the rapture. Again, some direction in his thinking would be appropriate. Thanks for your comments.

Gordan said...

This is a fantastic post, Tim.

Dispensationalism is a plague on Christianity.

I thought of this post again the other night when one of the major networks aired a piece on some evangelicals in Washington, DC. It mentioned the fact that some of them are happy and excited about the current violence in the Middle East, because it means Christ is near. John Hagee was the guy they kind of focused on, I think. It also showed a clip of Pat Robertson saying that if only you'd read Ezekiel 38, then you'd understand all about the current situation, etc., etc.

So when this all settles down, eventually, or some Muslim does in fact obliterate Jerusalem completely with a nuclear weapon, I hope we'll all be willing to get together and agree that the Dispy prophecy teachers are, colletively, false prophets.

Tim said...

The other Tim from our fellowship stated that last line almost verbatim Gordan. He has been to Israel several times and has the point of view that eventually the nation will either be broken up or destroyed. I don't know which, but I certainly don't buy into the premise that the nation,as it is today, has anything to do with Bible prophecy, except maybe to deceive.