Terry Mattingly's July 19, 2006 column "On Religion" (LINK) noted that a recent survey of "Left Behind" readers showed a surprising 22.8 percent of them were non-Christians. Now Christian leaders are disturbed, fearing that for many of these non-Christians "Left Behind" has become tightly linked with "Christianity." Says Mattingly, "They have been fed a pop version of 'premillennial dispensationalism,' a complicated 19th century doctrinal system that says Jesus will reign for 1,000 years on earth after the last trumpet sounds, the dead rise and the true Christians are raptured to meet Christ in the air...(and many of them) believe that the Left Behind books are highly accurate portrayals of what the Bible teaches about the end of the world."
Being a premillennial dispensationalist myself, I'm citing this because it's gotten me to thinking about a progression I find fascinating. First, though, I don't see how anyone can accuse Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins of "feeding" anyone anything. They sat down some years ago and wrote their beliefs into a story, then passed it around CBA publishers, were rejected by quite a number of high level editors (who are now kicking themselves for that oversight), until Tyndale finally picked it up. Another endtimes book, ho hum. Hopefully it will sell through... they NEVER imagined it would do any more than that. Publisher's Weekly, not surprisingly, ignored it. If you go to the Amazon site you see that it doesn't review the book until two years after its initial release and then it's the audio version that's reviewed.
LaHaye and Jenkins wrote the book, Tyndale published it, and to the astonishment of everyone, it took off. Not because anyone was feeding anyone anything, but because people were interested in it.
Since I'm inclined to believe the Rapture is not far away, I think this promotion was God's doing. I love that the books are sneered at as being poorly written, that they are not stunning examples of fine prose and rich, subtle characterization -- because God doesn't use many mighty or many wise, but has instead "chosen the things that are humble that He might nullify the things that are not, that no man should boast before Him."
I find it fascinating that these books, which have sold 70 million copies, and have been translated into umpteen languages have made their way around the the world. To the point that Christian leaders are now upset that everyone links the Rapture and subsequent Tribulation with Christianity. I see that as a warning. And perhaps so have thousands of others who have believed in Jesus because of these books.
Grace always comes before judgement. So first there is this so-called "popularized" warning. Then, following on its heels we have The Passion of the Christ, which has also been around the world, even been watched in Middle eastern countries by Jews and Muslims -- a miracle in itself. So the warning of what is to come gets spread, then the solution to avoiding those horrors is presented in Passion.
And finally... we have Satan rushing to play catch up, scrambling to find something to muddy the waters with his DaVinci Code... to give people the opportunity to poo-poo what has come before.
And I just think it's all very cool.
Have a grace-filled day ~