Matthew 24:42 (NIV) "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. - Jesus.
About 50 million Americans seem to believe, often fervently, that the apocalypse (Christ's second coming) will take place in the very near future (2002 CNN poll). Englishman Nicolas Guyatt, a "lapsed Catholic," professor of history at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, investigates this phenomenon, to his mind entirely irrational. He does so in a gentlemanly manner, interviewing several of the "prophecy superstars," Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, Todd Strandberg (founder of www.RaptureReady.com), Dave Reagan, Jack Kinsella (Hal Lindsey's assistant), Joel Rosenberg, and others.
Guyatt begins with questions that bothered him (page 8): "Why would apocalyptic Christians . . . want to get involved in politics? ... If God is in charge, what's the point of electing a Republican Congress . . . . Why do so many Americans believe that the world is about to end? And should the rest of us be worried . . . ?"
Most of the book covers the several interviews the author had with the players mentioned above. Tim LaHaye's 1970s work with Henry Morris in the founding of The Institute for Creation Research and his continuing search for the Ark is covered briefly. LaHaye calculates that the Ark construction could have taken as few as eighty-one years. He is quite convinced that it will be found during the Tribulation. John Hagee's unique perspectives on Israel are discussed in depth, probably than they deserve.
Two messages come out of this fascinating volume. The first is that the Religious Right is severely fractured; not only do they not "speak with one voice" on many matters, they feud with each other. Second, and more disturbing, is that many of the leaders not only preach about their understanding of biblical prophecy, but move beyond them to political activism, appearing as "experts" on talk shows, advising some politicians, and acquiring, in Guyatt's words (page 267) ". . . a disquieting influence in Washington."
The fact remains, however, Guyatt argues, that the prophecy gurus have yet to make even one single definite prediction. Most of their warnings are vague; when they make specific ones (Guyatt gives examples) they are embarrassingly incorrect. And so, new editions of their writings appear, the gaffs erased as if they never existed. Sounds like some of the early writings by the Young Earth Creationists!
I very much recommend This book for its unique perspective on our faith. As one who holds basic Christian beliefs, including one in Christ's Second Coming, it is instructive to see how an outsider views those of our company who have taken biblical prophecy perhaps a little too far.
John W. Burgeson, Houston, Texas. 480 words Published in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, June, 2008
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