A friend of mine, Jim Pike, is a (new) pastor in California. (That means that I now have ten relatives and two friends in California. My roots are growing.) He wrote a neat, succinct criticism of "left behind" kind of theology. I like it, and I commend it to you. The commentary is here.
Jim is one of the group blogging at Old Cheshire Cheese (link is in my Links column). He needs to get chugging on that again, but I will give him this: Establishing a new ministry is probably more pressing than setting out his thoughts on the internet -- even if those thoughts are bound to be insightful and important.
The issue of apocalypticism is intriguing and clearly wildly popular -- in books, movies, TV series, conversations between strangers. (I think it no accident that more people are reading "Left Behind" than are buying Bibles. We just don't seem to want to be bothered with good old fashioned orthodoxy, do we? Better to have dash and flash.) A lot of "mainline" churches are faced with the difficult process of responding to the phenomenon -- and most are punting. It's easier to put the books in the library and let whoever wants to read them read them without comment than to educate the congregation (which usually means first educating the pastor) about Revelation, Daniel, and the rest.
But I think it is wrong to follow that path. For one thing, it is a false gospel that is being preached. If people are proclaiming in the name of God and/or the name of Christ that this is the way God works, they are misrepresenting the True God -- and that is blasphemy. For another thing, it's also cynical, because it pretty much admits that education and proper proclamation don't really matter. (Of course, that also denies the significance of the Christian Church, a reality that is also blasphemous.)
I appreciate Jim's comments because of the concision with which he gets to the matter clearly and cleanly. I also appreciate the work of Craig Koester, whose course on Reformation I have extolled in previous postings.
It's not as though there aren't good resources to help congregations deal with this issue. I hope more will get with the agenda.