Item description for Left Behind?: The Facts Behind the Fiction: A Companion Guide by Cassandra Carkuff Williams...
Overview This study guide is designed primarily with small groups in mind. In concert with the book, it will help readers explore alternative understandings of Scripture passages that have been linked to the end times including the books of Revelation and Daniel.
Publishers Description This study guide is designed primarily with small groups in mind. In concert with the book, it will help readers explore alternative understandings of Scripture passages that have been linked to the end times including the books of Revelation and Daniel. It will encourage and enable readers to think more deeply about the implications of various end times views, and it provides specific perspectives that challenge the end times views espoused by the best-selling fiction series. It can also be used for individual study.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Left Behind?: The Facts Behind the Fiction: A Companion Guide?
Informative, but for a selective audience... Feb 2, 2009
We used this small volume in a class on Revelation; the institution is what I would probably term "progressive mainstream," so very few of the students there held "rapture theology" in their belief systems. Interestingly, many of us found this volume to be rather insensitive. It is clearly geared to inform those unfamiliar with rapture/end times theology and confused by the popularity of LaHaye and Jenkins' series.
What the book does well: Flesher clearly delves into the history, albeit briefly, of end-times theology - from the earliest beliefs of the church regarding the second-coming of Christ through Augustine's "City of God," and fast-forwards to the 1800's when Darby developed a premillennial dispensationalist rapture theology (in which Christ comes twice and the church is raptured before the tribulation - a belief that was not part of Christian doctrine prior to this time). Flesher discusses Darby's work, coming on the heels of the French Revolution, and traces its movement to the US where it was popularized by various evangelists like Scoffield, and finally brought into the awareness of the masses by the Left Behind series, which soared into popularity after 9/11. Flesher synthesizes the various ways of understanding apocalyptic thought in terms easy to understand, even if they are a bit too restrictive in my mind. She also deals with the way in which the Left Behind Series interprets the book of Revelation, including the material that is actually not present in Revelation - she effectively demonstrates the way in which rapture theology synthesizes numerous scriptural passages throughout the Hebrew Bible (OT) and the New Testament to develop this particular end-times understanding. She clearly lays out the scriptural "cross-referencing" that goes on in the series - and how it is questionable whether or not this interpretation is appropriate given the context of the Bible.
What the book lacks: Compassion! While many folks who are raised from a more mainstream Christian perspective will find this book fascinating (and, perhaps, feel vindicated that LaHaye and Jenkins are a trifle off-base in their interpretation), it tends to commit the same error the author points out among those who believe in this sort of rapture theology. That is, it comes off, particularly in chapter 4 ("The Battle for the Bible") as exclusivist and impatient with "the other side" instead of recognizing that, whether the author agrees with it or not, rapture theology is an authentic mode of belief, one that, as a fellow student mentioned, is absolutely foundational to many a Christian's faith life - agree or disagree. Sadly, I would never recommend this book to more conservative Christian friends simply because, while some of the information is excellent, it is very insensitive. Shredding LaHaye and Jenkin's theology for its rather obvious logical and biblical flaws is one thing, but it would have been much more effective if the author more subtly offered critique of these flaws rather than appearing to simply discount all of the belief system. A perfect example is the end of the book when she offers only a couple of pages on how to respond to this kind of biblical interpretation.
Bottom line: The historical aspects of the book, as well as the biblical interpretation/history, are great though they could use about 50 more pages of explanation to be more complete. Those on the margins of rapture theology who want to "get" the Left Behind series will find it enlightening, though it's helpful to have read at least one of the books to really understand all her references. However, this is not something that proponents of rapture theology will appreciate. There is definitely room out there for someone to write something on a more appropriate interpretation of Revelation, Daniel, etc., without putting off the audience that it could help the most.
The Flawless Truth Jan 25, 2008
As a student of Dr Flesher, I tried by best to prove her wrong. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This book has been throughly picked apart by countless seminarian students of ABSW @ the renown GTU at UC Berkeley. This book is the flawless truth. This book will take you are a journey to the truth behind the falacy robbing too many of us from the truth.
A Much Needed Sanity Check! Aug 15, 2007
This book is a refreshing alternative to all the "Left Behind" propaganda creeping into our churches from fundamentalist extremists and far-right televangelists. I found the fact that Ms. Flesher is a Baptist theologian very encouraging after the recent bloodbath in the Southern Baptist Convention. The book is well written, easy to understand and is ideal for anyone who is curious about a more educated approach to the Biblical end-of-times stuff. Seminary professors and theologians will already be familiar with this material. However, pastors may want to consider using this book as helpful reading material to recommend to church members who are eschatologically confused due to the LeHaye books.
If you're a non-fundamentalist Christian and unsure about how you feel about the "Left Behind" series, I recommend this book as a sanity check. If you're a fundamentalist, you'll probably be offended by it, but what's new there, eh?
Disappointed Aug 7, 2006
I am no lover of LaHaye & Jenkins' Left Behind series of novels. Neither do I accept their pre-trib rapture theory of the end times. Therefore I was looking forward to reading this book. I had hoped to find it to be a scholarly and Biblically based critique of this popular series and the theology behind it. I was disappointed.
Ms. Flesher (a professor at The American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California) is a liberal Protestant who has an intense dislike for evangelicals. Her prejudice is evident throughout the book. For example in the first chapter (pp. 13-14) she warns her readers that to accept LaHaye's view of the end times is to start down a road that leads to the extremism of David Koresh and the Waco Branch Davidians as well as to the Heaven's Gate suicide cult. This is unwarranted and unjustified. She might disagree with LaHaye and Jenkins' interpretation of Biblical prophecy, but they are no threat to themselves or anyone else.
Her main complaint with the Left Behind novels is that they are ethnocentric, chauvinistic, anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-ecumenical - thereby revealing her own political and social agenda. She even devotes a whole chapter to defending Secular Humanism from the unjust attacks of evangelicals! Apart from her anti-evangelical bias, even her analysis of eschatological systems is flawed. On page 23 she has a chart which categorizes the dominant eschatological systems. Of the six classifications, four are amillennial and nontribulational. She classifies all rapture positions (pre-, post-, or mid) under the category of dispensational! That is inaccurate historically and theologically. Dispensationalism is a late-comer to the pre-millennial family (which she admits in her history of it) and is entirely pretribulational. Dispensationalism should be charted as a subgroup of Premillennialism and not the other way around!
Flesh paints all premillennial positions with the same dark brush - as an extremist, right-wing fringe movement. She reinterprets history (in true post-modern fashion) to make the amillennial position appear to be the only reasonable interpretation of the Bible. Flesher calls those who believe in rapture eschatology "an ethnocentric subculture in the United States" and "a minority of a minority" (quoting Pieters) among Christians. This is simply untrue. Even though LaHaye's view of the end times is (in my opinion) erroneous, I have to admit that it has become the majority opinion among evangelicals.
She is best (as an Old Testament professor) in dealing with the prophecies of Daniel and its influence on Revelation. But even then she assumes a second century date BC for the Book of Daniel (she actually uses the "spiritually correct" terms BCE and CE) without considering the idea that it may actually be prediction! She even says that it includes an "inaccurate prediction" of the death of Antiochus Epiphanies IV (p. 84) thereby making the book of Daniel false prophecy!
In short, I had hoped that this book would be a reasoned and balanced critique of the Left Behind series and its rapture theology. Instead I found a liberal anti-evangelical diatribe. Flesher accuses LaHaye and Jenkins of having an "ideological agenda" (page 36) and being captive to unexamined cultural norms and values. In response to those accusations I will paraphrase Jesus: She who seeks to take a speck out of her brother's eye needs to take the plank out of her own.
A much better book on the same subject is "Rapture Fiction & the Evangelical Crisis" by Crawford Gribben, published by Evangelical Press.