Item description for Left Behind or Left Befuddled: The Subtle Dangers of Popularizing the End Times by Gordon L. Isaac...
Overview The extraordinary success of the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins shows that their action/adventure novels have tapped into the American psyche. It has revived our fascination with vivid images of the book of Revelation and other biblical texts: the Antichrist, the mysterious number 666, and people suddenly "raptured" into the sky by God. But is there something dangerous behind the thinking in these books and how they play out in our world today? In Left Behind or Left Befuddled, Gordon Isaac takes the reader inside the theology behind the series. In clear and accessible prose, Isaac answers many important questions that Christians have about the phenomenon that is Left Behind: * Is this vision of the end times really biblical? * Why do people have such a powerful response to it? * What are alternative ways to think about the end times? * How do the books view Catholics and other Christians? * What does this vision of things mean for Israel and the Jewish people? * How can we counter the myths proposed in the series as fact?
The extraordinary success of the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins shows that their action/adventure novels have tapped into the American psyche. It has revived our fascination with vivid images of the book of Revelation and other biblical texts: the Antichrist, the mysterious number 666, and people suddenly raptured into the sky by God. But is there something dangerous behind the thinking in these books and how they play out in our world today? In "Left Behind or Left Befuddled, " Gordon Isaac takes the reader inside the theology behind the series. In clear and accessible prose, Isaac answers many important questions that Christians have about the phenomenon that is Left Behind:
Is this Vision of the end times really biblical? Why do people have such a powerful response to it? What are alternative ways to think about the end times? How do the books view Catholics and other Christians? What does this Vision of things mean for Israel and the Jewish people? How can we counter the myths proposed in the series as fact?
"Gordon Isaac is the Berkshire Associate Professor of Advent Christian Studies in the church history department at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. He is also an ordained Advent Christian minister who has served a number of congregations."
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Gordon Isaac is the Berkshire Associate Professor of Advent Christian Studies in the church history department at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. He is also an ordained Advent Christian minister who has served a number of congregations.
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Shoddy Scholarship Dec 25, 2009
Left Behind or Left Befuddled / 978-0-8146-2420-3
I have read and enjoyed several scholarly books on the "Left Behind" phenomena, and am an avid reader and enjoyer of Fred Clark's Slactivist page-by-page treatment of the series, but I feel strongly that this book is a very poor addition to genre and I do not recommend it.
I am not usually pleased when a scholarly work defines itself largely in rhetorical questions, and much of this book devotes itself to that format. Isaac asks "What are we to make of this? Well, author so-and-so says..." and "What are we to think about this other? Well, church authority whats-his-name believes...". In his first chapter alone, Gershom Gorenberg is quoted on almost every page, and we hear more of his opinion than we do of Isaac's! What is somewhat worse, based on the blandness of Isaac's opinions and assertions, I find myself wishing I was reading *more* of Gorenberg, and not less. This lackluster approach to scholarship ('I have nothing much to say, so I'll quote people who do') is something I expect more from a first-year student being forced to write a book report over something that failed to resonate with them.
When Isaac does start throwing down facts and opinions of his own, his 'facts' are shockingly incorrect. In the very second chapter, he boldly claims that "early Christians" took the writings that we now refer to as The Revelation of John as "a predictive description of the drama to take place at the end of time. For them, the millennium [of a messianic kingdom] was regarded as quite literal". The only way to explain this 'scholarship' is to assume that Isaac slapped this book together from a Tyndale House press release and called it a day. The very idea that "early" Christians (How early? What kind of scholarship is this that we aren't even talking about dates and time periods?) interpreted Revelations in the same sense that LaHaye and Jenkins now do is extraordinarily wrong.
To just assert that "early Christians" believed *anything* at all without any kind of sourcing or material isn't scholarship, it's dogma. Isaac not only disagrees with volumes of scholarly study that indicate that the apocalyptic literature in question could have (and likely was) written as a source of encouragement to the early Christians as a metaphorical representation of their own, current struggles in an effort to avoid trouble if the writings were seized ('We didn't say that *your* kingdom would fall, sir, we were talking about a kingdom in the future. Yeah, the future, exactly.')... well, that kind of omission isn't just bad scholarship - I'm tempted to call it lying.
I note, belatedly, that Isaac's credentials on the subject sum up to being an Associate Professor at a Seminary. I don't like to cast aspersions based on credentials, but I can't help but feel that this shoddy, lack-luster approach is not something I would expect from an affiliate of an accredited university - someone who would be expected to actually back up their writing with clear opinions and well-researched facts, rather than wild mass quoting and bald assertions of facts not in evidence. The only thing positive I can think to say of this book is that at ~150 pages, it is at least short. Though, on reflection, book reports usually are.
~ Ana Mardoll
Pros and cons of both the book and its content. Also, a suggestion. Jan 1, 2009
I have long had a few beefs with Left Behind theology, as much as I appreciate the evangelistic impetus it has created (not to mention the resurgence of Kirk Cameron).
First, I do not find a pre-trib rapture view likely biblical at all, and this book does a good job of pointing out how very new (and weak) this theological vision is.
Second, I am not a fan of codifying and reducing all end time prophecy either (a) at the loss of further layers of meaning, (b) at the loss of immediate and historical context where those may exist, (c) to the encouragement of unhealthy social/political conduct varying between reading all of news through this lens, particularly as dictated by a very narrow camp, to the potential loss of critical thought, ceasing to care actively for the earth and justice, being *blindly* supportive of everything the Israeli government might do (and I DO, DO, DO support Israel), becoming isolationist to the point of no longer taking real responsibility for our engagement of culture, etc. or (d)to have prideful or a-little-too-neat surety of precisely how things will play out. Since these are some of the opening and conluding points the author makes in this book, I laud him on that. At the same time, I feel like he suggests all dispensationalists do this (and while he does intimate at times that there is some variety in the dispensational camp, considering all of his criticism I feel he does it an injustice by not spelling some of this variety out) and, moreover, that all classical dispensationalists fall prey to these issues even to the point of not seeing further layers (not, in my experience, true among many of the more thoughtful). So his argument or insinuation that dispensationalism overall sucks creativity out of our approach to the end times and the glory of God stands uncomfortably on one leg, imo.
More about the book:
I appreciate some windows it gives me on other camps' thoughts on Revelation. I'd just begun looking into these myself after having mostly just read Revelation on my own. I'd never sat under any teaching on it, just chewed the scroll, mostly for spiritual applications, revelation of Christ's glory, and some cautious but compelling futurist thoughts. I'd also read what I now know to call preterist commentary. However, in this book, I do not find the layout of camps particularly clear or sufficiently thorough (I know this is not the place for "thorough," but I find the offering far too slim). There are some great isolated points to mull (quotes of past theologians that bring unique cultural perspective), but he would have done well to have some clear breakdowns of camps, etc. if only in the form of a chart. I think a novice reader wouldn't even know where to begin looking once they've put down this book.
I take major issue with the replacement theology emphasis of the book. He never uses the terminology, but it is the point of his chapter on Israel. At the same time, his explanation of the way the Church fulfills prophecy is rich on many points. I just find it terrible that Israel is written out. I do not believe it is either/or but both and.
We can all look at apocalyptic movements in history that have been "off" and shake our heads. It is easy from this vantage point. And I believe that as a result our pride may actually keep us from considering a soon-coming end-time scenario even when we should. Of course we will not know the date and the hour. That much is clear from scripture. We may, however, know times and seasons and know these more maturely as they near(Jeremiah 23:20; Daniel 12:4,9) if only in part. Likewise fear may keep us from taking such scenarios seriously--fear of falling into personal error, fear of trials to befall man and the earth, etc. In reality, past apocalyptic movements have largely been a very small pocket of the population and very brief. In contrast, a huge portion of Christians (and non-Christians!) in the earth today believe, at least vaguely, that Revelation is upon us, and they have far more scriptural evidence to point to than any other age. This is worth considering. If we are willing to look at some of the things the dispensational camp is saying and to at least incorporate their possibilities beside our historical, symbolic, and spiritual reads of the book, we may find some soberly compelling points.
One of the interpretations I have just begun to look at lately is that espoused by the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (see talks/notes from an end-times conference here:http://188.8.131.52/vod/pl/otarch.html. I particularly appreciate Stuart Greaves' talk on Justice from December 31). They believe Christians will see the tribulation, but they are pre-millenial dispensationalists. They are more literal (and anti-symbolic save where the text specifies symbolism) in their end-time scenarios than I currently believe we are necessarily assured of, but at the very least they do not fall prey to point "C" above. They are zealous in their beliefs but also welcome their students to study it for themselves and challenge them. Anyhow, I don't know if I will ever swallow all they say (I believe in considering genre when looking at interpretation, I find the argument for "plain reading" to be an inconsistent one when you look at things like plucking out our eyes, etc., I see layers in all of scripture and don't want to negate those in any degree, and I see evidence of both symbolic and literal use of numbers throughout scripture), but I agree (and pretty much have for a long while) with the general scenario that we will be entering tribulation and that these things will come to pass (even if not precisely in the details or order promulgated by any one camp's interpretation). Their call to prayer, personal holiness, generosity with finances, proclamation of Jesus, and acts of justice (with a steadfast eye on Jesus) is certainly a sound one even if you were to fault them on other points. As you might expect by their "plain read" hermeneutics, they are somewhat more critical of the emerging church movement than many readers of this book would be, and so I forewarn you on that. (Fuller disclosure: with my limited exposure to the emerging community and writings, I agree with some but certainly not all of their criticisms.)
I AM NO LONGER BEFUDDLED! Nov 12, 2008
Gordon Isaac's book Left Behind or Left Befuddled delivers a cogent affront against the faulty hermeneutic of the Left Behind stance, reminding readers that Dispensationalism, from which stems the secret rapture doctrine, is not rooted in the historical and apostolic faith--Dispensationalism is a 19th century concoction! Isaac's monograph is not only salient critique, it is also a corrective. As an historian and theologian the author traces both the major historical events which have lead to the said hermeneutical misperception, and the major biblical texts which are said to support and substantiate the doctrine of the "secret rapture" and the "end-times calendar." The result of these moves are reconstructing an accurate vantage of God's plan and purpose for the Christian community and indeed the world; rather than waiting to fly away (rapture), the Christians are to engage in the work of the Kingdom of God, what aspects are in the here-and-now. Gordon Isaac does an effective job in recapturing the Christian imagination by bringing readers back to a Christocentric worldview with accurate historical interpretation and biblical theology as reliable modus.
Excellent Analysis Nov 9, 2008
The book "Left Behind or Left Befuddled" by Dr. Gordon Isaac provides and unique and thorough analysis of the eschatological viewpoints made popular in the "Left Behind" Series. The analysis is one I found to be very thorough and well laid out. It is also worth noting that the book was written in such a style that made for a very easy read. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, giving it 5 stars!
Excellent advice and information! Sep 30, 2008
Gordon Isaac provides his readers with thoughtful insight and information concerning the eschatology that is behind Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins 12-volume book series. He shows why it is subtly dangerous without sounding alarmist. He avoids the condemnation that many critics of the Left Behind series have engaged in: he criticizes without the hostility. He provides alternative approaches to Bible passages like Jesus's Olivet Discourse (Matt.24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and the book of Revelation that are just as orthodox--that is, one can embrace them and still be a Christian. This book is very enlighting!