Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Worst Books Ever Written

Fred Clark is an evangelical Christian who blogs from a site called slacktivist. Since 2003, he's been doing an in-depth critique of the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerome B. Jenkins, a series Clark refers to as the Worst Books Ever Written.

Some background: LaHaye and Jenkins are both premillennial dispensationalists, who believe that a particular scheme of Biblical history and prophecy, as outlined in the Scofield Reference Bible, with further refinements made by Hal Lindsey in the 1970s, gives a surefire preview of the End of the World. The Left Behind series is basically a novelization of the Scofield-Lindsey scheme of the End Time.

Clark does not share LaHaye and Jenkins' belief in the truth of the Scofield-Lindsey scheme. He puts it like this:

Let's be clear: there is nothing literal about this convoluted, herky-jerky, cut-and-paste collage. Their reading is neither literal nor linear -- arbitrarily leaping about from Revelation to Ezekiel to Zechariah to John Birch, leaving no context intact.

Premillennial dispensationalism is as far from a "literal" reading as you can get. These folks are not orthodox Christians and they're not illiteralist "fundamentalists" either. So don't buy their pose.

Clark regards the Left Behind series as heretical, dangerous, and fundamentally un-Christian.

In the last four years, at the rate of one blog post per week, Clark has made his way through the first 19 chapters of the first book in the series, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days. Along the way, he has picked up a devoted band of faithful commenters, and has even managed to get a paragraph of his own in the "controversies and criticisms" section of the novel's Wikipedia entry. Today's entry, titled "Buck's soul searching", looks at Cameron "Buck" Williams, the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time (which Clark snarkily reduces to the acronym GIRAT). He's supposed to be sitting in a cab in New York City, pondering the meaning of the disappearance of over two billion people. Clark points out, though, that Buck's experiences so far in the novel are so obviously the result of divine intervention that he has to be a complete idiot to even question the existence of God at this point. LeHaye and Jenkins want to give their readers the portrait of a man slowly being won over to a belief in God, but since God in the past year has erected at least two huge neon signs saying "HERE I AM, YOU DUMMIES!", a slow conversion experience makes no sense (and is just one of many, many things in the first novel that make no sense).
UPDATE: Combine end times genre fiction with the closely related field of Young Earth Creationism and you get . . . the velocirapture!

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