Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Have a Nice Doomsday

Nicholas Guyatt, the author of Have a Nice Doomsday:  Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World (2007), is a lapsed Catholic from Britain who is a professor of history at a university in Canada.   Nonetheless, he is effective in interviewing and reporting on popular eschatology in the United States. 

Although Guyatt failed to interview the Rev. John Hagee, head of Christians United for Israel, he did interview Tim LaHaye, co-author of the famous Left Behind novels.  LaHaye told Guyatt flatly that he rejects the dual covenant  theology of John Hagee, the view, expressed in the  annotations to the Scofield Bible and elsewhere, that God's covenant with Israel is still in effect, that it has not been abrogated by his covenant with Christians.

Guyatt offers some interesting information about LaHaye when he was simply a pastor of a church in southern California.   At that time, LaHaye was active in the John Birch Society and was welcomed by the Society as a speaker.  After some time, though, officials of the Birch Society discovered that members addressed and instructed by LaHaye eventually made their way into his church and soon thereafter lost all interest in political activity.   Political activity made little sense to people who had become convinced that the world must become ever more given over to Satan as the End Time approaches.

Guyatt notes that the Birch Society's officials denounced LaHaye as a "neutralizer"; in fact, began to denounce all attention given to Bible prophecy.   Robert Welch, Founder of the John Birch Society, in his famous pamphlet The Neutralizers, singled out as examples of religious neutralizers only the exponents of the British Israel theory, now known as Christian Identity.   Those people were little-known, marginal figures at most, making puzzling Welch's lengthy denunciation of them.   In retrospect, we can see that it was LaHaye, and others like him, exponents of Bible prophecy, who presented a real problem.

Other interviewees include Hal Lindsey, whose The Late Great Planet Earth, published more than thirty years ago, started the current surge of interest in Bible prophecy.

The problem which Tim LaHaye posed for the John Birch Society has not gone away.  Quite recently, the Rev. Chuck Baldwin, who was the 2008 presidential candidate of the Constitution Party and who is pastor of the Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, has denounced as "lazy" those Christians who use their interest in Bible prophecy as an excuse to avoid political activity.   

It is believed that Robert Welch's views on religion were somewhat more liberal than those of the Unitarians.  He never encouraged members of his organization to immerse themselves in Bible study.    Chuck Baldwin, however, encourages everyone to take the Bible seriously.   Anyone who does, at least to the extent of carefully reading the New Testament, will see that that work is not a call to political action. 

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