Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Book 18: Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Title: Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
How it was obtained: Christmas gift from my parents MANY years ago.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: I'm guessing at maybe 7 or 8 years. One of the longest time frames for an unread book in my collection.
Days spent reading it: 3 days.
Why I read it: Alright, so I've always been an advocate of "don't knock it until you've read it." I've thought that about Harry Potter (and the Christian overreaction to the series) and other books in my lifetime. Now I've never read Left Behind, but I've been a fan of knocking it since I was in college. I've had it for a long time, just never got around to reading it because I knew that I fundamentally disagreed with the author's view of the end-times. So I finally decided I was going to read it.
Brief review: I'll be honest. I did not have much hope of enjoying this book. I knew that I would fundamentally disagree with the major plot point of this book--the idea that the church would be raptured before the tribulation described in the Bible.
However, I enjoyed this book. No, it wasn't the greatest book I've ever read. It wasn't even a book I thought was particularly well written. There was a lot of cheesy dialogue in it. But I think what this book accomplishes wonderfully is this: It presents a CLEAR gospel presentation, and calls all people to turn to Jesus. You cannot read this book and wonder to yourself, "Gee, I wonder how one becomes a Christian." Its just not possible. You can ignore it. You can mark it down as cheesy dialogue. You can think its forced in some places. But you cannot ignore the gospel message in this book. I like that. And since this series has sold literally millions of books (sure, many of them to Christians), I'm sure millions have gotten into the hands of people who need to hear that clear gospel message.
I also love how this book emphasizes the fact that being good is not the same as getting into heaven. There are plenty of people who profess to have a relationship with God who are faking it or who are flat out lying. This is an important point to make, because it forces me to think about who is a part of the church? Who will get into heaven? The answer is: only those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ. That's it, nothing else will do.
So a few things that I did not like so much. First, I do not think there will be a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. I just do not that its in the Bible. I won't say any more about it here, feel free to write a comment or email if you want to talk about that. Second, the Christians who are taken away in Left Behind are typically described as the kind of good folk who believed in Jesus and lived their lives perfectly. LaHaye and Jenkins never talk about Christians who were flawed humans being raptured. Perfect pastors get raptured (awesome, I'm in!). Tattooed punks don't (sorry tattooed punks). I think LaHaye and Jenkins will be surprised when people who don't "look like Christians" greet them in heaven. The authors did a good job of saying that people who look like Christians, but in their hearts are faking it, are not really Christians. They did not do such a great job of saying that people who don't look like Christians, but in their heart have a real relationship with Jesus, can be true Christians.
Overall, this is a book that has impacted millions. I am glad that I finally got around to reading it. It caused me to think, it caused me to evaluate what I DO believe about the end-times. Left Behind did not change my mind about how the events will play out, but it did surprise me in a good way. I enjoyed reading it. I would be vaguely interested in reading other books in the series (the series is ridiculously long, and I have tons of books on my current reading list, but someday I might consider it). The characters were enjoyable, and the plot was well paced. Definitely worth the time I invested in it. I would recommend it to anyone who would be interested in ONE perspective of the end-times, as long as they realized LaHaye and Jenkins are not the only interpretation of the end-times and they are certainly not writing Scripture.
Favorite quote: "I'm afraid he's gone off naked. He's a religious person and he'll be terribly embarrassed."
One funny thing I remember about this series. When I was in Toccoa, a Christian Bookstore there had a sign advertising "Desecration available here! Only $14.99!" That always made me laugh. (Desecration is one of the later books in the series)
Stars: 4 of 5.
Final Word: Surprising.