When I first glanced through Marvin Pate’s book, What Does the Future Hold?, my initial thought was, it’s about time!
Long have I looked forward to a book which would present the various views of eschatology in an accessible manner.
Oh there are many books out there on the different views of end times. But generally speaking they all seem to be inaccessible to the regular guy or gal sitting in the pew on Sunday morning. And not only that, if I mention Postmillennialism or Amillennialism to any random Christian who happens to cross my path (in my line of work I meet random Christians all day long) I would almost be sure to get a “huh?”
But there is one view of end times which dominates pop culture and not just Christian pop culture either, this view has infiltrated Hollywood as well. The Left Behind phenomenon hardly needs an introduction. (Jason Boyett refers to its readership as being in the “kajillions”.)
So what makes Left Behind theology so compelling? First of all it often jives well with current events, preying on the fears of people with the threat of a nuclear holocaust, a European Union, the popularity of this or that President as the potential next Anti-Christ and so on. People want to be prepared. They want to feel secure. They want to know what the Bible has to say about the world today.
The second reason why Left Behind is so compelling is that is makes for a good story, plain and simple. But never underestimate the power of a good story! Remember Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code? If fiction had no real impact on peoples beliefs there would have been no need for Christian professionals to write rebuttals, as many did.
But if you want a good book on Postmillennialism or on Amillennialism good luck. I’m not saying that there aren’t any, there are. But you better be prepared for deeper exegesis. And you better have a theological dictionary on hand so when you read them you will know what words like exegesis mean (to pull out of the text what it is saying).
Left Behind theology has rooted itself so deeply in the psyche of the casual Christian mind that it is often assumed to be the only view of end times in Christianity. Most people are oblivious to the fact that prior to 1830 (if you’re counting, that’s less than two hundred years ago) it was Left Behind theology that didn’t exist. And this brings me back to Marvin Pate’s book. The subtitle says it all, Exploring Various Views on the End Times, offering to educate the grassroots Christian of the options of end time theories that have been available to Christians throughout our history.
In that regard Pate was (somewhat) successful. What Does the Future Hold? is clearly written and highly accessible, defining any potentially technical terms used in as simple layperson words as possible. In less than a hundred and fifty pages he explores the whole of Christendom and covers the three dominating views (plus a skeptical view), the social context that gave rise to those views and how each view interprets Revelation 20. This is quite an accomplishment.
That said, in the end I was disappointed. Very disappointed.
And in the next post I’ll explain why.