LaHaye: Tyndale House “stunning and disappointing”

Tyndale House has announced plans to publish a novel by Hank Hanegraaff presenting the shocking view that the Book of Revelation is actually about first-century Christianity rather than current events in the twenty-first century. This has provoked a delicious quote from Left Behind author Tim LaHaye, who also publishes with Tyndale:

They are going to take the money we made for them and promote this nonsense

And LaHaye knows a thing or two about promoting nonsense. Explains the Dallas News:

The Last Disciple, the first of at least three books planned, depicts the Roman emperor, Nero, as “the beast.” In the book, Christians in Rome and Jerusalem are suffering through the Tribulation. Nero is trying to find the Apostle John’s letter (the Book of Revelation) and destroy it. To survive, the early Christians must decipher a mysterious code. (The code for Nero’s name is the number 666, regarded by many as the mark of the Antichrist.)

Sound farfetched?

Maybe. But scholars of eschatology, the branch of theology dealing with the end of the world, note that biblical references to the end times are almost always ambiguous, highly symbolic and subject to widely varying interpretations.

“Farfetched”? In actual fact, the “nonsense” LaHaye objects to has been the standard scholarly understanding of the text for decades, if not even longer. The Nero = 666 interpretation is even included in the notes of the New Jerusalem Bible. Hanegraaff’s position, however, is not based on higher-critical Biblical scholarship. For example, although his approach also places the prophecies in the Book of Daniel as having been fulfilled in the ancient world rather than being still to come, he clings to the fundamentalist claim that the text was written before those events (and so is a miraculous book that proves the existence of God) when serious scholarship places Daniel in the second century BCE. Instead, he is, to some extent at least, a preterist: one who believes that the Bible is truly prophetic, but that most of the Bible’s prophecies have been fulfilled already. This interpretation is also held by, among others, RC Sproul.

This is, though, a new departure for Tyndale. In his autobiography, Kenneth Taylor, Tyndale’s founder, states that the Six-Day War “seemed to be a clear act of God in helping his ancient race to whom the promise was given of repopulating the desert” (page 246) and long before Left Behind Taylor’s premillennialism led to the publication of Hal Lindsey-esque books like Israel, Act III by Richard Wolff. However, current vice-president Ron Beers says that

As a Christian publisher, we want to represent a diversity of viewpoints…There is nothing strange about Tyndale selling both views. There are a variety of perspectives on the end times. Some people had a problem with the theology in the Left Behind books.

Well, the theology was on some people’s list, along with the anti-intellectualism, political paranoia and crap writing…

Perhaps another reason why Tyndale has turned to Hanegraaff is simply because his view is now becoming more popular. LaHaye’s premillennialism made sense under the shadow of the Cold War, and afterwards during the (apparent) liberalism of the Clinton years. But times have changed since the first Left Behind novel appeared almost ten years ago. With Bush in the White House, US forces in Iraq, cultural conservatives besieging media and academic institutions they accuse of “bias” (an accusation that encompasses the teaching of evolutionary theory), Falwell proclaiming a revolution, and the rise of a postmodern age of religious-identity politics, visions of being raptured away from an unholy world may well appear less attractive than the idea that the world can be captured for Christianity. To be sure, we still have Mike Evans heading up Amazon bestseller lists with an apocalyptic take on current events, but Evans spices up his premillennialism with extensive anti-Arab racism and a portrait of Israel as an ally against the Muslim hordes. Perhaps readers are enjoying these elements while deciding that the rapture is postponed.

Peculiarly (or not), although LaHaye is offended by Tyndale daring to publish books that disagree with his theology, he has no problem with being promoted by Kensington Books, which does a nice line in gay erotica. But I suppose Kensington is helping him move into the mainstream, so it’s best to keep quiet.

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On a side note, Hanegraaff’s co-writer (as with so many other Christian novels, one suspects the famous Christian provides the name, while the less-famous one actually does all the work) is Sigmund Brouwer. Like LaHaye’s co-author Jerry Jenkins, Brouwer is a professional writer with over a hundred titles in adventure, science-fiction, and children’s books. He has also published The Unrandom Universe: The Latest Scientific Discoveries Will Strengthen Your Faith, which adopts what looks like a theistic evolutionist perspective. One wonders how this fits with Hanegraaff’s young-earth creationism and his creationist tome The Face That Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution.

(Dallas News link from Christianity Today)

One Response

  1. […] theological assessment, but it perhaps shows that LaHaye has mellowed over the years: back in 2004 he railed against his own publisher for publishing a novel that took a different theological perspective […]

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