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reading Left Behind

This is probably my final post about the Left Behind series. One gripe about Jenkins’s novel craft, and then headlong into what Jenkins may or may not be saying about contemporary Evangelical Christianity:

  1. Jenkins chooses to take a limited point of view (he only shows us what his characters know), and only from his heroes’ perspective. This means he has to tie the narrative in knots to give us the whole story. These knots include the various eavesdropping devices, magical hackers, fortunate job assignments, jet travel, etc. I suspect he did this to avoid running the risk of accidentally turning villains into heroes, having to see anything from the villain’s point of view, etc. but it tortures the storytelling.
  2. Some of his interpretation of Scripture is strange even by pre-trib Dispensationalist standards. For example, he tries to make sense of Ezekiel’s temple and vision of David as a priest, and I think he fails. That passage of Ezekiel just doesn’t fit into the grand sweep of Dispensationalist interpretation. He also tries to make Matthew 25:40 (“these My brethren”) about the nation of Israel (an interpretation I’d never heard before). This may be orthodox Dispensationalism and I’ve just missed it, but I don’t think this interpretation fits the context of Matthew 25; I’ve always understood this to be about individuals doing good works to benefit other individuals (poor people, mostly) and has nothing to do with personal disposition toward nations or ethnic groups.
  3. Almost none of his characters read the Bible for themselves; with one exception late in the series, only preachers read the Bible and understand it. The other characters talk about what one preacher or another says.
  4. The main idea of Dispensationalism is that redemptive history occurs in disjointed periods or “dispensations,” but Jenkins mostly describes characters that are just modern people projected forward in time. He never addresses the theological question of what happens to the Holy Spirit during the Tribulation, and how anyone can understand the Scriptures correctly, come to faith, etc.
  5. As a result, his characters are just modern Evangelicals. This is the most disturbing aspect to the series as a whole, because these characters are soulless people: they lie, cheat, and steal and have no sympathy for the welfare of people around them. They follow their religious leaders unquestioningly and have license to do anything and everything while resisting an evil secular government. I’m not saying Left Behind describes a modern religious resistance movement; I’m just saying it makes joining one seem more reasonable.

There’s really no shame in failing at a difficult task; to do great things one must run the risk of failing at doing great things, after all.

I’m glad to have read this series, not least because I think it sheds a great deal of light on the sort of people who read books like these, in the same way early Tom Clancy novels can tell a reader a lot about Eighties American foreign policy. But I have to admit that reading them wasn’t always enjoyable. This was mostly a slog.

  1. August 18, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I pity the fools who missed this serial review. Thanks Mike D!

  1. August 17, 2010 at 8:03 pm

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