In Left Behind or Left Befuddled, Gordon L. Isaac discusses the popularity of the Left Behind Series written by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins and published by Tyndale House Publishers. Isaac contends that the series is based on a misreading of the book of Revelation. He highlights the views from several protestant and evangelical authors who highlight the anti-ecumenical, pessimistic, escapist themes found throughout the series.
Isaac begins by discussing the immense popularity of the series and the secondary tools used by the authors to promote their case for the end times. These include publishing spin off series, creating movies, and perhaps most compelling of all, an interactive website. Subscribers can review the entire text of the Left Behind series, take a tour of Jerusalem and the Tabernacles and receive weekly updates on how recent events are signs of the end times.
Isaac then goes on to define dispensationalism, its roots in both Christian and non-Christian history, and the misapplication of millennial thought by individuals and groups throughout history. At the center of this discussion is the emphasis placed by Lahaye on prophecy and how the unique knowledge possessed by dispensationalists places them in a combative relationship with the world, mainline Protestant Churches, as well as the Roman Catholic Church.
In the second half of this work, the author goes face to face with Lahaye’s concept of the rapture and his use of scripture in describing the end times. Isaac points to specific passages in Thessalonians and Corinthians that reveal a deficiency in the information upon which Lahaye builds his case.
The author closes his work by discussing the dangers of inaccurate end times teaching and the need to recapture the Christian imagination. For Isaac, ideas have power. The improper popularization of millennialism in the Left Behind series has serious ethical consequences. These include incorrectly interpreting world events and looking so far to the future so as to ignore and escape the present life. For Isaac, the book of Revelation must be interpreted as a story of hope not pessimism. His conclusion points to the dangers of millennial thinking and the popularity of a series of books that may lead people towards conversion to Christ but at the cost of having that faith be one motivated by fear and not hope.
While this book presents a clear and well thought out thesis concerning the Left Behind series and its theology, I found that its short breadth suits it more for undergraduate students who may or may not have had any contact with these books. That is not to say that the work was not scholarly or effective. In fact, I would have enjoyed a greater depth of analysis on the theology of the Left Behind series and how it compares to the mainline Protestant Churches and the Roman Catholic Church.