*This is a more theological post that won’t interest some.*
Dare I try to share some thoughts about the Left Behind movie that just came out? First a little defense of DTS…
I am a DTS grad, and some people have what I consider unfair or inaccurate views about DTS. My experience was that DTS taught me to think for myself, and while a dispensational, pre-trib, premillenial view was taught, other views were presented too. I did not feel like I was indoctrinated. For example, for my ecclesiology class we had to read a book on the church by a covenant theologian. The prof said that he wanted us to get a fair and accurate view from someone who actually holds to covenant theology. For several of my theology classes, we had to read the counterpoint books from Zondervan – so that we would be exposed to the various viewpoints out there. I also found that a hopeful (rather than pessimistic) dispensational view was presented – Not an escapist one and we were encouraged to be concerned for the environment and social issues. I even read a book by Ron Sider for a class!
Dispensationalism, like other theological systems, has grown and developed over time and some unfairly fail to acknowledge this. So many examples could be given. I was recently reading a book by Michael Horton (a reformed and covenant theologian) and he kept referring to “leading dispensationalist Lewis Sperry Chafer” as he critiqued dispensationalism. Huh? I usually think of the word “leading” as referring to someone current or recent. Chafer was born in 1871 and died in 1952. It seems that Horton should have interacted with current dispensationalists, and this would have been more fair and balanced.
In a message given at DTS a few years ago, a DTS leader spoke of God’s land policy in Israel. A brief synopsis: While God has promised the land to Israel, that doesn’t solve the issue in the Middle East. It is not that simple. The promises to Israel also allow for foreigners to possess land there with God’s blessing, and Israel is responsible to God for how they treat the aliens among them. They were not to mistreat or oppress them. How does this apply today? That’s the tough question. The Palestinian people have a genuine plight, yet there are also militant Palestinian terrorists. In addition, the current Israel is a secular state, and not a regathering of redeemed, believing Jews as pictured in the OT. Is the current Israel a prelude to end time events? Maybe, maybe not. [Perhaps a more balanced approach than you’d expect from DTS?]
Okay, to finally get to the Left Behind movie. DTS recently had this article:
Maybe its approach and suggestions will surprise you: prioritize hope, deescalate the rhetoric, walk in humility, remember previous missteps, listen to the culture. Yes, give it a read, and maybe your opinion will soften at least some?
One problem, that happens with many or all theological systems, is that what plays out among the everyday people can end up a bit different than what the theology actually teaches. Arminianism can end up looking like Pelagianism. Calvinism like fatalism. Dispensationalism can turn into crazed obsession with end times and Israel, and be more about fear than hope. As the article mentions, even Chafer (founder of DTS) was concerned that teaching about the end times could overshadow more important things – like the Gospel. Unfortunately, this did seem to eventually happen.
Yet, more recent dispensationalism has tried to correct some of the past weaknesses and deficiencies.
I have no plans to see the Left Behind movie at the theater. Christian movies, in general, make me cringe. And I don’t go to the movies often anyways. When it comes out on DVD, maybe I’ll watch it then. I’m not quite sure I see the value of a movie focused on the rapture. Even if I believe in the rapture, it is a secondary issue that many Christians don’t believe in. We all agree that Jesus is coming again – that is orthodox Christian teaching. But the details surrounding His return are debatable. Genuine Christians come to different conclusions. So why make a movie based on something divisive and debatable? I’m not sure it is helpful, and it may only feed the crazed among us.
By the way, while I am premillennial, I have some uncertainty about the rapture. If I wasn’t a dispensational premillenialist, I’d be a historic premillenialist. Maybe more about that in another post: Pre-millenialism. Only Revelation 20?