Saturday, April 19, 2003

Left Behind

I would like to post an email I received from Carl Olson in response to an email I sent him in response to his comment on my Left Behind post. I thnk he misunderstands my intent in the post and I will do a further explanation by early next week.

I have ordered his book and hope that you all will too, as I think it should be an interesting discussion of trends in society that he sees resulting from the dispensationalist movement.

I hope you all have a blessed Easter.

Paz y bien

Dear Ron,

Thanks for the response and for the additional explanation. I'm glad you contacted me, for it gives me a chance to apologize and to explain myself a bit better. I apologize first because my note was rather brusque and even a bit antagonistic. I did not take your post to be critical, but I did overreact a bit to it, and I apologize for my harshness.

My book was written not to merely critique the Left Behind series, but to provide a thorough explanation and refutation of premillennial dispensationalism, especially (and I emphasize this) in the context of history and Catholic teaching. In addition, my book provides a great deal of catechetical material. In fact, it is meant to be very catechetical. As a former parish catechist, one of my lifelong goals is to catechize and teach the Catholic Faith as best I can.

The main reason for the catechetical content of my book is because the vital issue in all of this is NOT end times events as much as Christology and ecclesiology. The real disagreement between dispensationalists and other Christians, especially Catholics, is not over the identity of the Antichrist or the place of America in end times events, but rather the nature and mission of the Church and her relationship to the Kingdom. To that end, I don't spend time tracing all of the various dispensationalist ideas regarding Iraq, China, the U.S., Russia, etc. (however, you can read my article on that topic here:

I think you'll agree that the topics of the Church and the Kingdom are very significant, and not to be taken lightly. In my book, I actually spend very little time talking about the Left Behind stories, but show how those books are simply another form of propagating a view of history, God, Christ, the Church, the Kingdom, and the Bible that is seriously flawed, but incredibly influential. The dispensationalist method of reading the Bible has influenced Americans, including Catholics, in ways most people cannot even fathom. It's not a matter of conspiracy, but simply the power of this belief system and how it appears to interpret Scripture. Many of it's individual tenets have been adopted, often unwittingly, by many folks, skewing their perspective on issues as varied as the Middle East, the Bible, salvation, the Catholic Church, and so much more.

Paul Boyer, a non-Catholic historian and author of the excellent book, When Time Shall Be No More, has written the following:

"I advance two related arguments: first, that prophecy belief is far more central in American thought than intellectual and cultural historians have recognized, and second, that in the years since World War II the popularizers of a specific belief system­­dispensational premillennialism­­have played an important role in shaping public attitudes on a wide range of topics from the Soviet Union, the Common Market, and the Mideast to the computer and the environmental crisis" (When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. ix.)

I have found, in my personal experience, that many Catholics are being sucked into dispensationalist ideas and tendencies, often without knowing it. My book seeks to provide them with sound Church teaching, backed by the Catechism, numerous Church documents, and the writings of sound theologians. The table of contents to be my book is as follows:

Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? An Introduction

PART ONE: The Story of the Rapture . . . and So Much More
1. The Parousia, the Rapture, and the End Times
2. Catholics and the Left Behind Phenomenon
3. Book of Confusion or Revelation?
4. The Millennium: How Long is a Thousand Years?
5. Millenarianism: Early Church to John Nelson Darby
6. Dispensationalism and the Rapture in America

PART TWO: A Catholic Critique of Dispensationalism
7. The Kingdom, the Church, and Israel
8. "Bible Prophecy" and Interpreting Scripture
9. Unwrapping the Rapture

10. The Catholic Vision

List of Key Terms
List of Key Persons
Selected Bibliography


As you can see, I do "fry" many big fish. :-) I spend an entire chapter examining the book of Revelation; another address the issue of the millennium. Another is devoted to the Church, the Kingdom, and Israel. An entire chapter, the final one, provides readers with a Catholic vision of history, salvation, and end times events.

My book should not only help Catholics, but provides the thoughtful dispensationalist with a great deal of material that will be hard to refute or ignore. It also presents the Catholic Church and her beliefs in a way that I think it is compelling, educational, and even inspiring. In short (and I am running long), this is the book I wish I could have read about ten years ago.

Anyhow, I hope this explanation is helpful. Thank you for your interest in my book. I would welcome your comments once you have read it. And you are free to pass along this info to anyone you know, or post it on your blog. Thank you and God bless!

Pax Christi,

Carl Olson
Editor, Envoy

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