Thursday, March 22, 2007

"In case of rapture, this blog will be unmanned"

GetReligion is a site that reports on the reporting about religion in the mainstream press, and whether they "get it." Today they review a Reuters story about differences among Christians with respect to the "Rapture." Excerpts:
.... The article begins with a good moderate Christian’s unverified story about a bad fundamentalist boss who believed in the rapture. It goes on to relay how moderate Christians are fighting back against the theology of the Left Behind novels.

Later on in the piece, coauthor Tim LaHaye paints the theological debate as having two sides: the good, Bible-believing folks like himself who love Jesus and the bad, “socialist” Bible-deniers. That LaHaye would say such a thing is in his best interest. He’s better off not admitting that many other Christians reject his rapture theology, including some who believe the Bible is inerrant and literally God’s word.

But reporter Hopkins paints the rapture debate in precisely the same way. There are two sides — moderates and fundamentalists — and they disagree on whether to take a “fundamentalist” or interpretive view of Revelation.

I suppose it’s too much to ask reporters to read a general book on the beat they cover but this is where D.G. Hart’s Lost Soul of American Protestantism could be useful. The typical American Protestant vignette painted by reporters and academics is liberal mainline vs. conservative evangelical. ....

He focuses on a third group: confessional Presbyterian, Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed Protestants. These are Protestants who emphasize creeds, doctrines, sacraments, liturgy, etc. They have an otherworldly or non-political emphasis — they believe that the main purpose of the church is to share the Gospel and administer the sacraments rather than save the world or reform earthly institutions. ....

Another problem with the piece is that it never really shows the actual rapture views of either group. The reporter says that fundamentalists believe that Christians will be taken immediately to heaven, leaving their fillings behind. Moderates apparently believe that Revelation is a story about Jesus confronting the evils of the Roman Empire. ....

... This part was my favorite, though:
The success of the graphic novels is just one indication of the strength of belief in rapture, Armageddon, and the subsequent second coming of Jesus Christ. A 2006 survey for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 79 percent of American Christians believe in the second coming, with 20 percent believing it will happen in their lifetime.
To conflate Left Behind theology of the rapture with the doctrine that Jesus will come again? I’m kind of speechless. Does Hopkins not know of the Nicene Creed that includes this belief? It’s only the most widespread ecumenical creed of the Christian Church, after all. And it includes a line professing belief that Jesus will “come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” ....
Link to In case of rapture, this blog will be unmanned » GetReligion
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