Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Title: Perhaps Today

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Perhaps Today

Author: Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Web link for Tim LaHaye:

Web link for Jerry Jenkins:
Web link for the Left Behind fiction series (this is the nonfiction explanation):

Web link for Tyndale House:

Date: 2001

Publisher: Tyndale House

ISBN: 0-8423-3601-X

Length: 244 pages

Quote: "To all those who want spiritual inspiration and prophetic instruction at the same time we dedicate this book."

The ultra-successful Left Behind series is, of course, speculative fiction. Christians who've tried to understand the prophecies in the Bible have interpreted them to form dozens of different mental pictures of what's likely to happen before the Second Coming of Christ. In Perhaps Today, LaHaye and Jenkins share one of the visions that are classified as "pre-tribulationist." (In the book they use the whimsical form "pre-tribbers.")

Fair disclosure: My father, and the ministers to whom I was exposed at a formative age, were "post-tribulationists," the kind of Bible scholars who believe that the "pre-tribulationist" vision rests on an incorrect translation of a Greek word. I would need more evidence than this book presents that the word apostesia ever meant "The Rapture." Translating apostesia as "departure, desertion, falling away" makes more etymological sense; if there's historical ground for the alternative translation, it's not presented in this book.

Then there are those who think the reason why Bible prophecies, and interpretations of them, seem to disagree is that they may be conditional: if people do A, then God will do B; if people do X, then God will do Y. What all Christians believe is that God wants us to think about such differences of belief, when we do, in a spirit of charity and humility. One day we'll all find out where we made our mistakes, and I believe we'll all be able to laugh (together!) at all the honest mistakes we made.

If (a) you believe that the apostesia foretold in the New Testament does mean "The Rapture," or (b) you would like to understand how people can honestly believe that it does, then Perhaps Today is for you. It's a ninety-day course in the biblical basis for, and implications of, LaHaye's and Jenkins' vision. It's a well written, understandable, small book that can be used as a daily devotional. Even if you don't think the authors have interpreted something precisely right, they keep the focus on Christ, so meditating on the implications of the passages they study can still be helpful.

There are versions of "The Rapture" that still seem ludicrous to me, and I'm glad to report that our authors don't try to preach any of them. Remember those bumper stickers, "In case of Rapture this car will be unmanned"? Honestly. Did these people believe that God was able to use molecular transport to waft them off to Heaven, without being able either to move them to park their cars first, or to move their cars out of traffic?

A more serious problem with meditating on the Second Coming (regardless of the school of interpretation to which one belongs) is that people will neglect their plain duty in this world. After all, they believe that God is going to clean up whatever mess this world may be in. Why care about the still real possibilities of nuclear war, a fascist takeover, the slower and more plausible version of the global warming scare, plagues, famines, or even whether you're polluting your own well, if the world is coming to an end soon?

LaHaye and Jenkins wrote Perhaps Today with a clear intention of discouraging this heresy. Pre-tribulationists are supposed to pray for help to avoid any sin that might prevent them from being raptured. Like post-tribulationists, they are supposed to live both as if they were going to live forever, and as if their lives were going to end tomorrow, at the same time.

Perhaps Today is the sort of book that can help all of us move beyond nitpicking, and try to arrange our lives in such a way that, if God does choose to arrange for all the sincere Christians' cars to be found abandoned one day, ours will be among them.