Saturday, January 15, 2011

Carl Olson: Will Catholics Be 'Left Behind'?

When I was younger, I had a pretty strong interest in eschatology (from eschaton - the study of the "end times").  I think my interest was primarily motivated out of a love for storytelling.  The book of Revelation has so many wonderful and terrible images that it really does draw you in to the cosmic portrait being drawn, even if the portrait is as indecipherable as modern art.  This storytelling aspect was amplified by the "Left Behind" series, which now seems ideally suited for an impressionable young mind -- a thoroughly engaging plot featuring two-dimensional characters and absolutely abysmal writing.

As I grew older, I grew more familiar with some of the views on the book of Revelations, and I realized that "Rapture theology" was far from the only orthodox approach to eschatology.  My own views were shaped decisively in my freshman and sophomore years of college, when I engaged in a study of millennialist heresies in the Middle Ages and the Reformation.  For many years prior I had studied the history of economic thought, and I was frankly stunned by the many correlations I discovered between heretical eschatology and later utopian ideologies that had secularized these false millennial doctrines. This historical background helped demonstrate to me not only the theological dangers of over-emphasizing the eschaton, but the social and philosophical ramifications as well.

This book, "Will Catholics Be 'Left Behind'?", skilfully dissects the doctrines of "Rapture theology" that are so familiar to certain Protestant circles. The organization is a bit scatter-shot, surveying historical millennailists (focusing on the proto-dispensationalist heresies of Joachim de Fiore), major dispensationalist figures (such as Darby, Scofield, and Chafer), and finally the popularizers of the Rapture (especially Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye).

The book analyzes and evaluates some of the crucial doctrinal underpinnings of "the Rapture," and offers considerable clarity in defining various schools and camps of Christian eschatology. The distinctions between pre-millennialist, post-millennialist, and amillennialist interpretations, along with the divisions within Rapture theology (pre-Tribulation, mid-Trib, or post-Trib), are offered and explained. Finally, from the perspective of a historically orthodox Catholic (relying on church dogma and papal encyclicals), the authors presents a critique of dispensationalist theology and a positive affirmation of Catholic doctrine on the millennium and the eschaton.

I am not a Catholic, but I found the arguments both intriguing and compelling. It taught me a good deal about the doctrinal underpinnings of dispensationalism, especially the sharp dichotomy between the nation of Israel and the Church, a "two covenants" approach to eschatology that practically entails two separate "Second Comings" -- a preliminary Rapture alongside the final Parousia. That answered one of my main questions about dispensationalism: why the Rapture was considered a doctrinal necessity in the first place. The book also surveyed some of the more vitriolic strains of anti-Catholicism among dispensationalist writers, a bigotry that almost makes me ashamed to be a Protestant. On a more positive note, the author's case for the Catholic doctrine of eschatology also delved into issues of the Church as the Body of Christ, and the role of church tradition. This work is an engaging read, and an immensely valuable resource for studying Christian doctrines of eschatology.

This was cross-posted at my theology blog, Orthodox Reflections.

To purchase this book, check out
Will Catholics Be Left Behind? (Modern Apologetics Library)Eschatology Books)

1 comment:

  1. [Hi Alex. Carl Olson is right on. Here's related material that I discovered on the net. Fred]

    Catholics Did NOT Invent the Rapture !

    Many assert that the "rapture" promoted by evangelicals was first taught, at least seminally, by a Jesuit Catholic priest named Francisco Ribera in his 16th century commentary on the book of Revelation.
    To see what is claimed, Google "Francisco Ribera taught a rapture 45 days before the end of Antichrist's future reign."
    After seeing this claim repeated endlessly on the internet without even one sentence from Ribera offered as proof, one widely known church historian decided to go over every page in Ribera's 640-page work published in Latin in 1593.
    After laboriously searching for the Latin equivalent of "45 days" ("quadraginta quinque dies"), "rapture" ("raptu," "raptio," "rapiemur," etc.) and other related expressions, the same scholar revealed that he found absolutely nothing in Ribera's commentary to support the oft-repeated claim that Ribera taught a prior (45-day) rapture! (Since the same scholar plans to publish his complete findings, I am not at liberty to disclose his name.)
    Are you curious about the real beginnings of this evangelical belief (a.k.a. the "pre-tribulation rapture") merchandised by Darby, Scofield, Lindsey, Falwell, LaHaye, Ice, Van Impe, Hagee and many others?
    Google "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "X-Raying Margaret," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "Walvoord Melts Ice," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Wily Jeffrey," "Deceiving and Being Deceived" by D.M., "The Real Manuel Lacunza," "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism," "Pretrib Rapture Politics," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Famous Rapture Watchers," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" - most of these by the author of the 300-page nonfiction book "The Rapture Plot," the highly endorsed and most accurate documentation on the long hidden historical facts of the 182-year-old pre-tribulation rapture theory imported from Britain during the late 19th century.