Who is Tim LaHaye?
Tim LaHaye (1926-present) is an evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker. He is best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction, which he co-wrote with Jerry B. Jenkins. He has written over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction. LaHaye was born in Detroit, Michigan. His mother was the former Margret Palmer and his father, Frank LaHaye, was a Ford auto worker who died of a heart attack in 1936.
His father's death had a significant influence on LaHaye, just nine years old at the time. He had been inconsolable until the minister at the funeral said "This is not the end of Frank LaHaye; because he accepted Jesus, the day will come when the Lord will shout from heaven and descend, and the dead in Christ will rise first and then we'll be caught up together to meet him in the air." LaHaye later said that, upon hearing those remarks, "all of a sudden, there was hope in my heart I'd see my father again."
LaHaye enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1944 at the age of 18, after finishing night school. He served in Europe as a machine gunner aboard a bomber. LaHaye received a B.A. from Bob Jones University in 1950. He also holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Western Seminary. In 1958, the LaHaye family moved to San Diego, California, where he became pastor of the Scott Memorial Baptist Church (since renamed Shadow Mountain Community Church) in El Cajon, serving there for almost 25 years. In 1971 he founded Christian Heritage College, which is now known as San Diego Christian College.
LaHaye has promoted or started numerous groups to promote his views, having become involved in politics at the Christian Voice during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1972 he helped establish the Institute for Creation Research at Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, California, doing so along with Henry Morris. In 1979 he encouraged Jerry Falwell to found the Moral Majority, and sat on its board of directors.
Then in 1981 he left the pulpit to concentrate his time on politics and writing. That year, he helped found the Council for National Policy (CNP) a lobby group in which membership is only available through invitation; it has been called "the most powerful conservative organization in America you've never heard of," and should not be confused with the liberal Center for National Policy.
In the 1980s, LaHaye founded the American Coalition for Traditional Values and the Coalition for Religious Freedom. He founded the Pre-Tribulation Research Center along with Thomas Ice in 1998. The center is dedicated to producing material that supports a dispensationalist, pre-tribulation interpretation of the Bible. He and his wife have connections to the John Birch Society, a conservative, anti-communist group.
He has also taken more direct roles in presidential politics. He was a co-chairman of Jack Kemp's 1988 presidential bid; he was kicked off the campaign after four days when his anti-Catholic views (see below) became known. LaHaye played a significant role in getting the Religious Right to support George W. Bush for the presidency in 2000. In 2007, he endorsed Mike Huckabee during the primaries. Huckabee reportedly found the Left Behind books to be a "compelling story written for nontheologians."
Left Behind Series
LaHaye is best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction that depict the Earth after the pretribulation rapture which LaHaye believes will occur. The books were LaHaye's brainchild, though Jerry B. Jenkins, a former sportswriter with numerous other works of fiction to his name, did the actual writing of the books from LaHaye's notes. LaHaye has said, "I write the best I can. I know I'm never going to be revered as some classic writer. I don't claim to be C. S. Lewis. The literary-type writers, I admire them. I wish I was smart enough to write a book that's hard to read, you know?"
The series, which started in 1995 with the first novel, includes 12 titles in the adult series; as well as juvenile novels, audio books, devotionals, and graphic novels. The books have been very popular, with total sales surpassing 65 million copies. Seven titles in the adult series have reached #1 on the bestseller lists for The New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly. Jerry Falwell said about the first book in the series: ""In terms of its impact on Christianity, it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible." The best-selling series have been compared to the equally popular works of Tom Clancy and Stephen King: "the plotting is brisk and the characterizations Manichean. People disappear and things blow up."
LaHaye indicates that the idea for the series came to him one day about 1994 while he was sitting on an airplane and observed a married pilot flirting with a flight attendant. He wondered what would befall the pilot if the Rapture happened at that moment. The first book in the series opens with a similar scene.
Eschatology and Left Behind
LaHaye has been criticized for his apocalyptic beliefs, in which he asserts the end of the world is near. Other believers in dispensational premillennialism, who believe that the return of Jesus is imminent, criticize various aspects of his theology, saying he has "some real problems with his prophetical teachings in the Left Behind series." It is noted that "in books 8 & 9, LaHaye and Jenkins teach that [non-willing] recipients of the mark of the beast can still be saved." However, in The Mark, "the Chang scenario" is developed, whereby a character receives both the mark of the beast and the sealing of the Lord. In Desecration, his dual-marking was justified in the storyline." This has led some readers to wonder "how a Christian can have the mark of the beast and still be saved" and has been asked many times by perplexed readers on the Left Behind messageboard. Attempts to address this question have appeared on the FAQ page at Left Behind.com.
With the presumption of eschatological plots, persons and conclusions, and with so many people basing their eschatological understanding on the Left behind series, LaHaye has been accused of violating the warning given in Revelation 22:18-19 not to add to or take away from the words of the Revelation. Many mainstream Christians and other evangelicals like Tom Sine have broader disagreements with the series as a whole, pointing out that "most biblical scholars largely reject the eschatological assumptions of this kind of pop end-times literature." Others say that LaHaye portrays the Book of Revelation with a selective literalism, choosing to take some things literally (such as the violence) and others as metaphor (the Beast) as it suits his point of view.
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