Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Science Fiction Site Gets One Religion Story

The fine folks at Get Religion argue that the media doesn't get religion. They may be right in many instances.

I hope, however, they celebrate this brief history of the doctrine of the Rapture on I09.com.

They remind readers that the doctrine has a recent origin: "dating back less than 200 years." Further, it takes interesting mental gymnastics to tease the doctrine out of the Bible:
Depending on which theologian you speak to, only one or two passages from Judeo-Christian religious texts make reference to an event akin to what is portrayed as the Rapture, leaving the idea with very little Biblical support.
In fact, pop fiction has a lot to do with the doctrine's popularity:
The best known treatment of the Rapture is probably Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye's Left Behind book and movie series. The Left Behind tie-in movies feature a wide-eyed Kirk Cameron leading people through a world that looks like a PG-rated issue of Garth Ennis' Crossed. Planes crash into the ground, and cars that are suddenly missing their drivers careen into each other, as a chosen group of people are "raptured" and disappear from the Earth, leaving the rest of the world to fend for themselves.
Further, many Christian denominations don't accept the doctrine: "At the moment, Eastern Orthodox churches, many branches of Protestantism, the Anglican Church, and the Catholic Church do not believe in the Rapture."

Finally, the doctrine owes a lot to Bible commentary. One of the early promulgators had a huge influence on a popular commentary:
[John}Darby traveled to North America on several occasions during the mid-19th Century, teaching his theory of the Rapture. On one of these trips, Darby met with James Brookes, a prominent preacher and writer in Missouri — and, most importantly, the mentor of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield.

Scofield, influenced by Darby's teachings via his mentor, published the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. The Scofield Reference Bible went on to become one of the best selling religious texts of the early 20th Century, one that continues to sell extremely well in the United Kingdom. Scofield's text displays his personal notes and explanations right next to the King James translation of the Judeo-Christian Bible. The proximity of Scofield's notes to the religious text no doubt lent credence to his words, especially in a world lacking widespread communication systems. As individuals emigrated to the United States in the early 20th Century, this helped spread the belief that Darby had already put in place, during his visits to North America.
Some may quibble that the post doesn't dwell on the pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib controversies. That wasn't the point. The post successfully gives a brief history of the doctrine. Those who would express that concern should also note that a pop culture site gave attention to a relatively important theological concept without the prompting of a new film, book, or video game.  That fact indicates that Christians still have a powerful presence in the broader culture even though many of the their leaders claim otherwise.

It's always good to refute those who don't "get" something and who, therefore, spread misinformation. It is also important, however, to give credit when someone does "get" it. I09.com got it this time.

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