Left Behind or Left Befuddled
by Gordon L. Isaac
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Left Behind or Left Befuddled / 978-0-8146-2420-3
I have read and enjoyed several scholarly books on the "Left Behind" phenomena, and am an avid reader of Fred Clark's Slactivist page-by-page treatment of the series, but I feel strongly that this book is a very poor addition to genre and I do not recommend it.
I am not usually pleased when a scholarly work defines itself largely in rhetorical questions, and much of this book devotes itself to that format. Isaac asks "What are we to make of this? Well, author so-and-so says..." and "What are we to think about this other? Well, church authority whats-his-name believes...". In his first chapter alone, Gershom Gorenberg is quoted on almost every page, and we hear more of his opinion than we do of Isaac's! What is somewhat worse, based on the blandness of Isaac's opinions and assertions, I find myself wishing I was reading *more* of Gorenberg, and not less. This lackluster approach to scholarship ('I have nothing much to say, so I'll quote people who do') is something I expect more from a first-year student being forced to write a book report over something that failed to resonate with them.
When Isaac does start throwing down facts and opinions of his own, his 'facts' are shockingly incorrect. In the very second chapter, he boldly claims that "early Christians" took the writings that we now refer to as The Revelation of John as "a predictive description of the drama to take place at the end of time. For them, the millennium [of a messianic kingdom] was regarded as quite literal". The only way to explain this 'scholarship' is to assume that Isaac slapped this book together from a Tyndale House press release and called it a day. The very idea that "early" Christians (How early? What kind of scholarship is this that we aren't even talking about dates and time periods?) interpreted Revelations in the same sense that LaHaye and Jenkins now do is extraordinarily wrong.
To just assert that "early Christians" believed *anything* at all without any kind of sourcing or material isn't scholarship, it's dogma. Isaac not only disagrees with volumes of scholarly study that indicate that the apocalyptic literature in question could have (and likely was) written as a source of encouragement to the early Christians as a metaphorical representation of their own, current struggles in an effort to avoid trouble if the writings were seized ('We didn't say that *your* kingdom would fall, sir, we were talking about a kingdom in the future. Yeah, the future, exactly.')... well, that kind of omission isn't just bad scholarship - I'm tempted to call it lying.
I note, belatedly, that Isaac's credentials on the subject sum up to being an Associate Professor at a Seminary. I don't like to cast aspersions based on credentials, but I can't help but feel that this shoddy, lack-luster approach is not something I would expect from an affiliate of an accredited university - someone who would be expected to actually back up their writing with clear opinions and well-researched facts, rather than wild mass quoting and bald assertions of facts not in evidence. The only thing positive I can think to say of this book is that at ~150 pages, it is at least short. Though, on reflection, book reports usually are.
~ Ana Mardoll
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