Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Book of Revelation Made Clear by Timothy E Parker and Tim Lahaye

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

So, I was tricked by the puzzles. I've got a pretty good understanding of how Tim Lahaye views scripture - Revelation in particular - and I know full well we don't agree. In fact, I'd characterize my perception of his theology prior to reading this book as "dangerous" and "tragically comical."

So, you may ask, why did you agree to review the book you knew you were going to hate? The answer, of course, is the puzzles. I saw that USA Today puzzle master, Timothy Parker was a co-author and the online summary I saw specifically mentioned "puzzles." I like puzzles, even ones involving crack-pot theology, so I figured it was worth a try - at the very least the puzzles would be fun.

However, when the book came, I realized I'd been duped. I'm sure it was unintentional, but instead of puzzles, there were quizzes - 77 sets of multiple choice questions attempting to implant all of Lahaye's wild ramblings into a reader's brain with no real thought or challenge. Nothing puzzle-like at all.

So, I made myself slog through the book (it's only fair if I'm to review it) and I found it sloppy, to say the least. The content of the book is extremely sparse - besides the quizzes before and after each section, the text of Revelation is recorded in small chunks (but including the entirety of the book) followed by Lahaye's explanation of each section. It is clearly a play to sell books by repackaging things he's previously written. The formatting is occasionally in error - in one section they keep the font used for scripture quotation for an entire section of interpretation (in what may be a Freudian slip). Even if I thought there was any worthwhile scholarship in this book, I'd still consider it a rip-off to anyone but Lahaye completists (and I'm sure they do exist out there somewhere).

The interpretation section seems entirely disconnected from the canon of scripture, only using the text itself to re-enforce some mystical armageddon plan existing in the ether somewhere. Antichrist and tribulation feature prominently, as well as Russia, Iran, and a host of odd topical connections. The interpretation is dizzingly hard to follow, even for someone trained in biblical studies and theology, it skips key references, passages, and "symbols" in places where they appear inconvenient to the narrative. He raises far more questions than he answers, making the title of the book a cruel joke, if not an outright lie.

There are plenty of scholarly works dealing with Revelation, ones that include cultural and social references pertinent to the original hearers, rather than creating speculative futuristic predictions with no basis in reality. I was impressed how often Lahaye picked up on and noted references to other parts of scripture, even if he butchered their interpretations even more egregiously than those of Revelation itself.

Revelation is often thought to be "coming true" in each generation specifically because it was written to mark out the real struggle to live the gospel in the midst of the world. Each Christian and congregation can recognize itself within this book specifically because that is the intention. It is not a book of fear and prediction as Lahaye would argue, but one of hope and faith, affirming the faith and perseverance of the Church despite any obstacles that can and do arise.

If a reader wants a decent treatment of the topics in Revelation on an easily readable scale, I'd recommend Answers for Chicken Little by Dan Boone - for a deeper treatment of heaven, hell, and the end times, perhaps NT Wright's Surprised by Hope would be an option.

If you extend the theology inherent in this book out to its logical conclusion, Lahaye seems to believe that salvation is not ultimately won until the end of days. For him, it appears, Jesus' work on the cross was solely atonement and that salvation is yet to come. There's a good chance this puts him outside historic, orthodox faith, if not grounded distinctly in heretical teaching.

The Book of Revelation Made Clear is a true travesty. While many people lap up this drivel, it is a sure sign of a publisher willing to sell out for profit over the exercise of sound judgment and moral or theological clarity. Lahaye simply makes no sense; even those who share his perspective on the predictive powers of Revelation deserve a better, more thorough treatment than this book provides. It's truly shameful. Don't buy it. I've already recycled my free copy so no one can claim it from the one dollar bin at Goodwill.

Also, there were no puzzles. I was promised puzzles.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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