When a New York Times article compared the best-selling Left Behind book series to a novel that advocates ¡¥ethnic cleansing,¡¦ Southern Baptist professors started a protest movement.
The author of the article which appeared on the July 17 column, Nicholas Kristof, criticized Christian literature portraying the judgment day of Christ when non-believers are condemned into hell. According to Kristof, his article was sparked by the popular bestseller The Glorious Appearing the latest novel released in The Left Behind series.
The idea of having a supernatural and powerful judgment at the ¡¥End of Days¡¦ was extreme for Kristof.
"It's disconcerting to find ethnic cleansing celebrated as the height of piety," Kristof wrote. "If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of 'Glorious Appearing' and publish it in Saudi Arabia, jubilantly describing a massacre of millions of non-Muslims by God, we would have a fit¡K We have quite properly linked the fundamentalist religious tracts of Islam with the intolerance they nurture, and it's time to remove the motes from our own eyes."
On the other hand, two Southern Baptist professors claim that the theme of ¡¥the final judgment¡¦ seen in the literary work is rooted from traditional Christian beliefs.
James M. Hamilton Jr., assistant professor of biblical studies at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, does not deny that the series draw their themes directly from the Bible.
"Note well that the authors are not urging Christians to seek to bring about the final judgment by their own strength in the present," Hamilton wrote. "No, the authors are merely giving their interpretation of what the Bible says about that final judgment.
"... Christians who hold this view believe that what Jesus will do at the end will be just and right. To object to this is to object either to the fact that Jesus has such authority, or to the standards by which he judges, or to the principle of justice."
"The idea that Jesus Christ will one day return to earth to separate the sheep from the goats may be objectionable in many ears, but this tenet is certainly not the invention of American Evangelicals," wrote Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Criswell College in Dallas.
Burk noted that Christians believe that it is their duty not to bring forth judgment with their own efforts; rather, it is a day that calls for the repentance of the people.
"Evangelicals do not believe that their mission is to carry out God¡¦s retribution upon His enemies. On the contrary, we believe that vengeance is His, not ours. God will deal out His judgments when and where He sees fit."
Burk further argues that Christianity does not advocate mass killing of races, but rather the salvation of mankind. He further clarifies that among those who are saved are not exclusively Israelites as described in the last book of the Bible. The ones who are saved, according to Burk, are the ones spiritually united with Christ.
"It is not fair for you to portray Evangelical piety as tantamount to bigotry and genocide. You may think that is what our faith leads to, but that is simply not what we believe. As a matter of fact, we believe that God has determined to gather to Himself worshippers from every race on the earth: 'with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth' (Revelation 5:9-10). We believe that God is glorified in the racial diversity of His people."
"Evangelical Christian faith, of course, does not anticipate an ethnic cleansing at the end of time," Burk wrote. "The basis by which the Lord makes distinctions in the final judgment is not racial but moral. Evangelicals believe that all those who are joined to Christ by faith will be spared, and all those who are not joined to him will not be spared, irrespective of one race.