The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship theologians presented a critique of the best seller, the "Left Behind" books, at one of the workshops that were held during the CBF's annual general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., June 24.
Baptist educators who are part of the CBF find the end times theology presented in the “Left Behind” series to be biblically incorrect.
The Rev. William Hull, a research professor at Samford University, pointed out some of the non-biblical ideas that come out in the “Left Behind” series during his workshop at the conference.
Hull argued that the idea of rapture written in the book -- with Christians being snatched out of the world and sent straight to heaven to avoid the seven-year period of suffering known as the tribulation -- is not how it is written in the Bible.
"There ain't no `Left Behind' theology in the Bible, it's just not there,” Hull said, “The Bible nowhere talks about every living Christian suddenly being transported to heaven, with everyone else being left behind.”
He further noted that the books draw on dispensationalism (according to Hull, the idea faded away after World War II), a form of biblical interpretation derived from the teachings of John Nelson Darby and popularized in the Scofield Reference Bible, whose prevalent view is about Christ reigning over Earth for 1,000 years.
"A host of preachers began to spread the message," Hull said. "This was a pervasive movement."
However Hull credited "Left Behind" authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins for spreading Christianity to people in the world by capturing popular imagination.
"They want to be entertained and get religion at the same time," Hull said as he was explaining about businessmen reading the books while exercising at the gym.
Other members of the CBF also commented on the “Left Behind” books.
"I refuse to read them," said Rebecca Wiggs, a Sunday school teacher at Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., who attended the meeting.
Wiggs added that the popularity of the "Left Behind" theology with youths disappoints her. "My junior high Sunday school students come in spouting this stuff," Wiggs said.
"It's kind of like a cult popularity," said the Rev. Dean Buchanan, a retired pastor from Knoxville, "It did not interest me enough to read them."
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly, which began on June 24 at Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center will continue until June 26. Today, more workshops on religious tolerance will be held.
According to the Birmingham News, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was formed in 1991 in protest against a conservative theological turn by the 16.3 million-member Southern Baptist Convention. Currently the Fellowship has about 1,800 member churches with an annual budget of $19.7 million.
CBF also partners with 13 theology schools and seminaries with a combined enrollment of about 1,800 students.