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EoA: The Pastor Elucidates Us

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 185-192 (Chapter Thirty-Three)

So now we officially start Part Three, and we pick up with Pastor Paul Campbell, who was introduced in Chapter Seven, and was unintentionally written with the result that he appeared to be creeping on Abigail, because of the limitations of the perspective Parshall apparently chose to take in introducing the Rapture/End Times material to us, the readers.

Unlike Bruce “Smile Pastede On Yay” Barnes, he doesn’t try apologizing for penny-ante crap and launches straight into the good stuff:

“Chaos. Death. Destruction. Is that what you’re thinking?”

He paused. No one was moving.

“Is that what floods your mind when you think about the end of the world? Armageddon. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Whatever phrase you might want to use.

Well, if that isn’t an attention getter and a half!

Then he launches into his spiel:

“When people imagine it, they visualize the horror. But let me challenge that idea. The God who controls the future is a merciful God. In the midst of catastrophe, He will still give us all the choice to be saved through His grace. (…)”

He goes on to explain the final end result: everlasting life, paradise, et cetera. Now you all might wonder who else is in this here church with him. Guess no more.

Pastor Paul Campbell was addressing a packed church from his position in the ornate pulpit of the Eternity Church in downtown Manhattan.

Sandwiched between his wife and daughter in the pew, Joshua Jordan was waiting for the minister to get to the point. He knew a little about Campbell’s background. He had checked out his credentials on the Internet. Ph.D. in philosophy, Th.D. in theology. Campbell had written two books, both of them about the Bible and end-times prophecy. And yes, Joshua had to agree, Campbell was a dynamic communicator. He had heard him a few times before at his wife’s urging.

Hey, buddy, where’s Cal? And they’re in New York, for chrissake. Maybe Josh badgered him to take the train again and Cal, not wanting to see Grand Central any time soon, told him no.

That, at least, would be a lot better than Josh just forgetting about his son (as he usually seems to in this book).

Now let’s look at Paul Campbell. Educated fella, he is. And he better be a “dynamic communicator”, considering he needs to keep his congregation interested and keen to hear about his sermons. Half the reason I follow Slacktivist is that Fred Clark is a good sermonizer, and I mean that in the non-pejorative sense. He reaches out to his audience and tries to couch the moral message he articulates in terms of what the Bible indicates is the correct thing to do.

Well, if Paul Campbell is effective at what he does, that means we’ll hopefully read a relatively engaging account of how he plans to relate recent events (the sudden nuclear launch, the reversal by RTS-RGS, the collapse of the US dollar and so on) to Biblical texts which may shed some light on them. Clearly, he has indicated he’ll be referring to texts that discuss End Times, predominant among them the Book of Revelation.

Incidentally, I laid some emphasis on the fact that LaHaye and Parshall are dog-whistling using scare phrases like “one-world government”, et cetera. Well, in the book it says Paul Campbell’s discussion of the day is: “Globalism–Three Signs of the End Times”. Now if that isn’t a shout-out to the intended readership, well I’ll be just flabbergasted.

Joshua’s mind started drifting. Back to their log mansion in Colorado. They had left their ranch in the Rockies at the crack of dawn that same day by private jet. Joshua was now smiling as he was thinking about the trail ride on horseback that he, Abby, and Debbie had taken the day before. (…)

The chapter goes on to note in some detail that Josh couldn’t reach Rocky Bridger; the man had taken off early on an “urgent family matter”. We, the readers, know he’s just found out about Roger French, his son-in-law.

Since Josh didn’t know, he had decided to go on the horseback riding adventure. We find out his horse is named General Billy Mitchell, which strikes me as the kind of name an egotist like Joshua would choose. We end up back at church, riding along with Josh for this chapter:

But then something brought Joshua’s mind back from the towering vistas of the Rocky Mountains. What was it? He was back again in the crowded sanctuary of the church. It was another comment by Campbell that had caught Joshua’s attention. A little like someone gently tapping him on the shoulder in a crowded room.

“To clearly understand what God intended for our future, we need to recognize that He has laid it all out for us in the Bible. The Bible contains God’s agenda for the future of planet Earth, and everybody who dwells here. All right, so how do we know that the Bible is true?”

Josh thinks to himself it’s a tall order for the Bible to predict the future. I suddenly find myself agreeing with this man, which makes me marvel that stopped clocks exist in Edge of Apocalypse. (I’ll even give Josh a freebie on the “twice a day” thing.)

Campbell said, “Besides being the inspired word of God, the Bible has proven itself over the centuries. Let’s focus first on just one major prophecy. It is, perhaps, the most astounding evidence of the fact that we are seeing the approach of the end times of the planet Earth and the coming of Jesus Christ to establish His new kingdom. And that proof comes in a single word. Israel.”

Campbell’s argument was simple. When Israel was recognized as being a sovereign state on May 14, 1948, by the United Nations, it was nothing less than a modern-day miracle. “That one fact–the rise of modern Israel as a nation–was a startlingly accurate fulfillment of the 2,500-year-old prophecy recorded in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, chapter thirty-seven.

The text is given in the book, but given how neglectful LaHaye and coauthors tend to be in terms of context for the Bible quotes they give, and how selective they can get about it, let’s follow along and snag our own Bibles for this. I’ll be using the Revised Standard Version for this; they’ve extracted their quote from a different Bible, judging from the punctuation.

Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land;
[22] and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.
[23] They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
[24] “My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes.
[25] They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.

I haven’t done a thing to the text here except to clean up the spacing around verse 24, but the context around this is a lot different than the cherry-picked version of the quote in the book, which reads: “Behold I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.”

I am no expert on the exact meaning of this, but context in that chapter reads strongly like this thing is so ill-defined and vague it could mean anything. Israel doesn’t even have a king, and its President is elected. So how can any modern-day leader of Israel be descended from David except by the sheerest happenstance?

This kind of picking-and-choosing really hacks me off, actually, because any old huckster could do this – peel off a bit from this and a bit from that and wrap it up and sell it to enough suckers, then get while the getting’s good before they run you out of town. The beauty of this PMD hucksterism by LaHaye is there’s no way to prove him wrong. He, unlike the unfortunate Harold Camping, has been smart enough to avoid fixing exact dates on these things.

The other repellent aspect of LaHaye’s brand of Christianity (which I have called “LaHaye-ism”, because it seems to be PMD with his unique take on things) is that it peddles fear, not hope. Contrary to Pastor Campbell’s statements in the book, the basic philosophy is being afraid. Afraid of what? Of being on the wrong side: the wrong side of the nebulous criteria set forth by Premillennial Dispensationalists. One must constantly be worried that one is not truly saved in Christ, and that perhaps, like Bruce Barnes, one’s faith was not quite up to spec.

I’ve seen some videos where a Rapture-believing Christian believed his or her friends were taken to heaven, and the resulting tearful BSOD afterwards is painful to watch. They’re terrified. They’ve been taught for who knows how long that if the Rapture happens, they’ll be among the chosen ones getting to chow down on popcorn and watch the sideshow while the rest of us unfortunate jerks get to suffer. And when it looks like they’re stuck on Earth with those “left behind”…? Well, I wouldn’t want to be in that person’s mental shoes, as it were.

Let’s get back to Paul Campbell, and follow along. He talks a good game about the Bible being chock-full of prophecy, and how it really honestly truly was written by God because it predicted stuff!

With that Campbell clicked his remote, and screens on each side of the sanctuary lit up with a huge image of a black Bible. Emblazoned across the bottom of the Bible was a red arrow pointing to the word “prophecy.” He zoomed in on the arrow. Suddenly, the cover of the Bible disappeared and a parade of prophetic Scripture verses started appearing one after another, scrolling down the screen. Old Testament predictions of the terrible curse that would befall the man who would rebuild the city of Jericho, in the ninth century B.C. Prophetic warnings delivered to King David that as a result of his sin, “the sword would never depart from your house,” a fact later established beyond question. Verses containing precise predictions about the manner of death that would befall the evil king Ahab and his equally corrupt wife, Jezebel, all fulfilled down to minute detail. Six separate prophecies regarding the fate that would befall the ancient city of Tyre, each having occurred just as foretold.

Apparently, there’s quite a lot of prophecies that are in the Bible; I found the Wikipedia site listing a number of them when I Googled to find the exact number of such. What immediately leaped out at me is that, again, LaHaye and Parshall are guilty of cherry-picking: they’ve picked all of, like, six prophecies. Woooooooo. *twirls finger as I radiate sarcasm*

LaHaye and Parshall try to recover by having Campbell blabber some more:

“Dr. John Walvoord was one of the greatest prophecy scholars of the twentieth century–a prolific writer and president of Dallas Theological Seminary. He once described over a thousand prophecies in the Bible, more than half of which have already been fulfilled. Only God can write history in advance and have it come to pass. Those fulfilled prophecies prove to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that the end time prophecies of the Bible will also be fulfilled literally, just as over five hundred of God’s predictions have already occurred throughout the past ages. Some of those end time prophecies are unfolding even now, in our own generation.”

I’m highly suspicious of the bombastic “ZOMG 500 PREDICTIONS” because I’m sure a great number of them are probably claimed to be fulfilled without reference to any external evidence. Using the Bible to prove the Bible is about the most circular of logic I can think of. Internally consistent evidence in a book, when it makes supernaturalistic or otherwise very confidently unusual predictions, needs, as the saying goes, “extraordinary evidence”.

I punched that name into a Google search and came back with several entries, among them this Wikipedia entry. From what I gather, LaHaye must have been influenced by this person’s philosophies regarding Premillennial Dispensationalist doctrine. I also found a website devoted to him; the odd thing is I can’t find any way in which his path and LaHaye’s could have crossed. Yet it appears LaHaye was influenced enough by Walvoord to have specifically mentioned this man in a book via one of its characters.

That said, it could be because LaHaye and Parshall simply wanted to stamp an imprimatur of apparent third-party confirmation of LaHaye’s own ideas about the End Times. He’s certainly been criticized enough not just from secular and atheist circles, but from some Christian circles as well. There are sects of Christianity whose doctrinal interpretations make LaHaye’s look positively liberal by comparison, and there are others which pooh-pooh the very idea of a Rapture, as I’ve noted before*.

But then the pastor took a turn that caught Joshua by surprise. Campbell began to zero in on a single person in the Bible. Seconds later Joshua realized that he should have seen it coming.

Campbell was forging an argument about who Jesus was, based on His fulfillment of multiple prophecies.

I won’t bore you with the details of the rambling Campbell engages in, but suffice it to say, all the usual items-to-check-off-to-prove-Jesus-WAS-the-Messiah-SO-THERE get trotted out, and the usual justifications of Christian exceptionalism come into play.

Now, I’ve said before in this blog that LaHaye and Parshall have been increasingly unsubtle about their shout-outs to their intended audience, which appears to be a broad and loose “coalition” if you will, of Premillennial Dispensationalist Christians, fringe right-wing political groups and probably a fair chunk of the more conservative Republican contingent in the USA. These shout-outs  have included grossly inaccurate depictions of the domestic and international state of affairs which are wildly at variance with reality; for example, consider the laughable idea that the United Nations could ever impose its will on the US Government.

What little subtlety is left just gets torn away as Josh begins wondering about the globalism thing.

Joshua found Campbell’s comments interesting enough, but his mind was starting to wander. What about the title of the sermon? What about the rise of “globalism?” That was the threat that he and his fellow members of the Roundtable had recognized. An increasing loss of American sovereignty to a world order. That’s why he came to the church that night.

Pastor Campbell wastes no time getting down to brass tacks, as he sees it, regarding this issue:

“So, now let’s look at prophecies about the future, the end times. While there are many important signs of the return of Jesus Christ and end of this age, signs that the disciples asked Jesus about, one of the most prominent in our current world is one we call ‘globalism.’ Previous government officials had called it a ‘one-world government.’ In fact, the world planners, whoever they might be, came up with the idea after World War I. So they called it the League of Nations. The Senate of the United States rejected the idea, and the notion wasn’t revived until 1945. That is when it was called the United Nations.

“Now you can look at the idea of a unified world system, what the Bible refers to as the future ‘Babylon,’ like a three-legged stool. Global Government, Global Economy, and Global Religion. In the Bible, each of those are prophesied to be world powers at the end of the age. And by the way, each of them will be destroyed by God according to biblical prophecy. You can read it for yourself in last book in the Bible, Revelation, chapters seventeen and eighteen.

I note at this point that the Book of Revelation is subject to considerable plasticity in interpretation, because one explanation that fits the facts is that the author was trashing the Roman Empire, and had no desire to be seen too openly criticizing it.  As a result, much of the book is “hidden” behind cultural references and metaphors that lose much in the translation twofold:

  1. Only someone who can read the original language can understand the meanings of the words given without the inevitable altering of concepts that come in translating to English. For example, consider slang expressions. They’re rather difficult to accurately render when changing languages, and care often has to be taken to try and communicate the concept, if not the wording.
  2. We’re about 2000 years removed from the culture and time period in which those referents were made. Consider the phrase “to hang higher than Haman”. It used to mean that someone had committed an extremely serious crime or offence in the eyes of the person making the statement, and required a cultural context in which vastly more people, living in what was essentially a monoculture, learned from a more limited body of knowledge and literature than today. An example, from the Congressional Record which has been annotated rather heavily, is here.** It has, however, fallen into disuse because other terms have evolved to now mean a serious crime or offence has been committed. Similar arguments hold for why some phrases will simply have no meaning to us which would have been fraught with meaning to someone at that time period.

The fact that Revelation has “hidden meanings” has unfortunately bred generations of people who try to mine it for possible portents of the future, hoping that perhaps if they are secure in the knowledge of things to come, they will have an advantage over those of us who lack such foreknowledge.

I suppose much the same thinking applies to why people consult psychics, or believe they have special mental powers of clairvoyance or far-seeing.

And just in case the “globalism” button-pushing wasn’t subtle enough, LaHaye and Parshall hammer it so hard I’m wondering if their readers will start to think they’re being treated like a bunch of brainless dolts.

“Ever since the seventeenth century there have been those who dreamed of a global government and used the slogan ‘global peace’ as the supposed goal. But what was behind it? Ultimately a craving for control over the lives of people through the iron grip of ever-expanding government. In recent times you can find countless leaders in media, education, and the government who have tirelessly supported the goal of a global economy. George Soros, one of the most influential and richest men in the world, has gone one step further, openly declaring that you can’t have a world economy unless you also have a world government.”

ZOMG THAT EVIL GEORGE SOROS.

Campbell closes out with foreshadowing that should be very familiar to those of us who’ve followed along with Fred Clark over at Slacktivist, regarding the kinds of things LaHaye expects to have happen as the checklist for the End Times begins being filled in.

…this very day I believe we are seeing the stage-setting for the eventual rise of this new Babylon. For there must be, the Bible says, a global unification among the nations gathered around its grand capital. A political and legal coalition. It’s right there in chapters seventeen and eighteen of the last book of the Bible.”

Then Campbell put a capstone on it in a voice that cracked a bit and grew raspy with emotion. His words rose up, almost pleading, as he said, “Be honest with yourself…as you look around, don’t you see the beginning movement among the nations of this planet to work together to create a new world order?”

You can practically hear the Ominous Drum Beating happening as this chapter ends. I’m partial to imagining the opening riffs of Terminator or Terminator 2 during the title scenes. 😛

We’ll revisit with Joshua Jordan in Chapter Thirty-Four.


* And if you may recall, a fringe sect I used to believe in went to the trouble of revisiting Biblical evidence for a “Rapture” and insisted it was not possible to find such an interpretation.
** I admit that the mere fact that the URL seems to go to a Tripod site does not inspire confidence, and it uses ableist language in places and has a very odd and bizarre set of notions about tobacco; that said, it is possible to compare to other records of the Congressional proceedings and verify the accuracy, at least, of the original statements made by the Congressmen.

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17 thoughts on “EoA: The Pastor Elucidates Us

  1. The way I see the preachers in these books is always with a rictus grin, like the adults in It’s a Good Life – “God is going to kill almost everybody! But he’s generously allowing some of us to survive! This makes me happy! Yay God!”

    Cal? Who’s Cal? I’ve never had a son called Cal…

    I guess even RTCs are allowed to daydream during sermons. After all, it’s not as though they haven’t heard it all before and already accepted Jesus. What’s the point of going to church, in fact?

    Hoo boy, video screens and PowerPoint are a sure sign to me of a Bad Church. (But I was brought up Catholic, so what do I know?)

    3 billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the disappearances called it The Rapture. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the angels. The god which controlled the angels, Jehovah, sent two Evangelators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the human resistance, Nicolae Carpathia, my son. The first Evangelator was programmed to strike at me in the year 1984, before Nicolae was born. It failed. The second was set to strike at Nicolae himself when he was still a child. As before, the resistance was able to send a lone warrior, a protector for Nicolae. It was just a question of which one of them would reach him first.

    • I’d watch that! ‘The Nicolae Carpathia Chronicles.’

      Who would we get to play a young Nicolae? And who would we get to play the Evangelator? My vote would be for Michael Landon (if he were alive) just for the irony factor and just because I want to see Michael Landon bust out a minigun. =)

    • Hell yeah! One of the movie channels had both T1 & T2 back to back a couple of days ago! They were my favourite movies back when I was in my teens and I haven’t seen them in years (never got around to replacing them when I switched from VHS to DVD)!

      “3 billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the disappearances called it The Rapture. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the angels…”

      Yes! I can totally see this! The angels will glide across the blasted wasteland with beatific grace, grinding the skulls of the children in the playground down to dust even though their feet never quite touch the ground. Their faces will be like orthodox icons: Stylized and expressionless with elaborate gold haloes around them. Yet, in the style of the Laughing Man the faces will always be staring straight at you no matter which direction you’re watching from, and their tongues will be literal swords, firing out with machine gun fury to slay the human resistance fighters who pour from the rubble in defiance of a mad God….

      Glad you’re back in business Apocalypsereview!

  2. Well, Jordan is not an RTC yet. And he proves it by not hanging onto every pasionate and sincere word that comes out of not-Bruce’s mouth. Incidentally I like how in this world the evil atheists can sniff out a future RTC and get the persecution started early.

    Also, the League of Nations failed, but it didn’t cease to exist the second the American Senate rejected it. Things in the world do not cease to exist because America isn’t in them LaHaye. How much do you want to bet he names the date of the Pearl Harbor attack as the day WW2 started?

    “Ever since the seventeenth century there have been those who dreamed of a global government and used the slogan ‘global peace’ as the supposed goal. But what was behind it? Ultimately a craving for control over the lives of people through the iron grip of ever-expanding government.” And Jesus’s millenial kingdom is different how?

  3. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the angels. The god which controlled the angels, Jehovah, sent two Evangelators back through time.

    Firedrake, I would *so* watch that (or read it)…

    • http://www.tboverse.us/HPCAFORUM/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=29

      The Salvation War is close. Be warned though, Here there be loving descriptions of weapon systems that’d make Tom Clancy blush. I mean, I’m kind of a proto-military buff that just happened to grow up liberal so I’m only interested in it in my fiction, and I found it tedious at times. But the story is fun enough to read after ODing on Left Behind-style End times porno.

      • The Salvation War is close. Be warned though, Here there be loving descriptions of weapon systems that’d make Tom Clancy blush. I mean, I’m kind of a proto-military buff that just happened to grow up liberal so I’m only interested in it in my fiction, and I found it tedious at times. But the story is fun enough to read after ODing on Left Behind-style End times porno.

        The Salvation War is indeed about a war between Earth and Hell (and Heaven), but it’s not really ‘close’. Neither to the terminator-inspired business, nor is the war itself ‘close’; Although it is hilarious – God et al made their plans based on bronze-age technology. It doesn’t end well for them.

        It’s basically a huge excercise in take-thats, and gloating. But amusing, for a bit.

  4. (Yay, updates!)

    “Ever since the seventeenth century there have been those who dreamed of a global government and used the slogan ‘global peace’ as the supposed goal. But what was behind it? Ultimately a craving for control over the lives of people through the iron grip of ever-expanding government.” And Jesus’s millenial kingdom is different how?

    It’s different because THEIR guy will be running it, of course!

  5. Is this really what these RTC preachers preach about every week??? Because it sure seems like it–here and in the intro to Paul Campbell, in Left Behind and Left Behind: The Kids (I think Judd’s last visit to church before the Rapture discussed…the Rapture).

    It just seems like an awful lot of focus on events that they claim they won’t be around to experience.

    • I think it’s because they’re convinced that with all the problems in the world, all the wars, all the Others killing other Others, all the crime, all the ways the gubmint is taking over, and a black President of the US (said reasons being all or some of the above but not limited to above) then surely it’s the End of Days RIGHT NOW and it means the Rapture will happy Any Moment Now.

      Nevermind that the PMD theologians have been saying this for the past several decades.

  6. No idea if anyone’s ever going to read this comment, but I just wanted to add some information about the cherry-picked Ezekiel quote – see how the followup verse includes “and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms”? Before the Babylonian Captivity, Israel was in fact divided into two rival kingdoms, Israel and Judah, and there was apparently a great deal of idol-worshiping and Yahweh-neglecting going on. So it’s yet another example of a prophecy originally written to apply to current events of the prophet’s lifetime being twisted to apply to the modern day.

    That division is also the reason for the “10 Lost Tribes” – Israel proper contained 10 of the original 12 tribes, with Judah containing, well, the tribe of Judah (the 12th tribe apparently got absorbed into one of the others, so there were only 11 by this point) – and when they were conquered by the Babylonian Empire, the Israelites were forcibly resettled elsewhere within the Empire, as was Babylon’s custom at the time to promote assimilation, and having lost their strong hold on their faith, they assimilated. For various reasons, the Babylonians tried to conquer Judah but didn’t immediately succeed, and left it independent for a few more decades, during which time the people of Judah were essentially scared into religious fundamentalism, so that by the time Babylon got around to successfully conquering them and re-settling them elsewhere, enough of them were strongly committed to maintaining their faith and subculture that they were able to resist assimilation. Eventually, emperor Cyrus came along and let them go back to Israel, and was declared Israel’s Messiah by a number of people as a result.

    Just thought I’d share that Biblical-history info-dump.

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