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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

End Times Fiction, by Gary DeMar: a Book Review

Though its popularity has been waning in recent years, Dispensationalism remains the most commonly held view of the end times in the church. Thankfully, this is gradually changing, in part due to the work of theologians like Gary DeMar. Published in 2001, DeMar wrote "End Times Fiction" at the height of the "Left Behind" craze, the hugely bestselling Dispensationalism fiction series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins. Since then, the series has ended, though it continues to sell well, and though Lahaye, the theological side of the writing duo, has gone on to write other works on the subject of the end times. "End Times Fiction", as originally published, has gone out of print, though an updated version entitled "Left Behind: Separating Fact From Fiction" is available from American Vision, Gary DeMar's ministry.

"End Times Fiction" is a critique of the theology of the "Left Behind" series, otherwise known as Dispensationalism. Many books have been written to critique Dispensationalism, most of which are very well done, and which have served the Church well. DeMar's book, however, takes a different tact than the rest. Drawing specific passages out of the "Left Behind" books, DeMar sets out the teachings of the books clearly and then offers a Biblical critique.

One of the things I like about "End Times Fiction" is that it is one of the most accessible treatments of Dispensational Eschatology that I have read. Being focused on the "Left Behind" novels and the teaching contained in them, the reader has a specific reference point by which to understand DeMar's critiques. DeMar expands his critiques beyond the "Left Behind" books though, bringing in Lahaye's other writings on the subject, as well as the writings of other prominent Dispensationalist teachers. DeMar's book is also quite thorough. Having just finished the book, I can't think of any aspect of the "Left Behind" series that he overlooked.

DeMar is a Partial Preterist, so his critiques toward Dispensationalism are coupled with explanations of specific passages from a Partial Preterist perspective. In so doing, DeMar offers a sound explanation of Scripture's teaching on passages that are typically assigned to the end times. I especially found his detailed consideration of Matthew 24 to be helpful here. He shows how the chapter is to be understood as relating to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and he does so without getting caught up in the sort of minutiae that often distracts theologians. At only 232 pages, the fact that the book deals with so many issues in such a short space, and so completely at that, is quite impressive.

In closing, I have nothing but praise for this book. For anyone whose only knowledge of the end times comes from what they've learned in the Evangelical church, or from the "Left Behind" series, I would highly recommend it.

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