The recent release of a statement by the Illinois Conference of Catholic Bishops on the mega-selling Left Behind books was a mildly surprising, but welcome event.
The Heart of the Matter
Surprising, because such an official statement, directed at Fundamentalist proselytizing and theology, is not common. Welcome, because it highlights the dangers presented by Fundamentalist beliefs about the “end times” and draws a firm and necessary line in the sand.
Since 1998 I have been writing articles and giving talks about premillennial dispensationalism (i.e., the “left behind” theology) and the belief in the “Rapture,” better described as the “pretribulation Rapture.” My interest in the topic comes from my upbringing in a Fundamentalist, dispensationalist home and my conviction that the Left Behind books have created a significant amount of confusion among Catholics about eschatology, interpreting Scripture, the essential nature of the Gospel, and the meaning of suffering.
At the heart of this complex issue is an essential question: what is the Church and what is her mission? This may appear, on the surface, to have little to do with a future antiChrist, a coming tribulation, and the salvation of the Jews all topics that the Catholic Church teach are essential elements of the last days of earth (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 668-82). But, as I explain in detail in Envoy magazine, a leading journal of Catholic apologetics. This article, adapted from his new book, is reprinted here with permission.)