UPDATE: I forgot to mention that I will be on "Catholic Answers Live" on Wednesday, February 23rd (3:00 Pacific) to discuss the question, "Does the Bible Teach the Rapture?"
Kind words for my book, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, from a Protestant reader on the "Orthodox Reflections" blog:
This book, "Will Catholics Be 'Left Behind'?", skilfully dissects the doctrines of "Rapture theology" that are so familiar to certain Protestant circles. The organization is a bit scatter-shot, surveying historical millennailists (focusing on the proto-dispensationalist heresies of Joachim de Fiore), major dispensationalist figures (such as Darby, Scofield, and Chafer), and finally the popularizers of the Rapture (especially Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye).
The book analyzes and evaluates some of the crucial doctrinal underpinnings of "the Rapture," and offers considerable clarity in defining various schools and camps of Christian eschatology. The distinctions between pre-millennialist, post-millennialist, and amillennialist interpretations, along with the divisions within Rapture theology (pre-Tribulation, mid-Trib, or post-Trib), are offered and explained. Finally, from the perspective of a historically orthodox Catholic (relying on church dogma and papal encyclicals), the authors presents a critique of dispensationalist theology and a positive affirmation of Catholic doctrine on the millennium and the eschaton.
I am not a Catholic, but I found the arguments both intriguing and compelling. It taught me a good deal about the doctrinal underpinnings of dispensationalism, especially the sharp dichotomy between the nation of Israel and the Church, a "two covenants" approach to eschatology that practically entails two separate "Second Comings" -- a preliminary Rapture alongside the final Parousia. That answered one of my main questions about dispensationalism: why the Rapture was considered a doctrinal necessity in the first place. The book also surveyed some of the more vitriolic strains of anti-Catholicism among dispensationalist writers, a bigotry that almost makes me ashamed to be a Protestant. On a more positive note, the author's case for the Catholic doctrine of eschatology also delved into issues of the Church as the Body of Christ, and the role of church tradition. This work is an engaging read, and an immensely valuable resource for studying Christian doctrines of eschatology.
Read the entire review. On the other end (or is it actually the middle?) of the spectrum, I recently exchanged a couple of short, civil e-mails with a former-Catholic-turned-"dispensationalist Baptist" (his descriptive) who, having read my book, said that it clarified some matters for him—but not in a good way: "I am also satisfied that I can never return to the Catholic Church."
What to make of that? I'm not sure, as he didn't elaborate, but simply said he had "heard all the arguments before" and apparently didn't wish to discuss matters further. It was a good reminder that apologetics can only go so far. But it is interesting to point out (without, I trust, sounding the wrong note) that to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a serious review of any decent length (more than a couple hundred words) of my book by a dispensationalist. The Truth Behind Left Behind: A Biblical View of the End Times (Multnomah Books, 2004), by Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice (close associates of Tim LaHaye) contains a couple of pot shots at my book, which clearly demonstrate that Hitchcock and Ice didn't even read my book. But those two are perfect gentlemen compared to a certain Dr. Robert L. Sumner, who in the July-August 2005 edition of "The Biblical Evangelist",
A Roman Catholic writer who seems to specialize in that church’s attacks on Bible believers, Carl E. Olson – who brags that he is “a former evangelical dispensationalist who converted to Romanism while in his early twen-ties,” in other words when he was very immature (see a previous mention of him in our July-August 2004 issue, dealing with an earlier attack by him on dispensationalism) – has penned another article, “No End in Sight” (First Things, November 2002).
It is true to form for him, including errors about what dispensationalists believe and misrepresentations (if he hadn’t quit his “evangelical dispensational” faith at such a young age, he might know more about it). As in our pre-vious editorial about him, the Left Behind books are his chief target. (Incidentally, he has his own “left” book, Will Catholics Be Left Behind?)
He describes dispensationalism as “a theology of crisis, without much patience for peace and ordinary life,” por-traying it instead as a potent “brew of sensationalism, biblical sooth-saying, and sci-fi storytelling.” He says “it has never been about the growth and advancement of civilization,” but staying “off to the side, looking for their chance to triumphantly announce to the masses, ‘I told you so!’ when times turn bad.” Perhaps it was because of his youth that he seems to know nothing of dispensationalism’s 20th century movement in missions that revolutionized third world countries and other nations around the world for good and for God. That was a period when Romanists seemed primarily interested in keeping its pedophile priests out of the news.
Olson blandly described John Nelson Darby as “the ex-Anglican priest who constructed the premillennial dis-pensational system.” In response to critics, he denied saying Darby “invented futurism,” only one system of it. But that is mere shadow boxing; in the previous article he called Darby the “founder” of the system.
He repeats his previous error that dispensationalists believe Jesus failed in His mission in His first coming (in fact, he calls it one of the three pillars [or “premises”] on which the movement is founded). As we said in our previ-ous article, “We do not believe any such thing, of course, and how Roman Catholics can print such drivel and claim to have integrity is beyond this writer’s imagination.” It would be nice if Olson documented such inane charges; obviously, he cannot.
Sumner apparently never bothered to pick up a copy of my book (published in 2003); if so, he would have found all of the information and answers he needed in the 424-page work, either in the main text or in one of the 700+ footnotes. His reliance on repeated ad hominem attacks ("very immature", etc.) is par for the course. The basic attitude is simply, "Oh, he's a Catholic, so he doesn't really know anything." That, in fact, is the basic premise of most fundamentalists; it was certainly my basic starting point when I was a fundamentalist.
The info-mercial is ended. We now resume our regular broadcast...
• Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? A Catholic Critique of the Rapture and Today’s Prophecy Preachers (Ignatius Press, 2003)
• Electronic version of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?
• "No End in Sight" by Carl E. Olson (First Things, November 2002)
• "Apocalyptic Fever"; letters to the editor of First Things (March 2003) in response to the above article, with my responses.
• Eschatological Fact and Fiction: Catholicism and Dispensationalism Compared | Carl E. Olson (Ignatius Insight, 2006)