Women for America) the Christian lovemakingrnmanual The Act of Marriage.rnWith the approaching new millennium,rnthe cultural mood in America (or at leastrnamong evangelicals) seemed ready forrnanother rapture novel. In 1996, LaHayerndrafted another writer, Jerry Jenkins, andrnbegan work on Left Behind. They couldrnnever have anticipated the phenomenalrnsuccess their novel would enjoy.rnThe idea of “rapture” has been aroundrnfor about 200 vears, since John NelsonrnDarby, founder of the Plymouth Brethrenrnin Dublin, worked out the eschatologicalrnsystem now known as dispensationalism.rnAmericans once had tremendous confidencernin the possibility that their newrnland would form the Kingdom of God onrnearth, a doctrine known as postmillennialism.rnTheir Puritan forebears had describedrnBoston as the New Jerusalem. Byrn1827 (when Darby began his work), arnhandful of Christians had begun tornreread the prophecies of the Old Testamentrnas literal prophecies for the nationrnof Israel rather than, as they had been interpretedrnfor 1,800 years, as symbolicrnprophecies for the Church. (Of course,rnthere was no nation of Israel at the time.)rnAll of history, these Christians taught,rncan be divided into various dispensationsrnin which God offered somewhat differentrnplans of salvation to select groups of people.rnIsrael, during the dispensation ofrnlaw, had been offered promises of landrnand an earthly kingdom, provided thernpeople kept the law—chiefly through therntemple cult in Jerusalem. The dispensationrnof law, howe’er, had been interruptedrnby the dispensation of grace (or thernChurch, a “parenthesis” in the divinernplan). Nonetheless, there still remainedrnpromises of the restoration of Israel andrnthe coming of the Jewish Messiah. (Hernhad come once, but they had rejectedrnHim, so He’ll come again when they’rernready.) Wlien Israel begins to show signsrnthat she is ready for her Messiah (by returningrnto her historic lands and rebuildingrnthe Temple of Solomon), Christ willrnput an end to the dispensation of grace byrn”rapturing” the Christians into the air,rnand they will wait in Heaven (during arnseen-year tribulation) for Christ’s returnrnto earth. Those who are “left behind”rnwill have to endure the reign of the Antichristrn(who will arise out of the nationsrnof Europe), a one-world government, arnglobal economy, and worldwide war.rnIt took almost a hundred years for thisrnnarrowly literal and mildly heretical approachrnto the end of the world to catchrnon. Most church historians mark WorldrnWar I as the point at which Americansrnturned from postmillennial optimism tornthe more pessimistic dispensationalistrnview. As early as the 1940’s, belief in thernrapture had been elevated to creedal statusrnamong evangelicals and fundamentalistsrn—a sign that you believe in the inspirationrnof Scripture, because, after all,rnthis is what the Scripture plainly teaches.rnBy the 1970’s, as a result of the ColdrnWar and support for Zionism in the UnitedrnStates and Britain, the sands had shiftedrnso dramatically that many of therndispensationalist views seemed less farfetched.rnThe nation of Israel had wonrntwo impossible wars; the United Nationsrnand NATO seemed like possible vehiclesrnfor the Antichrist.rn”Do you really intend to rebuild therntemple?” asks a passionate Kirk Cameronrn(LaHaye’s Buck Williams, a reporter forrnGNN). “It will be the greatest gesture ofrnpeace,” replies Nicolae Carpathia, thernUnited Nations secretary general andrnbudding Antichrist. A stunned Buckrntrudges into a rest room at the United Nationsrnand, having witnessed the fulfillmentrnof the (obvious) prophecies of thernBible, accepts Jesus as his Savior—sort ofrn”It’s true —if s all true. God, I’ve neverrnprayed before. I don’t know what tornsay—please forgive me. I need you; andrnI believe. Just show me what to do.”rnBuck’s prayer sounds more like a professionrnof faith in the rapture than in therncrucified Christ.rnAnd that is the point. The cross ofrnChrist is not central to evangelicalism today.rnThe Lamb of God makes us feel better,rngives us what we want, and sets a goodrnexample for us. The obsession with thernrapture is just another in a series of distractionsrnfrom the message of the forgivenessrnof sins. Wlien that message is fullyrnextinguished, then judgment will come;rnmany within the visible Church are unwittinglyrncontributing to that very effort.rnPerhaps the end really is near.rn—Aaron D. WolfrnO B I T E R D I C T A : Jeffrey ThomasrnKuhner has accepted a position as assistantrnnational-affairs editor at the WashingtonrnTimes. We wish him and his wifernwell as they head southward.rnOur new assistant editor is no strangerrnto these pages. A Rockford native, AaronrnD. Wolf began his career at The RockfordrnInstitute in April 1999, as the assistantrnto the vice president. He quickly becamernChronicles’ webmaster and coordinatorrnof overseas conferences. Hisrnspeech at the most recent John RandolphrnClub meeting, calling for an end to women’srnsuffrage, convinced at least half ofrnthe women in the audience. A formerrnstudent of Chronicles’ religion editorrnHarold O.J. Brown, Mr. Wolf holds anrnM.A. from Trinity Evangelical DivinityrnSchool in Deerfield, Illinois. With hisrnwife, Lorrie, and son, Augustine, Mr.rnWolf lives in Rockford.rnAs we’ve often noted. Chronicles’rnhometown of Rockford, Illinois, is celebratedrnby pollsters as one of most demographicallyrnaverage cities in the UnitedrnStates. Not surprisingly, then, our political,rneconomic, and cultural trials reflectrnthose of the country at large. That’s thernpremise of Letter From Rockford, our newrnmonthly column which precedes thernCorrespondence section. Written by ourrnexecutive editor, Scott P. Richert, therncolumn will focus on local issues thatrnhave national significance. It debuts thisrnmonth with an update on—what else? —rnthe Rockford school desegregation lawsuit.rnThis spring, join Chronicles’ editorrnThomas Fleming and his staff on thernEmerald Isle for The Rockford Institute’srnthird international Convivium. Spendrnfour days at the splendid Hotel Davenportrnin Dublin and four days at thernCashel Palace Hotel resort in Cashel asrnwe discuss “The Perennial Irish Nation.”rnTentative dates are May 20-28, 2001.rnEarly registrants will receive deep discounts.rnFor more details, call InstituternVice President Christopher Check atrn(815)964-5811.rnTimothy Murphy, our poet thisrnmonth, hails from Fargo, North Dakota.rnSet the Ploughshare Deep, his memoir inrnprose and verse, was released in July byrnOhio University Press. The Deed of Giftrn(Story Line Press, 1998) collected the poemsrnof this farmer and venture capitalist.rnIncluding the two this month. Chroniclesrnhas published 21 of his poems sincern1997.rnOur art is provided by our art director,rnH. Ward Sterett of Roscoe, Illinois. Mr.rnSterett received his B.F.A. from the University’rnof Colorado and his M.F.A. fromrnNorthern Illinois University, and attendedrnthe L’Abri Fellowship, where he studiedrnthe effect of Christianity on art. Herncurrently works as a sculptor, painter, andrnprintmaker in Roscoe.rnlANUARY 2001/9rnrnrn