May 31, 2011

A Question on the Rapture and the Media

Amidst the brouhaha surrounding the whole failed prediction of the end of the world, several of the media outlets that reported on Camping's prediction (along with other venues where the conversation occurred) spoke of it specifically as a rapture prediction, which was Camping's language I believe. The thing that strikes me as peculiar is that the idea of the rapture seems generally to have been presented as normative and typical of Christian belief. This is odd because the idea of the rapture is a relatively recent development in the history of Christianity. The theory spread largely through the efforts of a man named J.N. Darby in the first half of the 19th century and was then popularized largely through the widespread use of the Scofield study Bible, the notes of which advanced Darby's rapture theory. So, if you consider the number of Christians through two thousand years of Church history who have believed in the rapture, you are looking at a relatively small percentage of the universal Church - only a select group from the last 150 or so years.

So, here's the question. Given the reality that the rapture is a relatively recent innovation, why is it so often presented in the media as typical of Christian belief? Now perhaps I'm hearing the wrong reports, but from what I've seen the observation seems accurate. My hunch is that the media simply lacks precision when it comes to theological ideas, language, and the history of Christian belief, but one might expect a good reporter to read up a bit on the history of the ideas on which he or she reports. Whatever the case may be, there are a majority of Christians through history who have held and presently hold distinctly different ideas about the coming of Christ. I find it somewhat peculiar that we didn't hear much about all that in the conversation surrounding the rapture prediction.

I'd like to hear from you. Did you hear any reports that discussed the history of the rapture theory as a context for discussing Camping's prediction?
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7 comments:

. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad Gibbs said...

I wonder how the 65 million copies sold of the Left Behind series has shaped the media's view on the rapture. I mean if book sells that many copies, it would be easy to assume that's what we all believe.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi Chad, thanks for reading and posting. You are probably right that the popularity of the Left Behind series has shaped cultural perceptions of Christianity. Whether or not that is a good thing can be left for another post. I've thought before that rapture theory is sort of in the air, especially in the southeastern part of the country.

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt O'Reilly wrote: "Given the reality that the rapture is a relatively recent innovation, why is it so often presented in the media as typical of Christian belief?"

... because it's patently absurd, obviously far-fetched, and incorrect (at least to anyone who values reason - whether or not they value faith).

Therefore, to represent it as mainline Christian thinking, mocks the faith itself by making Christianity absurd, far-fetched, and incorrect, by association.

ἐκκλησία said...

... I forgot sensational ...

ἐκκλησία said...

... it's also no different than people's tendancy to interpret the stones in [Luke 19:40] as
inanimate minerals (or quarried objects), rather than the living stones [1 Peter 2:4-5] Jesus intended.

(He pointed at the people, not the ground) The same stones he motioned to, where the ones who had frenzied to see the man who had raised Lazarus, and Lazarus together, as mentioned in [John 12:9-13].

If the Bible can be made sensational, while being misunderstood - it will be.

(Sorry, I should have done this in one reply, rather than three ..)

Matt O'Reilly said...

No worries. Thanks for reading and commenting.