Who is Tim LaHaye?
Tim LaHaye (1926-present) is an American evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker. He is best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction, which he co-wrote with Jerry B. Jenkins. He has written over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction.
LaHaye was born in Detroit, Michigan. His mother was the former Margret Palmer and his father, Frank LaHaye, was a Ford auto worker who died of a heart attack in 1936. His father's death had a significant influence on LaHaye, just nine years old at the time.
He had been inconsolable until the minister at the funeral said "This is not the end of Frank LaHaye; because he accepted Jesus, the day will come when the Lord will shout from heaven and descend, and the dead in Christ will rise first and then we'll be caught up together to meet him in the air." LaHaye later said that, upon hearing those remarks, "all of a sudden, there was hope in my heart I'd see my father again."
LaHaye enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1944 at the age of 18, after finishing night school. He served in Europe as a machine gunner aboard a bomber.
LaHaye received a B.A. from Bob Jones University in 1950. He also holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Western Seminary. In 1958, the LaHaye family moved to San Diego, California, where he became pastor of the Scott Memorial Baptist Church (since renamed Shadow Mountain Community Church) in El Cajon, serving there for almost 25 years. In 1971 he founded Christian Heritage College, which is now known as San Diego Christian College.
LaHaye has promoted or started numerous groups to promote his views, having become involved in politics at the Christian Voice during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1972 he helped establish the Institute for Creation Research at Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, California, doing so along with Henry Morris. In 1979 he encouraged Jerry Falwell to found the Moral Majority, and sat on its board of directors.
Then in 1981 he left the pulpit to concentrate his time on politics and writing. That year, he helped found the Council for National Policy (CNP) a lobby group in which membership is only available through invitation; it has been called "the most powerful conservative organization in America you've never heard of," and should not be confused with the liberal Center for National Policy.
In the 1980s, LaHaye founded the American Coalition for Traditional Values and the Coalition for Religious Freedom. He founded the Pre-Tribulation Research Center along with Thomas Ice in 1998. The center is dedicated to producing material that supports a dispensationalist, pre-tribulation interpretation of the Bible. He and his wife have connections to the John Birch Society, a conservative, anti-communist group.
He has also taken more direct roles in presidential politics. He was a co-chairman of Jack Kemp's 1988 presidential bid; he was kicked off the campaign after four days when his anti-Catholic views (see below) became known. LaHaye played a significant role in getting the Religious Right to support George W. Bush for the presidency in 2000. In 2007, he endorsed Mike Huckabee during the primaries. Huckabee reportedly found the Left Behind books to be a "compelling story written for nontheologians."
Left Behind Series
LaHaye is best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction that depict the Earth after the pretribulation rapture which LaHaye believes will occur. The books were LaHaye's brainchild, though Jerry B. Jenkins, a former sportswriter with numerous other works of fiction to his name, did the actual writing of the books from LaHaye's notes.
LaHaye has said, "I write the best I can. I know I'm never going to be revered as some classic writer. I don't claim to be C. S. Lewis. The literary-type writers, I admire them. I wish I was smart enough to write a book that's hard to read, you know?"
The series, which started in 1995 with the first novel, includes 12 titles in the adult series; as well as juvenile novels, audio books, devotionals, and graphic novels. The books have been very popular, with total sales surpassing 65 million copies. Seven titles in the adult series have reached #1 on the bestseller lists for The New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly.
Jerry Falwell said about the first book in the series: ""In terms of its impact on Christianity, it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible." The best-selling series have been compared to the equally popular works of Tom Clancy and Stephen King: "the plotting is brisk and the characterizations Manichean. People disappear and things blow up."
LaHaye indicates that the idea for the series came to him one day about 1994 while he was sitting on an airplane and observed a married pilot flirting with a flight attendant. He wondered what would befall the pilot if the Rapture happened at that moment. The first book in the series opens with a similar scene.
In 2001 LaHaye co-hosted with Dave Breese in the prophecy television program The King Is Coming. His book The Rapture was released on June 6, 2006, in order to show a 6-6-6 connection.
In 2001 LaHaye gave $4.5 million to Liberty University to build a new student center and School of Prophecy, which opened in January 2002, was named after LaHaye. He also serves as its president. LaHaye also provided the funds for the LaHaye Ice Center on the campus of Liberty University, which opened in January 2006.
LaHaye married activist and fellow author Beverly LaHaye in 1947. They have four children, Linda, Larry, Lee, and Lori, along with nine grandchildren, and live in the Los Angeles area. His hobbies include skiing, jogging, motorcycling, and golfing.
Eschatology and Left Behind
LaHaye has been criticized for his apocalyptic beliefs, in which he asserts the end of the world is near. Other believers in dispensational premillennialism, who believe that the return of Jesus is imminent, criticize various aspects of his theology, saying he has "some real problems with his prophetical teachings in the Left Behind series."
It is noted that "in books 8 & 9, LaHaye and Jenkins teach that [non-willing] recipients of the mark of the beast can still be saved." However, in The Mark, "the Chang scenario" is developed, whereby a character receives both the mark of the beast and the sealing of the Lord. In Desecration, his dual-marking was justified in the storyline." This has led some readers to wonder "how a Christian can have the mark of the beast and still be saved" and has been asked many times by perplexed readers on the Left Behind messageboard. Attempts to address this question have appeared on the FAQ page at LeftBehind.com.
With the presumption of eschatological plots, persons and conclusions, and with so many people basing their eschatological understanding on the Left behind series, LaHaye has been accused of violating the warning given in Revelation 22:18-19 not to add to or take away from the words of the Revelation.
Many mainstream Christians and other evangelicals like Tom Sine have broader disagreements with the series as a whole, pointing out that "most biblical scholars largely reject the eschatological assumptions of this kind of pop end-times literature." Others say that LaHaye portrays the Book of Revelation with a selective literalism, choosing to take some things literally (such as the violence) and others as metaphor (the Beast) as it suits his point of view.
LaHaye has been a harsh critic of Roman Catholicism, which he has called "a false religion". In his 1973 book Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, he stated that the Catholic Church "is more dangerous than no religion because she substitutes religion for truth" and "is also dangerous because some of her doctrines are pseudo-Christian."
Elsewhere the same book compared Catholic ceremonies to pagan rituals. It was these statements that were largely responsible for LaHaye's dismissal from Jack Kemp's presidential campaign. It was later revealed that the San Diego church that LaHaye had pastored throughout the 1970s had sponsored an anti-Catholic group called Mission to Catholics; one of their pamphlets asserted that Pope Paul VI was the "archpriest of Satan, a deceiver, and an antichrist, who has, like Judas, gone to his own place."
In Book 9 of the series, The Desecration, Carpathia, the villain, specifically refutes all happenings at Jesus' crucifixion that are part of the Catholic stations of the Cross but not in the canonical gospels, further undercutting the Catholic traditions. Other Catholic writers have said that while the books aren't "anti-Catholic per se" they reflect LaHaye's other writings on the subject.
Despite his anti-Catholic views, he praised Roman Catholic director Mel Gibson's 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, saying that "Everyone should see this movie. It could be Hollywood's finest achievement to date." He also endorsed Catholic Newt Gingrich for president in 2012.
Time magazine named LaHaye one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America and in the summer of 2001 the Evangelical Studies Bulletin named him the most influential Christian leader of the preceding quarter century.
- "Tim LaHaye." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.