A Review of
Left Behind and Loving It:
A Cheeky Look at the End Times.
D. Mark Davis.
Reviewed by Amy Gentile.
D. Mark Davis’ Left Behind and Loving It is a witty contribution to the conversation the church should be having about eschatology. The book makes some excellent points, but for a book about our [mis]understandings of the “end times”, it is surprisingly light in its treatment of the biblical text of Revelation.
This book certainly lives up to its subtitle: A Cheeky Look at the End Times, with brilliantly ‘punny’ chapter titles such as “Ascension Deficit Disorder” and “Artificial Intimidation.” The author writes well and entertains the reader while making important points. I resonated with his first few chapters as he described the anxiety experienced by those inculcated in Left Behind Theology (read: Pre-millennial Dispensationalism). After all, who hasn’t experienced that nagging fear of being “left behind” when entering a room that’s unexpectedly empty?
Yet it is Davis’ following few chapters, which deal mostly with interpreting apocalyptic texts in Daniel and the gospel of Mark, that may prove problematic to his case. He starts off with a very helpful discussion of poetic texts and the use of metaphor and imagery in the Scriptures. These are important pieces of information—too many people read Scripture without distinguishing between different types of texts and treat poetic sections like a scientific textbook. However, as Davis progresses with his interpretation of the texts, he posits three different Daniels—historical, literary, and ‘prophetic’—with the latter two being responsible for the two different sections of Daniel (Chapters 1-6 and 7-12, respectively.) His framework of interpretation gives late dates for Daniel as well as the Gospels. This is problematic due to the fact his book is theoretically intended to provide a refutation of Left Behind Theology, but most who hold to this school of interpretation would be unlikely to take his book seriously as it challenges conservative views on dating and the authenticity of the Biblical authors. If Davis hopes to change people’s minds about the validity of Left Behind Theology, it would have been better to tone done these aspects of his exegesis instead of spending so much time on them.
Furthermore, for a book about eschatology, precious little time is spent discussing the book of Revelation directly (and nothing about 2 Thessalonians). There is virtually no mention of the alternative views throughout church history about the book of Revelation, nor the fact that Left Behind Theology is a relatively recent theological development, something that would have bolstered his case in perhaps a less controversial way.
Despite falling short in terms of exegesis, this book does many things well. It is helpful to connect different pieces of Scripture and to look at a term such as the “abomination of desolation” or the “Son of Man” and see how these are used in Biblical texts. The aforementioned discussion of poetic and metaphorical passages in Scripture is particularly relevant to eschatology and a necessary tool in helping people have a clearer understanding of what’s going on in these texts. Finally, he asks good questions toward the end of the book about the character of Christ in the New Testament, calling to account a false and damaging dichotomy—that Christ first came as meek and mild, but will “pull out the big guns” in His second coming. Davis is correct; the apocalyptic passages of Scripture must certainly be read first and foremost in light of the revelation of God’s character in the person of Christ. In the end, Left Behind and Loving It brings up good questions even if it doesn’t always provide full and satisfying answers, and is by far the wittiest book I have ever read on the subject. It is well-worth the read.