Friday, September 5, 2008

Rapture: The Rupture of a Covenant

I was 14 and had been out skipping church one Sunday evening when I came home to an empty house. Ordinarily that was not a big deal, but my parents- who had been at church that evening- were typically 'early to bed, early to rise' sort of people. Ten o'clock and no parents? What could have been the explanation?

For me, it was simple. The rapture had come, my parents had been taken away from this world of woe, and I was 'left behind' to suffer horribly for the next seven years. That's the way God is, I thought as I panicked: The one night in years that I had skipped church (under false pretenses, so my parents were innocent of that crime) and actually succumbed to the temptation to smoke a cigarette- that was when God decided it was time to pull the switch and change the world.

There's more to that story, but you get the point. At the time it did not even occur to me how self-centered I was to imagine that the fate of the world rested on me; or that God was timing a cosmic event just to catch me screwing up. Bad anthropology; bad cosmology; awful theology. But that's what happens after listening in earnest to so many sermonic appeals to personal salvation- at least for my soul's sake, the point was for me to get saved and to hell with the rest of the world.

And there's the rub. The whole doctrine of the rapture- a fairly new thing in the scheme of Christianity- is based on the premise that some are saved and to hell with the rest of the world. But, is God a God who says "to hell with the rest of the world?" Even the Noah story, where God seems quite willing to destroy the rest of the world, ends with God making a covenant with Noah, that never again will God destroy the earth in that fashion. The God at the end of this story is a grieving God, for whom saving a few people and animals is not enough. "Never again," God says, "Never again."

The whole idea of a rapture- where you and I get to take leave of this piece of dirt called "earth" while billions of others are left behind to suffer and see it destroyed- is simply wrong. It is a rupture of the covenant, a primary, constitutive way of understanding God's relationship toward us.

Thanks for reading ... I'll be back at it on Monday.


  1. COVENANT - why don't we talk more about that? Because it is less sexy than rapture and being left behind. Well, let's reclaim our faith with language that speaks to Covenant - something to the contrary of "Left Behind" vs "____ ____" Got any ideas???

  2. I remember a very funny (to me anyway) cartoon in which the class has written "Rapture . . ." on the blackboard in letters that trail upward--and is hiding in the closet giggling when their teach comes in.

    You didn't draw that one, did you??

  3. Hello D. Mark Davis.

    I found you through PCIT up there above me in the comments! Welcome to the Land of Blog.

    I like your post. My only comment today (having drawn the lot of Energizer Bunny sans batteries), is that my take on God's relation to man in the Old Testament is witness to his learning curve on how hard we are to teach anything. "This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you!" kinda thing.

  4. amen--this is what I've been trying to say to my church people RE predestination as well: there's God's side of the covenant at stake, and a covenant is different from a contract because breakage of covenant on one side doesn't condone or allow breakage on the other.

    Welcome to blogging!

  5. Thank you all for your comments. I've been advised not to try to respond to every comment that I receive- at least over the long haul- but I read your comments and they are helpful to me. I really like the suggestion that we shoot for making 'covenantal' language the more prominent language among people of faith, rather than 'left behind language.' In some ways, that is what I am aiming for with the blog, but I'm planning to take the long road and to address quite a number of issues along the way. What I do want to take quite seriously is the fundamental fear that I think energizes a lot of the production and receptivity of the left behind industry.


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