Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Fuse of Armageddon

In modern apocalyptic fiction, there is but one name known throughout the world, Left Behind.  It is a novelized account of what will happen when the beast of Revelation shows up and decides to do his work.  But it's terrible.  Popular among the young and impressionable evangelical conservatives, but to any discerning reader, just terrible.  The plot lines are thin, convoluted, completely lacking in reality or human condition and at some points, patently bogus.  Like the part where as soon as the conservative Christians are raptured away, the world goes to heck in a rocket sled and just signs the whole planet over to the 'antichrist.'  Like liberals could ever agree on anything.  I put 'antichrist' in quotes because of how horribly they misuse the term.  Nowhere in the Bible is mentioned "the antichrist."  In the few places it does appear, it's "an antichrist" or "of antichrist."  The antichrist is not a single person, but anyone with a certain attitude or ambition.

I digress.

Anyway, Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff started their own series which is the partial-preterist answer to the Left Behind series.  It's called "The Last Disciple."  Instead of showing a future plot line, it is historical fiction as what John was talking about took place during the decade or so before the fall of the Temple in 70 AD.  The wrote the first two books and then took a break to write "Fuse of Armageddon."  Fuse is a tomorrow sort of book where you get the idea that the lead up to the climax of the book is taking place right now.  In novel form, it shows what could happen if dispensational eschatologists took their beliefs to ultimate fruition and tried to bring about Armageddon by sacrificing a red heifer and cleansing the temple mount with its ashes.  It shows what could happen if radical christian Zionists get their hands on the controls.

Mr. Brouwer as the novelist is the analog to Jerry Jenkins, the novelist of the LB series, and Mr. Hanegraaff is the theologian behind the story the same as Tim LaHaye.  The prime difference is, Brouwer and Hanegraaff write things that could actually happen.  Their characters say things people would actually say and they do things people might actually do.  Their characters are smart and there's no spiritual heeby jeeby nonsense going on to finagle things in to fitting the biblical narrative counter to the way real people actually do things.

In all my exploration of theology and eschatology, the partial preterist viewpoint is the only one that has ever made sense to me.  And it doesn't rely on doing grammatical douchebaggery to make everything fit together like a jigsaw puzzle of a beautiful sunset which ends up being a mustard stain on a pair of mechanic's overalls.  It fits together and it makes sense and all you have to do is take the literal things literally and the apocalyptic things apocalyptically.  Also throw in a bit of 'tradition is slightly mistaken about when certain things happened.'  I'm always a sucker for getting rid of outmoded traditions.  It works because it makes sense for real people who said these things, who heard these things, and who did these things.

Being told that Armageddon was going to happen in 1997 is tantamount to child abuse in my view.  Hope you had a better childhood.  That's all I got to say about that.

The only trouble I have with this book is something that was a terrible aspect of the Left Behind series, portraying the other side.  How do you write dialog for an argument for which one side is your side?  When should the opposing side be left dumbfounded?  How weak should the opposing side's arguments be?  The Left Behind series portrayed the other side exactly as they saw the other side, the trouble is, that's not how the other side is.  Brouwer and Hanegraaff do a much better job as far as I can see it, but it's still not perfect.  What is perfect?  I don't know.  I'm on their side.  I've never believed the stuff on the other side.  Sometimes you genuinely try to show what the other side believes, and sometimes you're just pushing propaganda.  Walk that line.  These guys don't push the agenda too hard, it's just part of the facts of the story.  In the end, the televangelist doesn't just magically switch sides on the issue, he thoughtfully admits that maybe his view isn't the only one, and that's something enlightenment does to real people.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I love the way Brouwer interweaves his plot lines, telling each story in little snippets and moving back and forth between them right at the most suspenseful moments.  I read this book pretty rapidly and would have read it faster had I had more time.  I give it 9/10, for the message and for the story.

I will be reading the next book in the Last Disciple series, it's coming out later this year and will be called "The Last Temple."