Tim LaHaye Has Left Us Behind

Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)
Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)

Noted American evangelical pastor, author, and activist Dr. Tim LaHaye died on July 25 at the age of 90. LaHaye was best-known for his Left Behind series of end-times novels. However, he was also involved in the political sphere, cooperating with Jerry Falwell Sr. in the establishment of the Moral Majority movement in the 1970s.

Far fewer people remember him as a fervent supporter of the biblical understanding of origins but he was that too. In September of 1970, LaHaye asked Dr. Henry Morris to join him in founding an institution which would come to be known as San Diego Christian College. The name of Morris will be familiar to many RP readers since it’s associated with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Originally a department of the San Diego Christian College, ICR has grown to become one of the world’s leading creationist ministries. In its obituary for LaHaye, ICR acknowledged the significant influence he’s had on that ministry throughout its existence.

While we can be thankful for his contributions to the defence of God’s truth about creation, we also have to acknowledge that LaHaye was, like all of us, a fallible human being. When it came to the doctrine of the end times (eschatology), Dr. LaHaye was a premillennial dispensationalist and this came through clearly in his Left Behind books. Premillennial dispensationalism teaches that Jesus Christ will come back before (pre-) a literal 1000 year-reign on earth. By contrast, most Reformed theologians today teach that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 is symbolically referring to the present reign of Christ. LaHaye’s eschatological scheme also makes a marked distinction between the Church and Israel, whereas Reformed theology insists that the New Testament church is the continuation of Old Testament Israel.

Although some Reformed believers were perhaps duped into thinking that the Left Behind series was an accurate, biblical portrayal of things to come, the reality is that these books do not stand up to the scrutiny of what we confess from the Scriptures in places like article 37 of the Belgic Confession. While the Left Behind series authored by LaHaye (with Jerry Jenkins) cannot be recommended at all, resources from the creation ministry that LaHaye helped found can be very useful, but have to be used with discernment. The Institute for Creation Research does not feature premillennial dispensationalism in its “Core Principles,” but it does appear in some of their publications, such as the Henry Morris Study Bible. It’s good to be aware that while ICR gets many things right on creation (like the late LaHaye) there are other important areas in theology where they are less reliable.