Reviewed “In Behalf of the Fool” (1980)
Hal Lindsey came to town not long ago. The Fool was unable to attend his lecture at a local church and thought from the little bit he read in advance about his appearance, that responsible people would probably not be going–let alone being taken in by Lindsey’s mischievous gospel. But the Fool was wrong! Hundreds attended and even some of the Fool’s friends spoke highly of Lindsey’s prophetic insight. So the Fool decided he should read The Late Great Planet Earth, which seemed to provide the basis for Lindsey’s apocalyptic views.
The quote from Demosthenes at the head of the first chapter should have revealed what would follow, but it didn’t ring through to the Fool until second reading: “We believe whatever we want to believe.” This is precisely what Lindsey does in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
Lindsey starts with non-critical commentary on Edgar Cayce and Jeane Dixon. The Fool was not sure what attitude Lindsey really has toward this type of prophecy, spiritualism, ESP, and spiritual healing to which Lindsey casually alluded.
Then Lindsey speaks of the “fantastic claims” of the Bible and indicates that “Bible prophecy (these same fantastic claims?) can become a sure foundation upon which your faith can grow…” Lindsey said “There is no need to shelve your intellect while finding this faith,” but the Fool found this to be entirely untrue. There is a great deal of intellectual activity that has been engaged in regarding the Bible. Even the Fool is aware of a little bit of it that has taken the place during the last few centuries. But Lindsey disposes of all of these Biblical scholars by designating them as “so-called.” This is certainly a call to shelve one’s intellect.
Lindsey hops, skips, and jumps through a large amount of biblical prooftexting with Genesis, Chronicles, Micah, Daniel, Matthew, James, and Mark all called upon within a half dozen pages to “prove” one contention after another. No attempt is made to place these different books in historical perspective or to evaluate critically the degree of historical or prophetic accuracy they may contain.
The Fool realizes that it would be easy for an unthinking reader to be taken in by Lindsey’s apparent scholarship, but the fact is that Lindsey is only presenting a narrow self-serving view of the Bible. Headings like, “Passing the Test,” “Guaranteed Accuracy,” “Truth From Dusty Books,” “What’s the Evidence?” and “Stay Tuned to the Facts” sound like he is concerned about truth and objectivity, but the Fool found so many broad generalizations, half-truths, unsubstantiated allusions, and speculation that he put the book aside in favor of viewing the movie of the same name.
The Fool came away from the theater thinking that it is a very dangerous movie. It portrays much that is true about famine, pollution, the destructive potential of our war machines, and the possibilities of natural and semi-natural hazards such as earthquakes, weather catastrophes, and the possible destruction of the ozone layer. Yet it is filled with so much quasi-science, anti-intellectualism, pseudo-Biblical criticism, and false prophecies that the viewing public is likely to be quite confused at best.
If we are to understand that the Biblical prophecies that Lindsey assumes have been–and will be–true, then the Battle of Armageddon is inevitable an the God who apparently created the whole universe just to play out this scenario will have the last laugh as all of his creations are destroyed–except possibly the flowers that bloom forth in fast action photography at the end of the movie.
If mankind is to survive the hazards that are real, then even the Fool knows that we need honest, rational, and objective descriptions of the problems that face us–and encouragement to use our best abilities to solve these problems. The Fool is afraid that The Late Great Planet Earth falls far short of what is needed and that it actually does a disservice to mankind. The last lines of the movie reminded the Fool that at least one of the prophecies of Jesus was obviously false, since, “All these things were [not] fulfilled” before his generation passed away, as he said that they would be in Mt. 24:34.
The Fool suspects that Lindsey must have some explanation to deal with this and other Biblical “prophecies” that have not taken place, but the Fool does not find them to be dealt with openly in the book where they could be easily confirmed or documented.
The Late Great Planet Earth was written in 1970 and purports to describe the world situation since 14 May 1948 when David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence announcing the establishment of a Jewish nation to be known as the State of Israel. But the fact is that 22 years after the event, Lindsey was not able to identify “The Future Fuehrer” or the “One-world Religion” or the “ten-nations which will come out of Rome,” all of which are essential to Lindsey’s theories. Ten years after Lindsey wrote his book–now 32 years into the countdown, the Fool knows of no evidence that these specific “so-called” prophecies are being fulfilled.
The Fool wonders how many errors, mistakes, or inadequacies would need to be demonstrated before Lindsey and other modern prophets of the apocalypse and their followers would admit that they may be wrong?
The Fool is especially bothered by Lindsey’s apparent dishonesty in dealing with history on a selective basis–drawing attention to what confirms at least part of his theory and avoiding or glossing over that which doesn’t fit in with it.
Lindsey winds down his book by giving an altar call in which the reader is assured that he need not be bothered if he doesn’t understand it all. This seems a long way removed from Lindsey’s contention that one need not shelve one’s intellect to read his book. It seems much closer to Demosthenes’ insight that “We believe whatever we want to believe,” whether it is valid or not.
The planet Earth may indeed be close to “late” but unfortunately it is thinking such as Lindsey’s that seems to be hastening its demise by encouraging persons not to confront the real problems that face us in a reasonable and understanding way.