Sunday, April 17, 2005The End is all kinds of nigh. Thus reads the back cover of Jason Boyett's Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual for the End of the World. I wonder if the blurb is a nod to the graffiti in the London cathedral in the fantastic horror movie 28 Days Later, the graffiti reading "the end is really (expletive) nigh?" Just a question.
At any rate, Boyett's book is a timely one. End-times hype has been the rage among evangelicals for a decade now. There's a lot of confusion on the topic, and it's nice to have a, well, field guide to sort out the varying theologies. It's written with a gentle tongue in the cheek, if perhaps to lighten the mood, what with all the plagues and locusts and bloody oceans. I can't say I blame Boyett for his tone; I've always figured the the end of the world would sound look like downtown Birmingham at one a.m. and sound like this.
Therein lies the problem, I think. Eschatology, for all of its confusion and predictions, is important. There is a lot of misunderstanding on the topic, and thus, a great need for clarity. Boyett's book could offer more of it, but nonetheless I think this is a book worth reading.
The book is short (158 pages), divided into six chapters. The first chapter is a very helpful glossary, defining eschatological terms of which I previously had only a passing understanding. Chapters two and three provide a timeline of all manner of prophecies that every major (and a few minor) religions have offered up over the years concerning the apocaplype. The list is pretty extensive, covering a period of roughly four thousand years. Chapter four is a mildly funny look at various candidates for the role of the Anti-Christ. Nominees include, but are not limited to, Mikhail Gorbachv, Saddam Hussein and Bill Gates. Yes, there is the obligatory Windows joke. As their should be.
Chapter five takes a serious though brief look at eschatology. Here Boyett is at his strongest in examining five outlooks on the End Times, including perterism, postmillenialism, amillenialism and the two forms of premillenialism. This is clarifying writing, for a lot of us simply aren't very knowledgable about the various views on this topic. Chapter six concludes the book with a hodge-podge of information. The interview with apocalypse expert Paul Meier is intruiging. The chapter also features two lists of potential end of the world scenarioes, one courtesy of nature, the other of science. Lastly, Boyett tosses up a list of end times of words, mainly for cheesy pop culture phenomenons that deserve all the ridicule and cheap jokes we can muster. Think movies like Left Behind and Devil's Advocate.
One of the blurbs on the inside covers says that Pocket Guide... is "the full-on bathroom book of the century." Is that what Boyett wanted? If so, he has it. This is a fun read and, at times, a very interesting one. Part of me really enjoyed it, but at the same time, part of was thinking that this is a serious topic that should be handled seriously. For those like myself who have not been overly knowledgable about the plethora of opinions on the End Times, it would be nice to have a clear, concise work that explains the differing opinions among Christians. Boyett comes very, very close, but I would argue that he slightly misses the mark.
My final complaint is one I have made before. The book is published by the Relevant Media Group, a company dedicated to making an appeal to my generation, the young to mid twentysomethings. We're seekers, I'm told. They say we're looking for answers and we're not settling for what we've heard before. So they say. At any rate, if that is indeed true, if we are looking for answers, then we need serious answers. We don't need jokes. We don't need irony. Seinfeld is fine, but if you're going to talk to me about the End of the World, then please do so with a certain level of clarity. Church folks who've seen all the Evangelical hype might find it funny, and I'll admit that I do. The college kid who reads Relevant and was raised in church but isn't sure about Christ, however, may not need ironic jokes and cheap laughs. We need clarity, and while there's a bit of it here, I worry that there may not be enough.