'The Leftovers': Will New Rapture Series Affect How the Secular World Views Christianity?

HBO's The Leftovers
HBO's The Leftovers | Picture: HBO

The new HBO series "The Leftovers" brings the Christian rapture theory to the forefront of secular culture showcasing a side of the faith not embraced by the entire body. The show, along with the upcoming "Left Behind" movie, exposes droves of non-believers to the concept of Jesus mysteriously rapturing a percentage of the world's population out of it with no real explanation at the time.

"The Leftovers" builds on this concept by telling the rapture story from a point of view that removes the faith aspect and deals with the nature of those left on Earth. The original "Left Behind" series takes the more traditional evangelical route, and it is unclear at this time if the upcoming film will follow suit with previous iterations.

The rapture concept, while popular among evangelical circles, strays far from the teachings of the historical Church and an accurate interpretation of scripture, according to Christian apologist and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig.

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He's not sure if "The Leftovers" and "Left Behind" might affect Christians negatively by affirming a concept that he believes is not rooted in scripture or if it could also affect the non-believing world by showing how far-fetched some Christian beliefs really are.

"I don't know if that is the case because after all, if you believe in the second coming of Christ that's pretty incredible too and doesn't fit in with the unbeliever's world view either. I don't know to what extent [the rapture] has injured [Christianity's] credibility in the eyes of the world," Dr. Craig told the Christian Post.

On a more positive note, Craig does belief shows like "The Leftovers" could function as a conversation starter for believers looking to evangelize.

"I supposed one can always hope that it will spark a discussion about the future of the world and our blessed hope which is the return of Christ and his kingdom," he said. "One [believer] could maybe provoke an interesting conversation by saying I don't agree with what it says [in this show and movie]. Real good could come out of this."

Phil Cooke, a Christian writer, television producer and media consultant who believes in the rapture, agrees with Dr. Craig that a series like "The Leftovers" could spark a conversation between believers and non-believers about the things of God.

"I don't think the series is a negative thing [for Christians] by any means," Cooke told The Christian Post. "I think anything that causes people in the culture to start asking questions about the Bible [is a good thing]. I think it's fantastic that the greater culture sees story value in some of these [Christian concepts] and wants to pursue it."

Cooke views "The Leftovers" in the same way as the "Noah" movie and believes Christians shouldn't expect Hollywood to portray stories in a biblically sound manner. However, he still thinks stories loosely based on these concepts have value.

"Noah, even though it wasn't the biblical, literal account of that story, it drove thousands of people to the Bible," he continued. "On my blog I reported that the YouVersion Bible App, and the American Bible Society all reported huge spikes in people reading the Noah story over the [film's] 4-day opening weekend."

Cooke watched "The Leftovers" and would say that the rapture is used "as a jumping off point" in the Tom Perotta novel it was based on and in the series. He also said that it largely ignores the theological implications of the rapture.

"What the series really concerns itself with is so what do people do? How do they interact and respond when they discover [that 2 percent] of the population is gone?" he said.

To Cooke, anything that gets people looking more into the scriptures is a positive for Christians and non-Christians.

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