World

Jerry B. Jenkins: The Tim LaHaye I Knew

I saw the softer side of a man famous for strong opinions.

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The obituaries, assessments, and reflections of Tim LaHaye, who died in the wee hours this morning, will be replete with adjectives describing his public persona. He’ll be called opinionated, polemic, a right-wing conservative fundamentalist—and some will even accuse him of homophobia.

Those descriptions will not resonate with my view of the man I got to know and grew to love. Though make no mistake: Tim never backed down from a fight, or what he considered a studied conclusion. You never had to wonder where he stood.

When our mutual literary agent, Rick Christian, introduced Tim and me in the early 1990s, we hit it off. He was my mother’s age, and we quickly formed a respectful father/son dynamic. He never tired of my embellishment of Rick’s initial phone call, where I claimed he told me, “Dr. LaHaye is a best-selling nonfiction writer with a great fiction idea, and you’re a novelist with no ideas, so…”

Tim urged me to share that anecdote every time we spoke anywhere together.

Tim got the idea for Left Behind while on a plane returning from teaching at a prophecy conference—which was his passion. He says he saw a male pilot flirting with a female flight attendant, and noticed that the pilot was wearing a wedding ring and the flight attendant wasn’t. He imagined the pilot had a believing Christian wife at home.

Then Tim wondered what the pilot would think if the Rapture occurred right then and several of his passengers disappeared right out of their clothes. He told me, “That’s all I’ve got. Can you run with it?”

Well, he had a lot more than that—including the biblical basis for his view of eschatology, which he had been studying and teaching …

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