Hal Lindsey

Tristan Sturm, Tom Albrecht

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Abstract

The American evangelist Hal Lindsey (b. 1929), colloquially referred to as the father of modern prophecy, is the author of twenty-five books and host of a long running TV series called The Hal Lindsey Report. The most influential work of his prolonged career is his book The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) which sold over 28 million copies (Melling 1999, 77) and according to the New York Times was the ‘number one non-fiction best-seller of the decade’ (Harding 1994, 33). Bart Ehrman went so far as to state that Lindsey is ‘probably the single most read author of religion in modern times’ (1999, 7). His key success, as Kirsch observes, was ‘leveraging the apocalyptic idea out of the fundamentalist churches and into the mainstream of American civilization’ (2006, 225). Still, Lindsey owes parts of his accomplishments to his ghost-writers and assistants. The Late Great Planet Earth (henceforth Late Great), among six other books that credit Hal Lindsey as author, were ghost-written by Carole C. Carlson (b. 1925).

Initially published by Zondervan in 1970, then a small theological press, Late Great was reissued by the non-religious publisher Bantam Books in 1973. In 1976, the book was made into a film narrated by Orson Wells that appeared in theatres across the United States of America. The book chronicles a near future apocalyptic vision of wars to come and Christ’s imminent return to earth by reinterpreting the prophetic books of the Bible such as Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation to make sense of the present. Framing American anxieties in relation to the counterculture movement of the 1960s and the Cold War (1947-1989), the Vietnam War (1955–1975), and the Six-Day War (1967) as signs of the End Times, the book sought to give answers to the uncertainties of the time. In so doing, Late Great provided a template for many other evangelical prophecy authors like Tim LaHaye and John Walvoord and was thus the foundation for a billion-dollar apocalyptic prophecy writing industry in the United States. Lindsey capitalised on the success of Late Great via talking tours, publishing other books, and his TV programme The Hal Lindsey Report. Late Great remained the leading text in popular evangelical eschatology of world affairs until it was dethroned by his ‘imitator,’ Tim LaHaye, with the publication and success of his Left Behind fiction series of the 1990s co-written with Jerry Jenkins (Hill 2002, 1).

In this entry we will first give a short biographical account of Hal Lindsey, including his education, social and political influences, and development of his eschatological thought. In the section following, we give some detail on Lindsey’s beliefs, specifically premillennial dispensationalism. The next sections cover four of his major books which map the evolution of his thinking: The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon (1980), The Everlasting Hatred (2002), and The Road to Holocaust (1989). The last section before concluding deals with one of Lindsey’s most recent intellectual interests, that of climate change, via an engagement with an episode of his TV Show, The Hal Lindsey Report.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements
PublisherCenSAMM
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2021

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