Orphaned Believers by Sara Billups: A Critic's Review

Orphaned Believers by Sara Billups: A Critic's Review

There is a man I met in person once, a writer I loved. He wrote things that would bring on the closed eyes, the quick, soft groan of ugh, yes. Perfect words, laced together with wisdom, angst and tenderness. 

He told Sara Billups to screw 'em. 

Screw the critics. 

I'm a critic.

I'm thoughtful with this, as I sit next to my copy of Orphaned Believers while my toddler frolics with his toy hammer dangerously close to a window. 

I'm a critic and I'm not sweetly critical, either. My one-stars are serious and sober. Yet I'm hyper-conscious that on the other side of things are real folks, teams and teems of warm living beings who support and encourage and give high-fives and say screw the critics and whose lives were changed by the very words I recoiled from.

If this journalistic memoir didn't venture too far outside of the memoir lane, my response might be entirely different. Worth five stars alone, a tender father-daughter story weaves like a quiet river through the pages of this book. I found myself in tears at times, smiling and nodding with familiarity. Relationships can be tricky. The cognitive dissonance of ache and love is there, both excruciating and bittersweet. I know no one who would not be moved at the emotional, psychological, and spiritual dynamics of opposing theology between souls who owe their beings to one another.

I was interested in reading this book because I, too, experienced crippling messages of end-times theology that created intense struggle throughout my younger years. I appreciate the author sharing how these messages left an impact upon her, which I know many others can relate to.

Before I move on, let me repeat that I would give 5 stars to the parts of the memoir that describe Sara Billups' relationship with her father. I loved these tender, personal stories and found them memorable, compelling and endearing. I wanted more, and would buy a future personal memoir if she chose to write one.

However, I greatly struggled with other parts of the book. While I agree (and experienced myself) that how end-times theology has been taught within the last few decades has been hurtful and difficult for many, this doesn't mean that the doctrine itself is wrong, or that it should be hushed or ignored. Instead, how we teach, handle and apply it (and live our life accordingly) needs to change, not the message itself.

One's approach to Scripture will greatly inform how this is done. If, like me, you believe Scripture is true, must be read in context, understood and followed to the best of our ability with the help of the Holy Spirit, your theology will greatly differ from one who believes everything is allegorical, archaic, or no longer applicable to modern times.

Scripture clearly teaches eschatology. Aside from the hope we have in Christ, as His body the church, it's not pretty. When events described in the middle of Revelation will happen, it will be horrific. Brushing this away as theoretical, allegorical, or in any way not-literally-going-to-happen does more than a disservice to readers. It lulls them into a comfortable deception that spawns all sorts of wickedness, including disbelief and rejection of the sobering warnings of God and ultimately, God Himself. This progressive approach is antithetical to truth and helps fulfill prophecy, as shown a few paragraphs below.

A verse Sara Billups uses as a premise of her book and to partially explain her title is, contrary to her interpretation of it, a rapture verse. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." This is Jesus' tender reminder that He is coming back and will receive His body unto Himself. He is reminding His followers what He already told them:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4)

Ironically, Billups' critique of eschatology helps to fulfill another sign of the times.

"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter. 3:3-4

Billups perpetuates the tiresome account of John Nelson Darby in her critique of eschatology, along with the oft-repeated argument that the rapture isn't even mentioned in the Bible. Please; can we be done with Darby? Honest researchers need to skip the recent bump in the road that is Darby and go all the way back to examine the teachings of the early church fathers. (Bible believers go back to Jesus and Paul; both taught the catching away of the church. Rapture theology did not originate with Darby, regardless of what Wikipedia and journalists might tell you.) And while the seven letters of the English word "rapture" don't appear in the Bible, any layman can take a quick glance at the Greek "harpazo" and see that the doctrine clearly does. (For the record, we get the English word "rapture" from "rapturo," found in the Latin Vulgate.)

To Billups, a focus on end-times prophecy distracts the church from more important issues. To her, this means social justice. The church is too concerned with being anti-abortion, for example, rather than helping pay for others to raise their children.

A scathing rebuke of the church can be warranted. Jesus certainly thought so in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation! The answer, however, is not either / or. We don't stop warning about things to come to take care of those in need. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matt. 23:23-24) Instead, we do both. And most importantly of all, we preach the true gospel (with our words, because faith comes by hearing) of Christ crucified, because regardless of one's eschatological beliefs, salvation comes through One only: by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who paid the wages of our sin for us and rose from the dead.

Orphaned Believers is saturated with marxist ideology and the same gospel of wokeness and virtue signaling that has hijacked the hearts, minds, and language of the past decade. This made the book a chore to read. But the timing of the book is curious, as once again, each day's passing brings us nearer to Christ's return and the soon-to-be-fulfilled events that Billups critiques and disbelieves. Daily headlines show that, globally, we are catapulting towards some sort of climactic shift. It would be gravely unwise to turn a blind eye to something God cared enough to warn us about.

Many of us were, indeed, crippled and controlled by how last-days theology was taught and spoken of. But this doesn't make Scripture untrue. It means we need a new approach to how eschatology is taught, including what it means for our lives now. Paul suggests comfort. It's not comfort to wrap a blindfold on this generation, load ourselves up on sugar and sitcoms and good feelings because we're not like *those* Christians, and lie to people. And, essentially, that's what Orphaned Believers does. Did God really say? It was asked in the beginning in the garden. Did God really warn us about fire and smoke and brimstone? Did God really warn us about the wrath to come? Is any of it really true, after all? I mean, what is truth?

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Orphaned Believers by Sara Billups: A Critic's Review

There is a man I met in person once, a writer I loved. He wrote things that would bring on the closed eyes, the quick, soft groan of ugh, ye...


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