Waiting for Antichrist: Charisma and Apocalypse in a Pentecostal Church

Hardcover | April 21, 2005

byDamian Thompson

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How can people believe that the supernatural end of the world lies just around the corner when, so far, every such prediction has been proved wrong? Some scholars argue that millenarians are psychologically disturbed; others maintain that their dreams of paradise on earth reflect a nascentpolitical awareness. In this book Damian Thompson looks at the members of one religious group with a strong apocalyptic tradition--Kensington Temple, a large Pentecostal church in London--and attempts to understand how they reconcile doctrines of the end of the world with the demands of theireveryday lives. He asks such questions as: Who is making the argument that the world is about to end, and on whose authority? How is it communicated? Which members are persuaded by it? What are the practical consequences for them? How do they rationalize their position? Based on extensive interviewsas well as a survey of almost 3000 members, Thompson finds existing explanations of apocalyptic belief inadequate. Although they profess allegiance to millennial doctrine, he discovers, members actually assign a low priority to the "End Times." The history of millenarianism is littered withdisappointment, Thompson notes, and the lesson has largely been learned: "predictive" millenarianism--with its risky time-specific predictions of the end--has been substantially supplanted by "explanatory" millenarianism, which uses apocalyptic narratives to explain features of the contemporaryworld. Most apocalyptic believers, he finds, are comfortable with these lower-cost explanatory narratives that do not require them to sell their houses and head for the hills. He does uncover a handful of "textbook" millenarians in the congregation--people who are confident that Jesus will returnin their lifetimes. He concludes that their atypical beliefs were influenced by their conversion experiences, individual psychology, and degree of subcultural immersion. Although much has been written about apocalyptic belief, Thompson's empirically-based study is unprecedented. It constitutes animportant step forward in our understanding of this puzzling feature of contemporary religious life.

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How can people believe that the supernatural end of the world lies just around the corner when, so far, every such prediction has been proved wrong? Some scholars argue that millenarians are psychologically disturbed; others maintain that their dreams of paradise on earth reflect a nascentpolitical awareness. In this book Damian Thomps...

Damian Thompson read modern history at Oxford University and received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. He is the author of The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium. He is currently a leader writer for the Daily Telegraph and editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 6.18 × 9.21 × 0.98 inPublished:April 21, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195178564

ISBN - 13:9780195178562

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"He brings the skills of a journalist and the tools of an academic to the field of charisma and apocalypse and, in so doing, has presented us with a valuable and fascinating book about what is probably the largest Pentacostal Church in British Isles and, possibly, in Europe, Kensington Temple....a book that rings true and which, in a profoundly non-judgemental way, shows us human beings with all their contradictions and hopes." --The Journal of the Society for Pentacostal Studies