SAN DIEGO (Christian Examiner) – Minister and author Tim LaHaye, who helped popularize End Times theology with his best-selling Left Behind books but who also had an impact in the conservative political realm and within the creationism debate, died Monday following a stroke. He was 90.
LaHaye already was a giant within the evangelical world when, in 1995, he and co-author Jerry B. Jenkins released their first Left Behind book, which described a moment when millions of Christians suddenly are raptured from the Earth, leaving behind unbelieving friends and family members.
The book was so popular that over the next dozen years, 15 more books in the series were released, selling a total of 63 million copies and producing spinoffs of movies, graphic novels, and kids' and teen versions.
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The books were written from the perspective of a pretribulation, premillennial perspective, which is a popular viewpoint although not universally held by Christians.
He is survived by his wife, Beverly, who is best known as the founder of Concerned Women for America. In 2005, Time magazine called the LaHayes the "Christian power couple" and named Tim LaHaye one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.
"Thrilled as I am that he is where he has always wanted to be, his departure leaves a void in my soul I don't expect to fill until I see him again," said Jenkins, who called LaHaye a "spiritual giant."
"The Tim LaHaye I got to know had a pastor's heart and lived to share his faith," Jenkins said. "He listened to and cared about everyone, regardless of age, gender, or social standing. If Tim was missing from the autograph table or the green room of a network television show, he was likely in a corner praying with someone he'd just met—from a reader to a part-time bookstore stock clerk to a TV network anchorman."
LaHaye pastored churches in South Carolina, Minnesota and California during his ministerial career, which including leading San Diego's Scott Memorial Baptist Church for 25 years. That church expanded to three locations, one of which became Shadow Mountain Community Church (El Cajon), which currently is led by David Jeremiah.
He co-founded in 1970 Christian Heritage College, which later became San Diego Christian College. Around that time he also co-founded the Institute for Christian Research, a ministry that promotes young earth creationism. LaHaye also had a hand in the launch of the Moral Majority, which encouraged Christians to get involved in the political process and which was prominent during President Reagan's administration.
All total, LaHaye wrote or co-wrote 60 books.
Lamar Keener, executive director of the Evangelical Press Association and a friend of the LaHaye family, said Tim LaHaye's mark on Christianity was immense.
"Dr. LaHaye has been one of the most remarkable evangelical leaders of our time," Keener told the Christian Examiner. "I am amazed at the breadth of his contribution through pastoring, seminars, influencing public policy, and writing scores of books that spanned amazingly diverse subjects of the Christian faith. Though he found wealth and prominence, he lived modestly, gave generously, and never lost his sense of godliness, genuine humility and a desire to see people come to Christ."
The LaHayes were prominent financial supporters of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
"Drs. Tim and Beverly LaHaye have left a legacy at Liberty University," said Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. "They supported our growth over the years, and we would not be where we are today without their prayers, friendship, leadership, and generosity."
He is also survived by four children, nine grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren, a brother, and a sister.