Thursday, May 28, 2009

Just Wondering

I stated in my usual flippant way about a year ago that if Obama were elected I would consider it a sign of God’s judgment getting seriously underway. Yet I was more than half serious. The Bible is emphatic in saying He will not always strive with man—there is an end to the pathetic metaphysical rebellion of creatures who would overthrow their creator, and all the forms that rebellion takes. I don’t consider the United States or any political entity the new Israel, nor do I think we are his “chosen people” in any covenantal sense, though we certainly are blessed in many ways. Yet I’ve wondered at the timeframe of this Christian and now post-Christian era, as it stretches into two millennia since His ascension and promise to return. Every generation, beginning with the evangelists and apostles who themselves walked the earth with Christ, were looking for the end of days in their lifetimes, since the signs of the end of the age He gave have been plausibly ascribed to every previous generation. Certain it is that some generation will be the one which sees His coming—but all believers at all times were given to understand that it could be any day. The world has seen horrendous moral evil, social and cultural upheavals, economic and political catastrophes, disease and natural disasters that in many ways exceed anything we who are now living have seen. Frightening events have characterized every era, and believers have lived their lives fearing on the one hand the awful judgment preceding His return, and on the other looking forward to their vindication and His, when the Author and finisher of their faith puts paid to the works of evil in this world.

There are reasons to think we are declining into the days foretold of old, reasons no previous generation had—though we can see the whole of history, Anno Domine, as pitching toward the inevitable end.

The first is the nuclear technology slowly seeping out into the barbarian world for a decade or two —the second time will not be flood but fire, recall; the agents of proliferation have been busy putting it by the august and wise councils of the transnationalists in charge of ruling the world, and it is very near the time when an insane dictator or group of apocalyptic mullahs pulls the trigger and unwittingly fulfills the will of God in bringing to a fiery end wide swaths of humanity. It cannot escape notice that Israel is ground zero in most of these apocalyptic nightmare scenarios.

The second is the abandonment of Israel by the only nation who ever really acted as an ally—America. The Obama administration appears to be setting the predicate for a European approach to relations with Israel-i.e., throwing them to the wolves. Across Europe, throughout the U.N., and increasingly in the upper echelons of elite American institutions, anti-Semitism is once again in vogue, a sickening undercurrent becoming more brazen and open by the day. Another run at a “final solution” seems on tap for the very near future, if the Iranian mullahs have their way. I suspect many Europeans of the WWII era remained unrepentant of their feelings against Jews, even after the atrocities of the Nazis came to light. The hard hearts of today's hard Left would shed few tears over a nuked Israel—they brought it on themselves, after all, and aren’t we all better off without the Zionist entity?.

The third is the great turning away—“the hearts of most will grow cold”. The “post Christian” era finds the rise of a militant and evangelical atheism, along with an official and determined persecution of Christians unprecedented under a constitution that expressly prohibits it. The widespread and general rejection of God by those people who knew the Gospel is one of the signs of the end, and even though there have been many such periods before, this seems a much more knowing and final rejection, given the presumption of knowledge modernity and science have thrown down, and given the self referential and narcissistic self absorption of postmodern types .

A great flourishing epoch of vast wealth is crashing into a worldwide depression, providing the antecedent crisis conditions for that ultimate demagogue foreseen in John’s Revelation, the anti-Christ himself. Is this the turn of the wheel that sees the Man of Perdition walk onstage? Only time will tell; many another era has had the look and smell of the final judgment. But did you ever notice how the sand at the end of an hour glass seems to run so much faster? The sand seems like it’s running faster to me…so many exigencies at once, so many abrupt cultural and constitutional changes forced on us by the One…

Some changes come so very slowly—over decades and centuries of years—but some come rushing past so fast people are left with their hands in their pockets as everything is swept before them. Did you ever really think you would live in a socialist America, with a ruined economy, moral anarchy in the form of gay “marriage”, abortion and even infanticide officially supported, our sovereignty handed over to transnational organizations? The deliberate crushing of individual freedom, and the fomenting of crisis conditions to augment the taking? Maybe the twenty-first century A.D. is the last. Twenty one is enough I think.

Innes adds:
Take heart, brother. Try to see the whole thing in a broader covenantal perspective. Think of the Solomon's reign. It seemed to be the Kingdom of God itself. And in an anticipatory way, it way. Then it all came crashing down. The kingdom divided. Idolatry was everywhere. Eventually, Jerusalem was overrun by the ungodly and the Temple was desecrated and even toppled. he world had come to an end. But God's plans were bigger and more gloriosu than anything they could imagine.

In 476 AD, Rome was sacked. We often think of Rome as having an adversarial relationship with Christianity, but not only was the world shocked by this fall, Christians saw the end of all things in it. Jerome wept in his cave at Bethlehem where he was writing his commentary on Ezekiel when he received the news. He did not rejoice over the fall of what could surely be called a city of great sin. Rather he wrote, “Who could have believed that Rome, founded on triumphs over the world, could fall to ruin; and that she, the mother of nations, should also be their grave?” And again, “The world is rushing to ruin. The glorious city, the capital of the Roman Empire, has been swallowed up in one conflagration.” And indeed centuries of civilizational darkness followed, but then a great flourishing of the gospel and of civilization. The Puritans took the opposite view of their age. They thought that things were going so well that the millenial rule of Christ prior to his return must be at hand. (Many were post-mil). It seems they were wrong. The end of liberty as we have known it in America is not necessarily the end of the world, much as it breaks my heart to see great chunks of it fall off into the advancing sea of the nanny state.

Eschatology is a tricky subject to square with current events, though I respect your long paragraph of qualification. Even when our exegesis and theology are spot on, we're just too caught up emotionally with out times to judge them soberly one way or another.

A book on the eschatology of the early church that came recommended to me today is Dale C. Allison, Jr., The End of the Ages Has Come: An Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (Fortress Presss, 1985).


Dan said...

Didn't the early Christians think he was coming back soon? Haven't every generation of Christians been "sure" he would come back in their lifetime? Didn't Jesus say that some of the believers will not see death before he come again (Mark 9:1)?

Maybe it's time to figure out that the stories are a fake. I mean, weren't most (if not all of the stories) about him written down 50-60+ years after his death? Wouldn't that be like me writing a "first hand" account of President Harry S. Truman? Except in this day and age, I have somewhat reliable written record of Mr. Truman. Just wondering why this century is "enough"...? :)

Non-biblical sidenote: we're currently in a "socialist America?" Seriously?

"Infanticide is officially supported?" Seriously?

There's a "deliberate crushing of individual freedoms?" And if so, it's not coming directly from the church? Seriously?


Anonymous said...

Are you serious? Your insoucient apostasy is not going to fly well at the judgment. Perhaps you skipped over the inconvenient (for you) text immediately preceeding your attempted taunting of me, and all believers, from Mark 9. Let me refresh your memory: Mark 8:38-"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

You were once a believer, but are now ashamed of it--have I got that right? Not much of a future in that Dan.

Now, as it happens, the text you cite as proof against the silly belief that any of this is true argues strongly against you. If the gospels were made up after the fact--and Christianity is just another false religion giving false hope to benighted losers (that is your opinion of us right?--why would Mark, writing, as you say, 60 years after the events, include the sentence you cite: "I tell you the truth, some of you who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." Wouldn't that have pretty much scotched a lot of belief right there in 60 AD? In other words, only children at the time of that saying would still be alive and looking for his coming in the sense that we are. Who do you think Mark was addressing--the tiny part of the population of Palestine then in their 60's or older who were there that day? What Jesus was actually referring to was the kingdom of God in its spiritual sense--the giving of the Holy Spirit upon His resurrection. And he did walk among some of the people standing there that day--he was seen in the flesh by over 500 people days after he was raised from the dead, and the kingdom of God came in power at the day of Pentecost, when many who were standing there were still alive.

Your objection shows typical ignorance of the ancient world and historical canons of proof and authenticity. Have you read any of Plato's dialogues, for example? Most concern conversations the characters had with Socrates 20, 30, and even 40 years prior. The scenes Plato sets for these dialogues have the conversants remembering verbatim conversations they had with Socrates, who was known himself for his phenomenal memory. Prior to the advent of printing press books, teaching and learning weas done verbally, and committed to memory. Do you know how many generations Homer's Illiad was passed down, each rhapsode memorizing its thousands of lines perfectly? Do you think the Torah was not memorized by Jews for millenia before most of them ever saw a printed copy of it? What I'm saying is that 50 or 60 years in the ancient world codes very differently than it does now. And surely you will admit the lives people lived in the small villages Jesus' ministry unfolded in were not filled with the continuous stream of momentous events as ours are. The tumult surrounding the life and sayings of Jesus was surely the ONE thing everyone was aware of, and had some memory of. And besides, most serious history is still written long after the fact--even biographies of Harry Truman.


Anonymous said...

On your non-biblical sidenote:

Obama has introduced socialism into our political order, and if left unchecked the weed will choke out what remains of democratic capitalism. So I'm projecting along the lines of development I see unfolding. Taking over car companies? Abrogating bankruptcy law and contracts? Strong-arming CEO's and bond holders? This is what Michael Barone calls "gangster government", the Chicago way into socialism. And Obama came right out the day and said we need to just quit fooling around with health care and go all the way to the European model. That would be socialized medicine.

Katherine Sibellius, former governor of Kansas, appointed to one of the alphabet agencies as head, has a close relationship to George Tiller, reknowned killer of viable babies--never saw an abortion he would not perform. And Obama voted against the legislation allowing care for infants who somehow survive an abortion, noting the undue burden on the right of choice of the mother to have it killed--now there's a contract he can get behind. So when I say abortion and infanticide is sanctioned officially, I mean by officials, and the official culture of our imperial government. Do you think they will allow any incursions on abortion rights while they are in power? They don't even allow it when the are out of power. And as we see in the European countires where this culture of death is furhter down the road, the categories available for killing only grow in number, and the reasons for judging people unfit to live grow broader. That also is cause for judgment.

I consider it child sacrifice, not unlike that practices which God punished the ancient Israelites for adopting.

I guess you've been persecuted by those mean church ladies who don't want you having any fun--we all know they are the source of our diminishing freedom. Come on Dan, pull your head out and get some fresh air.


Dan said...

My "insouciant apostasy" won't matter at your alleged judgment. :P

Regarding your question to me... Yes, I was once a believer, and then things connected and it clearly didn't make sense anymore. I am not ashamed at all, though. It was an important part of my life and who I am.

"50 or 60 years in the ancient world codes very differently than it does now" seems a little too convenient. Regardless... why do you think 21 "is enough" centuries for him to come back?

"Obama has introduced socialism into our political order..." Really? Socialism, to some small extent, has been around for a LONG time in OUR culture. But beside that point, didn't the biggest bailout of the banks by the taxpayers occur under Obama's PREDECESSOR's watch? But, no, GWB didn't introduce it... it was that rascally socialist Obama.

For sure, I don't like what's going on in the economy, and I don't think bailing everyone out is going to ultimately solve it. But your worldview seems waaay too Chicken Little... a LOT.

I was recommend this blog by a common friend who has an opposite worldview to mine, and quite frankly, this blog is a little bit humor for me to read, but a little bit annoying as well. You just seem so narrow-minded, but that follows from the biblical worldview.

Oh well.

David C. Innes said...


Thanks for your comments. Allow me to jump in here even though it was not my post.

You mention the Christian worldview or the gospel not making sense. I find that nothing makes sense without it. When the Greeks thought things through, they ended up with various insoluable problems and tensions. Modern thought has ended in the crisis of nihilism. The world as we experience it, fallen in sin, points beyond itself. What I see in Christ and the gospel is precisely what the ancients found missing but could not see, and what the moderns simply jettisoned in favor of what they thought was a brighter future without it.

Let me add that to dismiss the gospel of Christ, faith in his death and hope in his resurrection, as a bunch of fake stories that make no sense is not to take serious things seriously. The Apostlkes suffered horrible death in testimony to what they said they saw and heard and touched. To say pish posh to what Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis thought to be the very height of rationality is more an expression of sentiment than a conclusion of reason. Yes, that's an appeal to authority, but it should be a sobering one.

Perhaps your church experience was not the best example of loving Christian community and faithful Christian teaching. I don't know. There are churches that present the gospel in an embarrassingly distorted and intellectually unsatisfying form. I find the most satisfying account in the Puritans. Lewis's Mere Christianity might be a fresh approach, if you have not already read it, or not recently. I have not read David Bentley Hart's book, The Beauty of the Infinite, or his more recent one, Atheist Delusions, but I have heard the highest praise for them from sober, learned, and intelligent people.

There are churches that abuse. Perhaps yours did. (Was it a church or a cult?) There are also office managers and government officials who abuse. None of this discredits either churches, business management, or government. Most churches, however, coinsidered socially, give people hope in the face of death, support under the weight of life's burdenes, and weekly encouragement in the charitable treatment of their neighbors. That's value added for everyone. It's hard to argue that churches crush individual freedom, especially when membership is voluntary.

Harold makes a good point about oral cultures. Our modern memories are attrophied, and we cannot legitimately project our diminished abilities back on the first century writers of Scripture. There's much more I could say on that topic, but I haven't the time.

As to your back and forth with Harold...Harold is a good man because his Savior has made him so. But like Narnia's lion, he is not entirely safe. He is very, very smart, and can take a man down at thirty paces with words like "insoucient." He's in a bit of a bad mood, but he should be fine again in about four to eight years...if the Lord tarries. But I thought he wisely qualified the opening of his post, and the evils he identifies are evil indeed.

Greetings to our mutual friend, whoever that is.

David C. Innes said...

Samuel Rutherford (c.1600-1661), the great Westminster divine, writes, "O if he would fold the heavens together like an old cloak, and shovel time and days out of the way, and make ready in haste the Lamb's wife for her husband...O heavens, move fast. O time, run, run, and hasten the marriage day; for love is tormented with delays!" Quoted in The Puritan Hope, Iain Murray, ed. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971); p. 213.