The End this Isn’t

Events like last week’s tsunami often spur on premillenial believers who think that things have never been this bad before and that the end is in sight. This is not new. James Moorhead mentions an encounter that Robert Willett had back in World War I:

…he encountered an energetic man who explained that Kaiser Wilhelm was the beast described in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation and that Jesus would appear within months to “rapture” the saints.

As George Marsden points out in Fundamentalism and American Culture, World War I touched off a frenzy of speculation about Germany and “the Huns” being a possible candidate for the Antichrist and his Empire. One can imagine how a world war would lead people to speculate on such matters. And I am sure that this speculation reached another level when Hitler was around. And yet, the end did not come.

This did not stop speculation. The emphasis shifted from shattered Germany to the Red Menace and the Soviet Union which would surely invade Israel and fulfill Ezekiel 38. The bad interpretation of premillenialism said that “this generation” applied to 1948 and Israel (we are now 63 years later, when does a generation end?). Chuck Smith said the end was probably going to be in 1981…or maybe 1986.

After the Cold War ended with no Russian invasion in sight, there was a bit of a lull as some looked to China as the new possible beast from the East. Then we had 9/11 and the premillenial world went crazy over Islam. Surely Islam would usher in the end by invading Israel.

In some ways, premillenialism cannot ever be proven wrong. You can show people all of these past wrong predictions and they will blow it off as men’s opinions. Dates change, the Antichrist changes, new events are constantly discovered within the same old passages, and the end still does not come. But people love to think that our generation is the most important one, and that things like this have never occurred before. Well, they have. Many of the Biblical texts point to AD 70 and the destruction of the old world. No more Temple, no more Law, no more Jews (their religion was ended at the Cross and there is no more Temple worship that wouldn’t be an insult to God). Read this book and learn a thing or two. God’s kingdom will continue to spread from the River to the ends of the earth, like a mustard seed that grows into a great tree.

Information Overload

Nicholas Carr has an excellent insight into the information tsunami problem that we are in the middle of in this post:

When we complain about information overload, what we’re usually complaining about is ambient overload. This is an altogether different beast. Ambient overload doesn’t involve needles in haystacks. It involves haystack-sized piles of needles. We experience ambient overload when we’re surrounded by so much informationthat is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the neverending pressure of trying to keep up with it all. We keep clicking links, keep hitting the refresh key, keep opening new tabs, keep checking email in-boxes and RSS feeds, keep scanning Amazon and Netflix recommendations – and yet the pile of interesting information never shrinks.

The cause of situational overload is too much noise. The cause of ambient overload is too much signal.

A commenter to the post writes:

Eventually, you just have to recognize limits. You have to get rid of a lot of good stuff. It’s hard.

Another says:

Worse, however, is ‘conversation overload.’ I can walk away from information but walking away from conversations is far more difficult and our technologies make conversation/communication so much easier and that produces more of it.

I think these are apropos sentiments with the thoughts I have had recently about eliminating news (“the junk food of the mind”) from my reading diet. I would also like to weed some more blogs and things like that out of my consumption. Replacing all of that with more solid reading sounds like a good plan.

Starving Leviathan

I wonder:

* How many colleges and universities could survive as currently configured without Federal loans, grants and aid?

* How many foreign governments and militaries could survive without aid from the United States?

* How many hospitals or other medical practices could survive without Medicare, Medicaid and other payments from the central government?

* How many state governments could survive as currently configured without Federal money?

* How many businesses in the DC metro area would collapse if defense and other Federal spending were drastically reduced?

* How could the housing market survive in its current form without government assistance?

I could go on. The tentacles are everywhere.

Jeremy Taylor on Shrove Tuesday Repentance

In The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, he writes:

Every true penitential sorrow is rather natural than solemn; that is, it is the product of our internal apprehensions, rather than outward order and command. He that repents only by solemnity, at a certain period, by the expectation of tomorrow’s sun, may indeed act a sorrow, but cannot be sure that he shall then be sorrowful. Other acts of repentance may be done in their proper period, by order and command, upon set days, and indicted solemnities; such as is, fasting and prayer, and alms, and confession, and disciplines, and all the instances of humiliation: but sorrow is not to be reckoned in this account, unless it dwells there before. When there is a natural abiding sorrow for our sins, any public day of humiliation can bring it forth, and put it into activity; but when a sinner is gay and intemperately merry upon Shrove-tuesday, and resolves to mourn upon Ash-wednesday; his sorrow hath in it more of the theatre than the temple, and is not at all to be relied upon by him that resolves to take severe accounts of himself.

Section VI.X.89

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

I found this in an old issue of Notes and Queries and thought I would pass it along:

There is a curious tradition existing in Mansfield, Woodhouse, Bulwell, and several other villages near Sherwood Forest, as to the origin of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The inhabitants of any of these villages will inform the questioner that when the Danes got to Linby all the Saxon men of the neighboring villages ran off into the Forest, and the Danes took the Saxon women to keep house for them. This happened just before Lent, and the Saxon women, encouraged by their fugitive lords, resolved to massacre their Danish masters on Ash Wednesday. Every woman who agreed to do this was to bake pancakes for their meal on Shrove Tuesday as a kind of pledge to fulfill her vow. This was done, and that the massacre of the Danes did take place on Ash Wednesday is a well-known historical fact.

Notes and Queries, June 4, 1859

My Current Scripture Reading

For my Scripture reading last year I read Deuteronomy over and over. This year I am attempting to dig into the Wisdom books. I have been reminded that the road to Christian maturity is one of meditation on God’s Word, a constant approach and re-approach to the same texts, seeing them through the lens of Jesus and His Church.

I don’t have the discipline right now to follow a lectionary style of reading every day and I don’t want to launch out on another read the entire Bible project. So in these overly busy years I want to try and focus in on something that I can benefit from by repetition. I also want to feel some freedom about where I read, because I tend to feel very rigid about starting in one place and proceeding on until the end, not hopping around. I am trying to break away from the feeling that I should constantly be reading the lectionary or doing Genesis to Revelation on a cycle.

Part of the problem with my Scripture reading is that I find myself addicted to reading news and social media throughout the day every day. I need to drive a stake through those habits so that I can spend more time reading quality material and less on passing fancies. Lent might be a good time to try and change those habits.

Small Groups as Part of the Good Life

Isolation kills. Spiritually, we are meant to live in community. One way to do this is through small groups, by whatever name they are called. There are many reasons to conduct and participate in small groups, but one I have not seen is to me central, and that is the definition of the good life given by Aristotle:

“happiness,” or the good life, which is to be attained in a community of family and friends who can satisfy one another’s material and social needs, behave justly toward one another, and, according to their capacity, contemplate the Good.

There are many nights when I don’t feel like going to small group. I’d rather stay home, avoid the drive and rest. But this definition springs to mind and helps me to focus on a primary reason for going. Contemplating “the good” – in our case, the Triune God – is done in some measure by being with other Christians and reflecting on God’s Word together. It’s a simple concept, but it has been held to be central to human happiness throughout Western history, and I believe that vision holds true today.

 

Rob Bell and Hell in My Life

The controversy of the week in the Christian blogosphere regards Rob Bell and his apparent leap into universalism – (not surprising to me given the Wheaton and Fuller pedigree). I had never heard of Bell until last week, maybe because I don’t much care about celebrity preachers in general. What has been interesting to me is watching the reaction of people that I follow to Bell’s position, from the “left” and “right” theologically. But this post isn’t really about Bell or the reaction to him as much as it is about my own experience with the doctrine (and reality) of hell.

I had a period of apostasy that lasted for about eight years. During the last year of that time I was consistently worried about the possibility of death and an endless eternity in hell. This fear was part of what God used to bring me back to Him. For some folks, the gracious message of love and forgiveness, new life and cleansing, is what draws them back to the faith or to Christ for the first time. For me, the fear of hell was very real and very terrifying. It spurred me on more than the idea that I could be forgiven, which I always took as a given.

Removing the concept of hell from our lexicon is removing an effective means of spurring people to salvation. It is also a gigantic and terrifying lie. If hell is a reality – and if we take the Scripture seriously it most certainly is – then we may be condemning people to that very place if we backhandedly assure them that they need not worry overmuch about the possibility of spending eternity there, because in the end everyone is saved and “love wins.” That is something I would not want to stand before God and explain on the Last Day.

The Petrine Office

This is me thinking out loud. The prominence of Peter in the New Testament is striking, but it does not mean what the modern RCC says it means. So what does it mean? I’m not sure. The famous passage from Matthew 16 says:

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

It looks to me like Jesus is addressing Peter, not everyone. Peter features prominently in the Gospels and the early part of Acts. He is given a lot of attention. His post-Resurrection restoration by Jesus is portrayed at length. Why? Why the focus on him?
Thoughts:
Peter was flawed, he was not infallible, he made mistakes.
He was not in charge of the church in Jerusalem.
Paul says Jesus appeared to him first of all.
A party in Corinth claimed to be of him.
He led the church in the earliest days.
Peter was the rock, the leader of the early Church, but it was leadership in council, a conciliar model. He was not even first among equals, but one of perhaps a triad of leaders.
I believe that he did go to Rome.
The NT cannot possibly lay obedience to the See of Rome on believers as a necessity.
Jesus built the church on Peter in some sense.
The gates of hell did not prevail in some sense.

“Love is a Flattering Mischief”

So says Izaak Walton when discussing the marriage of John Donne:

for love is a flattering mischief, that hath denied aged and wise men a foresight of those evils that too often prove to be the children of that blind father; a passion, that carries us to commit errors with as much ease as whirlwinds move feathers, and begets in us an unwearied industry to the attainment of what we desire.