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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The End of the World?

It appears that one of the hallmarks of Fundamentalist Christianity is a belief that the end is right around the corner (this was/is certainly the case with the Armstrong Churches of God). Their attitudes about Scripture don't just color their views about religion. They also color the way they look at science, politics, history and world events. Let's face it, for most of these groups, there is a preoccupation (one could almost call it an obsession) with prophecy.

Moreover, it should be clear by now to anyone with an ounce of objectivity, that this preoccupation/obsession is/has not (been) healthy. It leads people to do all kinds of foolish things. It causes them to fail to adequately plan and provide for their futures. It causes them to send their money to folks who are supposed to be warning the rest of the world about what's coming down the pike in the not too distant future. It perverts the way that they parent their children, and it twists the way that they look at government, politics and world events. It also causes unnecessary anxiety, fear and depression and robs many of these folks of their peace of mind.

Where does this conviction that the end of the world is near come from? Not the Bible! It stems from an ignorance of Scripture, history, science, politics, theology and philosophy. How? A literal interpretation of Scripture that does not consider things like context and the complexities of the symbolism used there leads to erroneous conclusions/interpretations. Without a good understanding of human history, much of the wars, political turmoil, famines and disease that folks observe in the world has no context - commonplace events become extraordinary and seem to have appeared suddenly on the world stage. Likewise, without a good understanding of science, things like earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes appear to take on supernatural or magical qualities (they become manifestations of God's wrath). In short, most of these folks (Fundamentalists) are susceptible to the notion that the end is near because they have no frame of reference for what happened before they arrived on the scene. They see bombings, hurricanes, rapes and murders on the nightly news and conclude that the apocalypse is at our door.

The Huffington Post just published an excellent piece entitled "The Second Coming, Prophecy and Politics in America." I encourage everyone to read it. You can view the entire post at this address:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/57f63296e4b0568704999eb7  Dr. Steve McSwain applies this phenomenon to the current election cycle in the United States. He writes:
"As the Pew Center recently pointed out, it is largely evangelical Christians who are rallying around a political candidate whom they mistakenly predict will disrupt, or “interfere” with the status quo in government, politics, and in America’s morality. As a consequence, they foretell that this will result in a spiritual revival, restore their version of an “ideal” and “spiritual” America (which is obviously not inside the real prophetic tradition of the Bible). Nor does it square up with what is the nature of historic prophetic preaching. It is as if, however, they regard this “election” year as the “final” attempt by God to return America to its favored and Divinely elected status (what some non-evangelical Republicans would describe as “American exceptionalism”) or else? And, the “or else” means the Second Coming of Jesus, the Rapture of the Church, and the end of the world.
None of this is remotely true, however. Nor is it Biblical."

He continues:  "And, it is only those who know very little of scripture or quote passages of the Bible that are not in any way predictive of the future who engage in this madness. It’s as if they want you to believe that the Bible is some kind of secret code book containing secret ingredients like a recipe to a special dish and only those who are especially endowed by God to interpret the code are capable of doing so." He completes his article by calling these folks exactly what they are:  FALSE prophets.

Are we saying that folks in the Fundamentalist fold are ignorant? Are we saying that they're intellectually lazy? No, but we are suggesting that digging just a little deeper, doing just a little more research/homework might dramatically improve their outlook on the world and their understanding of biblical prophecy in the context of past and current events.

Is the end of the world at our doorstep? I don't think so. What do you think?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rosh Hashanah: Things you probably won't hear in an Armstrong Church of God service

I ran across a very good summary of the holiday from a Jewish perspective (after all, it was/is a Hebrew holiday  - Didn't YHWH originally instruct the Israelites to observe it?). The article appeared on the International Business Times website (You can view the entire piece at this address:  http://www.ibtimes.com/rosh-hashanah-2016-5-key-facts-about-jewish-new-year-2424752

Jason Le Miere makes the following points about the meaning of the holiday:

1. It is considered to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.
2. It is the Jewish New Year.
3. It is a time to reflect on past behavior and think about the year ahead.
4. It marks the beginning of the Days of Awe (related to self-examination, repentance and Yom               Kippur or Atonement).
5. It is a time to consume symbolic foods.
6. It is a day for the blowing of the shofar (ram's horn).
7. The Jewish greeting is paraphrased in English as "may you be inscribed and sealed <in the Book of Life> for a good year."

Hmmm, perhaps it would be appropriate/instructive to do a little more research into Jewish attitudes and traditions regarding one of their chief holidays?