A two part meditation, part i: scenario planning the end times
[ by Charles Cameron ]
Some people like banking, I prefer religion.
I’m perennially fascinated by the way myths and rituals, meditations and sacraments can not just motivate and move people but change them. That’s just the way I am. I spent ten minutes this morning listening to a zen nun explaining on YouTube how to strike a bell (she preferred to think of it as “inviting” the bell), how to listen to it, how to wake up.
So when it comes time for scenario planning, I find the logistical and economic side of things less interesting than the tada! End of the World! excitement that seems to pop up all over the place from time to time. On billboards here in California (with a date certain: May 21st, 2011), for instance. In videos from Iran (coming soon to a theater of war near Jerusalem). And on Glenn Beck (ditto).
It seems to be a meme that cartoonists and satirists enjoy, too…
The thing is, there are two worldviews here, which we could conveniently label sacred and secular – though there’s no reason why one can’t hold a “sacred” view of the world (as I do) and not expect it to end any time soon (I don’t), or a “secular” view, and expect a new ice age or terminal global warming around the next bend in the road…
Two worldviews. And here’s where we get a “clash of cultures”.
Either there exists a definitive blueprint for the future of geopolitics – in Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation — or the future of geopolitics is something we’ll have to wrangle ourselves, using our best intelligence, wisdom and material resources.
On Sunday, you can go learn about the blueprint in an evangelical church – or you can kick back with the Sunday supplements and “Meet the Press”. And nobody much minds if you do one thing, and your neighbors do the other.
Things get interesting, however, when geopolitical decision times come around, and a great nation must decide what to do about the Palestinians, say, or Iran.
Joel Rosenberg is a writer of popular, well-crafted thrillers – a Tom Clancy for the end times set.
Since his books are engaging, and since Glenn Beck frequently features Rosenberg on his show, his most recent novel, The Twelfth Imam, has been enjoying pretty decent sales, making it to #8 on the NYT best-seller list, #8 on Publisher’s Weekly and #10 on the WSJ hard-cover fiction lists in one week, not so long ago. And since I’m a student of comparative eschatology, I read his work with considerable interest, and follow his blog.
Today, he wrote:
As international support builds for the Palestinians to unilaterally declare their own state at the U.N. General Assembly opening session in September, I am growing increasingly concerned the President Obama is preparing to endorse such a move and even push for it. This would be a terrible mistake.Bible prophecy makes it clear that in the last days the nations of the world will divide up the land of Israel. But the Scriptures are also crystal clear that the nations will face the judgment of Almighty God for doing so. “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them to the Valley of Jehoshaphat [“the Lord judges”]. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.” (Book of Joel 3:1-2).
Let the nations be warned by the God of Israel: they are on a dangerous and disastrous road. Let us pray they turn around before it is too late.
That’s actually a pitch for geopolitics by Biblical fiat — as Rosenberg explicitly points out:
One could wish the clear warning of the Bible would be enough to dissuade the President from dividing the land of Israel. I am not sure it will. Perhaps sheer politics will help.
If you believe in the sacred “Biblical blueprint” theory, and believe that the end times are very rapidly approaching, this should encourage you. If you believe in the secular “let’s hope our politicians don’t fubar this one” it might worry you – because you don’t trust some writers a couple of millennia ago to have an accurate appraisal of today’s Middle East, when even our intelligence services don’t claim to be able to predict the outcomes of various interventions in a complex situation, with unknown unknowns to boot.
And of course you might also be Israeli (and hold a sacred or secular viewpoint), Iranian (secular or sacred), or just not interested in geopolitics.
In Iran, the holders of a sacred, end times tradition are in power. In the US, the holders of a sacred, end times tradition exert some political influence. If you’re in Israel, you may hope and / or pray the Iranian end timers don’t visit their scenario on your head. If you’re a Palestinian, you may hope and / or pray the American end timers don’t visit theirs on yours.
I think it’s good to be aware of these things, but not get too excited.
More to follow in A two part meditation, part ii: of monks and maniacs.
April 13th, 2011 at 8:38 pm
Hi Charles, I read the first three Rosenberg novels (page-turners), and dismayed that he would be taken seriously by policy-makers. If memory serves, Hal Lindsay in his Late Great Planet Earth ushered in the modern trend of predicting Armageddon—most base their predictions on contexts easily explainable based on their knowledge of the Bible—and most are sorely found wanting. I wrote the genre off in 88—after hearing preacher after preacher assure the Second Coming was to be in 88 because of a generational (40 years) reference to the establishment of a state of Israel.
I guess these modern day prophets have forgotten the passage in The Revelation (16:15): "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." If this is true, then I’m not sure why these fellas continue to exude enough confidence to "advise."
I put these doomsdayers in the same category as the man-made global warming crowd: the ultimate human hubris that we could understand enough of our world’s complexity to visit destruction.
I’m with you; awareness is s good thing, but in the context of the "thief"—-if and when "it" happens we are all going to be very, very surprised.
April 14th, 2011 at 9:49 am
Interesting. I’ve also had a blended geopolitical/eschatological interest for years in this area – in part driven by the fact that on my 14th birthday Oct 6 1973 the Yom Kippur War started and a family member said, "It’s the end-times!" 🙂 and also partly driven by my amusement at watching centuries of false predictions trying to pin down the time promised in the next-to-last line of the Bible, "Surely I come quickly."
One tiny observation with a bit of political (maybe not geopolitical) relevance. Over the past few months I noticed in some recreationally light reading that a ripple of evangelical Christian bloggers were peeling off of Glenn Beck, writing that his focus on "the Country" (and "saving" it) was wrongly elevating political aims to the detriment of religious aims… and that instead their end-times approach was requiring them to (basically) cheerlead for a continuation of what Beck warns about, an American slide into chaos and fall, hastening the one-world government they fear so much because "it is prophesied." Many of them are simultaneously counseling that parishioners stop voting. Maybe not end times, but odd times 🙂
April 14th, 2011 at 6:05 pm
You write of your
Indeed – and there are equivalent expectations in Judaism and Islam, too.
Only a week ago, on April 6th 2011, Bernard Stone, an Alderman of the City of Chicago, issued a formal declaration: “Therefore we the citizens of the 50th ward of Chicago, Illinois, hereby declare our acceptance of the long-awaited and prophesied King Moshiach (Messiah), the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson shlita, who will usher in the final Redemption.” The much beloved Rabbi Schneerson died [or went into occlusion] in 1994, and those who await his return haven’t given a date certain, although the expectation is imminent.
Within Sunni Islam, bin Laden‘s one-time mentor Sheikh Safar al-Hawali predicted the Day of Wrath when Jerusalem would fall to the armies of Islam for 2012 [p. 77], and actually quotes Hal Lindsey‘s Late, Great Planet Earth in his book. There are other date-setters and soon-expecters in Islam too, Ahmadinejad famously among them – others are chronicled in J-P Filiu‘s Apocalypse in Islam [link goes to my review].
You also wrote:
That’s another topic that keenly interests me, and about which I know far less than I wish I did — but I’ll explore those issues in a second comment, coming up shortly…
April 15th, 2011 at 8:02 pm
Hello again, Lewis:
I’m generally more interested in undercurrents than surfaces, because undercurrents can unexpectedly roil a laminar flow and turn it turbulent – and right now, American Christianity has a number of strong undercurrents that are, well, in my view underestimated by most observers. So this comment of yours interests me quite a bit:
Well, there’s the question of "my kingdom is not of this world" isn’t there? — and even "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God…" – an armor which features truth, righteousness and "the preparation of the gospel of peace".
I don’t identify as a Christian – my most recent formal "religious" event was a zen sitting – but Christianity is my cultural home, and I’m distressed by much of what passes for Christianity these days, and try to keep tabs on the undercurrents.
One of the blogs I follow for that purpose is Herescope, which has been running quite a considerable campaign from an evangelical perspective against what they term "Dominionism" – their current post is sub-headed
But there is an awful lot going on here – the kind of Dominionism espoused by Rousas John Rushdoony and the Chalcedon Institute involves the imposition of Old Testament law on the United States, complete with the execution of adulterers, homosexuals and disobedient children – so that the world can be made ready by the church for Christ’s eventual coming. Rebecca de Sousa notes the characteristically postmillennialist slant of Rushdoony’s overall viewpoint, which she terms Christian Reconstructionism:
Eschatologically, that’s very far from the Left Behind view espoused by the bulk of evangelicals, but then so is the eschatology of the Latter-day Saints, which Glenn Beck as a Mormon presumably espouses. It all goes into the blender…
The project of "reading" the Middle East through the lens of prophecy has quite a history – I believe the earliest book in the genre I have is Harry Rimmer‘s Palestine, the Coming Storm Center, published by Eerdmans in 1940, before there even was a State of Israel. John Walvood’s Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis was first published in 1970, and two million copies later is still available under the title Armageddon, Oil and Terror — but the most fascinating book in the genre to me is Joel Richardson’s The Islamic Antichrist, which portrays Islamic eschatology as a mirror image or negative of its Christian counterpart, and sees the awaited Mahdi of Islam as the Christian antichrist. He’s one of Glenn Beck‘s regular sources on Mahdism, too.
And then there’s the whole fascinating business of spiritual warfare, with writers ranging from the Jesuit Lorenzo Scupoli‘s Unseen warfare: the Spiritual combat and Path to paradise – a work which was picked up by the Orthodox Church and recently brought back into English by the translators of the Philokalia – via Gregory Boyd (God at War) and Ed Murphy (The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare) to C Peter Wagner, who popularized the idea in a cluster of books, leads the movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (mentioned by Herescope above) with its own prophets and apostles (as great as or greater than, the ones in the Old and New Testaments), and Rick Joyner, one of those prophets – to whom another prophet apparently gave a somewhat unexpected prophetic message:
So here we have Arthurian myth (for which, as a Brit, I have an abiding affection) all tangled up in with oil and Israel and the Mahdi and Ephesians and Sarah Palin and an attempt to climb Mount Everest to defeat the Queen of Heaven…
Seriously, it would take a bunch of parallel lifetimes (or savvy interns) to keep track of all this.
April 16th, 2011 at 12:34 am
Hi Charles, Nice to see John Walvoord mentioned—-his book, The Millennial Kingdom was quite good if memory serves. I’m a bit rusty, but his work and J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things To Come were quite good. I may pick up the Walvoord book referenced—the early edition—the new version looks to have been modified by someone with a more "sensational" writing history.
From your description, I’m somewhat surprised at the decline in serious Biblical scholarship—but not much. This was predicted in Paul’s Letter to Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."
Your posts are great, in that I’m forced to fall back on my first love and favorite book. Thank you.
April 16th, 2011 at 1:17 am
Really? Your no-where near the trenches- -@Lewis I’d love to know who’s telling Evagelicals not to vote- As one and hooked up in the scene, I’ve not heard of that-do tell?
-Also here’s a clue for your stream-house churches are not only for closed countries, in my community it’s become neccesary as many are disenfranshised w/ “Churh”- Also my freinds fellow followers of Jesus Christ rarely discuss or worry about end times-I think a lot of what you have written is recyled stereo types..best, Enriqueta
April 20th, 2011 at 7:45 pm
[…] by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit — see also part I: Scenario planning the end times […]