Saturday, May 21, 2011

Surprise! The Rapture didn’t happen today.


So, when I woke up this morning I just happened to notice that I was still here on Earth, and neither in heaven nor hell. I thought I would check the internet and TV just to make sure you were all in the same state of being. Yep, it turns out that this isn’t quite the End of Days just yet.

It is the first day of Gemini season, however.

Of course, anyone who spends anytime online or watches CNN knows that “Dr.” Harold Camping, the founder and leader of Family Radio ( has been announcing that the Rapture is supposed to happen today. This is not quite the same thing as Doom’s Day, as CNN would have it, but it’s plenty bad enough. CNN has been having a field-day with this one.

Rarely do I comment on the subject of Christianity. I usually like to keep my views on this subject to myself. I didn’t appreciate it when learned skeptics punched me in the gut during my Christian walk, so I prefer not to deliver those body blows now that I have figured things out for myself. I figure you will figure it out in due time.

However, with that said, I am going to break my standard policy today. I am going to deliver a few body blows to the poor and benighted, besoded, demented and deranged followers of “Dr.” Harold Camping. This would all be quite hilarious if there weren’t so many fools standing on street corners warning us that May 21 is the beginning of the end.

Quick review

By now, you all know that Harold Camping has done this before. He prophesied the end of world in September of 1994. He was wrong at that time also. By now you know that Jesus said “No man knows the day or the hour, not even the Son of Man.” You have heard that said by a hundred Christian leaders in the past several weeks.

It’s astounding to me that this greazie old mixture of a Keebler Elf and a werewolf can continue to fund his radio stations via the contributions of so many benighted contributors. I am curious to know how he is going to spin his failure tomorrow. I doubt he will have the balls to commit suicide as a result of his humiliation, so we can look forward to some funny talk on his radio station tomorrow as everyone heads out to Church.

Incidentally, Camping isn’t too happy about you going to church on Saturday or Sunday, as the Devil rules the churches of this world. At least he got one thing right.

Quick review of my life

Once upon a time, I was a pretty devout Evangelical Pentecostal guy. I was a regular Kurt Warner or Isaac Bruce. Since I was a fairly compliant guy, I did what the Pastors exhorted me to do: I read the Bible. I listened to audio tape and CD recordings of the Bible (the actual text from many translations) continuously for about 8 years. God only knows how many times I went through the entire thing. I lost count around year #3. It only took a couple to three months to make a pass through the whole bible. I devoted a lot of time to the subject, and I was good at it.

Needless to say, this very convoluted collection of texts presented many theological problems to the dedicated synthesist. However, since I am a fairly brilliant guy, equipped with Mercury exalted in Virgo, I felt I was more than up to the challenge. I intended to figure it all out. I was going to use my great sorting and ordering intelligence to sift through this quagmire and make it all make sense.

Regrettably, this is how all great apostates start out. All great stories of apostasy begin with a loyal and devoted follower who is going to discover the one true correct theological position on everything. This is one of the key reasons why many devoted Baptists counsel each other never to go to Seminary or study theology.

For those of you (like me) raised in the Roman Catholic Church, or one of the older Protestant denominations (e.g. Lutheranism or Presbyterianism) you know these churches seldom or never address the many questions of Eschatology. The subject just doesn’t come up. If it comes up, it is quickly laid on the table, without much review. Further, old-school Reformers like R.C. Sproul are positively vexed when the subject comes up.

Why is that true? By the end of this piece, you’ll have some idea why.

Christian Theology falls into two categories

For those of you who don’t know, Christian theology naturally breaks down into two categories: Soteriology and Eschatology. Soteriology revolves around the question of how just and holy God reconciles a sinful and fallen humanity to Himself. How can a human being be saved from the just wrath of God? That is the question of Soteriology. Eschatology deals with the end of the world. Knowing that God does not intend to keep this human experiment running forever, and knowing that God intends to close up shop someday, just how precisely will that End of Days unfold.

I will eschew the subject of Soteriology in this brief discourse. Suffice it to say that there are at least four different positions on Soteriology in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The apostles were not all of one mind on this subject. They had differing views on the subject of Soteriology. This is because Soteriology was not the focal point of Jesus’s preaching. He didn’t say so much on the subject. Christian soteriology was invented in haste later, after Jesus was crucified, to try to explain how the Chosen Messiah could be killed at the hands of the Romans, without leading Israel to leadership of all nations.

Jesus said vastly more on the subject of Eschatology than Soteriology. Whilst there are at least four different Soteriologies expressed in the New Testament, there are not four different Eschatologies in the New Testament. Frankly, there aren’t even two. As I will argue soon, there is just one Eschatology presented by all writers in the New Testament, and it is perfectly coherent. Nobody inside the church today likes what that Eschatology contains, but it is there and coherent none the less.

Jesus was an Eschatological guy

Whether you like it or not, Jesus was an Eschatological figure who believed that the 70 weeks of Daniel were coming to an end in his time, just as his “cousin” John the Baptist did. He was one of these guys running around preaching “Repent because the end near”, and he did so in his time. This is the subject he spoke about often, and in front of many crowds.

There are only two things you need to know about Jesus’s Eschatological position in order to solve the conundrum that has plagued the Church for some 2,000 years now:

  1. Jesus predicted the absolute end of the material universe as we know it and the establishment of the “The Kingdom of Heaven” or “The Kingdom of God”. This is term used to describe a reconstituted paradise Earth, directly ruled by God in the form of the Glorified Jesus; the Messiah. All infidels would be dealt with by the final judgment of God as a necessary prerequisite before the establishment of this Kingdom.
  2. Jesus declared many times that this event would happen “soon”. That means within his time. He said specifically, many times, that the generation hearing him preach would not pass away (die out) before all his prophecies would be fulfilled.

Now if you put point one and two together, you must necessarily come to several conclusions. The unavoidable conclusion is that the entire material universe as we know it should have ended by 70 AD. The Kingdom of God, in a reconstituted paradise Earth, should have been set up by 70 AD. God, in the form of Jesus, should have ruled over this Millennial kingdom for a thousand years, between 70 AD and 1070 AD. After this epoch, there should have been a final conflict, and then a final Heavenly state.

The second conclusion is that this just didn’t happen. The prophesied end of the material universe did not happen by 70 AD. The prophesied Kingdom of Heaven did not happen by 70 A.D. In other words, Jesus’s prophesies were false.

I want to make it absolutely clear that the New Testament has absolutely nothing to say about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans. Christian Eschatology has absolutely nothing to do with the so-called Partial Preterist view of Eschatology. This is a theological fig leaf that Catholic and Protestant preachers use to hide their nakedness.

Likewise, there is no way to conflate the direct rulership of God over Paradise Earth with the reign of the Catholic Church over Europe during the Dark Ages. This has to be the most hilarious and preposterous position in the entire world of global theologies. By no means can the history of the Catholic Church in Europe be conflated with the Millennial Kingdom of God.

No friends, there is one and only one eschatological position expressed in the New Testament. The world, as we know it, should have ended in 70 AD. The Kingdom of God should have been set up at that time. If prophecies did not come to pass, the prophecies were simply false.

How did I reach my conclusion?

Rarely have I presented my position to Christian believers. I don’t like punching these dear people in the gut. You don’t know how much I loathe doing this. I don’t enjoy dishing out pain. I get no joy out of throwing gentile believers into a painful state of doubt. I think this is an exceedingly cruel thing to do to good people, whose greatest desire is to do what is right.

On the rare occasions when I have delivered the theological gut punch, I have usually been confronted by a head-strong young apologist who thought himself invincible. These two cocky young lads staggered away with a pair of matching theological concussions.

Both of these fellows demanded to know how I reached my conclusions. You see, if you somehow reach an erroneous conclusion, you hermeneutic must be bad. The Bible is infallible. Only your interpretation is fallible.

Is that so, eh? Just what was my hermeneutic anyhow? It was none other than the grammatical and historical literalist approach to interpreting the Bible. The words mean what they mean in their standard dictionary definitions of the time. The metaphors employed mean what they mean according to the cultural context of the moment in which they were used.

If you are a true literalist, like J. Vernon McGee and all good Fundamentalists, you must also come to the same conclusion. Your hermeneutic naturally leads to this conclusion. The only way to avoid this conclusion is to super-spiritualize the prophecies of Jesus and make them mean something Jesus did not intend them to mean. This is the absolute Cardinal sin of hermeneutics, according to fellows like hero J. Vernon McGee.

The consequences

Make no mistake, I understand the full consequences of the conclusions I have just described to you. If Jesus is just another eschatological false prophet, the devastating consequences for Christianity cannot be overstated.

Christianity is not like Buddhism. If Buddha never existed, or was a drunken debauched guy, this would mean almost nothing to the modern Buddhist. Buddhism is not wrapped around the person of Buddha. It is wrapped around a collection a wisdom teachings which many find to be helpful in life. If Buddha never existed, the teachings themselves would still be wise and helpful, and that is what is important.

Christianity is completely centered on the person of Jesus. If Jesus never existed, there can be no Christianity. The whole thing would fall apart. Likewise, if Jesus was just another eschatological false prophet, like Harold Camping, the whole thing would fall apart. There would be nothing left to rescue in the rubble left behind.

Folks, when I reached this conclusion, I entered the dark night of my soul. Things were very, very bleak. I was depressed for several years before I found a way to live again. It is not easy to realize that the cultural history of your civilization is bound-up with a lie. It is not easy to realize that the religion you have devoted yourself is false. The consequences are staggering and painful.

Although I hated going through it at the time, and although I still hate to think back on those days, I can ultimately say that it is probably a good thing that I passed through that fire. It wasn’t easy, but it taught me some of the toughest lessons you can ever learn about human religious systems, and why it is necessary to relax or even forget about them.