Monday, 11 July 2016

The Imaginative Fulfilment of Babylon

I have recently written about the literal fulfilment of certain Old Testament prophecies. As a test case of what imaginative fulfilment of prophecy may look like, I want to take the example of Babylon in the New Testament book of Revelation.
  1. The name of Babylon is clearly being imaginatively used, as it is described as the place outside which the Lord was crucified (Rev. 11:8), which in real-time was Jerusalem, not the historical Babylon. Therefore it is what Babylon represents as a concept - the enemy of God's people - that is important here. But to what is it actually being applied?
  2. Some believe the prophecies in book of Revelation were almost entirely fulfilled during the first century. Many such commentators would say that Babylon refers only to Jerusalem, which was devastated in 70 A.D. according to Jesus' prophecy. The problem with this interpretation is two-fold: 
  3. Firstly, Revelation 18 describes how Babylon will be destroyed forever, and will never be active in any sense again. This is clearly not true of Jerusalem, which continues as an active city to this day. Although prophecy was conditional, and it's perfectly possible to say that God had a measure of mercy on Jerusalem at 70 A.D., God will have to destroy Babylon finally and completely one day if it is the ultimate manifestation of evil civilization.
  4. This leads to my second objection: since the name 'Babylon' is being used imaginatively, it is impossible to tie it down completely to any one particular city, as it has already transcended its own original historical referent and has therefore become an imaginative construal. Babylon is Jerusalem in that it comprehends Jerusalem - but it can also comprehend Rome and the Roman empire more generally as 'the city' outside which the Lord was crucified as well.
  5. Given points 3 and 4, it is possible to believe that Babylon manifested itself partially through Rome and Jerusalem in the 1st century, and continues to manifest itself through cities and world powers that are opposed to God's kingdom today. The church awaits its final destruction, whenever that may take place.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Interpreting Old Testament Prophecy

  1. Although prophecies were conditional and could change (Jer. 18:1-11), at least some of a prophet's predictions would have to happen for them to be considered a true prophet (Deut. 18:22). 
  2. There are various prophecies in the Old Testament prophecies about a new Temple and a regained land of Israel at the centre of a new earthly order. Although I am perfectly open to the idea of imaginative truth in the Bible, the fact that these prophecies speak of things that had a '1:1' correspondence with first-hand realities for their hearers compels me to believe that such prophecies will be fulfilled literally. It is unclear otherwise how their hearers would know what the fulfilment of such prophecies would actually look like to accord with the Deut. 18:22 test, as compared with more imaginative prophecies that do not correspond so easily to lived experience or realities.
  3. The NT makes it clear that many OT prophecies about the Temple are fulfilled at least partly and imaginatively in Jesus. But such a reality doesn't rule out the fulfilment of the literal sense as well - that fulfilment, too, may find its 'yes' in Christ.
  4. Although prophecy was conditional, the fact that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29) implies that prophecies of blessing will not be discarded, but delayed. Therefore, I don't think that Israel 'sinned away' the blessings of a new Temple and land. If God still wishes to grant them, that is His right to do so. 
  5. Taking Ezekiel's vision of a future, unrealised Temple as an example, it is hard to see how many of the specific details - the layout, a new priestly caste, etc. - are fulfilled exhaustively in Christ except at a very high level of abstraction. In my interpretation, the apparently awkward nature of the future sacrifices will be a memorial of Christ's death.
  6. The way in which such prophecies will be fulfilled is impossible to specify, and need not involve claims of legitimacy or support for the current state of Israel. Although the millennium of Christ's rule mentioned in the book of Revelation seems probable as the time for their fulfilment, they may fit in in another, unexpected way. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Against Liberal Democracy

1) Democracy presents us with an arbitrary and senseless mechanism for making decisions - there is no reason to suppose that a majority vote will give us a good (ethical) or even correct (utilitarian) outcome. Rather than decisions made at smaller, local levels through persuasion, wisdom and compromise - perhaps through genuine personal cost and struggle - we entrust decisions to which pre-determined option gets the most numbers, largely through propaganda and misinformation. It can't even be about 'the will of the people', because that would entail strictly proportionate voting at every level and decision - an obvious impossibility.

2) Because of this, liberal democracy as a system can never be about seeking 'the good'. We see this when people (of whatever political persuasion) complain about the result of a vote. But if democracy is the best system (or the best of the worst), shouldn't we trust that it has produced the best outcome? That we don't is evidence that democracy is not about finding the good for society, but about perpetuating the ideal of individual, autonomous choice as the chief good - regardless of the outcome. This is liberalism's own particular 'story', which we must implicitly accept for participation.  It is part of the triumph of means over ends which characterizes so much of modernity.

3) Although some of liberalism's roots lie in Christian thought, a Christian liberalism can only be one justification of liberalism, as the philosophy can have a number of non-Christian justifications and by its very nature cannot privilege a Christian justification. In and of itself, therefore, liberalism cannot be 'Christian', as it easily slips such moorings and proves to be genial to the inevitably sinful manipulation of fallen humanity. 

4) A consistent liberalism necessitates a form of libertarianism or anarchism: to prevent this, liberalism must be an unstable mixture of arbitrary authority and perpetual revolution. This is seen in how certain values ('consenting adults', 'equality', 'diversity', 'rights') and favoured groups have been chosen to provide a semblance of shared values so things don't fall apart completely.

5) It is the illusion of freedom that liberal democracy creates, as we are presented with options that all operate on secular metaphysics and assumptions. As Carroll Quigley detailed, these options are engineered by the international banking elite who hold our governments in colossal and unpayable debt. We can therefore only vote for parties that perpetuate evil and create new evils, contra Psalm 2.

6) A Christian government would only be possible if the leaders of a nation and the majority of the population were personally converted to the faith. It would then be natural for them to want laws based on the highest possible conception of good conduct, as per Romans 13, for the good of society at large. This would be an imposition of Christian values on at least some people, but all law is an imposition of certain values (not least on those who don't wish to abide by particular laws) and so it is perfectly justified. The limited role of such legislation would be recognized: it wouldn't be seen as salvific, or instating the kingdom of God over society, something only acceptance of the gospel can do. It would merely seek to project a vision of good conduct according to God's will and to limit evil as far as possible through the means of law. Were the leaders of nation and the majority of the population converted to some other faith system or ideology by a minority, who would be allowed to voice their beliefs to others, the political system of the nation would naturally change again.

Monday, 4 April 2016

The Authorship of the New Testament Epistles

For the self-description of each epistle's author as 'I' to have any real-time truth value, the contents of the epistles must faithfully represent the thoughts of the stated author.

In epistles where personal messages to individuals appear, as in many of the Pauline letters, the distance between the letter's writing and the attributed author would have to be fairly close for those time-specific personal messages, and therefore the letter as a whole, to have real-time truth value.

For other letters, such as 2 Peter, where such personal messages are absent, it may well be that the letter faithfully represents the thoughts of a deceased author. In this case it is still from the 'I' it is attributed to, but at a greater remove whereby the voice of the author is represented somewhat imaginatively.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Church and State

The separation of Church and State was not a project begun in the twentieth century, but one whose seeds were sown in the Western Middle Ages - seeds subsequently encouraged to grow by the leaders of the Reformation (e.g. Luther and Calvin's 'Two Kingdoms,' differently understood). For, as long as the 'Church' and 'State' are seen as two separate and abstract jurisdictions - one of which speaks authoritatively to the other - the State is forever a non-Christian, secular, and essentially unredeemed part of reality, one which eventually chafed under the alien authority of the Church and rebelled to produce the anti-Christian secular politics and economics we live under today.

This is quite different from the Byzantine recognition that if state officials, including the Monarch, are believing members of the Church, then they carry out their state duties as part of the Church: the State is merely made up of individuals with particular roles and responsibilities that have been redeemed and transformed by being made part of the kingdom of Christ's body. Dangers and mistakes abounded, but a truly Christian government - in the strongest sense - could be achieved.

The inseparability of Church and State is demonstrated today, as a steady trickle of Christians are suspended or barred from public roles due to their orthodox beliefs. Since each Christian is part of the Church, some aspect of the State is necessarily united with the Church in their person. And if the State at large is vehemently against traditional Church teaching, the only way to separate Church and State will be to remove all orthodox believers from official roles - as we see happening ever more frequently.

Monday, 1 February 2016

What Hope for the West?

My recent series on aesthetics has cast fairly damning judgements on many aspects of modern Western life. The question may be asked as to what hope, if any, I see for the West becoming thoroughly Christian in Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, as it was much closer to being in centuries past. God will always save at least some Westerners, of course, but I only see two options for a complete Christian revival at every level - materially, politically, economically and spiritually:

1) Jesus will return and bring in His New Creation once and for all, casting out all that is false, wrong, and ugly. This is something that, in faith, I believe will certainly happen, and so there is much hope and optimism for the long term.

2) If the West is to become thoroughly Christian in this present age without costly and painful mass repentance, I can't see any alternative but for a cataclysmic destruction of Western society at every level, primarily through the complete destruction of modern industry and technology through increasing anarchy and resource depletion, leading to the end of unified nation-states and a return to an agrarian culture. This would bring much death and suffering, of course, but, if God wills, out of the rubble Westerners may return to the God who has judged them for turning their back on Him and embracing evil. A return to the Truth, Goodness and Beauty that our ancestors witnessed to may result, and a Christian nation once more emerge.

Falsehood, evil and ugliness are too ingrained into Western politics, economics, architecture and mass media for it to be reformed completely - nothing but complete destruction and a fresh start can bring a thoroughly Christian culture to the West once again.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Canonical Interpretation

If the Bible is trusted as highly as possible, each individual portion of it should be interpreted canonically. Even if two passages present conceptual antitheses, from the perspective of this faith, these should be melded into a synthesis. If the contradiction is at the level of real time fact - for instance, the differing numbers between Kings and Chronicles - it may be trusted that the truth the synthesis of traditions will communicate is not meant to be at the factual level, but rather the conceptual.

To do otherwise - to choose one passage's truth claims over another - is to make our trust in an authority external to the Bible higher than our trust in the Bible itself, and to therefore fail to place the highest trust in the Bible as a canonical collection that contextualizes and clarifies its own contents.