Monday, January 29, 2007

Talking people to death

I listened to Christian radio on the way home today. R.C. Sproul was speaking about eschatology, focusing on Matthew 13: 38-40, Luke 21: 24 and the idea that Gentiles would trample Jerusalem until the end of the age. So are the prophecies that Matthew and Luke put in the mouth of Jesus during His ministry preceding His crucifixion, in part duplicating Mark, in part coming from something else in common, in part from words unique to Matthew or Luke, likely written after the burning of the Temple by the Romans. Sproul goes on from there to wonder if it matters that Gentiles are still trampling Jerusalem some, such as with the mosques on the Temple mount. Maybe the true end times won’t come for thousands of years more because of that, says Sproul, though he also says he doubts that. Sproul doesn’t go so far as to wonder if the end of the age might never come. I do, because I have a basic question that Sproul didn’t address at all.

What if these prophecies are wrong?

It’s not such a clever or original question. I’m sure Sproul has a standard answer prepared for that. Maybe it’s about prophecies in particular. Maybe it’s his general reason for believing the Bible to be God’s authoritative word. I may have even heard him talk about that at some point. I don’t remember, though I do know I’ve heard him quote both Martin Luther and Augustine as saying the Bible is definitely without error. So why believe dead men? Beyond that I know I’ve heard a lot of words about the Bible, and none of them are that great. Any time I want I can go to the first chapter of Genesis and be sure it’s wrong. I can speak with God about it. He says it’s wrong. It would be one thing to say it was the best creation myth people could manage 3000 years ago, just as one could look at any part of the Bible in the context of the culture and people who wrote it.

But what about this business of saying it is God’s authoritative word for all time? You know, if you’re wrong about that, it’s a big mistake, either way. It’s trying to have an open mind about such things that set me up for understanding the power of saying that God is whoever and whatever God is. To do otherwise is to set yourself up for God to be on the other side of the issue than you are. I hardly ever hear either liberals or conservatives worry about that. Is it lack of imagination about how badly one might be wrong? I doubt that. I think it’s pure pride along with how comforted people are by others believing exactly what they believe. I doubt R.C. Sproul will ever look in his mirror and be confronted with that in this life. I don’t know why exactly. I know that such doubt is not to be seen in humans when they talk as he does. Call it faith, but is it true faith or false faith?

Who but God can know?

I decided to embrace that question at one point. It was the only thing that made sense to me, that God is trustworthy, while trusting anyone or anything else is easily attacked. If God’s not trustworthy, what difference does anything make? So why not pray to God and see what happens. It takes patience. It takes a lot of things. It takes a real God, not a character in a book. So I’m not surprised few people emphasize surrendering to God about one’s beliefs. That’s not a traditional choice, unlike reason, tradition, the Bible or experience not necessarily involving God.

It’s worked for me, but as in my last blog, I hear others relying on traditional words, and I know it can’t work in the long run. What would R.C. Sproul do if he knew that all the words he uses only brings everyone he knows one step closer to death? I don’t know. I’d probably still just ask him what if biblical prophecies are wrong. He’s not going to take my word for it that his faith is suspect. His loyalty is to Jesus and to God, as the Bible describes. Those descriptions won’t show him his error, and if that’s because they are just characters in a book that God has no interest in, there are many people following the same wordy way to death.

Live your life to end poverty. Live your life to end strife. Why should God care about you otherwise? Many of my fellow liberals would say God is not so tough, that He loves everyone. How do you know?

God tells me there’s so little I can do individually to end poverty or strife, He wouldn’t push me even to do as much as I do. Still that’s what matters, not words. God matters most of all, and there are no words that speak for Him. What a great truth, and hardly anyone can believe it.

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