Inclusion of a resource/presentation does not indicate endorsement of the contents. Provided for educational purposes regarding perspectives in the fields of theology and religious studies. Issachar Bible Church is conservative Trinitarian not affiliated with any organized denomination at this time.

Wednesday, December 21

The Study Of The History Of The End Of The World, Part 8

 Though history is linear in that it is moving towards an ultimate destination rather than circular in the sense of rigid absolute recurrence, it cannot be denied that the dynamics of human development and unfolding events do often follow a cyclical path over time. For example, eventually the sects of the nineteenth century that began with considerable apocalyptic and utopian fervor such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses tempered these impulses to an extent in favor of the stabilization brought about by leadership focusing more upon continuity of organization rather than the cessation of human affairs as presently known. The cultural change of the nineteenth century continued onward well into the twentieth. As such, it was to be expected that fringe movements outside the mainstream of conventional American religious life would continue to increase. But given the exaggerated pace of contemporary life, a number of these would prove to be far deadlier than their counterparts originating in what might be considered more tranquil bygone eras. In his analysis of the fringe groups embracing a form of apocalypticism arising from the tumult of the counterculture, Richard Kyle categorizes these as Western, occult, or racist.

The groups described as Western would be those that would be described as cults deriving inspiration from Christian theological terminology even if these sects no longer imbued the words with their original meanings. A number of these ended tragically in episodes of dramatic violence. Foremost among these ranked Jonestown in the jungles of Guyana and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

In the early days of his ministry, one would not have necessarily thought that the name Jim Jones would become synonymous with cultic violence and abuse. Jones began his ministry loosely affiliated with the Disciples of Christ with a concern regarding what he perceived as the racism of his day. Eventually, Jones' apocalyptic views focused more upon pending disaster rather than Christ's actual return. Initially, this prompted Jones to uproot his congregation from Indiana to settle in California where Jones thought it would be more likely to survive an inevitable nuclear catastrophe. However, it was this desire to protect his flock from the perils of the world through the fanatical withdrawal from society without relying on the power of Christ that would ultimately doom this experiment in integrated communal living.

As a result of increasing allegations of abuse within the People's Temple and out of a fear that even California would not prove to be a refuge from the pending tribulation, Jones relocated to the sect's compound in the Guyanese wilderness known as Jonestown where he descended into deeper levels of insanity and evil. The straw that broke the camel's back occurred when Senator Leo Ryan and an NBC news crew arrived to investigate claims of abuse alleged by families of group members as well as those residing at the compound. The desperate there reached out to the legislator after an initial meeting actually seemed to go well. These souls confided that they had not found a sanctuary from the hardships of the world but had actually become trapped in a Hell on earth.

Fearing retaliation on the part of authorities for assassinating the Senator along with others at the remote jungle airstrip, Jones attempted to convince his followers to commit what he categorized as an act of revolutionary suicide. It is often assumed that the residents of Jonestown embraced death in this manner willingly as it is what comes to mind when admonishing someone not to drink the Kool Aid, a reference to the toxic potion concocted to bring about this disturbing end. However, many only relented at gunpoint and others were actually shot. And though Jonestown no doubt stands as perhaps the most infamous example of the tragedy likely to result when people surrender good judgment and discernment for promises of a blissful tomorrow if all they do is surrender in total to a leader claiming direct revelation from or a unique understanding of God to which other believers are not privy, it would certainly not be the last.

Another example of such a group meeting a tragic demise as a result of an out of control belief in the Apocalypse was the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas. The Branch Davidians were themselves derived from Seventh Adventism, which adherents of this splinter group believed had grown lax in doctrine over the years as the emphasis of the mother movement switched from eagerly awaiting the pending Advent to organizational expansion. Deadbeat Vernon Howell was able to smooth talk his way into the sect's leadership by pitching woo at the elderly matriarch. With his knack for quoting Scripture (even if pulling it out of context), Howell was able to rebrand himself as David Koresh, claiming that he was the Lamb referenced in the Book of Revelation who would open the seven seals described in that prophetic text. As a result of a series of tactical blunders on the part of both Koresh and the government, eighty-eight Branch Davidians died in this attempt at actualized eschatology when the compound caught fire after a siege lasting well over a month.

Another form of fringe eschatology to gain a foothold towards the close of the twentieth century was noticeably racialist in nature. One of the early forms of what might be categorized as genetic apocalypticism could be found in the Worldwide Church of God as established by Herbert W. Armstrong. Central to the teaching of Armstrongism was the doctrine of Anglo-Israelism, the belief that the Anglo peoples of the world such as Great Britain and the United States were the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. As such, these nations were as every bit as eligible for the promises made to the Chosen People as were the Jews. Like the Jews that Armstrong hoped to mimic, his sect also held to Old Testament dietary laws, Sabbatarianism, and the rejection of the Trinity. In terms of his eschatology, Armstrong was influenced by dispensationalist notions of history spanning roughly for six thousand years with Christ returning at the Second Advent to establish the Millennial Kingdom which would follow the Tribulation during which the Antichrist would rule the world from his power base of a European confederacy consisting of ten nations.

But whereas Armstrong's form of ethnic millennialism might have admired the Jews a little too enthusiastically to the point of wanting to be part of a pan-Israelite family, the other forms of End Times speculation focused upon ethnicity actually went to the other extreme of explicit hostility towards the Jews and the exclusion of those not belonging to a preferred racial group. These movements were Christian Identity and the Black Muslims.

Christian Identity was similar to Anglo-Israelism in that both believed that the Caucasians of northern Europe were the true Chosen People of God. However, Christian Identity parted ways with the Worldwide Church of God in insisting that those now categorizing themselves as Jews in fact had no connection to Biblical Israel genetically. Instead, the vast majority now identified as part of that nation or ethnicity are actually descendants of a group known as the Khazars that converted to Judaism in the seventh century (Kyle, 160). Unlike traditionalist Christians who (despite instances of racial animosity or misgivings) admit that all humanity shares a common ancestry back to Adam and Eve and most directly from Noah following the Deluge, Christian Identity believed that non-Whites are not fully human in that such groups are the result of carnal relations between Satan and Eve in the case of the Jews or the result of a creation prior to the divine intervention resulting in Adam and Eve.

Interestingly, the tyrannical government known as the New World Order warned of by adherents of Christian Identity sounds quite similar to that of the Tribulation period under the Antichrist probably described in the greatest detail by dispensationalist scholars. However, beyond that, the two schools of eschatological interpretation have little else in common. For example, Christian Identity rejects the Pretribulational Rapture outright. Perhaps most disturbingly, in order to being about the Kingdom of God the faithful will be required to wage a race war, a prospect most often eagerly anticipated rather than dreaded by those mired in this spiritual delusion. The hope of the practitioner of Christian Identity is not that the Jew will be brought to Christ during the time of upheaval but will instead be eliminated so that the Earth and the surviving bloodlines might be spared genetic contamination or purified.

At the other end of the spectrum of racialist Armageddon could be found the Black Muslim movement. Despite being called the Nation of Islam, the sect was rather more of a cult than an expression of of orthodox or mainstream Islam. The Nation of Islam was founded in the 1920's by Wallace Farad, a mysterious figure many within the sect believed to be a theophany or God manifested in human form. His chief prophet and successor as leader was Elijah Muhammad.

In terms of eschatology and doctrine, the Nation of Islam advocated a militant anti-Caucasian Afrosupremacism. Whites are believed to be a genetically engineered inferior subspecies that will be obliterated when pious Blacks are taken up in a Rapture-like event to the Motherwheel --- a craft reminiscent of a UFO inspired in part by the Book of Ezekiel --- which will rain nuclear annihilation down upon those remaining upon the Earth at that time. Unlike orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam held that there was no life after death and thus no literal Heaven or Hell. The religion's golden age would consist of the Black subjugation of the planet Earth.

The third variety of apocalyptic group to arise in the contemporary world could be categorized as New Age or occult. The groups, sects, and teachers falling into this particular category foretold of a pending golden age often proceeded by cataclysmic upheaval. However, unlike those drawing their prophetic inspiration from Christian sources, the primary focus of those in the occult or New Age was not so much the Second Coming of Christ but rather more about communal or personal transformation. Richard Kyle writes, “The coming New Age will be based not on some doomsday scenario but on a paradigm shift (154).” Through this paradigm shift, humanity will actualize the deity within. The result will be a new order characterized by equality, ecological restoration, international cooperation and galactic harmony.

Unlike strict Marxist Communism with its absolutist materialism, the New Age movement allowed for the existence of higher order intelligences or spirit beings it believed would guide humanity along the path to cosmic awareness. Most often now such entities are depicted as extraterrestrials like those their proponents believe responsible for UFO phenomena. The movement that developed surrounding the study of encounters began to take on characteristics noticeably beyond that of mere scientific curiosity and more like those of a religion or form of spirituality following George Adamski's claim in 1952 that he had met and talked with an extraterrestrial (Kyle, 157). Soon a sort of gospel affirmed by a number of others also claiming to be contactees developed professing for the need of our species to move beyond crass materialism and hostility into a more comprehensive awareness of reality if we wanted to avoid widespread destruction such as that embodied by nuclear weapons the recent development of which on Earth brought the planet to the attention of interstellar authorities.

At this point, Christian and New Age eschatology seem to parallel one another but diverge in distinct interpretative directions. In Dispensationalism, prior to the Tribulation, Christ catches His saints both the living and the dead into the air so that they might escape the judgments about to be poured out upon the Earth. In the spin placed on events by adherents of the New Age, Christians are still the the ones removed from the Earth at that time. However, that action on the part of extraterrestrials is not seen as a reward for dedication to Christ but rather as punishment. For it is the tendency of the true Christian to stick to morality as described in the pages of the Bible and that belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to gain access to Heaven. These notions are perceived as a profound impediment to the kinds of changes that need to take place in order for this utopian golden age to be actualized. Likewise, the cataclysms described in passages such as the Book of Revelation will not so much be viewed as God deliberately instigating the judgments. Instead, these disasters will be viewed as the Earth repairing itself after centuries of neglect at the hands of a culture based on Judeo-Christian principles rather than the balance claimed to be found in pantheism.

by Frederick Meekins


Abanes, Richard. End-Times Visions: The Doomsday Obsession. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1988.

Kirsch, Jonathan. A History Of The End Of The World: How The Most Controversial Book In The Bible Changed The Course Of Western Civilization. San Francisco, California: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

Kagan, Donald, Ozment, Steven and Turner, Frank. The Western Heritage Since 1789 (Fourth Edition). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.

Kyle, Richard. The Last Days Are Here Again: A History Of The End Times. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1988. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1996.

Ladd, George. The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of The Second Advent and The Rapture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956.

Thompson, Damian. The End Of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium.

Tuesday, December 6

Does Disputatious Nature Of Fundamentalist Movement Leave Vacant Pulpits Empty?

 In a sermon, an independent fundamentalist Baptist pastor lamented that he heard more than 75 churches needed pastors. 

Even more troubling to the pastor was that, when a class was asked who among the assembled was ready to fill these vacancies, only two raised their hands. 

But isn’t the nature of the independent fundamentalist Baptist movement in part at fault? 

For often if a potential applicant disagreed with a congregation or more likely a pastoral search committee over a minor peculiarity or secondary doctrine, the individual often ends up being viewed as little better than an outright unbeliever. 

As to the class where most did not respond in the affirmative, they probably figured if they had, they were likely to get a verbal reaming about the sins of presumption, pride, how no one is really good enough, and how the truly pious wait upon the moving of the Lord but to claim you hear from Him would then disqualify you as a crypto-Charismatic.

By Frederick Meekins

Thursday, November 17

Scanners Set To Discernment: The Progression Of Worldviews Leading To The Acceptance Of Extraterrestrials (Part 2)

 Julius Caesar, in his account of his escapades in Gaul, noted how that region was divided into three parts. Something similar might be said of the major epochs of the prevailing cultural currents in the West. Before the revelation of the one true God radiated outward towards the uttermost parts of the Earth from the Holy Land, for the most part with the exception of the Jewish people the West would be what would broadly be considered pagan. The next phase following the pagan was the Christian. The Christian was in turn followed by the Modern and the Postmodern.

To the contemporary Christian ear, the term "pagan" carries with it connotations of gratuitous violence and depraved sexuality. In part, such a reputation is justified on the grounds of the infamous excesses such as those noted in the declining days of Greece and Rome. For example, during that era, it was not uncommon to make sport of the shedding of human blood as epitomized by the Roman gladiatorial games.

Paganism did, however, go beyond that. Though existing prior to Christianity as the predominate form of religious belief and expression among Gentiles, paganism was not conceptually formulated as such until the rise of and in antithesis to Christianity. According to Glenn Sunshine in Why You Think The Way You Do: The Story Of Western Worldviews From Rome To Home, the term "pagan" is derived from the Latin words "pagus" meaning "the countryside" and "pagni" meaning "rural people" (20). This particular dichotomy came about because, at the time, Christianity was a religion concentrated in urban centers whereas those living in the countryside were more likely to hold on to the traditional ways a bit longer as the process of Christianization fanned out across the face of the Mediterranean and eventually into Europe.

Often, those not accustomed to the shades and intricacies of Christianity are bewildered by its sheer number of denominations and various theological interpretations. Technically, the same can be said of beliefs classified under the banner of paganism. Before the rise of Christianity, each culture had its own distinct set of gods (though there was often an intriguing degree of similarity in these figures and the myths about them transcending particular societies). Even within these cultures, there was a myriad of gods with particular cults and schools of devotion drawn to the adoration of specific deities presiding over a particular aspect of nature or existence.

It was this connection between the forces of nature to which man was subject to the whims of and this realm of the spirit that led to the establishment of imperial or national systems of religion. The purpose of these rituals was not so much about preparing the individual for the next world or to make them a better person per say but rather about placating the entities believed to be behind the phenomena manifesting in the physical world. Glenn Sunshine writes, "Crops could be destroyed or not ripen...volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, and storms could end their lives or a slow death by starvation...Is it any wonder, then, that they saw in nature a source of transcendence, which they needed to appease in order to survive (21).” An individual’s relationship with the divine as we now understand such a notion in light of Christian theological assumptions did not enter all that significantly into the religious equation of that day.

With official religious belief so intertwined with social well-being or misfortune in the clash of empires, kingdoms and tribes, it came to be seen that those powers prevailing in arenas such as the battlefield must (it was reasoned) possess the greater favor of the more powerful gods. Thus, when a weaker nation was conquered, it was only natural that they would come to accept these new gods into their respective pantheons. For example, it has been hypothesized that the Olympians were the deities brought with tribes moving into the Greek peninsula that displaced the Titans who had been believed in by the original inhabitants of the region. The Greek and Roman pantheons so meshed together in their intertwining that today students of the Classical world often refer to these characters from these legends and myths with interchangeable names. For example, Zeus (Greek) is identified with Jupiter (Roman), Ares (Greek) with Mars (Roman), and Hermes (Greek) with Mercury (Roman).

Recognition of the multiplicity of deities came to be thought of as an essential component of a good social order to such an extent that not only did Rome require conquered people to bow to or burn a pinch of incense to the emperor as a god on earth but often Rome in turn would extend a degree of recognition to the spirits honored by these subject nations as well. Glenn Sunshine writes, “Adding one or more deities to the religious system was not a problem; in fact more educated people thought of this as being broadminded ...virtuous...cosmopolitan... People saw this inclusiveness as a source of strength for the Roman Empire...the more deities that supported Rome, the better (23).”

The thing was, this kind of system did not do all that much to fulfill the spiritual and emotional needs of the individual as a person. In fact, often these deities were little better than mere mortals in terms of personal conduct. In certain ways, these divinities may have even been worse than the average workaday pagan who, according to Romans 2:14-15, at least had the law written upon his heart to an extent to prick the conscience in cases where internal witness had not been muted through repeated violation. For example, Zeus hardly served as an example of marital fidelity towards his wife Hera. For this deity had numerous affairs with mortals catching his fancy resulting in numerous elicit hybrid offspring, the most famous of which was probably Hercules.

As a result of such an existential crisis of the spirit, a complex cultural process came into play that would result in the next great worldview epoch. Not unlike what is transpiring in our own day, the prosperity that accrued to Rome as a result of an ethos built upon early virtues such as duty and prudence eventually came to undermine the character especially of those in social classes with considerable time for leisure unprepared for the temptations brought about as a result of abundance. Rome became an extremely oversexed society. Gluttony and debauchery were rampant. What would be considered carnal pornographic images adorned nearly every conceivable artifact of material culture from pottery to the walls of domiciles. Despite the libidinous activity going on all around, one would have thought the population would have expanded. However, quite the opposite was true.

The Romans became so engrossed in the pursuit of these lusts that they had little desire to put up with the consequences of such unbridled virility. Abortion became rampant and the population plummeted. Yet at what seemed one of the dimmest periods of the light of the West, things were about to brighten in ways they never had before.

The Christian philosophy of history holds that often God works through the vilest of situations that have resulted from man’s depravity in order to bring about the fulfillment of His higher purpose. As such, the world was primed for the expanse of God’s revelation beyond the Jewish people of Israel by the time of Rome's decline as a source of spiritual strength and cultural vitality. Whereas the Romans valued administrative acumen, the Greeks intellectual aptitude and the Jewish identity based itself upon belonging to the chosen nation of God, the Christian worldview at its finest balanced each of these in a way with the potential to transcend them all in a universal manner that still respected these broad categories of cultural organization and endeavor. At first, this new creed appealed to those on the periphery of how success was construed at the time.

Borrowing heavily from the Jewish tradition in which its founder and His earliest disciples were steeped, the Christian worldview emphasized the value of each individual created in the image of the one true God. And since man was a reflection of this image and bought with the righteousness of Christ who shed His blood, died, and rose from the dead so that the redeemed might enjoy an eternity with Him in Heaven, the pleasures of the flesh were not something to be wallowed in like an animal unable to control itself no matter how strong these temptations might be to all born with a sin nature. Instead, such delights were to be enjoyed as God intended within the confines of matrimony for the sake of the children brought about as a result of such physical couplings, the emotional well being of the partners involved, and to serve as an example of the profound union between Christ and His bride known as the Church composed of all professing belief in Him.

Unlike Judaism, one did not have to belong theoretically to a particular ethnic group or to adopt its culture wholesale to become part of the new covenant open to any who would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Granted, things would not be perfect under a civilization that took for part of its ultimate foundation the building blocks of the Christian worldview. In time, a number of the things done in its name, often though as a result of a misapplication of these principles, would be one of the justifications invoked by the critics and opponents of the faith for abandoning the creed altogether.

By Frederick Meekins

Thursday, October 27

Scanners Set To Discernment: The Progression Of Worldviews Leading To The Acceptance Of Extraterrestrials (Part 1)

At the time of this writing in the early decades of the twenty-first century, to the unsuspecting it seems unlikely that extraterrestrials could serve as the basis of an influential new world religion or at least a popular form of budding spirituality. Of the groups examined thus far, the adherents of these are for the most part along the periphery of social acceptance and interpersonal success. Even more importantly, the beliefs espoused by these sects differ among themselves in ways as significant as the incompatibilities of the theological distinctives of the already existing world religions.

For example, the Raelians revel (one might say wallow) in man’s nature as a sexual being while the Heaven’s Gate loathed the physical component of the species to such an extent that the group will be remembered in the pages of history for at first mutilating their bodily organs specifically identified with carnal pleasure through self-castration and then by ultimately destroying their earthly lives altogether through ritual suicide. The Nation of Islam has traditionally been an Afrosupremacist, anti-White sect. The Mormons are often denigrated as the whitest of the White. At one time early in its history, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints looked down its nose at those of darker pigmentation for not having sided with God in the preincarnate war against Satan.

However, as in the case of greater ecumenical cooperation between a number of the major religions of the world, under certain circumstances there could very well come a time when assorted belief systems centered upon UFO's and extraterrestrials could set aside doctrinal differences and emphasize commonalities for the purposes of providing the planetary community a sense of perspective and assurance amidst a crisis that might be described as nothing short of apocalyptic. Even now, among the movements described there exists evidence of this kind of framework and dialog being set in place. For example, Louis Farrakhan is not only the head of the Nation of Islam but he has also had an association with the Church of Scientology.

If the wider ecumenical movement is being used as a framework as to what might happen among those groups that look to life beyond the Earth as a source of spiritual inspiration, one should also expect to see at least two approaches manifest themselves as to how adherents of these sects might respond to the melding and interaction of their respective interpretations as these kinds of worldviews fan out across the cultural and intellectual landscapes. As in the case of the ecumenical movement seeking cooperation and dialog between the traditional religions of the world, there will be members of these respective UFO belief systems that will deemphasize their dogmatic particulars for the sake of broadening the perceptions of humanity to the metaphysical meaning provided by the prospect of life from beyond the Earth.

On the other hand, scholars, academics, and assorted religious professionals should also expect a number within established UFO sects to remain aloof from any amorphous "exo-spirituality" that might develop. As in the case of more literal or fundamentalist adherents of established world religions, a number might prefer --- to borrow Christian phraseology --- the distinctives of the faith handed down to the saints or, in this case perhaps, more technically space cadets. Such devotees might come to view a cosmic universalism as a dilution of the specific creeds they held to so tenaciously in times when the broader public did not herald those looking to the stars as honored prophets with a message rescuing humanity from pending destruction but rather as borderline mental cases one evaluation away from being committed to a psychiatric institution. Furthermore, from what has been presented thus far, those embracing alternative spirituality are often as every bit as much denominationally partisan as religious enthusiasts whose beliefs could be categorized as "Terra-centric".

As fascinating as an examination of the squabbles likely to erupt among the highly-detailed interpretations of extraterrestrial spirituality might be such as to whether Greys, Nordics, or whatever other variety of alien might be humanity's interplanetary savior, going much further into that discussion alters the trajectory of this chapter's intended purpose of detailing how the intellectual and cultural climates are now such that a once fringe perspective could be on the verge of becoming one of civilization's most influential worldviews. To better understand where the world in general and the West in particular might be headed it might be a good idea to examine where we came from in terms of worldviews as a society and the path taken bringing us to where we are today in terms of the philosophical landscape. It has been said that those that do not know history are doomed to repeat it. By examining these peeks and valleys, the apologist has a better chance of arresting the downward trend most discerning Americans believe the nation to be on or to rescue a number of individuals from eternal damnation before the decay all around reaches a critical mass of no return.

By Frederick Meekins

Monday, September 26

Pastors, Apologetics & Campus Ministries

Information Session On The Global Methodist Church

How To Spot Harmful Spiritual Leaders

Why Learn About The Reformation

Transhumanism: Ready Or Not

Protecting Against False Teachers

When Your Church Awakens To Wokeness

A Golden Age Of Christian-Made Fantastical Fiction

The State Of The United Methodist Church & The Global Methodist Church

The Signs Of Apostasy

Youth Ministry In An Age Of Unbelief

Introducing The Reformation

The Career Of Martin Luther

Christianity and Liberalism

Saturday, September 17

The Study Of The History Of The End Of The World, Part 6

Dispensationalist premillennialism and apocalypticism held to the Biblical warning that the days are waxing worse and worse. However, in terms of the opportunity to spread such a message and the pervasiveness of its influence, there was no better time for the field of prophetic studies than the second half of the twentieth century. Increased interest in eschatology in the waning decades of the twentieth century owed much to a confluence of advances in the means of communication as well as concerns regarding trends in world affairs.

The Evangelical prophecy studies industry consisted of a number of layers rather than a single interpretative monolith. At its most rarefied, dispensationalism --- akin to Gaul --- could be divided into three parts. Darrell Brock of Dallas Theological Seminary describes these as Scofieldian dispensationalism, revised dispensationalism, and progreesive dispensationalism (Kyle, 117). Scofieldian dispensationalists maintained sharp distinctions between God and the Church with God having an unique set of promises for each. Revised dispensationalists did not distinguish between Israel and the Church to the same degree, viewing overlap in regards to the covenantal promises made to each. Progressive dispensationalists, according to Kyle, avoided the prophetic speculation characteristic of the classic forms of dispensationalism. More academic in its approach to the study of the apocalypse than the classic forms of dispensationalism, progressive dispensationalism for the most part did not filter down to the popular level to the same degree.

From this division,the dispensationalist eschatological community was further divided between what could be considered the academics and the popularizers. The most respected academics in this theological specialty often traced their roots in one way or another back to Dallas Theological Seminary. In fact, Kyle goes so far as to call the institution “the sperm bank for dispensational thought in America (118).” Typifying this tradition would be that seminary's own John F. Walvoord whose best known work would probably be Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis. In it, Walvoord took a firm position that the Rapture and the ensuing End Time events were at hand but with scholarly caution that avoided setting any firm dates.

It is among the popularizers that the discerning begin to notice a more questionable track record. However, a number hoping to maintain respect, position, and credibility mirrored the evenhandedness of the Dallas Theological Seminary academics. For example, in Approaching Hoof Beats, Billy Graham explicitly warned of what he believed to be nuclear holocausts and plagues described symbolically in Scripture, but he was careful not to set a date. Pat Robertson, who at one time was not afraid to articulate outlandish prophetic utterances of dubious credibility over the years such as praying away hurricanes from the Virginia Beach area in order to spare his extensive ministry properties, toned his speculations down somewhat when he started entertaining political aspirations such as his 1988 presidential campaign and establishing organizations such as the Christian Coalition, the American Center for Law and Justice, and Regent University for the purposes of renewing the culture rather than hastening the end of the world.

One of the most prominent of the eschatology popularizers was Hal Lindsey. Initially as a result of his book The Late Great Planet Earth, this Dallas Theological Seminary graduate was able to present the dispensationalist perspective before evidentially non-Evangelical venues such as Congress, the State Department, and the Pentagon. Lindsey remained true enough to his Dallas Theological Seminary training to stay just on the right side of the boundary of theological respectability even though he has played it quite close to the edge at times. For example, as a result of the speculative chronologies utilized by Lindsey in his publication Planet Earth 2000 AD, Lindsey had to clarify almost to the point of backpedaling what could have been construed as an insinuation that the Rapture was going to occur sometime around 1988. Lindsey qualified his position by pointing out the qualifiers stated in his text and that the cosmic countdown might not have commenced with the establishment of Israel in 1948 but rather with the taking of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War along with modifying a Biblical generation from forty to one hundred years. In so doing, Lindsey no doubt hoped to push the pending scrutiny to a time when he himself would not care so much about being proven wrong.

The further one got from respectable academia and ministries that valued credible reputation over short term book and video sales, the more likely one was to stumble upon conspicuous date setters. For example, Edgar Whisenant could not have been more explicit in the date he set in the book titled 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Could Be In 1988 (Abanes, 93). Charles Taylor has promoted so many dates for the beginning of the end that he could make a Jehovah's Witness shake their head in astonishment.

Despite differences in time and temperament, most within the contemporary Evangelical prophecy community share a number of similar assumptions. First, the world as we know it is tottering on the brink of destructive cataclysm. Once believers are taken from the world in the Rapture, little will prevent a series of horrors from transpiring in quick succession. Interpreters are divided as to whether these will be triggered initially by some sort of nuclear attack through which God brings about His sanctioned prophetic unfolding through the actions of man or by more direct supernatural manifestions. Second, most dispensationalists are in agreement that the fuse to ignite the conflagration of End Time events is the reestablishment of the Jewish state of Israel in the Middle East. A number of eschatologists believe that this geopolitical contention will eventually result in Word War III with Russia invading from the north as believed foretold in Ezekiel and China invading from the east as described in the Book of Revelation with an army possibly numbering at one million.

Along with this theme of global war traced to tensions over Israel will be other actors on the world stage agitating against Israel once the Church is taken up to Heaven. Leading this conspiracy will be none other than the Antichrist. Though his nature and intentions are described in detail throughout the text of Scripture, the path that he will take to achieve power and his exact identity are not things the Holy Spirit deemed appropriate for believers to know prior to the exact time of the End.

Yet a number of well-intentioned but misguided eschatologists could not resist playing what amounted to pin the tail on the Antichrist in terms of enthusiastically making guesses as to the exact identity of the world's system final tyrant. For example, given his Jewish background and position as a preeminent diplomat, Henry Kissinger was often a popular choice. Because of a birthmark that resembled a head wound bringing to mind one particular prophecy and the role he played for seeming to lessen the threat played by Russia, some speculated that the Beast might be Mikhail Gorbachev. Others even wondered if John F. Kennedy would rise from the dead after three days following his assassination that shocked the world in the early 1960's.

Despite the intense ongoing debate as to the identity of this looming prince of darkness among those that believe, there is much more agreement as to the nature of his agenda. Foremost, the Antichrist will be the focal point of worship of a system that will for a short time seemingly control and mesmerize the entire world. From Revelation 13, it is declared that this will be accomplished by merging the religious, economic, and political spheres of existence. Those unwilling to pledge a degree of loyalty crossing the boundary of patriotism into the territory of devoted worship will be denied the Mark of the Beast believed to be some form of electronic currency and identification, ultimately resulting in the execution of dissidents unwilling to comply.

Isaiah 55:11 assures that the Word of God does not come back void. Though not as many accept the truth of the Biblical message as sincere believers would like in terms of prophecy, there are a significant number today aware the world is racing ever closer to the conclusion of all things. It is hoped that this awareness would inspire the individual to seek the free gift of salvation found nowhere but in Christ and His completed work. Unfortunately, given the extent to which sin has permeated the human heart and mind, there also exists a disturbing number of individuals that distort this knowledge of the End Times in order to trap the unsuspecting in tighter and tighter forms of spiritual bondage.

By Frederick Meekins


Abanes, Richard. End-Times Visions: The Doomsday Obsession. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1988.

Kirsch, Jonathan. A History Of The End Of The World: How The Most Controversial Book In The Bible Changed The Course Of Western Civilization. San Francisco, California: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

Kagan, Donald, Ozment, Steven and Turner, Frank. The Western Heritage Since 1789 (Fourth Edition). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.

Kyle, Richard. The Last Days Are Here Again: A History Of The End Times. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1988. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1996.

Ladd, George. The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of The Second Advent and The Rapture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956. Thompson, Damian. The End Of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium.

Saturday, August 27

The Study Of The History Of The End Of The World, Part 6

The Great Disappointment served as a warning that an interpretative eschatological system needed to be formulated that incorporated what many believed to be the portion of divine revelation yet to be fulfilled while protecting those holding to these truths from falling into the hysteria and panic that can easily grip the minds of those realizing that the present age is soon coming to an end when considered in the light of eternity's time table. Such balance, for the most part, was to be found in classical dispensationalism.
Classic dispensationalism holds that God deals with His people and the world in specific ways at particular points in history. The way in which He dealt with Israel during the Age of Law was not the way He deals with the Church during the Age of Grace. As such, promises distinctively made with Israel do not necessarily apply to the Church.
In terms of the End Times, dispensationalism contends that these will begin to conclude when Christ removes those that believe --- both the living and the dead --- bodily to Heaven. Following this act or shortly thereafter, the Tribulation period will commence in which a number of judgments as described in prophetic portions of Scripture such as the Book of Revelation begin to take place and the forces of evil gain the upper hand more so than previously as the Holy Spirit will no longer be as engaged in the ministry of restraint. This will culminate with the Antichrist ruling openly from the Temple in Jerusalem. This horror will not be resolved until Christ returns in triumph at the Battle of Armageddon to usher in the millennial kingdom.
Though echoing a number of the same themes, dispensationalism possessed a number of differences from the premillennialism that resulted in the Great Disappointment. The Millerites professed an historicist premillennialism whereas the Darbyites advocated a futurist premillennialism. In historicist premillennialism, the eschatological interpreter equates certain events already having transpired in church history with particular symbols depicted in prophetic Biblical passages.
Doing so, Kyle points out, “...locks the interpreter into millennial arithmetic and makes date setting an irresistible temptation (193).” Futurist premillennialism is much more fluid and adaptable to events as they unfold. For the only event that this system of prophetic interpretation insists with absolute certainty must take place next is the Rapture. Any other ordering would destroy this interpretative chronology entirely.
Though not as wedded to particular prophetic scenarios to the same degree as historical premillennialism, that has not prevented dispensationalists from speculating until their hearts are content as to how they think God will wrap up history as we know it. If anything, such analytical prognostication has become a very lucrative theological cottage industry over the course of the past century. Dispensationalism in one form or another became the most pervasive prophetic outlook throughout what would become conservative Evangelicalism. This was the result of a number of impressively insightful Bible scholars and shrewd ecclesiastical administrators that utilized the emerging technologies at their disposal to convince the Christian public just how prescient this prophetic school of thought was in understanding unfolding events.
Dispensationalism came to America with the itinerant ministry of John Nelson Darby where he not only won a significant number of minds among Baptists but also interestingly Presbyterians (Kyle, 104). The cause of early dispensationalism was also helped by Scotland Yard investigator Sir Robert Andrew in the book The Coming Prince. However, dispensationalism probably received its greatest boost from the ministry of Dwight L. Moody.
Though Moody is remembered as a preeminent revivalist in general, he could also be as commemorated for the role he played in spreading pretribulational, premillennialism in particular. Foremostly, this was accomplished through the establishment of Bible institutes such as the eponymous Moody Bible Institute and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) which taught this interpretative framework to aspiring pastors and Bible teachers. Yet another phenomena reinforcing these teachings were prophecy conferences held between 1875 and 1900 where those drawn to the futurist premillennial perspective could come together and forge relationships and alliances for the struggle that loomed on the horizon.
Another tool that contributed to the dissemination of the dispensational perspective was The Scofield Reference Bible. Converted while in prison serving a sentence for forgery, Cyrus Scofield went on to live a commendable Christian life as a Congregational pastor, author, Bible institute instructor under Moody's auspices, and prophecy conference speaker. His magnum opus was none other than the reference Bible that bore his name. For better or worse, Scofield placed his notes on the same page as the Biblical text. Whether intentional or not, this created in the minds of unsuspecting readers the impression that the interpretation of the text was nearly as inspired as the text the notes were reflecting upon.
Often nothing can cement a relationship like the threat posed by a common enemy. To believers living in the twenty-first century, it might come as a surprise that initially many Evangelicals did not necessarily hold to the idea of the Rapture as held by dispensationalist theologians. However, despite any misgivings about the Dispensationalists, like the Evangelicals they at least held to essential Christian doctrine. That was more than could be said of the religious liberalism or Modernism which seemed to be on the rise with its embrace of Darwinism, the social gospel, and skepticism of the traditional understanding of doctrines such as the divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and inerrancy of Scripture. As the believing remnant galvanized around a series of tractates called The Fundamentals, the Evangelicals decided to give the Dispensationalists a fair hearing, and in a number of instances, adopted the prophetic framework as their own.
Pivotal to Darbyite dispensationalism was the idea that the Jewish people would return to Israel and that a European empire corresponding to a revived Roman would dominate world affairs in the final days. To those living here in the early twenty-first century, news of Israel regularly tops global headlines. However, such was not so much the case when eschatologists of the late 1800's began making speculative assertions regarding such.
Christians began to take notice when world events started to align broadly with the claims of this prophetic school of thought. To many, the bloodshed and destruction of the Great War (known more commonly now as World War I) no doubt seemed like the Battle of Armageddon. The Balfour Declaration was tacit recognition on the part of the elites that oversee international affairs that the Jews would ndeed return to inhabit the land of their ancestors. Russia falling to the evils of Communism with its belligerent intent to foment revolution around the world, to those steeped in Scripture, brought to mind the kingdom of the north and its fearsome ruler predicted in the Book of Ezekiel. The League of Nations no doubt echoed in the minds embracing this interpretative methodology the world government which would emanate outward from the Antichrist's European power base to eventually incorporate the entire planet for at least a short wile.
Yet unlike the Millerites before it, the dispensationalist system was flexible enough that it could readjust itself when certain predictions did not necessarily unfold as foretold. If one looked closely enough at the rhetorical fine print, one would no doubt occasionally spot qualifiers such as “this could be” or “things look like”. For example, if it looked like despite the hardships of the Great War that the world was not necessarily coming to an end, low and behold, who was that little big mouth in Italy or the even more obnoxious one with the silly mustache in Germany? Could one of those be the Antichrist that Scripture warned about? And when that did not pan out, observant analysts could reflect upon transpiring events and conclude that the ones thought to be the particular time of troubles described in Holy Writ were rather instead the times leading up to those times by laying the foundations for such sorrows.
By Frederick Meekins
Abanes, Richard. End-Times Visions: The Doomsday Obsession. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1988.
Kirsch, Jonathan. A History Of The End Of The World: How The Most Controversial Book In The Bible Changed The Course Of Western Civilization. San Francisco, California: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.
Kagan, Donald, Ozment, Steven and Turner, Frank. The Western Heritage Since 1789 (Fourth Edition). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.
Kyle, Richard. The Last Days Are Here Again: A History Of The End Times. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1988. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1996.
Ladd, George. The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of The Second Advent and The Rapture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956.
Thompson, Damian. The End Of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium.

Saturday, July 9

The Study Of The History Of The End Of The World, Part 5

 Today, most theologians specializing in eschatology will readily agree that America is likely not directly referenced in the portions of Scripture dealing with the End Times. Interestingly, that belief was not necessarily the case in regards to the eschatologically inclined during the era of early European settlement and formation of America as a nation. Nor has fascination with the consummation of all things gripped as pervasively the imagination of a people as those of the United States of America.

Without a doubt, the Puritans in particular left an indelible mark upon the American psyche and character. And that particular brand of Christianity certainly possessed a number of millenarian proclivities. However, it is interesting to observe that this spiritual way of life was not as unified in its approach to the End Times as one might expect for a system that emphasized conformity to accepted norms in much of its thought. Most Puritans tended towards some form of postmillennialism. For example, Jonathan Edwards taught that the Millennium would transpire before the Second Coming as the Holy Spirit worked through the redeemed to defeat the Antichrist in the form of the papacy as this remnant subdued all of the Earth in the name of Christ. The Mathers --- Cotton and Increase --- on the other hand were more dispensationalist in their thinking, teaching that believers would be snatched up with that event followed by the disasters foretold in prophetic passages such as the Book of Revelation to be completed when Christ returned to establish the millennial kingdom.

Regardless of where individual Puritans stood along the pre or post millennial divide, those endeavoring to view all of life through a particular interpretative lens without a doubt perceived the events of the day in terms of prophetic fulfillment. For example, at the time of the French and Indian Wars, Catholic France was often cast in the role of the Antichrist. When that scenario did not quite unfold as expected, postmillennialists came to believe that the Revolutionary War would be the conflict through which the faithful would usher in the Millennium, with this time around King George III depicted as the Antichrist (Kyle, 81).

Even if the American Revolution and the founding of the Republic did not result in an anticipated utopia, these events in one sense did result in a degree of religious liberty hitherto until then unheard of in history. As such, a number of sects flourishing in such an environment professed eschatologies that could only be described as unconventional. One such group was called the Society for the Public Universal Friend.

In 1770, Quaker Jemina Wilkinson was believed to have died from the plague, with her body even having grown cold. However, she seemed to have miraculously revived. Eerily, the voice that emanated from her claimed that the body was no longer inhabited by Jemina but rather by the Spirit of Life also referred to as the Public Universal Friend (Kyle, 82). This individual professed to be the Second Coming of Christ who would rule for a thousand years. For the record, the body known as Jemina Wilkinson expired in 1819, far short of the end of that being's prophesied reign.

The Shakers were yet another unusual millennial sect to dot the religious landscape of the early American republic. Formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, the Shakers traced their origins to the Shaking Quakers. Ann Lee Stanley led the group to America in 1774 where they established a communalist settlement. The group came to regard Mother Ann as the incarnation of the feminine attributes of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. In terms of the sect's eschatology, the Second Coming took place in the form of God manifesting the feminine through Ann Stanley. As such, since salvation could only be obtained by abstaining from sex, Shakers were to await the commencement of the Millenniuum in a state of celibacy. Given that Shakers did not reproduce and that it is difficult to hoodwink considerable numbers into embracing perpetual celibacy, the movement eventually petered out.

The millenarian figure that probably had the most profound influence upon American apocalyptic thought was William Miller. Miller was a farmer and Baptist layman from New York with a penchant for what might be categorized as Biblical numerology. Working from Daniel 8:14 that the sanctuary would be cleansed in two-thousand, three hundred days and assuming that this cleansing was a reference to Christ's return to Earth and that one prophetic day equaled a year, Miller calculated using Bishop Usher's chronology that Christ would return in 1843.

Interestingly, initially Miller did little to promote public interest in his speculations. It was not until urging by his friends that Miller took to the preaching circuit. Miller's message made the leap from being a rural movement to a national phenomena when his teachings were publicized through newspapers, pamphlets, and extensive evangelistic outreach which at the time included tents capable of seating up to 4000 souls (Kyle, 89). As the time grew closer, under pressure Miller relaxed his natural hesitancy and advocated a more specific date between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When that time frame passed and the world continued on as it always had, the movement attempted to save face by setting the date of the Lord's return as October 22, 1844.

Religious frenzy (one might even categorize it as a panic) gripped the nation. As a result of the ensuing media blitz, many of the fervent sold their homes and quit their jobs for a predicted apocalypse that never materialized. This profound letdown known as the Great Disappointment reverberated across the American religious landscape. Foremost, the Great Disappointment would serve as a lasting reminder as to the dangers of setting firm dates regarding the Second Coming in the minds of the most discerning Christians. It would also serve as the origin of two distinct theological traditions that would grapple with the ramifications of the Great Disappointment each in its own way.

The first group that came to grips with the Great Disappointment over time became what would be known as the Seventh Day Adventists. The Adventists, for the most part, spiritualized their eschatology in order to avoid additional theological upheaval and existential hardship. On October 22, 1844, Christ did not physically return to Earth to clean it as the sanctuary. Instead, Adventists believed, the Lord entered the holiest parts of Heaven to begin investigating the sins of His people in preparation for His imminent return (Abanes, 227). Seventh Day Sabbitarianism became attached to the Adventist movement when Ellen G. White speculated that Christ did not return in 1844 because believers had neglected a literalist application of that particular Old Testament law and He would not do so until God's people once again observed Saturday as the day of rest.

The second prominent sect to come out of the Millerite Great Disappointment was the Jehovah Witnesses. Whereas the majority of Adventists learned from past mistakes and grew more tentative in regards to setting nailed down dates, the Jehovah's Witnesses continued on in this practice with gusto along with the other assorted doctrinal errors for which this sect would become infamous. Charles Taze Russell hoped to preserve Millerite eschatology by postulating that the error was actually to be found in the chronology formulated by Archbishop Usher. As such, it was predicted that Christ would instead return in 1874. When this prophecy did not transpire, it was insisted that Christ had indeed returned to Earth, but that He would remain invisible until the Battle of Armageddon.

Russell continued to tinker with the dates. He then came to the conclusion that all would be revealed by 1881; and, when that did not pan out, it was claimed that 1914 would be the year to end all years. That did turn a few heads as at that time the world was indeed gripped in the overwhelming conflagration then known as the Great War. Yet Russell proved wrong once again and tried to save face by insisting that 1918 would be the year of cosmic significance. However, Russell died in 1916 before getting to realize he would once again be profoundly mistaken.

His successor Joseph Franklin Rutherford, though admitting the mistakes made, did not learn from these by changing course. Instead Rutherford continued on with the pattern, insisting that 1925 would assuredly be the year in which all things would be consummated. The results were once again no different after many Witnesses quit their jobs and sold their homes. It would take for additional embarrassments in 1975 and 1984 for acolytes of the Watchtower to to realize that it might be best simply to hold that Jesus was coming soon without exactly advertising a highly specific estimated time of arrival.

Given that America was in part founded by a people of profound religious motivations, it is expected that fascination with the End Times would play an important role in the psyche of those believing that they were a part of a special destiny or divinely-appointed plan. By studying those motivated in such a manner, discerning Americans can be on guard to protect against such an impulse from getting out of hand.

By Frederick Meekins


Abanes, Richard. End-Times Visions: The Doomsday Obsession. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1988.

Kirsch, Jonathan. A History Of The End Of The World: How The Most Controversial Book In The Bible Changed The Course Of Western Civilization. San Francisco, California: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

Kagan, Donald, Ozment, Steven and Turner, Frank. The Western Heritage Since 1789 (Fourth Edition). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.

Kyle, Richard. The Last Days Are Here Again: A History Of The End Times. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1988. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1996.

Ladd, George. The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of The Second Advent and The Rapture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956.

Thompson, Damian. The End Of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium. 

Monday, May 9

Pastor Rhetorically Denounces Parachurch Organizations

 A pastor remarked that parachurch organizations are parasite organizations. 

Parachurch organizations are generally defined as Christian entities that work outside of and/or across denominational boundaries in regards to issues that a traditional church body might not be able to. 

Some pursue this manner of ministry because the church has no place for or perhaps even outright refuses such individuals the opportunity to exercise the talents and even the spiritual gifts with which God has imbued such believers. 

More importantly, in this particular sermon, the pastor said that he has no problem forbidding those he allows to speak in the pulpit over which he exercises guardianship from addressing particular topics. 

Foremost among these he ranked the broad category of “politics”. 

From that declaration arises the conundrum from whence will a Christian formulation to these sort of issues be articulated within the church proper if groups not the church are to be just about anathematized? 

This pastor on more than one occasion let it be known he has hobnobbed with Fundamentalist luminaries such as Lee Roberson and Jack Hyles. 

So when he stated that parachurch organizations are parasite organizations, does the pastor intend to direct such hardline vitriol against The Sword Of The Lord?

By Frederick Meekins

Sunday, April 17

The Study Of The History Of The End Of The World, Part 4

 The early modern period roughly from the time of the Reformation up approximately to the time of the First World War could probably be considered an era of apocalyptic ambiguity. For it was during this time that interest in the Millennium and the End Times ebbed and flowed. It can also be observed that, though there was was a great deal of similarity in terms of the eschatological thinking of this particular era, such speculation was still characterized by noticeable variation with no single interpretation coming to predominate for the most part.

In light of phenomena such as the flagellants, the Taborites, and even Savonarola's exhortations against the corruption of the establishment, it was only a matter of time before more widespread movements erupted hoping to bring about needed ecclesiastical and political change. As has been repeatedly seen, when such disruption occurs the spiritually inclined are prone to conclude that what they are experiencing could very well be history's last hurrah. The discontent simmering beneath what appeared to be the unified Christianity of medieval Europe boiled over in what became known as the Protestant Reformation. The movement instigated by Luther and extended by other preeminent theologians such as Calvin and Knox assured the development of the modern perspective by nothing short of reconceptualizing the relationships between God, man, and the Church. Yet in terms of eschatological reflection, the mainstream of Protestantism did not go very far in breaking new ground.

Despite the divergences in Lutheran and Reformed theology, these outlooks were in agreement that the Antichrist was not so much a particular individual but rather the institution of the papacy. In regards to prophetic events such as the Millennium detailed in Scripture, most mainstream Protestant theologians tended to either allegorize these as symbolic depictions of the cosmic struggle between good and evil or to equate them with events in the past that had already transpired. Many of these leaders and thinkers believed that the world was now at the point where Satan had been released from the Pit with all that needed to be awaited was for Christ to appear to usher in eternity (Kyle, 62).

If the primary luminaries of Protestant thought offered an uninterested or detached analysis of the Apocalypse and the End Times, those considered to be along its fringes and lower classes provided interpretations considerably more passionate. Of those categorized as belonging to the more radical wing of the Reformation, Kyle writes, “In general, the radicals felt that the Lutheran and Zwinglian reforms did not go far enough. Of these diverse groups, the Anabaptists and the Spiritualists generated the most notable apocalyptic upheavals (58).” For the most part, the Anabaptists were in agreement that the persecution they endured at the hands of both Catholics and other Protestants was a sign that Christ's pending return was drawing nigh. As typical of that movement, most of its leaders such as Menno Simmons and Jacob Hutter urged quietist resignation before these events as they unfolded in God's due time. However, there arose among the ranks of the difficult to categorize ecclesiastical drifters and unaffiliated a number of rabble rousers that would give religious nonconformists as well as eschatological speculation a bad name for years and decades to come.

The first of these figures was Thomas Muntzer. Whereas most Reformation luminaries prided themselves on limiting the scope of their pronouncements to the revelation contained within the pages of Scripture, Muntzer believed that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to him as God's instrument for purging the ungodly. Muntzer saw his opportunity to stoke apocalyptic upheaval in what became known as the Peasant's War. Ultimately, Muntzer's assurance that this early form of class warfare would result in the Millennium proved to be idle but destructive bluster, resulting in his beheading at the hands of victorious German princes.

Adding to the sort of confusion that can often turn students off to the study of history, the next outbreak of noticeable apocalyptic violence occurred in the city of Munster. In the interim, Melchoir Hoffmann along the lines of a theory similar to that espoused by Joachim of Fiore argued that the third age of history was dawning with Christ soon to return to establish his kingdom in Strasburg. When such predictions did not transpire, his followers --- known as Melchiorites --- shifted focus to Munster.

Yet unlike Hoffmann who was content to peacefully await the Apocalypse and the Second Advent, Jan Matthys advocated the use of force in turning Munster into a theocracy. Both Protestants and Catholics mobilized to address the threat, eliminating Matthys in the confrontation. However, his successor Jan Bockelson proved to be even worse, proclaiming himself to be the Messiah and advocating polygamy (Abanes, 185-186). Before it was all over with, the extremists were executed, Anabaptists not even involved discredited as subversives, and both mainline Protestants and Catholics leery of where eschatological speculation might lead those susceptible to its promises.

With the practitioners of established respectable religion barely wanting to touch the subject of the End Times for years and decades to come, that area of theology became the provenance of a variety of thinkers that could only be described as bizarre at best and downright kooky at worst. Perhaps one of the most renowned individuals falling into this category was none other than Nostradamus. Born to a Jewish family that converted to Christianity, Michel de Nostredame was a physician that developed an interest in astrology and the occult.

The prophetic works of Nostradamus were compiled into ten books called The Centuries, each consisting of one hundred, four line verses known as quatrains. The staying power of Nostradamus and his prophecies can no doubt be attributed to the fact that most were so nebulous that they could be interpreted in any number of ways. Kyle also observes that Nostradamus probably ranked among the first in viewing the cataclysm of the End Times not so much as a result of divine intervention or judgment but rather as the outcome of secular forces (64).

For the most part, millennial and apocalyptic thinking became increasingly detached from Scripture. Interest in these topics was, if anything, sparked more by the assorted social upheavals occurring at the time. Kyle writes, “English millennialism peaked in the ... 1640's and 1650's. Millennarian ideas may have been more widely circulated during the English Civil War than at any time or place in history. Social, political, and religious forces all combined to produce this millennial explosion (66).”

This spirit was embodied by a movement known as the Fifth Monarchy Men. Deriving their name from the Book of Daniel as the kingdom of God that would end all earthly empires, Fifth Monarchists believed that the golden age would commence in England and spread across the Earth as Cromwell's army would destroy the Papacy and the Jews returned to the Holy Land to drive out the Turks (Kirsch, 175-176). The faction's aspirations never materialized and British millennialism became increasingly eccentric. For example, the “prophetess” Joanna Southcott became convinced at the age of 64 that she was to give birth to the second Jesus Christ in 1814. Oddly enough, physicians confirmed that her body did display signs of pregnancy, However, the child never materialized and she passed away by December of that year.

France was little different in linking political upheaval with speculation about the End Times. Attention there focused upon the French Revolution and the Napoleonic aftermath. In light of the anti-religious violence of that period, a number feared that such signified the commencement of the Tribulation. Those prone to such a perspective postulated that Napoleon was likely the Antichrist. Others such as Suzzette Labrousse did not necessarily fear or condemn the Revolution as negative but embraced the chaos as signs of God's pending reign (Kyle, 71).

It was not until John Nelson Darby that millennial and apocalyptic thinking was once again imbued with a degree of theological respectability and wrest from the hands of those so worked up into a fanatical froth that resulted in psychosomatic pregnancies convincing enough to trick the physicians of the day. Darby was born into an Anglo-Irish family and ordained as a minister in the Church of Ireland. Darby would eventually join the Plymouth Brethren under which he would devise a system of prophetic interpretation that would come to be known as Dispensationalism.

Darby espoused a form of futurism believing that events described in prophetic portions of Scripture such as Revelation were yet to transpire. Borrowing loosely from Joachim of Fiore, Darby hypothesized that God dealt in different ways with His people during particular eras in history. As such, Darby emphasized a distinction between those portions of Scripture pertaining to the future of Israel and those pertaining to the Church. In so doing, Darby was able to provide a system of eschatological interpretation that acknowledged that the return of Christ was imminent in the form of a rising to meet Him in the clouds known as the Rapture while conceding a complex series of events such as the assorted judgments foretold needed to take place before Christ would return in the sense to establish His earthly kingdom.

By Frederick Meekins



Abanes, Richard. End-Times Visions: The Doomsday Obsession. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1988.

Kirsch, Jonathan. A History Of The End Of The World: How The Most Controversial Book In The Bible Changed The Course Of Western Civilization. San Francisco, California: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

Kagan, Donald, Ozment, Steven and Turner, Frank. The Western Heritage Since 1789 (Fourth Edition). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.

Kyle, Richard. The Last Days Are Here Again: A History Of The End Times. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1988. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1996.

Ladd, George. The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of The Second Advent and The Rapture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956.

Thompson, Damian. The End Of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium.

Saturday, April 16

Trends In The Biblical Counseling Movement

Would Extraterrestrials Debunk Christianity?

Retirement: Your Next Career As An Evangelist

New Monasticism Overview

Who Are The Bruderhof?

Fifty Denominations Compared

The Works Righteousness Of West Coast Baptist College

A Christian Perspective On Transhumanism

Southern Baptists 2021: Diversity & Abortion

Lessons Learned From Russell Moore

Alister McGrath On The Apologetics Of C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 16

Examples Of Transhumanism In Popular Culture

 When confronted with the idea of Transhumanism (the idea that human beings ought to embrace the advancement of the abilities of the species beyond our traditional limitations often through the application of science and technology), the average person is likely to zone out. With words such as nanotechnology, cybernetics, and panspermia bandied back and forth in such discussions, it is easy to conclude that one will never be able to understand what some of the most formidable intellects of the era are talking about, much less be able to provide a critique or refutation of proposals being considered in the most influential of cultural institutions such as academia, the media, bureaucracy, and even increasingly the churches.

The average person is not, however, without resources in terms of equipping themselves with at least a rudimentary understanding of the agendas being put forward and the philosophies being advocated. Surprisingly, acquiring this information costs little more than a subscription to your local cable provider or Netflix membership. That resource is none other than popular science fiction television and movies.

Perhaps the most renowned example of Transhumanism in the popular science fiction of the past two decades (so much so that two of the episodes in which they have appeared have been voted as favorites among fans) are the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Voyager. The Borg were first introduced in the episode “Q Who?“ when an entity known as “Q”, claiming to be omnipotent, flung the starship Enterprise half way across the galaxy in the attempt to persuade Captain Picard that Q could be an indispensable member of the crew.

The Borg would receive their most definitive treatment in the two-parter “The Best Of Both Worlds”. From these episodes and all the interpretative modifications that would follow, the Borg would go on to rank among the most intriguing of Star Trek species.

One of the aspects of the series that has enabled Star Trek to maintain a degree of popularity over the decades has been the detailed alien cultures that have been developed to serve as antagonists or as narrative devices through which to explore a variety of issues. For the most part, these have projected human characteristics against a larger cosmic backdrop. For example, the Klingons exemplified a culture obsessed with honor and military glory, the Bajorans the struggle the deeply religious face when confronted with a rapidly secularizing culture, and the Vulcans what can happen when logic is emphasized at the expense of emotion. However, as an adversary, the Borg --- despite a basically humanoid appearance --- were about as alien as you could get.

What set the Borg apart from most other species in speculative fiction was not their biology per say but rather their mode of being or consciousness. For though a viewer might be startled by the appearance of a Klingon or a Ferengi, what one would be seeing though perhaps slightly different in terms of values and appearance is still a fellow creature that perceives the universe independently within his own mental framework and is concerned to a lesser or greater extent about his own continued existence. What made the Borg provocatively unsettling as a science fiction adversary was the concept of the collective.

For years, analysts mired in conventional thinking assured that Communism was dead and would never again threaten the free people of the world. The Borg presented a scenario whereby this ideology could resurrect itself as a threat from a Transhumanist perspective.

As with the Secular Humanism and the New Age (or Cosmic Humanism as it was termed by William Nobel in his monumental opus of worldview analysis Understanding The Times), Transhumanism diverges into two extremist streams. Neither of these are ultimately beneficial to humanity if the purpose of this technology is to enhance the species beyond its inherent specifications. There is a totalitarian Transhumanist strain and an anarchistic Transhumanist strain.

The Borg represent the totalitarian strain of Transhumanism. It is quite obvious that the name "Borg" is derived from the word "cyborg", which has come to categorize an entity whose physical components are as much robotic and mechanical as they are biological and organic. However, the greatest atrocity committed by the Borg is not so much that they impose these cybernetic enhancements against the will of those forced to undergo these procedures. It is that the Borg obliterate or at least sublimate the sense of individuality altogether.

Through the systems of censors and processors placed within the bodies of those taken in by or assimilated by the Borg, the individual is incorporated into the Borg group consciousness known as the "collective". Thus in a number of encounters with the Borg decisions by the species were not made by a singular leader or council of individuals but instead by the group as a whole. The primary reason for abducting Captain Picard and turning him into Locutus, apart from gaining intelligence on Federation strategy and tactics, was to have a singular voice to represent the Borg to "archaic cultures which are authority driven".

Some Transhumanists might view this as a great leap forward in terms of expanding political awareness that would allow all members of a group to participate in arriving at a decision approaching consensus rather than one arrived at by a singular leader that might not take varying perspectives into account. However, what some Transhumanists might consider the ultimate communitarian democracy comes at what those echoing Lt. Worf's retort of "I like my species the way it is" consider too high of a price.

This communal solidarity is achieved through a fanatic technological suppression of the self. This is done to such an extent that drones disconnected from the group consciousness fall into a disoriented state quite similar to a form of drug withdrawal, continuing to use the pronoun "we" when talking about the individual self and expressing a sense of loss bordering on grief at no longer being able to hear in their minds the voices of fellow Borg. The Star Trek: Voyager character Seven of Nine even continued to prefer that particular numerical designation rather than reclaim her human name and at times considered abandoning her reclaimed individuality in order to rejoin the Borg group mind.

A person's sense of self is not the only thing threatened by the use of Transhumanist technology for the purposes of seamlessly incorporating the singular person into the larger social organism whether they want to be or not. By minimizing the distinctiveness of each individual within the context of the larger group, even if one claims to be elevating the status of everyone by ensuring that each voice plays a part in determining the overall consensus, this notion of the ultimate communal entity having the only real value minimizes the worth of any of its singular components to the point of fostering a mentality of easy bio-disposability.

When a Borg falls in battle, the body is not respectively retrieved even when comrades are nearby. Rather, data components are extracted from the corpse with the remains at best reclamated for what it can “give back to the community”.

One often finds this kind of bait and switch in certain brands of pantheism. One might have the guru or, even in certain instances now, powerful cultural institutions such as academia or the media whispering in your ear that you as part of the universe are a part of God. Such voices then turn around and craft intricate policy proposals as to why the elderly should be rationed medical care or that Genghis Khan ought to be considered some kind of ecological visionary for having slaughtered millions of people.

As with other faiths and creeds, Transhumanism can be viewed as having a number of denominations. Those bending their knees to the Borg as the patron saint of the Church of Our Beloved Central Processor believe that merging man or metal (or at least high grade plastics) ought to be the path pursued to take the species to the level beyond the merely human. The second path in pursuit of this goal believes it will be best achieved no so much by incorporating or grafting inorganic components onto human beings but rather by directly tinkering with the genetic blueprint already there to advance the capabilities of individuals to levels beyond that of baseline humans. This would be accomplished in part by adding genes from other species into the code for human beings.

This brand of Transhumanism, where the subject itself is enhanced instead of relying on external technology, is likely the version of the perspective the average American is most familiar with. It, after all, forms the backbone of many classic superhero comic books, movies, and television series. The disturbing thing of it is is that there are now scientists and policymakers that want to take these stories from the realm of the imagination and make them a concrete reality even though the tales themselves often warn of undesirable consequences no matter how enjoyable it might be to swing from the New York skyline or to smooch a sopping wet redhead while dangling upside down from a fire escape.

In most heroic graphic literature narratives, powers and abilities are imbued upon the protagonist through accidental circumstances. Foremost among this variety of costumed adventurers rank Spider-Man (bitten originally by a radioactive spider but interestingly in the movie series by a hybrid arachnid engineered through genetic experimentation) and the Fantastic Four (who acquired their abilities as a result of bombardment by cosmic rays while blasting off into outer space). However, the implications of having these enhanced abilities from the moment of conception either as a result of conscientious deliberability or as a result of the fortuity of insemination have also been explored.

The series Dark Angel chronicled the adventures of a young woman who had been genetically engineered --- largely through an infusion of feline DNA --- to give her enhanced reflexes and senses. In similar stories from previous decades, these procedures were often undertaken for the benefit of the individual such as the Six Million Dollar Man (which these days would have gotten astronaut Steve Austin mediocre medical care for that paltry sum) and the Bionic Woman. Neither of these would have survived without extensive technological intervention.

In the case of incidents like these, it is likely those involved would provide some degree of consent to have their physiologies altered so drastically. Dark Angel warned, however, that there could be organizations and institutions possessing this technology using it not so much for the benefit of those it is applied to but rather for the sake of an elite and whatever agenda such conspiratorial entities might be pursuing. For example, Dark Angel, a young woman named Max, was engineered to be a solider and indoctrinated to be such from the earliest days of her childhood in a facility that subjected her and her “siblings” to tortuous physical and psychological testing reminiscent of the tactics used by the Red Chinese shown in news footage around the time of the Beijing Olympiad of how that regime trains its adolescent athletes.

Another interesting aspect of the series is that, unlike Star Trek which takes place in a milieu centuries apart from our own, Dark Angel is set in a world likely to come about in a few short years. In the series, the United States has fallen victim to an electromagnetic pulse attack that cripples much of the nation’s electronic infrastructure. The government agency behind the project is known as “Manticore”, which according to Wikipedia is a creature from Persian mythology composed of parts from various animals such as the body of a lion, a tail of scorpion, and the head of a human (making its description similar to the locust monstrosities mentioned in Revelation 9 that plague those that do not have the name of God sealed on their foreheads). In the second season, it was revealed that Manticore was just the tip of the iceberg and something of a front for a secret society involved in genetic experimentation and selective human breeding spanning back centuries.

The series, however, was not without a ray of hope. It was likely one of the first to feature as one of its protagonists a citizen journalist or blogger using what were at that time technologies just beginning to be used in the capacity of alternative media.

One the fictional milieus that has explored the notion of enhanced human beings to the greatest degree has been that of the X-Men. A part of the Marvel Comics “multiverse” including characters of other enhanced ability such as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, and the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men also stand apart from their other superhero counterparts in terms of how most of these characters acquired their underlying augmented aptitudes.

In interviews regarding how he came up with the origins of the X-Men, their creator Stan Lee decided that they were simply born that way as genetic mutants so he would not have to come up with any more elaborate accidents. Though he might have done this for the sake of literary expediency, it also provides insight for the average person perhaps not scientifically or esoterically inclined into yet another school of thought as to how enhanced human beings might come into existence.

In the cases of both the Borg and Dark Angel, people transcending the limitations of the species are brought about through directed, deliberate intervention. However, with the X-Men, these abilities and differences come naturally usually at the onset of puberty or even from birth if the character in question possesses an appearance markedly different from template human beings. Thus, the X-Men and those like them, in the context of the Marvel narrative universe are seen as numbering among the next stage of human evolution and are given the scientific designation of “Homo Superior”. This would not be all that different than those that think so-called “Indigo Children” represent a leap forward beyond that of their parents.

As intriguing as the perspective is that mankind might not have to intervene in order to bring about our next biological paradigm but rather that it will come about at an unexpected moment like Goldsmidt’s Hopeful Monster hypothesis or at a time when the cosmos itself either deems it consciously or through a confluence of fortuitous happenstance, the greatest contribution made by the X-Men in considering the issues of human enhancement is in the comics' exploration of how these advances would complicate sociology and politics. Often, comics follow a traditional hero versus villain narrative. X-Men, in part, contributed to expanding the perception of those archetypal categories.

Inspired by the social upheaval of the 1960's and long identified with by the most enthusiastic of comic readers who often find peer acceptance elusive, the X-Men have often been depicted as a band of outcasts or even outlaws. Typically in the Marvel universe, mutants born with their powers are viewed with suspicion and are not to be trusted because of the drastic differences setting them apart from the remainder of the population. And though such an attitude might strike the reader as prejudiced as evidenced by the numerous mutant characters mistreated throughout these stories, such suspicions are not without warrant.

From that brief description, those unfamiliar with the X-Men might assume that the bitterest foes of the X-Men would be antimutant human beings. If anything, the X-Men are caught in the middle and just as likely to take on foes of enhanced abilities much like their own. For example, Magneto is a survivor of the Holocaust who, in the attempt to prevent enduring such a tragedy a second time, has at times adopted a militant mutant-supremacism not all that distinguishable from the Nazism that reeked so much havoc in his own young life. Then there is Mr. Sinister, obsessed with genetic experimentation unbridled by any ethical boundaries whatsoever. Finally, there is Apocalypse, who has essentially lived through all of human history from ancient times, seeing himself as sitting above both human and mutant kinds doing with each as he pleases.

As a highly imaginative comic franchise, the X-Men provide a number of points for Christians to ponder. Professor Charles Xavier and his Institute for the Gifted (of which the X-Men exist as its covert elite arm) endeavor to foster acceptance and peace between mutants and humanity, which the X-Men view mutantkind as a part of rather than as a distinct species. The perspective that mutants and human beings are essentially the same is also shared by the mutant-hunting artificial intelligences known as the Sentinels which turn on their human creators at some point in the future when their dispassionate robotic logic concludes that the enhanced and the unenhanced are at the deepest levels one-in-the-same.

Thus, if humanity is successful at some point in the future at enhancing the species at such a foundational level, the church is going to have to grapple with just how much of the genetic code can be tampered with before it is no longer human. This would be of particular relevance in reference to those that have undergone such procedures who may still identify as being human, those who repent in their hearts for having undergone these transformations, and most importantly those who may have been born through no fault or choosing of their own to altered human parents and who may sincerely want to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Even those that have enjoyed speculative fiction their entire lives are going to be shocked the first time they see someone looking like the male lead from Beauty and the Beast walking through the narthex.

Since the primary emphasis of most popular speculative fiction is the action and adventure, sometimes the why and for what purpose often gets glossed over by the captivating pyrotechnics and spellbinding special effects. Often, it was assumed, hinted at, or alluded to that those altering the human species were doing so solely in the name of materialistic purposes. However, a number of popular television programs have suggested that radical intervention into what it means to be human might be undertaken in the attempt to bring those undergoing the process closer to what such individuals perceive or understand to be God.

Even in its late 70's incarnation, Battlestar Galactica possessed an openly spiritual bent, borrowing that inclination from Star Wars with its emphasis upon the Force rather than the galactic-pluralism of the original Star Trek, which emphasized tolerance between sentient species rather than the existence of an overarching metaphysical reality beyond a nebulous declaration of generalized principles. However, unlike Star Wars with its notion of a ethereal dualistic spiritualized energy field that "surrounds us, binds us" as Yoda intoned in “The Empire Strikes Back“, the original Galactica was far from shy in borrowing concepts nearly directly from Mormonism such as wandering tribes on an "exodus" to find the Promised Land of Earth, that the forefathers of humanity began on the planet Cobol (the homeworld of Mormonism's god being Colob), and the idea epitomized in the scene where the angel-like beings told Starbuck and Sheeba that as these entities are, humans would one day become.

The reimagination of Battlestar Galactica retained a spiritual tone, though it was taken in a slightly different direction. In the new version, the faith most often expressed among the majority of the population of the Twelve Colonies is a form of polytheism borrowed nearly word for word from Greco-Roman mythology. However, the most intriguing philosophical addition of the series was the exploration of Cylon religion.

A classic science fiction title inquired "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?". The producers of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica might not have answered that query directly, but they did suggest that Cylons spent considerably more time cogitating upon theology since their earlier days when they primarily resembled tea kettles with anger management issues and of whom the most articulate among their number was a lava lamp named "Lucifer" (who sounded disturbingly similar to Dr. Smith from "Lost In Space") than most of us realized. But whereas the Colonials were portrayed primarily as polytheistic in their religious orientation, the Cylons (especially those in the form of bioengineered clones that were virtually indistinguishable on the outside from human beings with the exception of the characteristic red light that pulsated up and down the spine when overcome by the throws of passion not unlike Chris Matthews leg during an Obama Speech) were radically monotheistic.

By the end of the series through a revelation of two beings conceptualized as angels for lack of a better term, it was made known that the entire epic was part of some divine plan where the band of humans from across the cosmos would come to earth and, as viewers learned from the Patrick Macnee voice over intro to the earliest episode of the original series “who would becomes the forefathers of the Egyptians, the Toltecs, and the Mayans”. However, apparently it was not enough to end the series on the note that humans walking the earth today are the descendants of the intermingling of the native hominid population found here on earth and that of a prior advent of a species virtually identical to our own. Rather, it was hinted at that the hybrid human/ Cylon child Hera was actually mitochondrial Eve from which every last person on the planet can trace their origin.

All quite fascinating, the reader might think, but what does any of this have to do with human enhancement. In the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, rather than being an external menace alien to humanity in accordance with fears prevalent during the time of a more publicly acknowledged Cold War, it is emphasized in the new version that the Cylons were a human creation that turned against their masters. However, in the shortlived Galactica prequel titled Caprica in honor of the capitol world of the Twelve Colonies, we learn that the Cylons were not developed solely as a result of military or industrial interests. A spiritual component also contributed to this breakthrough in artificial intelligence that was initially thought to assist in helping at least a select few surpass the limitations of human existence.

Echoing shades of Greco-Roman times, the polytheist establishment of Caprica, if not outrightly persecuting followers of “the one true God” derided as Monotheists, looks askance at the adherents of this faith centered around the Colonial world of Gemenon. However, echoing concerns of our own day, such suspicions are not without warrant because within the Monotheistic movement is a faction known as the Soldiers Of The One that utilize violence to further the group's agenda.

At the beginning of the series, Monotheist Zoey Graystone, who thinks she is running away to Gemenon, is killed in a terrorist attack perpetrated by her own boyfriend. However, that was not the last viewers would see of Zoey or at least what was portrayed as her semi-autonomous facsimile.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that Zoey was something of a computer programming prodigy and was able to replicate an interactive avatar of herself in VWorld, a digital realm that combines the social aspects of the Internet with the tangible interactivity of the Holodeck from Star Trek. Eventually, Zoey's mentor, who turns out to be a member of the terrorist faction, finds out about the sentient avatar and believes it is the first step to achieving her goal of a state called "apotheosis".

As with other terms in science fiction that sound like conceptual drivel to the unsuspecting ear, apotheosis is a notion increasingly bandied about in circles where philosophical and religious thought overlap with technological speculation. Like Sister Clarice (Zoey‘s mentor), proponents of apotheosis in Transhumanist circles hope to transcend the limitations of human temporal corporeality by essentially uploading the human mind or soul into some kind of computer or autonomous android by copying the memories stored in our brains as electrochemical impulses. While you would still technically die eventually as a biological organism, postmodernist thought has so unhinged itself from Biblical concepts of what constitutes life and existence that many would be hard-pressed to refute why an android with a sufficiently complex degree of computer processing power thinking it was you theoretically with all your memories shouldn't simply be considered an upgraded version of yourself.

The humans of the early 21st century look upon all the grandiose predictions made by science fiction authors and analytical futurists and see, for the most part, that at our most basic despite all the advances in technology and culture we are pretty much as we have always been throughout recorded history in terms of our fundamental nature and composition. Another subgenre of science fiction suggests that enhancement will not come about either through our own efforts nor spontaneously on its own. Rather, such stories speculate enhancement will come from efforts directed by intelligences from what would be considered beyond the earth.

Though by no means the only example as this general theme has just about become so clich├ęd that there is almost the danger of it no longer sparking the imagination the way it once did in terms of stimulating discussion as to both the origins and future of humanity, a prime example of this kind of series would be Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict. The opening narration of the series intoned, "Three years ago they came, forever altering the future of humanity."

Thus, Earth: Final Conflict dealt with mankind's first contact with extraterrestrials from beyond our world. And though the aliens possessed technology vastly superior to our own that they claimed that they wanted to share with us out of their own sense of altruism, it isn't long until it is realized, at first by a small cadre of resistance fighters, that the "Companions" (as these nonterrestrial entities are initially construed as) need us far more than we need them. However, Earth: Final Conflict was not so much the standard aliens trying to take over the earth epic as it was one about aliens coming to earth to manage and manipulate mankind as a pharmaceutical livestock crop.

Though technologically advanced, because of pursuing a gnostic evolutionary course eschewing the material body in favor of existence as beings composed more of energy than physical substance, the Taelons discover that they are no longer able to reproduce their species. Thus, one of the primary reasons for coming to Earth was to utilize the human species to overcome this quandary.

Part of the downfall of Earth: Final Conflict was the failure of producers to stick to innovative plot lines to their ultimate fruition. One introduced at the conclusion of its first season to cover over the departure of the program's lead male protagonist provided a scenario as to how beings from beyond the earth might be the ones responsible for bringing about the enhancement of the human species.

Around the time of the first season finale, it is revealed that the Taelons are not the only other sentient species besides mankind in the cosmos nor human beings the first manipulated for their purposes. Out of suspended animation comes a similar entity composed of an energy-based physiology but unlike the Taelons, this one --- known as a Kimera and considered to be an evolutionary predecessor or at least genetic contributor to the Taelons --- is in no need of interstellar Viagra.

By first mimicking the appearance of an unsuspecting male host, the alien is able to seduce a human woman and cause her to be found with child. And in order to provide a "totally plausible" explanation for the new male lead to assume his role, the child fully matures in a matter of fifteen to thirty sections upon being born.

For a few episodes at least before this conceptual element was downplayed before it was resurrected ironically as a way to write out this thespian as well when the production company decided to dump the American cast members in favor of an all Canadian ensemble, the nature of this character (Liam Kincaid) was examined. Apart from the energy bolts that could be discharged from his palms as a defensive mechanism, one intriguing concept was that the extraterrestrial component of his physiology was centered within a third helix to his DNA. As many will recall from encounters with their high school biology texts or A&E and the Discovery Channel before these networks developed obsessions with fishing trawlers, junk peddlers, and overlytattooed fugitive retrieval agents, DNA is renowned as a double-helixed molecule.

Some readers might dismiss this entire analysis that they have just read. Surely, they respond, one cannot portend from outlandish entertainments the paths science and technology will take in the years and decades to come. However, it must be remembered that twenty or so years ago it would have seemed ludicrous that most Americans would not have to be tethered to literal cables crisscrossing the country in order to access the nation's telecommunications system or that as they traveled about the highways they would no longer be shackled by the whims of local radio programming directors but could assert a degree of control over their own mobile entertainment decisions with entire collections of music at their very fingertips.

The inventors of these very devices, the cell phone and the MP3 player, acknowledge the inspiration derived in part from viewing similar gadgets on various episodes of Star Trek. Such a realization has to cause the reflective to pause when the machine being tampered with and manipulated in so much of speculative fiction these days is nothing less than the human body itself. For we are warned in Genesis 11:6, "And the Lord said, Behold the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."

by Frederick Meekins