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.

Friday, March 17

Do Star Wars & Superheroes Point To Jesus?

God, UFO’s & The Simulated Universe

What Happened To Christian Education & Does It Matter?

Artificial Intelligence & The Future Of Humanity From A Christian Perspective

Growing Your Online Ministry

The Great Reset & Bible Prophecy

Jesus Teaching On False Prophets

A Christian Minister Explores The Life, Influence & Theology Of H.P. Lovecraft

William F. Buckley & Malcolm Muggeridge On How One Finds Faith

What The Future Of The Church Might Look Like After COVID

Theology and Science Fiction

The Past, Present & Future Of Christianity In Science Fiction

Do Your Actions Betray The Gospel Of Grace?

Future Church Trends

Bart Barber On Southern Baptist Politics & Racial Reconciliation

What Is Wrong With Fundamentalism?

What Is God Doing In The Next Methodism?

Inspiration For Christian Writers

Got a bit preachy against scientific knowledge at the end.

Given that this is God’s world, why is that epistemological methodology not as valid as that of the poetic preferred by the video?.

It was not poetry that enabled this didactic exposition to be transmitted to an audience beyond the immediate circle of the content provider.

The Future Of Hybrid Church

Fundamentalism Among The Swiss Brethren

C.S. Lewis Documentary

The Tasks Of Apologetics

What Monks Do & Why We Need Them

New Identity In Christ

Sunday, March 12

The Study Of The History Of The End Of The World, Part 9

 Concerns regarding the End Times have become such a pervasive aspect of contemporary culture that, Richard Kyle writes, “Thus in the late twentieth century the apocalyptic mindset is no longer the fringe phenomena of a few marginalized people which we can ignore (166).” No longer are the most devout or religiously pious the only ones realizing that the world as we know it will likely one day meet with some sort of demise. Interestingly, some of those now the most obsessed with looming doom are not even religious in the traditional sense. In fact, a significant number are even hostile or dismissive of the notion of a personal deity guiding history through the sorts of horrors of which they forewarn to a blissful or beatific conclusion. And unlike the eschatological speculation or reflection of their theistic counterparts, the visions proposed by the secularists offer little in terms of hope for a better tomorrow.

The most prominent sort of secular apocalypse could be categorized as imaginary in nature. Kyle writes, “Most of the ideas of how the world will end have come from the Bible, science, or the occult. But eschatology --- particularly secular eschatology --- has also been conveyed through fiction, especially novels and film (169).” This is not to say that the scenarios in such works could not happen or bear no connection to plausible reality. Rather, what these narratives present is a reflection upon the concerns and anxieties of a given day and projecting the implications of these into an hypothesized potential future.

Through consideration of these stories, the student of history and religion can actually track how these concerns change over time, occasionally even in the mind of a single author. For example, prior to the calamity of the Great War in 1914, in most literary instances the end came about as a result of a natural force beyond the control of mankind. However, after World War I the disasters and tragedies described were usually the result of human actions of some kind such as a technology that spiraled out of control or even the outcome of a deliberate act.

This conceptual alteration could be detected in the works of H.G. Wells. For example, in The War Of The Worlds, the threat posed by the forces of nature is symbolized by Marian invaders. However, in Shape Of Things To Come, it is not an amorphous threat from out there or beyond that Wells feared threatened the species but rather a powerful planetary elite. Likewise, one can almost detect a similar shift in more contemporary examples such as Battlestar Galatica. In the original version, the Cylons were a threat that originated external to mankind. However, in the updated reimagining, the Cylons were actually created by humanity, it eventually being revealed, by a grieving father who wanted nothing more than to create a virtual reality version of his daughter killed in a terrorist attack.

As outlandish as the plotlines of many movies, television series, and novels might sound, these narratives are not beyond the basis of possibility. A number also bear a startling similarity to the ways prophetic portions of Scripture have been interpreted by exegetes applying their understanding of twentieth and twenty-first science and technology.v Foremost among potential secular apocalypses no doubt ranks nuclear annihilation. This possibility has gripped the minds of devout and reprobate alike since the mid 1940's when atomic devices were dropped on Japan in the hopes of bringing a swift conclusion to the Second World War. In the attack on Hiroshima, it has been estimated that over 70,000 individuals lost their lives (Kagan, 1053). Following that, these weapons not only increased in their destructive potential but proliferated in terms of ending up in the hands of regimes and some contend even groups at odds with the United States in terms of geopolitical vision. But at least at the height of the Cold War, the desire of the powers on either side of the ideological divide to see the world governed in their respective images either along the lines of modified free market capitalism or even repressive totalitarian Communism prevented these parties from destroying it. Such an attack would have resulted in devastating retaliation or a global ecological catastrophe where the fortunate might have actually been those losing their lives in the opening round of such a conflict.

It was hoped that the diminution in direct tensions between the United States and Russia following the demise of the Soviet Union that the likelihood of a mass casualty nuclear incident would be similarly decreased. However, such a hope did not necessarily transpire. If anything, the threat merely transformed and actually became less predictable. As a failed state, it was feared that the Soviet bureaucrats that became underworld oligarchs could sell these devices to assorted rogue states and terrorist groups. In turn, many of these potential customers were of a radical Islamist persuasion --- unlike Communists with no conception of a life beyond this one --- who were just as alright with blowing up the world or converting it since the true reward sought by those of this perspective was a blissful Heaven-like paradise.

Other secularists concerned about the end of the world as we know it are not so concerned that the world is going to end in a giant explosion but it will nevertheless be the result of man's irresponsible behavior in the form of environmental desolation. Foremost among these ranks global warming or climate change. Those buying into the reality of this threat believe that the conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels results in an excess amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. This in turn, it is hypothesized, traps heat that is prevented from radiating off into the vacuum of space, creating what is referred to as the greenhouse effect. This rise in temperature could theoretically melt ice at the poles, resulting in the rise of sea levels flooding coastal areas as well as shifting weather patterns that could catastrophically impact global agriculture.

If the threat of nuclear annihilation and environmental devastation were not enough to keep the anxious awake at night, other analysts suggest it will most likely be global pandemics that will plunge the human species into an interminable death spiral. Civilization besieged by plague at an apocalyptic-level is not without historic precedent. During the Middle Ages, it has been estimated that up to a third of the population of Europe perished as a result of the Black Death believed to be bubonic plague (Abanes, 179).

Some experts believe the contemporary world with nations separated from one another by no more than a few days air travel is similarly vulnerable to the outbreak of killer disease. Such a possibility gained more widespread consideration in light of the AIDS outbreak of the 1980's. As terrible as that was, most felt protected from that pestilence to a degree since in most cases it was transmitted through promiscuous sexual activity or intravenous drug drug use. A number such as famed science fiction author Issac Asimov did contract the virus innocently as a result of a blood transfusion.

Even more frightening is the possibility of an illness such as ebola spreading unchecked around the globe. Unlike AIDS which can take years to fester in the systems of those infected by the virus, usually requires a deliberate behavioral action to contract and can now in many instances be kept in check through rigorous adherence to a strict pharmaceutical regimen, the victims of E.bola are often dead within a matter of days after exposure even while wearing what is thought to be a sealed protective biohazard suit. Kyle assures that E.bola is so overwhelmingly deadly that a natural outbreak under most circumstances would be self-limiting (181). The real danger, he assures, would no doubt be rogue states or terrorist organizations weaponing these microorganisms. With the proper technical background, such would not be too difficult and is no doubt why such bacteriological devices are even referred to as the poor man's nuclear bomb.

If nuclear, environmental, or biological holocaust are still not enough to frighten you, there are those terrified that life here as we know it will be wiped out by an object from beyond this world crashing into the Earth. Given its vastness, it would be understandable to assume that the chance of one object of minuscule size in comparison to the comprehensive totality of the universe crashing into another nearly as small would be negligible. However, such is believed to have occurred with such regularity that the potential for just such a catastrophe to be a legitimate cause of concern.

Many paleontologists believe just such a body crashing into the Earth 65 million years ago led to the eventual extinction of the dinosaurs. Creationists squeamish about referencing an event that old need not feel left out. For other incidents of interplanetary billiards have occurred more within a time frame acceptable to ardent defenders of a literalist interpretation of the Genesis account. In 1908, something exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia that leveled 80 million trees in an area nearly twenty-five miles in diameter. And if that is not enough, a number of astronomers are able to earn respectable livings tracking the numerous asteroids, meteors, and comets that have come as close as 500,000 miles of Earth that would have impacted with the planet had the objects had been as little as six hours sooner.

Each of these scenarios described from a secular perspective are so overwhelming in terms of their destructive scope that the mind cannot help but attempt to categorize their likelihoods as remote or near impossible. The thing of it is that every last one of them can find a parallel in the prophetic apocalyptic portions of Scripture. For example, when Babylon is described as burning in Revelation 18, one can imagine this happening in the form of a nuclear attack on a metropolis of economic and cultural significance such as New York.

And even though conservatives are correct to articulate skeptical opposition in regards to environmentalist shenanigans intended to impede or decay Western standards of living in favor of the sort of squalor endemic to the Third World, one cannot help but notice descriptions of what sounds similar to climate change in regards to prophecies of mass marine die offs and waters being turned as to blood as detailed in Revelation 16:3-4. Elsewhere in the Apocalypse, fires are described as decimating much of the planet's plant life and throughout the text millions of human beings end up dead. Of the period of Tribulation, Matthew 24:22 says that for the sake of the Elect, if Christ did not intervene during this future time, things would get so bad that otherwise all flesh would be destroyed. It is this one essential promise that differentiates the hope provided in Christ from the despair of the secularist that realizes from the standpoint of man alone all is utterly lost.

By Frederick Meekins

Bibibliography

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.

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. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1996.