EPIPHANY SHINING Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. — Titus 2: 13 The geo-political events of the twenty-first century have their roots in the developments of the late 1700s, the beginning of the era styled by dispensationalists as the ‘Time of the End’, based on a reading of Dan. 12: 1, 8, 9: 1 And at that time shall Michael [Christ, ed.] stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a great time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time . . . . 8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? 9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. During this long period Jehovah has been shaping world events in such a way as will lead to social collapse in a time of great tribulation, referred to in Dan. 12: 1 and reiterated in similar language by Jesus in Matt. 24: 21. The years from 1775-1799 constituted a period of revolution: the American War of Independence (1775-1783), followed by the decade of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and on into the social and economic disruptions of the 1800s, many of which were influenced by the Industrial Revolution. The breaking away by the United States stimulated Britain to fortify its empire elsewhere and to consolidate its control in India, rising to economic and military dominance. Napoleon Bonaparte sta- bilised France after its harsh and divisive revolution and proved an important actor in the dilution of papal authority, which had been a hindrance to liberal progress. Napoleon’s wide-ranging campaigns against the British and her allies had the unin- tended effect of cementing Britain’s dominance in international affairs and its influence in laying the foundations of the mod- ern world. Breaking New Ground The onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain brought a new style of prosperity, rising levels of education and technical skills, and a growing urbanisation stimulated by the railway, which in turn encouraged a massive migration of workers from field to town. The resulting dislocation and shift from an agrarian order to one run by and in the service of the machine was on a scale unlike anything seen before. Mushroom-like, wealthy industrialists and paupers sprang from the same economic soil, defining the social landscape which Charles Dickens would later immortalise in his novels. The humane response to the distresses aggravated by these phenomena led to religious and secular movements to tackle the problems of overcrowding, pauperism, prison reform, drunkenness, ill-health, and so on. By the end of the 1800s there was a general expectation that a utopia was at hand, a new order in which the peoples of the world would live in harmony, their routines simplified by the new labour-saving devices and the thousand-and-one innovations in science, engineering, philo- sophy, chemistry, medicine and hygiene. The expectation was frustrated, shattered by the onset of the Great War in August 1914. The aftermath of the war precipitated what we might term the second phase in the development of the modern world. The economic, social and political upheavals, resulting in the re-drawing of national boundaries and the dissolution of established sovereignties and other forms of govern- ment, spurred on the frenetic 1920s and 1930s and the eventual outbreak of a larger ‘total’ war in 1939. The ending of the Second World War in 1945 introduced what might be termed the third phase in the development of the contemporary world, signalled by the use and deployment of the atomic bomb. The decades which followed have been overshadowed by the linger- ing spectre of this weapon, and the fears of humanity have coagulated around it. The Epiphany The word ‘appearing’ in the Scripture text at the head of this article (Titus 2: 13) is the translation of the Greek word, epi- phaneia, the root meaning of which is that of ‘bright light’. The context is the return of Christ, and denotes the introductory work of His Second Advent work in bringing under intense scrutiny things formerly hidden, on all levels – the exposure of persons, principles and activities, secular and religious. The term may be applied both to a period of time and a process. The process would not be possible without the preceding events of history sketched above. Although Godʼs Plan moves irresistibly forward to a happy outcome, many of its features are unpleasant and will become severe in the short term. We are living in the period of the Epiphany. The general effects of this sustained bright shining will become increasingly rad- ical, overturning long-held opinions, valued traditions, and uncovering falsehood, corruption and casting doubt on all forms of authority. In short, it is an iconoclastic, destructive and scorching illumination, and will lead to the collapse of the prevailing order. The searchlight of the Epiphany catches everything in its beam. The penetration of the media in all its forms is such that no question is un-asked, and no subject is too impertinent, tawdry, vulgar, obscene or offensive to be broached, dissected and deconstructed. To what extent the unravelling of society will run before God says ‘enough’ it is not possible to know. There is a natural tend- ency to exaggerate the present severity of immediate troubles, especially if we ourselves are weighted down with personal problems, or have a fretful spirit. But since we cannot know how much worse things will become, we cannot measure how much more time will elapse before Christ’s kingdom assumes control. Without a thorough understanding of the past, and being unable to predict the future, we are left uncertain as to where we are on the stream of time. It is true that Jesus says ‘‘Surely I come quickly’ (Rev. 22: 20). But this does not mean soon, for we do not know the starting point from which to measure ‘soon’. More accurately, it implies without unnecessary delay or undue haste. Christ’s kingdom will not come until wickedness has run its course. This might take two or three decades. The observ- ant student of prophecy will watch and wait patiently. ____________ March 2015
EPIPHANY SHINING Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. — Titus 2: 13 The geo-political events of the twenty-first century have their roots in the developments of the late 1700s, the beginning of the era styled by dispensationalists as the ‘Time of the End’, based on a reading of Dan. 12: 1, 8, 9: 1 And at that time shall Michael [Christ, ed.] stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a great time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time . . . . 8 And I heard, but I un- derstood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? 9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. During this long period Jehovah has been shaping world events in such a way as will lead to social collapse in a time of great tribulation, referred to in Dan. 12: 1 and reiterated in similar language by Jesus in Matt. 24: 21. The years from 1775-1799 constituted a period of revolution: the American War of Independence (1775-1783), followed by the decade of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and on into the social and economic disruptions of the 1800s, many of which were influenced by the Industrial Revolution. The breaking away by the United States stimulated Britain to for- tify its empire elsewhere and to consolidate its control in India, rising to economic and military dominance. Napoleon Bonaparte stabilised France after its harsh and divisive revolu- tion and proved an important actor in the dilution of papal au- thority, which had been a hindrance to liberal progress. Napoleon’s wide-ranging campaigns against the British and her allies had the unintended effect of cementing Britain’s dominance in international affairs and its influence in laying the foundations of the modern world. Breaking New Ground The onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain brought a new style of prosperity, rising levels of education and technical skills, and a growing urbanisation stimulated by the railway, which in turn encouraged a massive migration of workers from field to town. The resulting dislocation and shift from an agrarian order to one run by and in the service of the machine was on a scale unlike anything seen before. Mushroom-like, wealthy industrialists and paupers sprang from the same eco- nomic soil, defining the social landscape which Charles Dickens would later immortalise in his novels. The humane response to the distresses aggravated by these phenomena led to religious and secular movements to tackle the problems of overcrowding, pauperism, prison reform, drunkenness, ill-health, and so on. By the end of the 1800s there was a general expectation that a utopia was at hand, a new order in which the peoples of the world would live in har- mony, their routines simplified by the new labour-saving devices and the thousand-and-one innovations in science, en- gineering, philosophy, chemistry, medicine and hygiene. The expectation was frustrated, shattered by the onset of the Great War in August 1914. The aftermath of the war precipit- ated what we might term the second phase in the development of the modern world. The economic, social and political up- heavals, resulting in the re-drawing of national boundaries and the dissolution of established sovereignties and other forms of government, spurred on the frenetic 1920s and 1930s and the eventual outbreak of a larger ‘total’ war in 1939. The ending of the Second World War in 1945 introduced what might be termed the third phase in the development of the contemporary world, signalled by the use and deployment of the atomic bomb. The decades which followed have been overshadowed by the lingering spectre of this weapon, and the fears of hu- manity have coagulated around it. The Epiphany The word ‘appearing’ in the Scripture text at the head of this article (Titus 2: 13) is the translation of the Greek word, epi- phaneia, the root meaning of which is that of ‘bright light’. The context is the return of Christ, and denotes the introduct- ory work of His Second Advent work in bringing under intense scrutiny things formerly hidden, on all levels – the exposure of persons, principles and activities, secular and religious. The term may be applied both to a period of time and a process. The process would not be possible without the preceding events of history sketched above. Although Godʼs Plan moves irresistibly forward to a happy outcome, many of its features are unpleasant and will become severe in the short term. We are living in the period of the Epiphany. The general ef- fects of this sustained bright shining will become increasingly radical, overturning long-held opinions, valued traditions, and uncovering falsehood, corruption and casting doubt on all forms of authority. In short, it is an iconoclastic, destructive and scorching illumination, and will lead to the collapse of the prevailing order. The searchlight of the Epiphany catches everything in its beam. The penetration of the media in all its forms is such that no question is un-asked, and no subject is too impertinent, tawdry, vulgar, obscene or offensive to be broached, dissected and deconstructed. To what extent the unravelling of society will run before God says ‘enough’ it is not possible to know. There is a natural tendency to exaggerate the present severity of immediate troubles, especially if we ourselves are weighted down with personal problems, or have a fretful spirit. But since we cannot know how much worse things will become, we cannot meas- ure how much more time will elapse before Christ’s kingdom assumes control. Without a thorough understanding of the past, and being un- able to predict the future, we are left uncertain as to where we are on the stream of time. It is true that Jesus says ‘‘Surely I come quickly’ (Rev. 22: 20). But this does not mean soon, for we do not know the starting point from which to measure ‘soon’. More accurately, it implies without unnecessary delay or undue haste. Christ’s kingdom will not come until wicked- ness has run its course. This might take two or three decades. The observant student of prophecy will watch and wait patiently. ____________ March 2015
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK), unless indicated otherwise. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. Lam. 3: 25, 26 (KJV) HOPE MAY BE variously defined as expectant wishing, optimism as to a future event or condition, or merely a general feel- ing that some desire will eventually be fulfilled. Hope is as necessary to our mental well-being as the air we breathe and the food we eat are vital to our physical survival. Regarded as a natural mental characteristic, it might be said that mankind were psychologically programmed to be hopeful, as necessary to survival. And since man was made in the image and likeness of the Creator, it follows that our God is a God of hope. The Poet Alexander Pope observed that Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come. (An Essay on Man) A LIFE TO COME? Survival is the paramount concern and the attribute of hope is vital to all who love life and fear death. Yet the privilege of perpetual life was in the Divine order conditional on voluntary obedience to simple conditions, which appear trivial to many of the modern intelligentsia, while in fact epitomising the principle of freewill. Simply put, the human pair created in the Divine image could choose to disobey – and they did. Here is the simple explanation for a dying human race. The account of man’s relationship with the Creator is preserved in the writings of many loyal servants who, while hampered by inherited faults, nevertheless pleased God, and by their witness hope has been sustained – and survives – that life in full perfection will in due time be restored. The majority of sects within the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, view a future life, in some blissful condition beyond planet Earth, as the reward for the faithful. The human estimation of the required character standard appears to be flexible and generous, and not so demanding as to exclude many from a continued existence in a more elevated condition than before. COULD DEATH BE AN ILLUSION? The vast majority of mankind have been persuaded that the souls of the departed are raised to some amorphous form of life in- visible to human sight. This is perhaps understandable among many Christian believers, based on a less than accurate under- standing of Christ’s teachings, and they generally assume that some form of eternal life is reached as soon as the present life comes to its close and the earthly body is laid to rest in the grave. Yet the idea was a ruse of the Adversary way back in Eden when he suggested that to partake of forbidden fruit would raise the human pair to the Godly status (Gen. 3: 5). But such expectation was not integral in the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus’ first advent, though an ultimate restoration to life was fundamental to their religious belief. At the apparently untimely  death of her brother Lazarus, grieving Martha reproached Jesus for his delayed response to an appeal for help, as he had healed many, and even restored life to the dead. John 11 21-24 records the event: ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ There is abundant evidence in the Hebrew scriptures to support the belief in a life to come. The Patriarch Job recorded his faith: ‘If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come’ (Job.14: 14 – KJV). King David also expressed his conviction: ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness’ (Psa. 17: 15 – KJV) But the original correct understanding of death and future resurrection was eventually lost to Judaism, and the Hebrew ‘Sheol as the common destination of the dead, became somewhat synonymous with the Greek ‘Hades’, interpreted as Hell, the sup- posed abode of Satan and the forces of evil; where sinners suffer eternal punishment. The Italian dramatist Dante famously stoked the fires in his epic poem ‘Inferno,’ quoting the dire warning at the entrance to Hell: ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here.’[fn1] A HOPELESS WORLD? How often at emerges that a condition of  hopelessness has resulted in suicide. Take away our hope, and our world is reduced to something between depression and despair. While hope seems instinctive in most people, one of the alarming observations of our day is that there are so many, particularly the young, who appear to have no hope for a rewarding future. And so we see many living recklessly, resorting to drugs and alcohol, seeking satisfaction in the present moment. Suicides are on the increase annually, and there is an alarming trend to vent one’s rage against innocent victims whose contentment is resented. The hope of the determined atheist can only be of limited satisfaction, though many are doubtless of honest conviction and commendable character. They are victims of one of Satan’s master-strokes – the theory of the evolution of mankind. They have no belief in a benign Creator who promises eternal life in future ages to a tested and loyal race – on Earth as in Heaven. One such, an eminent professor, on being asked how he felt about his imminent death, expressed no fear of dying, but owned to a great sadness at the idea of being dead. Unfortunately, however, believers in a Divine Creator are not necessarily immune to feelings of hopelessness, and many who profess to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour appear to be searching for financial rewards in the present life, espousing themselves to a so called ‘Prosperity Gospel.’ The truth is that we are chosen not primarily to receive earthly favours now, but to be pre- pared for greater service  when Christ’s Kingdom is established on earth. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). HOPE’S FOUNDATION While cynics may quip that Christian hope is a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible, and the more kindly may simply smile at a believer’s ‘wishful thinking,’ those who trust in an Almighty Creator can view the future with optimism, having a firm foundation for their hope. Death was the penalty for sin, and that price was in due time paid by God’s one and only Son (John 3:16) And so the hymn puts it: My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.[fn2] OLD TESTAMENT HOPE A significant aspect of Old Testament hope was Israel's expectation of a messiah, an anointed ruler from David's line, based on the promise that God would establish the throne of David for ever (2 Sam. 7: 8-13). The anointed ruler (messiah) would be God's agent to restore Israel's glory and rule the nations in peace and righteousness. But for the most part, David’s successors fell far short of the Godly standard expected, and for centuries national hope lapsed. But a nucleus of faithful believers continued to watch and wait, and notable among those was the aged Simeon, righteous and devout, and waiting for the consolation of Israel. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he had seem the Lord’s Messiah. Luke 2: 27-32 continues the story:     27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29  ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and the glory of your people Israel.’ Luke records also the faith of eighty-four year old Anna, a prophet who never left the temple but fasted and prayed continu- ously. Coming up to them at that moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2: 36-38).   But though Simeon – and Anna – died with hope fulfilled, and while Jesus was hailed by many as the son of  David, the Apostle John sadly records that ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not’ (John 1: 11).  As far back as Moses’ day the Jews were described by their Lord as a stiff-necked, stubborn people, and centuries later Jesus castigated the religious lead- ers in particular for their  hypocrisy (Ex. 32: 9; Matt. 23: 27). And with great heartache Jesus wept over the nation as He pro- nounced the Divine sentence upon God’s chosen people (Matt. 23): 37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. HOPE DEFERRED ‘Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles . . . Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in   my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their accept- ance be but life from the dead? So says the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11: 11, 13-15). Life from the dead – the hopes and dreams of countless generations! The gathering of those who would be called to share in the sufferings of Christ, continued for long centuries, and they slept, awaiting the voice of the Son of Man arousing them to new life. Theirs is a Heavenly inheritance (Rom. 8: 17). But scripture, reason, and the signs of the times (another study) clearly in- dicate that the Heavenly calling has been brought to its conclusion, so that believers now have different hopes and prospects. And what of the countless multitudes of unbelievers? While King David knew that he would be satisfied on returning from the tomb, the great majority of Adam’s race will awaken with glad surprise – not in a totally unfamiliar environment or physical  constitution, but as potentially perfect men and women, descendants of Adam and Eve, and on planet Earth. ‘The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man- kind’ (Psa. 115: 16). And so Christ’s long prayed for Kingdom on Earth will at last be established, and the work of restitution will proceed. Hope is not merely individual in scope. It has cosmic dimensions and is inconceivably extended in space and time. God's pur- pose is to redeem the whole creation, and there is thus a certainty an Christian hope which amounts to a qualitative difference from ordinary hope. Christian hope is the gift of God. ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure’ ( Heb. 6: 19). * * * * * [fn] (1) Dante (Dante Alighieri; 1265-1321) From Dante’s epic poem Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy (written c. 1310-1321). [fn] (2) ‘The Solid Rock’ was written by Edward Mote, Pastor of a Baptist Church in Horsham, West Sussex, published 1837. _________ 2014
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK), unless indicated otherwise. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. Lam. 3: 25, 26 (KJV) HOPE MAY BE variously defined as expectant wishing, op- timism as to a future event or condition, or merely a general feeling that some desire will eventually be fulfilled. Hope is as necessary to our mental well-being as the air we breathe and the food we eat are vital to our physical survival. Regarded as a natural mental characteristic, it might be said that mankind were psychologically programmed to be hopeful, as necessary to survival. And since man was made in the image and likeness of the Creator, it follows that our God is a God of hope. The Poet Alexander Pope observed that Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come. (An Essay on Man) A LIFE TO COME? Survival is the paramount concern and the attribute of hope is vital to all who love life and fear death. Yet the privilege of perpetual life was in the Divine order conditional on voluntary obedience to simple conditions, which appear trivial to many of the modern intelligentsia, while in fact epitomising the prin- ciple of freewill. Simply put, the human pair created in the Divine image could choose to disobey – and they did. Here is the simple explanation for a dying human race. The account of man’s relationship with the Creator is preserved in the writings of many loyal servants who, while hampered by inherited faults, nevertheless pleased God, and by their witness hope has been sustained – and survives – that life in full perfection will in due time be restored. The majority of sects within the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, view a future life, in some blissful condition beyond planet Earth, as the reward for the faithful. The human estimation of the required character stand- ard appears to be flexible and generous, and not so demanding as to exclude many from a continued existence in a more elev- ated condition than before. COULD DEATH BE AN ILLUSION? The vast majority of mankind have been persuaded that the souls of the departed are raised to some amorphous form of life invisible to human sight. This is perhaps understandable among many Christian believers, based on a less than accurate under- standing of Christ’s teachings, and they generally assume that some form of eternal life is reached as soon as the present life comes to its close and the earthly body is laid to rest in the grave. Yet the idea was a ruse of the Adversary way back in Eden when he suggested that to partake of forbidden fruit would raise the human pair to the Godly status (Gen. 3: 5). But such expectation was not integral in the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus’ first advent, though an ultimate restoration to life was fundamental to their religious belief. At the apparently un- timely  death of her brother Lazarus, grieving Martha re- proached Jesus for his delayed response to an appeal for help, as he had healed many, and even restored life to the dead. John 11 21-24 records the event: ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ There is abundant evidence in the Hebrew scriptures to support the belief in a life to come. The Patriarch Job recorded his faith: ‘If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come’ (Job.14: 14 – KJV). King David also expressed his conviction: ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteous- ness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness’ (Psa. 17: 15 – KJV) But the original correct understanding of death and future re- surrection was eventually lost to Judaism, and the Hebrew Sheol’ as the common destination of the dead, became some- what synonymous with the Greek ‘Hades’, interpreted as Hell, the supposed abode of Satan and the forces of evil; where sin- ners suffer eternal punishment. The Italian dramatist Dante famously stoked the fires in his epic poem ‘Inferno,’ quoting the dire warning at the entrance to Hell: ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here.’[fn1] A HOPELESS WORLD? How often at emerges that a condition of  hopelessness has res- ulted in suicide. Take away our hope, and our world is reduced to something between depression and despair. While hope seems instinctive in most people, one of the alarming observa- tions of our day is that there are so many, particularly the young, who appear to have no hope for a rewarding future. And so we see many living recklessly, resorting to drugs and alco- hol, seeking satisfaction in the present moment. Suicides are on the increase annually, and there is an alarming trend to vent one’s rage against innocent victims whose contentment is resented. The hope of the determined atheist can only be of limited satis- faction, though many are doubtless of honest conviction and commendable character. They are victims of one of Satan’s master-strokes – the theory of the evolution of mankind. They have no belief in a benign Creator who promises eternal life in future ages to a tested and loyal race – on Earth as in Heaven. One such, an eminent professor, on being asked how he felt about his imminent death, expressed no fear of dying, but owned to a great sadness at the idea of being dead. Unfortunately, however, believers in a Divine Creator are not necessarily immune to feelings of hopelessness, and many who profess to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour appear to be search- ing for financial rewards in the present life, espousing them- selves to a so called ‘Prosperity Gospel.’ The truth is that we are chosen not primarily to receive earthly favours now, but to be prepared for greater service  when Christ’s Kingdom is es- tablished on earth. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). HOPE’S FOUNDATION While cynics may quip that Christian hope is a pathological be- lief in the occurrence of the impossible, and the more kindly may simply smile at a believer’s ‘wishful thinking,’ those who trust in an Almighty Creator can view the future with optim- ism, having a firm foundation for their hope. Death was the penalty for sin, and that price was in due time paid by God’s one and only Son (John 3:16) And so the hymn puts it: My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.[fn2] OLD TESTAMENT HOPE A significant aspect of Old Testament hope was Israel's expect- ation of a messiah, an anointed ruler from David's line, based on the promise that God would establish the throne of David for ever (2 Sam. 7: 8-13). The anointed ruler (messiah) would be God's agent to restore Israel's glory and rule the nations in peace and righteousness. But for the most part, David’s suc- cessors fell far short of the Godly standard expected, and for centuries national hope lapsed. But a nucleus of faithful believers continued to watch and wait, and notable among those was the aged Simeon, righteous and devout, and waiting for the consolation of Israel. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he had seem the Lord’s Messiah. Luke 2: 27-32 continues the story:     27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and the glory of your people Israel.’ Luke records also the faith of eighty-four year old Anna, a prophet who never left the temple but fasted and prayed con- tinuously. Coming up to them at that moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking for- ward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2: 36-38).   But though Simeon – and Anna – died with hope fulfilled, and while Jesus was hailed by many as the son of  David, the Apostle John sadly records that ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not’ (John 1: 11).  As far back as Moses’ day the Jews were described by their Lord as a stiff-necked, stub- born people, and centuries later Jesus castigated the religious leaders in particular for their  hypocrisy (Ex. 32: 9; Matt. 23: 27). And with great heartache Jesus wept over the nation as He pronounced the Divine sentence upon God’s chosen people (Matt. 23): 37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. HOPE DEFERRED ‘Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles . . . Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in   my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? So says the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11: 11, 13-15). Life from the dead – the hopes and dreams of countless genera- tions! The gathering of those who would be called to share in the sufferings of Christ, continued for long centuries, and they slept, awaiting the voice of the Son of Man arousing them to new life. Theirs is a Heavenly inheritance (Rom. 8: 17). But scripture, reason, and the signs of the times (another study) clearly indicate that the Heavenly calling has been brought to its conclusion, so that believers now have different hopes and prospects. And what of the countless multitudes of unbelievers? While King David knew that he would be satisfied on returning from the tomb, the great majority of Adam’s race will awaken with glad surprise – not in a totally unfamiliar environment or physical  constitution, but as potentially perfect men and women, descendants of Adam and Eve, and on planet Earth. ‘The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind’ (Psa. 115: 16). And so Christ’s long prayed for Kingdom on Earth will at last be established, and the work of restitution will proceed. Hope is not merely individual in scope. It has cosmic dimen- sions and is inconceivably extended in space and time. God's purpose is to redeem the whole creation, and there is thus a cer- tainty an Christian hope which amounts to a qualitative differ- ence from ordinary hope. Christian hope is the gift of God. ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure’ ( Heb. 6: 19). * * * * * [fn] (1) Dante (Dante Alighieri; 1265-1321) From Dante’s epic poem Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy (writ- ten c. 1310-1321). [fn] (2) ‘The Solid Rock’ was written by Edward Mote, Pastor of a Baptist Church in Horsham, West Sussex, published 1837. _________ 2014
A NUDGE AND A WINK By Josva Jensen Good design tends to go unnoticed. Anyone can appreciate a finely-tuned orchestra in a concert hall without observing the composition of the walls, the contours of the eaves. How many people look at the other-worldly dimensions of an acoustic space and comprehend the science that allows an actor’s sibilant sounds to sharpen without becoming shrill? Or grasp how pro- clamations echo but don’t collide? Is it possible to quantify why one person can find a particular voice pleasing but another does not? That discipline is certainly esoteric, but there are more commonplace yet inconspicuous elements of design. Many of these fea- tures conform to “nudge theory” – the premise that individuals can be discretely guided to compliant behavior. The formalized hypothesis, put forward by economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein, arose from the observation that people frequently make selections that seem antithetical to their best interests. Behaviorists examine the cognitive biases that drive decision-making in order to countermand or take advantage of these tendencies. One of the clearest illustrations is the horoscope phenomenon, beneficiary of the Barnum effect. The appeal relies on an inclin- ation to personally identify with vague descriptions, which could apply to broad swathes of people, if these traits are perceived as positive. By believing the depictions are specific to oneself, the reader is inclined to impose his own meaning on the state- ments, affirming their validity. This social bias, alternatively known as the Forer effect, is shown to carry greater weight with subjects prone to trusting in the paranormal, though components have been employed in personality tests.   The “nudge” premise has application beyond psychology – primarily political science, economics– and is manifested in the wider world through conscious methods and organization. A public trash receptacle will be a muted brown and have a small, circular aperture, while the adjacent recycling can is a bold blue or green, a larger, square opening lending convenience. In more obvious techniques, one container is marked “landfill” and appreciably smaller than its counterpart. Naturally, the con- sumer is being prompted to conserve, to be environmentally responsible. Pressure is applied by using language with a markedly negative connotation. The concomitant designs make it simpler to recycle primarily by being in our way and not re- quiring any additional effort. The theory has found favor in the administration of President Obama, with Sunstein’s appointment to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. More notable is the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) – nicknamed “Nudge Unit” – established by the UK coalition government in 2010 with the principal objective of saving the state money. The organization collaborated with the National Health Service and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to increase organ donation by aiming registration re- quests at web users renewing their car tax, resulting in an estimated annual increase of 100,000 donors. <http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/BIT-Publication-EAST_FA_WEB.pdf> In addition, BIT orchestrated a trial whereby drivers that failed to pay excise duty would receive a picture of their vehicle with the standard notice. Payment rates increased by a reported 9% during the period. <Plimmer, Gill. “UK Cabinet Office ‘nudge’ team to be spun off into private group.” Financial Times, 5 February 2014. Web. 12 December 2016> UK Court Services were likewise able to double fine payments by issuing personalized text messages to offenders ten days prior to sending bailiffs. <http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/BIT-Publication-EAST_FA_WEB.pdf> After privatizing, Behavioural Insights Limited, as it is now known, has advised various governments across the world, stimu- lating revenues through more than 100 policy refinements. It has been demonstrated that their modifications have a limited lifespan, however. When personal text messages encouraging participation in public programs supplanted the Singaporean state-sponsored medium of informational cartoons, the final results suggested the announcements were far less effective as people became accustomed to the mechanism. <S.K. “The limits of nudging”, 24 July 2015. Web. 12 December 2016> Key to the nudge theory is the desire to promote beneficial habits without restricting choice. This is most simply achieved by presenting the preferred option as the default. Relying on an aversion to unnecessary complexity, the endorsed behavior may be reached without coercion. We see this most clearly through interminable end-user license agreements and opt-out notices. The chief hazard of instating defaults is their trend toward building and protecting monopolies. Consider Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Like the prescribed browser on a new PC, the pervasiveness of search engine optimization (SEO) dictates con- sumerism as it channels spending towards increasingly dominant companies, establishing them as de facto. Government policy may also provide “nudges” to promote favorable practices that are really self-serving or capricious. There has certainly been criticism that most efforts are targeted at boosting administrative revenue without offsetting spending cuts. In Britain, £20 bil- lion is to be carved from public services over a three-year period. Less than 3% of that figure has been gleaned from adapta- tions of the intensive behavioral research and trials. Arguably, government has more to gain by focusing on other efficiency measures and would breed discontent by pursuing eco- nomically desperate practices in the interest of a political agenda. While conservation can be fostered through subsidies for ef- ficient vehicles and alternative energy, that cannot be permitted to detract from essential public services, especially as the rewards for becoming more green are exclusively limited to those that are at least moderately well-off. Regardless of the per- ceived moral good of environmental protection, the taxes of those reliant on affordable healthcare, social security and educa- tional assistance cannot be diverted to fund what, at its worst, has become a luxury fetish. As much as good design aids function and can subtly encourage better, more conscientious behavior, it is positive reinforcement, not coercion. Notionally, nudge theory also allows for choice. In practice, it can quite easily subvert our volition. January 2017
A NUDGE AND A WINK By Josva Jensen Good design tends to go unnoticed. Anyone can appreciate a finely-tuned orchestra in a concert hall without observing the composition of the walls, the contours of the eaves. How many people look at the other-worldly dimensions of an acoustic space and comprehend the science that allows an actor’s sibil- ant sounds to sharpen without becoming shrill? Or grasp how proclamations echo but don’t collide? Is it possible to quantify why one person can find a particular voice pleasing but an- other does not? That discipline is certainly esoteric, but there are more com- monplace yet inconspicuous elements of design. Many of these features conform to “nudge theory” – the premise that individuals can be discretely guided to compliant behavior. The formalized hypothesis, put forward by economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein, arose from the ob- servation that people frequently make selections that seem an- tithetical to their best interests. Behaviorists examine the cognitive biases that drive decision-making in order to coun- termand or take advantage of these tendencies. One of the clearest illustrations is the horoscope phenomenon, beneficiary of the Barnum effect. The appeal relies on an in- clination to personally identify with vague descriptions, which could apply to broad swathes of people, if these traits are per- ceived as positive. By believing the depictions are specific to oneself, the reader is inclined to impose his own meaning on the statements, affirming their validity. This social bias, altern- atively known as the Forer effect, is shown to carry greater weight with subjects prone to trusting in the paranormal, though components have been employed in personality tests.   The “nudge” premise has application beyond psychology – primarily political science, economics– and is manifested in the wider world through conscious methods and organization. A public trash receptacle will be a muted brown and have a small, circular aperture, while the adjacent recycling can is a bold blue or green, a larger, square opening lending conveni- ence. In more obvious techniques, one container is marked “landfill” and appreciably smaller than its counterpart. Naturally, the consumer is being prompted to conserve, to be environmentally responsible. Pressure is applied by using lan- guage with a markedly negative connotation. The concomitant designs make it simpler to recycle primarily by being in our way and not requiring any additional effort. The theory has found favor in the administration of President Obama, with Sunstein’s appointment to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. More notable is the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) – nicknamed “Nudge Unit” – established by the UK coalition government in 2010 with the principal objective of saving the state money. The organiza- tion collaborated with the National Health Service and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to increase organ dona- tion by aiming registration requests at web users renewing their car tax, resulting in an estimated annual increase of 100,000 donors. <http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/wp- content/uploads/2015/07/BIT-Publication- EAST_FA_WEB.pdf> In addition, BIT orchestrated a trial whereby drivers that failed to pay excise duty would receive a picture of their vehicle with the standard notice. Payment rates increased by a reported 9% during the period. <Plimmer, Gill. “UK Cabinet Office ‘nudge’ team to be spun off into private group.” Financial Times, 5 February 2014. Web. 12 December 2016> UK Court Services were likewise able to double fine payments by issuing personalized text messages to offenders ten days prior to sending bailiffs. <http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/wp- content/uploads/2015/07/BIT-Publication- EAST_FA_WEB.pdf> After privatizing, Behavioural Insights Limited, as it is now known, has advised various governments across the world, stimulating revenues through more than 100 policy refine- ments. It has been demonstrated that their modifications have a limited lifespan, however. When personal text messages en- couraging participation in public programs supplanted the Singaporean state-sponsored medium of informational car- toons, the final results suggested the announcements were far less effective as people became accustomed to the mechanism. <S.K. “The limits of nudging”, 24 July 2015. Web. 12 December 2016> Key to the nudge theory is the desire to promote beneficial habits without restricting choice. This is most simply achieved by presenting the preferred option as the default. Relying on an aversion to unnecessary complexity, the endorsed behavior may be reached without coercion. We see this most clearly through interminable end-user license agreements and opt-out notices. The chief hazard of instating defaults is their trend toward building and protecting monopolies. Consider Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Like the prescribed browser on a new PC, the pervasiveness of search engine optimization (SEO) dictates consumerism as it channels spending towards increas- ingly dominant companies, establishing them as de facto. Government policy may also provide “nudges” to promote fa- vorable practices that are really self-serving or capricious. There has certainly been criticism that most efforts are tar- geted at boosting administrative revenue without offsetting spending cuts. In Britain, £20 billion is to be carved from pub- lic services over a three-year period. Less than 3% of that fig- ure has been gleaned from adaptations of the intensive behavioral research and trials. Arguably, government has more to gain by focusing on other efficiency measures and would breed discontent by pursuing economically desperate practices in the interest of a political agenda. While conservation can be fostered through subsidies for efficient vehicles and alternative energy, that cannot be permitted to detract from essential public services, especially as the rewards for becoming more green are exclusively lim- ited to those that are at least moderately well-off. Regardless of the perceived moral good of environmental protection, the taxes of those reliant on affordable healthcare, social security and educational assistance cannot be diverted to fund what, at its worst, has become a luxury fetish. As much as good design aids function and can subtly encourage better, more conscien- tious behavior, it is positive reinforcement, not coercion. Notionally, nudge theory also allows for choice. In practice, it can quite easily subvert our volition. January 2017
HEURISTICS By A. Prentice All Scripture citations are to the New International Version, British text. ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD Isaiah 1: 18 IN THE ANIMAL kingdom, instinct is an irresistible spur to behaviour. This is true to some extent also of humans. We raise our arms in self-defence without deliberate forethought, an instinctive reflex which is impossible to resist. In addition, many spontaneous responses are programmed into our brains, most of which serve to protect or maintain one’s body or personal com- fort – such as blinking, scratching an itch, or sheltering against the cold. Although some of our responses are beyond our power to suppress, being involuntary, some impulses we may choose by an act of will to defer. We might, for example, suppress pangs of hunger until a fixed hour or until we complete a certain task. We might really want that last piece of chocolate cake, but refrain from eating it so that someone else might have it. Many animals evince a similar ability to forbear from acting on impulse (such as females denying themselves food to tend to their young), though the degree to which this function can be classified as unselfishness is debatable. Some evolutionists argue that altruism is an evolutionary development, because it is conducive to the welfare of the community of which the animal is a part – a worker bee in a hive, for example. This contention demotes human unselfishness – a key component of affection, char- itable actions, and overall good will – from a virtue to a mere practical necessity. The human brain-mind can police its secret thoughts, either through fear of conscience or by reference to charitable feelings (good will) towards another. The mind learns to develop self-control and self-denial, and a variety of other mental disciplines, by purposeful application and effort. More than a mere repository of information, or a command-and-control mechanism, the mind is the embodiment of one’s personality and character. Its conscious actions, then, can play a pivotal role in the develop- ment of goodness and morality, qualities which are as necessary to the well-being of the community as any other. When All Else Fails, Read The Instructions The process by which the mind teaches itself is usually by trial and error. The term applied to this method is heuristics (from the Greek, heuriskein, ‘to find [out]’). As individuals, we often discover the right way of doing something as a consequence of first doing it the wrong way. When assembling an Ikea flat-pack piece of furniture the self-assured don’t bother with the direc- tions, but prefer to apply their own judgement. Only after reaching an unsatisfactory result will they consult the diagrams, and start again. Likewise in many branches of science: some of the most useful discoveries are perfected only through a long string of failed experiments. We often learn from the mistakes made by others. For example, the note in the repair manual which lays stress on the maximum torque one must not exceed in tightening a particular bolt, probably reflects the fact that others had broken it by over-tightening. The father who counsels his teenage son to avoid the sins he himself committed when a youth, hopes to pass on some intrinsic value from his own experience. Millions of similar lessons occur every day in the animal world. Birds, tigers, elephants – most animals teach their offspring how to behave and survive by example, ‘vocal’ clues, and so on. In order for any creature to survive in a complex environment, it must be equipped not only with raw instinct, but with the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances, to remember success- ful and unsuccessful patterns of behaviour, and act appropriately. But People Are Not Animals The capacity of the human mind to learn and to invent is remarkable. But two historic developments have served to undermine the overall appreciation of Man’s special stature: the theory of human evolution and advances in computer science. Allied with a materialistic viewpoint, both of these innovations have stripped Man of his ‘divine spark’ , portraying him as a mere by- product of genetic accidents – a bag of bones with a sophisticated calculator in his skull, one which may be improved upon. Despite the genuine science which otherwise underlies these two historic developments – along with advances in psychology, mechanical engineering and other disciplines – these discoveries are employed to diminish Man’s stature in his own eyes , a de- precation by Man of his own species – the secular version of guilt, but without the God bit. We think . . . therefore God Is Just as God originally designed him in perfection, Man was made by God to be a thinker and a maker. But Man was also made in the moral image of God. Due to Adam’s sin, Man has been separated from fellowship with God. Without this relationship with his Maker, all of Man’s faculties have been corrupted. Without godly morality, human knowledge will remain incomplete, ever short of full truth. The Apostle Paul portrays an extreme case in Romans chapter 1: 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking be- came futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. This damning passage by St. Paul portrays those pagans whose self-obsession, fetishism and worship of the natural order led them into an atmosphere of superstition and aberrant sexual practices – sodomy, prostitution, etc. The Apostle warns us of what Man without God might degenerate into. Today it is the nominally Christian west which tumbles into this squalor: by denying godliness, formerly conservative societies, under the guise of progress and equality, now manifest pagan tendencies. God Allows Evil To Rule From a relatively straightforward sojourn in Eden, Adam and Eve were plunged into a complex environment, governed by events adverse to the sustaining of life. Thorns and thistles and an unyielding ground would from then on make existence diffi- cult and wearisome. Likewise, getting accurate knowledge, cut off from direct instruction by their Maker, would become im- possible. Despite the wonderful accumulation of facts in science, health and technology, and a thousand other disciplines, Man becomes more clever, but not more wise in spiritual matters. Unaided by the Divine Mind, he cannot unlock the true treasures of Heaven. A ‘break-in’ by brute force will not work. Impious, he stands only on the periphery of a boundless vault of under- standing. And, puny though he is, fancies that he might one day command the whole. God permits ‘bad’ and confusing things to happen in order that Man may learn by trial and error, not only in academics and so- cial science, but also in matters of faith. God has been willing to put Himself in a false light in order that His human creation may come to a knowledge of truth. And however much the Christian may lament the lack of piety in the world at large, the fact is that widespread unbelief is an essential element of the Divine Plan. Had there been no fall from grace in Eden, no sickness, suffering, death and sin, mankind could never comprehend the implicit rightness of virtue. In this state of affairs, friction and uncertainty permeates all aspects of knowledge and conduct. These conditions adversely affect Christians, too, undermining one’s convictions and morality. It requires fortitude and determination to live a godly life in an ungodly world, an objective which is not without risks or mistakes. Don’t be discouraged. Summing Up Learning from one’s mistakes, or those of others, does not work unless one pays attention. This is true at the communal, historic level, and at the individual level. The persistent, recurring agonies which have dogged mankind throughout his time on earth have more or less captured his attention. But he has not yet fully applied his heart to the lesson. This epochs-long handbook of evil has been crafted by God to tutor mankind in all the rotten aspects of an existence without Him. The value of this onerous lesson will not bear fruit now, but in the Judgement Day, the long period of time also denoted as the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Many will fail to learn the lesson, refuse to comply with the godly conditions then in force, and will be destroyed (not tortured in fire). For those who do learn it – the majority – they will find the regime of righteousness pro- foundly satisfactory, fulfilling the highest and best longings of the human heart and mind. Then they will say  (Psalm 90: 12, 15): Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. (For more information on the Permission Of Evil, read the three-part series, beginning here [external site]) ___________________ June 2012
HEURISTICS By A. Prentice All Scripture citations are to the New International Version, British text. ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD Isaiah 1: 18 IN THE ANIMAL kingdom, instinct is an irresistible spur to behaviour. This is true to some extent also of humans. We raise our arms in self-defence without deliberate forethought, an in- stinctive reflex which is impossible to resist. In addition, many spontaneous responses are programmed into our brains, most of which serve to protect or maintain one’s body or personal comfort – such as blinking, scratching an itch, or sheltering against the cold. Although some of our responses are beyond our power to sup- press, being involuntary, some impulses we may choose by an act of will to defer. We might, for example, suppress pangs of hunger until a fixed hour or until we complete a certain task. We might really want that last piece of chocolate cake, but re- frain from eating it so that someone else might have it. Many animals evince a similar ability to forbear from acting on impulse (such as females denying themselves food to tend to their young), though the degree to which this function can be classified as unselfishness is debatable. Some evolutionists argue that altruism is an evolutionary development, because it is conducive to the welfare of the community of which the an- imal is a part – a worker bee in a hive, for example. This con- tention demotes human unselfishness – a key component of affection, charitable actions, and overall good will – from a virtue to a mere practical necessity. The human brain-mind can police its secret thoughts, either through fear of conscience or by reference to charitable feel- ings (good will) towards another. The mind learns to develop self-control and self-denial, and a variety of other mental dis- ciplines, by purposeful application and effort. More than a mere repository of information, or a command-and-control mechanism, the mind is the embodiment of one’s personality and character. Its conscious actions, then, can play a pivotal role in the development of goodness and morality, qualities which are as necessary to the well-being of the community as any other. When All Else Fails, Read The Instructions The process by which the mind teaches itself is usually by trial and error. The term applied to this method is heuristics (from the Greek, heuriskein, ‘to find [out]’). As individuals, we often discover the right way of doing something as a consequence of first doing it the wrong way. When assembling an Ikea flat- pack piece of furniture the self-assured don’t bother with the directions, but prefer to apply their own judgement. Only after reaching an unsatisfactory result will they consult the dia- grams, and start again. Likewise in many branches of science: some of the most useful discoveries are perfected only through a long string of failed experiments. We often learn from the mistakes made by others. For ex- ample, the note in the repair manual which lays stress on the  maximum torque one must not exceed in tightening a particu- lar bolt, probably reflects the fact that others had broken it by over-tightening. The father who counsels his teenage son to avoid the sins he himself committed when a youth, hopes to pass on some intrinsic value from his own experience. Millions of similar lessons occur every day in the animal world. Birds, tigers, elephants – most animals teach their off- spring how to behave and survive by example, ‘vocal’ clues, and so on. In order for any creature to survive in a complex en- vironment, it must be equipped not only with raw instinct, but with the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances, to re- member successful and unsuccessful patterns of behaviour, and act appropriately. But People Are Not Animals The capacity of the human mind to learn and to invent is re- markable. But two historic developments have served to un- dermine the overall appreciation of Man’s special stature: the theory of human evolution and advances in computer science. Allied with a materialistic viewpoint, both of these innovations have stripped Man of his ‘divine spark’ , portraying him as a mere by-product of genetic accidents – a bag of bones with a sophisticated calculator in his skull, one which may be im- proved upon. Despite the genuine science which otherwise un- derlies these two historic developments – along with advances in psychology, mechanical engineering and other disciplines – these discoveries are employed to diminish Man’s stature in his own eyes , a deprecation by Man of his own species – the secular version of guilt, but without the God bit. We think . . . therefore God Is Just as God originally designed him in perfection, Man was made by God to be a thinker and a maker. But Man was also made in the moral image of God. Due to Adam’s sin, Man has been separated from fellowship with God. Without this rela- tionship with his Maker, all of Man’s faculties have been cor- rupted. Without godly morality, human knowledge will remain incomplete, ever short of full truth. The Apostle Paul portrays an extreme case in Romans chapter 1: 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. This damning passage by St. Paul portrays those pagans whose self-obsession, fetishism and worship of the natural order led them into an atmosphere of superstition and aberrant sexual practices – sodomy, prostitution, etc. The Apostle warns us of what Man without God might degenerate into. Today it is the nominally Christian west which tumbles into this squalor: by denying godliness, formerly conservative societies, under the guise of progress and equality, now manifest pagan tendencies. God Allows Evil To Rule From a relatively straightforward sojourn in Eden, Adam and Eve were plunged into a complex environment, governed by events adverse to the sustaining of life. Thorns and thistles and an unyielding ground would from then on make existence dif- ficult and wearisome. Likewise, getting accurate knowledge, cut off from direct instruction by their Maker, would become impossible. Despite the wonderful accumulation of facts in sci- ence, health and technology, and a thousand other disciplines, Man becomes more clever, but not more wise in spiritual mat- ters. Unaided by the Divine Mind, he cannot unlock the true treasures of Heaven. A ‘break-in’ by brute force will not work. Impious, he stands only on the periphery of a boundless vault of understanding. And, puny though he is, fancies that he might one day command the whole. God permits ‘bad’ and confusing things to happen in order that Man may learn by trial and error, not only in academics and social science, but also in matters of faith. God has been will- ing to put Himself in a false light in order that His human cre- ation may come to a knowledge of truth. And however much the Christian may lament the lack of piety in the world at large, the fact is that widespread unbelief is an essential ele- ment of the Divine Plan. Had there been no fall from grace in Eden, no sickness, suffering, death and sin, mankind could never comprehend the implicit rightness of virtue. In this state of affairs, friction and uncertainty permeates all aspects of knowledge and conduct. These conditions adversely affect Christians, too, undermining one’s convictions and morality. It requires fortitude and determination to live a godly life in an ungodly world, an objective which is not without risks or mis- takes. Don’t be discouraged. Summing Up Learning from one’s mistakes, or those of others, does not work unless one pays attention. This is true at the communal, historic level, and at the individual level. The persistent, recur- ring agonies which have dogged mankind throughout his time on earth have more or less captured his attention. But he has not yet fully applied his heart to the lesson. This epochs-long handbook of evil has been crafted by God to tutor mankind in all the rotten aspects of an existence without Him. The value of this onerous lesson will not bear fruit now, but in the Judgement Day, the long period of time also denoted as the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Many will fail to learn the les- son, refuse to comply with the godly conditions then in force, and will be destroyed (not tortured in fire). For those who do learn it – the majority – they will find the regime of righteous- ness profoundly satisfactory, fulfilling the highest and best longings of the human heart and mind. Then they will say  (Psalm 90: 12, 15): Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. (For more information on the Permission Of Evil, read the three-part series, beginning here [external site]) ___________________ June 2012
MAGIC, MYSTERY, AND HEAVENLY TOURISTS A. Prentice All Scripture references are to the New International Version, UK edition, unless noted otherwise. __________________________ Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Job 8: 8, 9 ATHEISM AND STAGE MAGIC have one element in common: they each require a suspension of belief in the rational. Both attempt to trick the mind into believing that some amazing thing has occurred without apparent explanation. The audience for both these forms of prestidigitation willingly goes along with the trick. But the crowd that exits the theatre emerges into a world of cause-and-effect and implicit consequences, and leaves behind any lasting belief in wizardry. Atheists remain men- tally enclosed in an environment composed of wild improbabilities. The assertion that God does not exist is an ancient one. But today’s ‘new’ Atheism is different. It’s more muscular, drawing its arguments from science rather than philosophy. This approach is in tune with the times. Our modern style of life is made pos- sible by scientific knowledge and innovation. The gadgets and appliances with which we interact every day operate by com- puter circuitry. They are the products of complex manufacturing processes based on mathematical calculations and a deep knowledge of engineering, chemistry, and materials architecture. Sherlock Holmes, the detective given life by the nineteenth-century imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is legendary for his powers of deduction. By observing carefully and assembling obscure data he draws remarkably accurate conclusions about the perpetrators of one crime or another. ‘He stood,’ said Holmes, ‘to the left of the door – that is to say, further up the path than is necessary to reach the door?’ ‘Yes, he did.’ ‘And he is a man with a wooden leg?’ Something like fear sprang up in the young lady’s expressive black eyes. ‘Why, you are like a magician,’ said she. ‘How do you know that?’ She smiled, but there was no answering smile in Holmes’ thin, eager face. – The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ assistant and biographer in the novels, records this exchange with the detective: I could not help laughing at the ease with which [Holmes] explained his process of deduction. ‘When I hear you give your reasons,’ I remarked, ‘the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled, until you explain your process.’ A Scandal in Bohemia The mental powers and range of knowledge demonstrated by this superb detective of fiction have captivated readers around the world, who probably imagined they were as clever as he. But as a phenomenon of the nineteenth century, Sherlock Holmes would be hard-pressed to find employment in the twenty-first. The rate at which knowledge has expanded since those foggy London days two centuries distant, has been at such a rate that no single mind, no matter how prodigious, can take it all in. And as the sphere of knowledge has ballooned, man’s intellect can touch only an ever-decreasing bit of it. The volume of data is now so vast that it must be processed in ultra-powerful computers, and many brains, across a wide spectrum of scientific dis- ciplines must collaborate in sorting it all out. There’s never been a better time to be an atheist. A number of related factors have matured which are conducive to the notion: (1) the prevailing mechanistic view of Evolution; (2) the ingrained tendency to interpret all data within the context of unbelief; and, (3) the decay of established social mores, especially in the first world nations, the traditional loci of modern science. (1) You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain, I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14: 13, 14). Since its formal introduction via Darwin and his advocates in the Victorian era, Evolution has gone from strength to strength, and will continue to do so. The doctrine, though widely disputed at its introduction, has always held within it the seed of unbe- lief. It is, after all, an alternative explanation not just for the progression of life on earth, but for the origin of life on earth. As such it has trumped the assertion in the Book of Genesis that all life was created by God. The two theories, seen in stark terms – life arising from Chance, and life Deliberately Made – are at loggerheads. Attempting to reconcile them, as many Christians do, by claiming that God set in motion the evolution of all forms of life, merely cedes a goal to the other side but wins no plaudits from their opponents. Atheists generally regard Christian believers as stupid, and assert that anyone with an ounce of intelligence or reason would adopt Atheism as the supremely logical position. Theories alter facts. A pre-conceived idea has a powerful influence on how data are interpreted. Once God is ruled out, almost anything else – as implausible as it may be – can be ruled in. I do not mean that all conclusions based on scientific observations are faulty, but significant elements may either be overlooked or mis-interpreted or ignored, simply because they do not fit the generally agreed-upon model. Just why is God left out of the picture? It’s not that most scientists cannot accept the idea of ‘first cause’. After all, the Big Bang, which purportedly set the Universe in motion is, in reality, a first cause. No, it’s rather that athe- istic science cannot accept a First Cause with personality. This seems rather peculiar. Everyday life is full of first causes. In our daily experiences at work, at play, on the street, in the garden – hardly anything happens to us without someone having precipitated it (by design or neglect). Even accidents are usu- ally the unintended consequences of a series of events which, if traced back Sherlock-like, would reveal a mind at their root. An aeroplane may crash as the result of a number of causes, from pilot error to the failure of a crucial component badly de- signed or mechanically deficient, all factors indicative of human intervention at some point in the chain which led up to the tragedy. Atheism, firmly wedded to Evolution, asks the reasoning mind to accept that the birth of the Universe and the whole concaten- ation of events which followed – including life and intelligence – are nothing more than a series of anomalies, un-caused, un- planned, un-directed. The very notion underlying Evolution is that of progressive development or motion (change). This activity requires a driver. It is one thing to claim that the Big Bang, a theoretical sudden explosion of compressed matter formed the stars, planets, etc., and keeps them moving away from one another at great speeds – but it is quite another to assert that that initial momentum was converted into a biological motive force – that is, matter begetting life. Incidentally, this trend in academia is not unlike the generalised personal detachment between action and consequences, in- creasingly common in a consumer society accustomed to an abundant supply of goods. The methods by which foodstuffs ap- pear on the supermarket shelves, for example, can seem almost magical to a generation separated by urban conveniences from agricultural processes. In a broader sense, the bad consequences of selfish or immoral behaviour tend to be ignored in the in- terests of encouraging individuality and a sense of ‘self-worth’. In such an environment, godlessness thrives: the consequences of not having faith are dismissed as harmless. The drift toward unbelief is aided and abetted by the general failure of society and its arbiters – politicians, educators – to coax the citizenry toward any sense of righteousness. (2) The tents of marauders are undisturbed, and those who provoke God are secure  those who carry their god in their hands (Job 12: 6). If atheistic scientists can accept the notion of spontaneous action in the Big Bang, why is it so hard for them to stretch their minds to accept the existence of a Causer? The degree of difficulty involved in such an admission would not seem to be greater than the position they hold now. The benefit derived from a recognition that a Supreme Being With A Mind lies behind the Universe would be reflected in the interpretation of the data. How large a difference such a presumption might make to the ad- vancement and cohesion of scientific understanding, one can only guess at. It’s never been done consistently and will probably not be attempted. Indeed, it may be that the trajectory of science is now so far off that the experiment could not be attempted. Such a revamping of underlying theories would surely require the dismantling of some cherished ideas, the inertia of which will resist U-turns. This is not to say that most Science is on a faulty footing – NASA could not have landed men on the moon without an exquisite understanding of propulsion, physics and astronomy. But given the acknowledged complexity of the known universal order it is unlikely that contemporary scientific knowledge is complete or omniscient. There may be a vast number of holes in Man’s un- derstanding of how and why things work the way they do. In short, any conscientious scientist must admit that he or she is scratching only at the surface of the truth. The trouble is that comparatively few of these highly intelligent individuals will admit that one of the holes may contain the notion of a Creator. Atheistic science rejects what it regards as the superstitious magic of ‘creation’. Instead, it has substituted its own magic of the Big Bang – an event so far back in any meaningful under- standing of chronology that it might as well be an eternity, and one before which there was . . . nothing? (3) He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders (Micah 5: 5). For most people, atheism will never fully supplant faith; the faculty for belief in a Supreme Being is deeply entrenched in human nature. But the structure and shape of the faith that people now hold has been profoundly altered by the effects of the alliance of Science with Atheism. In the West, especially in those nations which once formed the old Christendom, the effects of the promulgation of a culture of unbelief are dire, and will get worse. The tendency to reject faith in general and Christianity in particular, coincides with – and has been stimulated by – advances in scientific knowledge and the crude social trends to- ward a liberal, humanistic philosophy in many areas of thought. These changes have been boosted by the natural tendency of each generation to discard the mores and outlook of the preceding generation, and to express itself in radically different forms of music, sexual behaviour, and so on. All in all, society must cope with a radically altered social landscape compared with pre- vious generations. In addition, the thirst for information and modernity is, by its nature, secular. Scientific inquiry, having already ruled out God, is not a friend to faith; and a modern style of living which smirks at self-control or the development of a godly character does not bode well for Christianity. Atheism and Science, being now essentially fused together as one, exude certainty, conveying the impression that by merely explaining Nature they hold a commanding claim to it. The conscientious Christian has no such luxury, being frequently troubled by doubt over what he or she has been taught to believe about the Bible, the character of God or, in low moods, to question even His existence. Don’t be surprised by such trials. Faith grows out of the struggles with doubt: ‘Help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9: 24). These are hard times to be a believer in the Bible. It’s important to remember that atheists, no matter how clever their arguments may seem, are not as conversant with the Bible or its overall philosophy as they pretend to be. Like passengers disembarking from a cruise ship at the latest port of call on an exotic island, possessing only a nodding acquaintance with local culture, most unbelievers spend little time worrying about the daily implications of the Christian faith or the consequences of losing it. Attempting to indict God with phony arguments, they are transient tourists, dipping in and out of the heavenly environment just long enough to find something wrong with it. They do not care if they destroy your faith. So don’t be overawed or intimidated by their approach. At the same time, don’t fall back on blind dogma; engage in an intelligent, inquisitive, rational study of the Bible. The Christian woman or man who rests by faith in the finished work of Christ as Saviour and King is a forgiven child, beloved by God, the Maker and Sustainer of All Things. And though we may wage long and severe mental battles against doubt, we will at length come through, scarred and battered, but victorious. ______________ 2011
MAGIC, MYSTERY, AND HEAVENLY TOURISTS A. Prentice All Scripture references are to the New International Version, UK edition, unless noted otherwise. __________________________ Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Job 8: 8, 9 ATHEISM AND STAGE MAGIC have one element in com- mon: they each require a suspension of belief in the rational. Both attempt to trick the mind into believing that some amaz- ing thing has occurred without apparent explanation. The audi- ence for both these forms of prestidigitation willingly goes along with the trick. But the crowd that exits the theatre emerges into a world of cause-and-effect and implicit con- sequences, and leaves behind any lasting belief in wizardry. Atheists remain mentally enclosed in an environment com- posed of wild improbabilities. The assertion that God does not exist is an ancient one. But today’s ‘new’ Atheism is different. It’s more muscular, draw- ing its arguments from science rather than philosophy. This ap- proach is in tune with the times. Our modern style of life is made possible by scientific knowledge and innovation. The gadgets and appliances with which we interact every day oper- ate by computer circuitry. They are the products of complex manufacturing processes based on mathematical calculations and a deep knowledge of engineering, chemistry, and materials architecture. Sherlock Holmes, the detective given life by the nineteenth- century imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is legendary for his powers of deduction. By observing carefully and as- sembling obscure data he draws remarkably accurate conclu- sions about the perpetrators of one crime or another. ‘He stood,’ said Holmes, ‘to the left of the door – that is to say, further up the path than is ne- cessary to reach the door?’ ‘Yes, he did.’ ‘And he is a man with a wooden leg?’ Something like fear sprang up in the young lady’s expressive black eyes. ‘Why, you are like a magician,’ said she. ‘How do you know that?’ She smiled, but there was no answering smile in Holmes’ thin, eager face. – The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ assistant and biographer in the nov- els, records this exchange with the detective: I could not help laughing at the ease with which [Holmes] explained his process of deduction. ‘When I hear you give your reasons,’ I re- marked, ‘the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled, until you explain your process.’ – A Scandal in Bohemia The mental powers and range of knowledge demonstrated by this superb detective of fiction have captivated readers around the world, who probably imagined they were as clever as he. But as a phenomenon of the nineteenth century, Sherlock Holmes would be hard-pressed to find employment in the twenty-first. The rate at which knowledge has expanded since those foggy London days two centuries distant, has been at such a rate that no single mind, no matter how prodigious, can take it all in. And as the sphere of knowledge has ballooned, man’s intellect can touch only an ever-decreasing bit of it. The volume of data is now so vast that it must be processed in ultra-powerful computers, and many brains, across a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines must collaborate in sorting it all out. There’s never been a better time to be an atheist. A number of related factors have matured which are conducive to the no- tion: (1) the prevailing mechanistic view of Evolution; (2) the ingrained tendency to interpret all data within the context of unbelief; and, (3) the decay of established social mores, espe- cially in the first world nations, the traditional loci of modern science. (1) You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain, I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14: 13, 14). Since its formal introduction via Darwin and his advocates in the Victorian era, Evolution has gone from strength to strength, and will continue to do so. The doctrine, though widely disputed at its introduction, has always held within it the seed of unbelief. It is, after all, an alternative explanation not just for the progression of life on earth, but for the origin  of life on earth. As such it has trumped the assertion in the Book of Genesis that all life was created by God. The two the- ories, seen in stark terms – life arising from Chance, and life Deliberately Made – are at loggerheads. Attempting to recon- cile them, as many Christians do, by claiming that God set in motion the evolution of all forms of life, merely cedes a goal to the other side but wins no plaudits from their opponents. Atheists generally regard Christian believers as stupid, and as- sert that anyone with an ounce of intelligence or reason would adopt Atheism as the supremely logical position. Theories alter facts. A pre-conceived idea has a powerful influ- ence on how data are interpreted. Once God is ruled out, al- most anything else – as implausible as it may be – can be ruled in. I do not mean that all conclusions based on scientific ob- servations are faulty, but significant elements may either be overlooked or mis-interpreted or ignored, simply because they do not fit the generally agreed-upon model. Just why is God left out of the picture? It’s not that most scientists cannot ac- cept the idea of ‘first cause’. After all, the Big Bang, which purportedly set the Universe in motion is, in reality, a first cause. No, it’s rather that atheistic science cannot accept a First Cause with personality. This seems rather peculiar. Everyday life is full of first causes. In our daily experiences at work, at play, on the street, in the garden – hardly anything happens to us without someone hav- ing precipitated it (by design or neglect). Even accidents are usually the unintended consequences of a series of events which, if traced back Sherlock-like, would reveal a mind at their root. An aeroplane may crash as the result of a number of causes, from pilot error to the failure of a crucial component badly designed or mechanically deficient, all factors indicative of human intervention at some point in the chain which led up to the tragedy. Atheism, firmly wedded to Evolution, asks the reasoning mind to accept that the birth of the Universe and the whole concat- enation of events which followed – including life and intelli- gence – are nothing more than a series of anomalies, un- caused, un-planned, un-directed. The very notion underlying Evolution is that of progressive development or motion  (change). This activity requires a driver. It is one thing to claim that the Big Bang, a theoretical sudden explosion of compressed matter formed the stars, planets, etc., and keeps them moving away from one another at great speeds – but it is quite another to assert that that initial momentum was conver- ted into a biological motive force – that is, matter begetting life. Incidentally, this trend in academia is not unlike the general- ised personal detachment between action and consequences, increasingly common in a consumer society accustomed to an abundant supply of goods. The methods by which foodstuffs appear on the supermarket shelves, for example, can seem al- most magical to a generation separated by urban conveniences from agricultural processes. In a broader sense, the bad con- sequences of selfish or immoral behaviour tend to be ignored in the interests of encouraging individuality and a sense of ‘self-worth’. In such an environment, godlessness thrives: the consequences of not having faith are dismissed as harmless. The drift toward unbelief is aided and abetted by the general failure of society and its arbiters – politicians, educators – to coax the citizenry toward any sense of righteousness. (2) The tents of marauders are undisturbed, and those who provoke God are secure  those who carry their god in their hands (Job 12: 6). If atheistic scientists can accept the notion of spontaneous ac- tion in the Big Bang, why is it so hard for them to stretch their minds to accept the existence of a Causer? The degree of diffi- culty involved in such an admission would not seem to be greater than the position they hold now. The benefit derived from a recognition that a Supreme Being With A Mind lies be- hind the Universe would be reflected in the interpretation of the data. How large a difference such a presumption might make to the advancement and cohesion of scientific under- standing, one can only guess at. It’s never been done consist- ently and will probably not be attempted. Indeed, it may be that the trajectory of science is now so far off that the experi- ment could not be attempted. Such a revamping of underlying theories would surely require the dismantling of some cher- ished ideas, the inertia of which will resist U-turns. This is not to say that most Science is on a faulty footing – NASA could not have landed men on the moon without an ex- quisite understanding of propulsion, physics and astronomy. But given the acknowledged complexity of the known univer- sal order it is unlikely that contemporary scientific knowledge is complete or omniscient. There may be a vast number of holes in Man’s understanding of how and why things work the way they do. In short, any conscientious scientist must admit that he or she is scratching only at the surface of the truth. The trouble is that comparatively few of these highly intelligent in- dividuals will admit that one of the holes may contain the no- tion of a Creator. Atheistic science rejects what it regards as the superstitious magic of ‘creation’. Instead, it has substituted its own magic of the Big Bang – an event so far back in any meaningful understanding of chronology that it might as well be an eternity, and one before which there was . . . nothing? (3) He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders (Micah 5: 5). For most people, atheism will never fully supplant faith; the faculty for belief in a Supreme Being is deeply entrenched in human nature. But the structure and shape of the faith that people now hold has been profoundly altered by the effects of the alliance of Science with Atheism. In the West, especially in those nations which once formed the old Christendom, the ef- fects of the promulgation of a culture of unbelief are dire, and will get worse. The tendency to reject faith in general and Christianity in particular, coincides with – and has been stimu- lated by – advances in scientific knowledge and the crude so- cial trends toward a liberal, humanistic philosophy in many areas of thought. These changes have been boosted by the nat- ural tendency of each generation to discard the mores and out- look of the preceding generation, and to express itself in radically different forms of music, sexual behaviour, and so on. All in all, society must cope with a radically altered social landscape compared with previous generations. In addition, the thirst for information and modernity is, by its nature, secu- lar. Scientific inquiry, having already ruled out God, is not a friend to faith; and a modern style of living which smirks at self-control or the development of a godly character does not bode well for Christianity. Atheism and Science, being now essentially fused together as one, exude certainty, conveying the impression that by merely explaining Nature they hold a commanding claim to it. The conscientious Christian has no such luxury, being frequently troubled by doubt over what he or she has been taught to be- lieve about the Bible, the character of God or, in low moods, to question even His existence. Don’t be surprised by such tri- als. Faith grows out of the struggles with doubt: ‘Help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9: 24). These are hard times to be a believer in the Bible. It’s important to remember that atheists, no matter how clever their arguments may seem, are not as conversant with the Bible or its overall philosophy as they pretend to be. Like pas- sengers disembarking from a cruise ship at the latest port of call on an exotic island, possessing only a nodding acquaint- ance with local culture, most unbelievers spend little time wor- rying about the daily implications of the Christian faith or the consequences of losing it. Attempting to indict God with phony arguments, they are transient tourists, dipping in and out of the heavenly environment just long enough to find something wrong with it. They do not care if they destroy your faith. So don’t be overawed or intimidated by their approach. At the same time, don’t fall back on blind dogma; engage in an intelligent, inquisitive, rational study of the Bible. The Christian woman or man who rests by faith in the finished work of Christ as Saviour and King is a forgiven child, be- loved by God, the Maker and Sustainer of All Things. And though we may wage long and severe mental battles against doubt, we will at length come through, scarred and battered, but victorious. ______________ 2011
MOTHS AND MOWERS By A. Prentice Part One of Two Scripture references are to the New International Version. Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. James 5: 1-6 WITH THE WORLD in a worry over economic problems, personal and sovereign debt, much of the rising anger has been directed at ‘the rich’, the so-called ‘one per cent’. This relatively small upper crust of the ultra-prosperous has become the pop- ular symbol of capitalism at its worst. In Britain, the Conservative government – a party whose policies are traditionally on the side of Business – have borrowed public anger and pressured well-paid bankers to renounce their lavish year-end bonuses. The warning words of the Apostle James (quoted at the head of this article) to this privileged class are often invoked by exponents of Scripture to describe the retribution awaiting those who make unjust profits by exploiting those beneath them. Peering Into The Future This passage in James has been interpreted by many Bible commentators as a prediction of a world-scale rebellion of poor against rich, Labour against Capital. So far, this extreme interpretation is not borne out by the facts, though it has found expres- sion in national or sub-national events, such as, for example, the French Revolution; the uprising of workers against aristocratic landholders in Manchester (‘Peterloo’), 1819; or the rural workers’ ‘Bloody Sunday’ riot in Vancouver, 1938, during the Depression. However, the sentiment of the poor against the rich, the revolutionary against the aristocrat, the anarchist against the state, is sufficiently ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. The nature of such a conflict – simmering or exploding – between the high and low classes is a throbbing constant of history, and on its face the James passage signals nothing new. Besides, one must always take into account the tendentious habit of interpreting topical events to prove a pet theory. Even the best minds can fall into this trap. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the current prognostications regarding the national economy, which vary widely from hopeful to dire over the weekly cycle. Of all the faculties with which the human intellect is blessed, it seems that hindsight is more accurate than foresight. Beginning in the twentieth century, economic upheavals tended to be international in scale, due to the co-ordination of credit and financial structures across the industrialised world. The various depressions and recessions of 1907, 1929, 2008, and others before and in between, demonstrate this. One might therefore expect that the ultimate clash of Labour against Capital – if there is to be one – would have occurred by now, especially considering the far-reaching effects of two World Wars during the first half of the last century. If a world-beating crash is envisaged by the James passage, it evidently lies in the future. This is an important consideration, for ‘end-of-time’ biblical prophecies are often couched in apocalyptic language, and small-scale or regional disturbances do not fit the bill. Perhaps the James passage should be interpreted in some other way? It is worth noting that the Apostle situates his own predic- tion within the context of the religious community. We will examine the passage and explore the possibilities. The Book Of James Accepted relatively late into the Canon, due to the disputed identity of its author and its literary style, this epistle was appar- ently written between 40 and and the early 60s A.D. It is directed to ‘the twelve tribes scattered among the nations’ (v. 1). From this one may reasonably conclude that the writer’s intended audience was made up of Christian Jews. Depending on the date assigned to this letter, the brethren to whom it was addressed may have met in synagogues, if the Greek word synagoge, translated as ‘meeting’ in 2: 2, is assigned weight, a possibility that might explain the diversity of classes within these congregations, drawn from the surrounding Jewish population. Such a practise is common today: a newly-formed Christian church without a building in which to assemble may rent a theatre or civic hall until it can construct its own quarters. But compare 2: 2 with 5: 14, where the usual Greek word for ‘church’ (ecclesia) is used. There evidently was a divide between the rich among them and those who were poor. Some of the latter group were presum- ably of the ‘want-to-be-rich’, and evinced a tendency to kowtow to the celebrity in their midst: James 1: 9-11 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride [joy, Ed.] in his high position [as unmerited favour, Ed.]. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low [abased] position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. James 2: 1-6 1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor [by pandering to the rich, Ed.]. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? [A thing forbidden to Christians; 1 Corinthians 6: 1-6, Ed.] Covetousness and envy of wealth were not the only problems which confronted these churches. James castigates their failure to care for the orphans and widows among them (1: 27); their professing faith, but not living it (2: 14-17); their calumny and gossiping (3: 3-10); and their being ambitious (3: 13-16), argumentative (4: 1, 2), vindictive (4: 11, 12), and presumptuous (4: 13-17). Continues next page _______ 2012
MOTHS AND MOWERS By A. Prentice Part One of Two Scripture references are to the New International Version. Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the har- vesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have con- demned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. James 5: 1-6 WITH THE WORLD in a worry over economic problems, personal and sovereign debt, much of the rising anger has been directed at ‘the rich’, the so-called ‘one per cent’. This relat- ively small upper crust of the ultra-prosperous has become the popular symbol of capitalism at its worst. In Britain, the Conservative government – a party whose policies are tradi- tionally on the side of Business – have borrowed public anger and pressured well-paid bankers to renounce their lavish year- end bonuses. The warning words of the Apostle James (quoted at the head of this article) to this privileged class are often in- voked by exponents of Scripture to describe the retribution awaiting those who make unjust profits by exploiting those be- neath them. Peering Into The Future This passage in James has been interpreted by many Bible commentators as a prediction of a world-scale rebellion of poor against rich, Labour against Capital. So far, this extreme interpretation is not borne out by the facts, though it has found expression in national or sub-national events, such as, for ex- ample, the French Revolution; the uprising of workers against aristocratic landholders in Manchester (‘Peterloo’), 1819; or the rural workers’ ‘Bloody Sunday’ riot in Vancouver, 1938, during the Depression. However, the sentiment of the poor against the rich, the revolu- tionary against the aristocrat, the anarchist against the state, is sufficiently ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. The nature of such a conflict – simmering or exploding – between the high and low classes is a throbbing constant of history, and on its face the James passage signals nothing new. Besides, one must always take into account the tendentious habit of interpreting topical events to prove a pet theory. Even the best minds can fall into this trap. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the current prognostications regarding the national economy, which vary widely from hopeful to dire over the weekly cycle. Of all the faculties with which the human intellect is blessed, it seems that hindsight is more accurate than foresight. Beginning in the twentieth century, economic upheavals ten- ded to be international in scale, due to the co-ordination of credit and financial structures across the industrialised world. The various depressions and recessions of 1907, 1929, 2008, and others before and in between, demonstrate this. One might therefore expect that the ultimate clash of Labour against Capital – if there is to be one – would have occurred by now, especially considering the far-reaching effects of two World Wars during the first half of the last century. If a world-beating crash is envisaged by the James passage, it evidently lies in the future. This is an important consideration, for ‘end-of-time’ biblical prophecies are often couched in apo- calyptic language, and small-scale or regional disturbances do not fit the bill. Perhaps the James passage should be interpreted in some other way? It is worth noting that the Apostle situates his own pre- diction within the context of the religious community. We will examine the passage and explore the possibilities. The Book Of James Accepted relatively late into the Canon, due to the disputed identity of its author and its literary style, this epistle was ap- parently written between 40 and and the early 60s A.D. It is directed to ‘the twelve tribes scattered among the nations’ (v. 1). From this one may reasonably conclude that the writer’s in- tended audience was made up of Christian Jews. Depending on the date assigned to this letter, the brethren to whom it was addressed may have met in synagogues, if the Greek word synagoge, translated as ‘meeting’ in 2: 2, is as- signed weight, a possibility that might explain the diversity of classes within these congregations, drawn from the surround- ing Jewish population. Such a practise is common today: a newly-formed Christian church without a building in which to assemble may rent a theatre or civic hall until it can construct its own quarters. But compare 2: 2 with 5: 14, where the usual Greek word for ‘church’ (ecclesia) is used. There evidently was a divide between the rich among them and those who were poor. Some of the latter group were presum- ably of the ‘want-to-be-rich’, and evinced a tendency to kow- tow to the celebrity in their midst: James 1: 9-11 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride [joy, Ed.] in his high position [as un- merited favour, Ed.]. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low [abased] position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. James 2: 1-6 1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wear- ing fine clothes and say ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor [by pandering to the rich, Ed.]. Is it not the rich who are ex- ploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? [A thing forbidden to Christians; 1 Corinthians 6: 1-6, Ed.] Covetousness and envy of wealth were not the only problems which confronted these churches. James cas- tigates their failure to care for the orphans and widows among them (1: 27); their professing faith, but not liv- ing it (2: 14-17); their calumny and gossiping (3: 3-10); and their being ambitious (3: 13-16), argumentative (4: 1, 2), vindictive (4: 11, 12), and presumptuous (4: 13- 17). Continues next page _______ 2012
MOTHS AND MOWERS By A. Prentice Part Two of Two Part One can be found here Scripture references are to the New International Version-UK Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered in- nocent men, who were not opposing you. James 5: 1-6 THE FIRST INSTALMENT on this subject argued that the early Jewish-Christian congregations of the diaspora, to whom James addressed his epistle, comprised both worldly rich and poor. The imbalance in social standing fostered elitism – a sort of celebrity worship, replete with sycophants, reserved pews for the few and the back seat for the rest. It posed the questions as to whether James’ diatribe against the rich in chapter 5: 1-6 is to be read, (1) as an indictment of that immediate, local problem (and thus his attempt to reform the practice in the affected churches) or, (2) as a wide-ranging prediction of a future, mighty clash between Capital and Labour. It suggested that the apocalyptic interpretation of James’ words has not yet occurred (and might not), but noted that there have been clashes of a similar nature at the state and sub-national level. Painting the Scene One may infer from the tenor of the epistle that some present at the reading of it were indeed rich, and guilty of the sins which James rails against in Chapter 5. Possibly some had – in the words of St. Paul, with reference to a different setting – ‘infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves’ (Galatians 2: 4; compare, 2 Peter 2: 1-3). Perhaps other members were attempting to reconcile friendship with God and friendship with Money (‘Mammon’) – an im- possible juggling act, which Jesus condemns (Luke 16: 13). Perhaps their being treated as ‘special’ by other members of the congregation had turned their heads. A like situation existed in the denominational church much later on, during the Gospel Age, with all its frippery, along with the tendency for congregational authority to leech from laity to hierarchy, resulting in an autocratic institution. In Revelation 3: 17-19 the Laodicean phase of the Gospel-Age church is castigated in terms similar to those in James’ epistle. Analysis of James 5: 1-9 and 19-20 To make the following analysis easier to read, the Bible text is displayed in italics and is followed by comments in Roman type. Editorial comments within the text itself appear in brackets. The bibliography at the end of this article supplements the analysis with illustrations and sources from ancient and modern history. James employs ‘listen’ (2: 5) or ‘now listen’ (4: 13) to get the attention of his audience. Likewise, he prepares them for his criti- cism in 5: 1: 1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. The use of the personal ‘you’ perhaps suggests a direct application to his hearers, that his words are more than a rhetorical flight of abstract condemnation, detached from the experience of the congregation. These rich persons may have included land- lords, money lenders, merchants – those who (directly or indirectly) recruited indigent workers at low wages, especially in agrarian industry, the principal mass occupation of the day. [See Matthew 20: 1-7.] The rich indicted in James’ epistle were such as liked to be on display. Jesus condemns their equivalents of His day, the Pharisees, who dressed to be noticed (Matthew 23: 5-7): ‘Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries [leather cases which held sacred parchments and served as amulets] wide [conspicuous] and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the market-places and to have men call them “Rabbi”.’ 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Not only did the rich hoard their monetary treasures, but also their expensive garments. Rust would eventually ravage the former, insects the latter. The process was already under way (‘has’, ‘have eaten’). 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. They will lose everything, as one might in an audacious stock market gamble. Angry, and broken in spirit, their lives will feel burdensome and useless. [Compare this with the Lord’s parable of the farmer in Luke 12: 16-21.] The expression (5: 3), ‘in the last days’, might also be rendered ‘against the evil day’ or ‘fully expecting to use it later’. The phrase has prompted some com- mentators to locate the fulfilment at the ‘end time’ – the classic ‘Time of Trouble’. If this is its meaning, then its application to those in James’ audience becomes moot. For how would his admonition then have relevance to his audience at that particular period? Would the brethren have understood that there could be no satisfaction for their grievances in their own lifetime? On the other hand, if James addresses the rich men at that particular time, we may understand his warning as a pastoral effort to move them to urgent reform. And so he underscores, in general terms, how the rich as a class will in the long run get their comeuppance. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the har- vesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. ‘The Lord of armies’; carried over from the Hebrew, sabaoth, a military term. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves [by your usurious profits as] in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you [effectively depriving them of a livelihood]. The rich were often despised by the population at large, not unlike the case of the Scribes and Pharisees, who exploited the people in religious matters, and by their unscrupulous practices in monetary exchange at the temple, and so on. The predatory rich cheated the workers, holding back their just remuneration on technicalities. See Deuteronomy 24: 14, 15. 7. Be patient [forbearing], then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming [‘parousia’, presence]. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near [close by]. James shifts rhetorical gears from prophetic to pastoral. Offering them an alternative view, he invokes the agricultural figure of verse 5 and beseeches the ‘brothers’ (including the rich among them) to forbear. Don’t be anxious or neurotic about the future. No need for selfish hoarding, for the Lord will fulfil His promises to you in due course. But you must wait for the appropriate season. In what sense was the Lord’s ‘coming’ close by? Certainly not in the way Jesus meant it in Matthew 24: 37: ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man.’ The Lord here describes events which were to occur centuries later, at the end of the Gospel Age – a time far distant from the brethren of James’ acquaintance. Indeed, the Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, cautions the brethren not to fall for the rumour that Christ had already come. He tells them how many events were yet to occur before the Second Advent (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3). In one sense the presence of the Lord is perpetually imminent. For example, Jesus announced in Matthew 10: 7 that the ‘king- dom [basileia] of heaven is near’, in the sense that the calling of the heavenly elect had begun. And in Matthew 28: 20 He com- forts His disciples with the promise that He is ‘with them’ until the end of the (Gospel) age – a long period of waiting until His Second Advent. This so-called dialectical tension on the matter of the Lord’s Coming – it is ‘at hand’, it is ‘far off’ – baffles many approaches to this subject. But it serves to remind us that from the time Christ first appeared in the earth, He has never effectively been absent. All events since the First Advent have step by step accomplished His Gospel mission. Through the epistle of James and the other New Testament writings, the elect Church was exhorted to live as though the ‘time is short’. They are reminded that although being in this world, they are not ‘of’ it. It is as though they had vaulted over the present age into the presence of the returned Lord. Indeed, from the personal point of view, the presence of the Lord is as close as one’s death. 9. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you [too] will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! [near you] Summing up, James tells the brethren, you cannot safeguard your eternal future by hoarding. ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy’ (Matthew 6: 19, 20). You can’t control the future, so don’t be anxious or fretful, for that only breeds discontent and arguments. Remember that the Lord is watching your intentions. (Compare Genesis 4: 7, re  Cain.) In verses 10 and 11, James urges the brethren to follow the examples of the patient prophets – Job, for his suffering without complaint, and Elijah, who waited three-and-a-half years for rain. (Interestingly, James does not cite the sufferings of Jesus.) In the final two verses of his epistle, James returns to the encouraging optimism with which he began: 19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. One likes to imagine that some of the rich in the congregation were converted by these words. Perhaps some left for good. Of Predictions So might this application of James 5: 1-6 prophesy a coming global clash? It has been applied this way by some in the past, and it’s stating the obvious to say that it hasn’t been fulfilled this way. Nonetheless, other biblical prophecies regarding the ‘last days’ have likewise failed to materialise, not because they are in themselves false (God forbid!), but because those interpreting them have lacked, not sufficient piety, but sufficient data. Events which prevail at the time the prediction is made might be so complex – they may even ‘match’ the expectation – that one is misled into a false certainty. The Adventist expectation of the Lord’s coming in 1844 is one of several examples. Caution is apropos when one attempts to extrapolate trends from the nineteenth century – an ‘analogue’ age – to the twenty- first – a ‘digital’ age’. Our generation is unique in history: exquisite technologies have forced the re-distribution of Industry, Capital and Labour, away from their traditional bases. The upheavals have also altered the behaviour, mores and operations of society, introducing new benefits and perils along the way. Human nature may remain the same, but the milieu in which man- kind must now function is very different from that of previous generations. The impact of these changes is hard to overstate: they have modified not only the way in which individuals and nations think and interact, but have introduced new trends, trends which may dictate the manner in which the future unfolds. One’s situation in the present precludes knowing with absolute accuracy what will happen years hence. It is reasonable to con- clude that if the thing predicted does not occur at the time forecast, then either, (a) the interpretation is wrong or, (b) the predic- tion is right, but the time for its fulfilment is farther away. Either way, a mistake has been made. How many times have we heard someone say of world events, ‘things can’t go on like this much longer’? But yet they do ‘go on’, decade after decade. This is a source of puzzlement and anxiety for many Bible Students. The social order is far more resilient than we give it credit for. And man is creative in adjusting his affairs to anticipate or address the various crises, thus deferring the ‘inevitable’. In Closing Assessments of future economic conditions vary from cautiously optimistic to dire. The long-term effects of the crisis in the Eurozone and the impact of sovereign debt for the United States are unclear. In this age of austerity, budgetary restraints, low rates of investment returns, erosion of currency values and rising prices, can nation-states shore up their pension and social se- curity funds to satisfy the income needs of the large cohort of workers retiring over the next decade? What would be the con- sequences to civil society if they cannot? Would there be worldwide uprising, Greece-style, along the lines of James 5: 1-6? This is guesswork, and perhaps one ought not to press the James 5 passage to fit such an application. Nonetheless, if one insists that the passage does predict such an outcome, then one must prepare to be patient. In view of other biblical prophecies still awaiting completion, it might be many years until this world winds down and the Kingdom of Christ is established in the earth. ____________________ Selected Bibliography On James 5 Barnes’ Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews and the General Epistles (London: George Routledge and Sons; 1866): 2: ‘As the fashions in the East did not change as they do with us, wealth consisted much in the garments that were laid up for show, or future use. . . . Horace tells us that when Lucullus, the Roman, was asked if he could lend a hundred garments for the theatre, he replied, that he had five thousand in his house . . . .’ 4: ‘. . . used to denote labour in general . . . . the reaping of the harvest seems to be more immediately connected with the accu- mulation of prosperity.’ Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary (Nashville: Abingdon Press; no date of publication): 3: Clarke opines that the destruction forecast for the ‘rich men’ was fulfilled in 70 A.D. (less than a decade after this epistle was circulated), when the Romans laid siege against Jerusalem. He writes: ‘the last days of the Jewish commonwealth . . . were not long distant from the date of this epistle.’ Author’s Note: The warfare against the holy city conducted by the Romans was mirrored inside by the persecution of Jew against Jew. Of this period, Josephus writes: ‘As for the richer sort, it proved all one to them whether they stayed in the city or attempted to get out of it; for they were equally destroyed in both cases; for every such person was put to death under this pretence, that they were going to desert – but in reality that the robbers might get what they had.’ (Wars; Book V, Chap. 10, 2.) C.T. Russell, The Battle of Armageddon (Brooklyn: International Bible Students Association; 1897 [repr. 1914]), pp. 410, 411: 4: ‘All the thinking people of the world are agreed that the laboring and mechanical classes of Christendom are ripe for a re- volution which would sweep present social institutions with a besom of destruction, and that, if the large and hitherto conser- vative farming element were to join the ranks of the discontents and revolutionists, the combination would be irresistible. . . . Evidences on every side are that a very few years will suffice to bring about such an uprising. . . . Whoever will compare all these facts with James’ prophecy must be impressed with its accurate fulfilment.’ Commentary on the New Testament (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; 1880): 5: ‘It is not impossible that . . . the Apostle may refer to the wanton luxury of the Jews, leading to the terrible overthrow of their City and Temple by the Romans under Titus.’ Miscellaneous Pierre Berton, The Great Depression 1929-1939 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Inc.; 1990), pp. 446, 447: ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1938, Canada): ‘When the government closed the relief camps in 1936, it had instituted a program of farm placement camps in which single men were to be paid five dollars a month for agricultural labour. That was no more than the so-called “slave camps” paid . . . . The farm employment scheme ended with each harvest, after which the men were left to fend for themselves. The government justified the callous policy by pretending that they could exist all winter on their summer savings. That was patently absurd.’ Carlton J. H. Hayes and Parker Thomas Moon, Modern History (New York: The MacMillan Company; 1944), p. 841: The New Deal, 1930s, USA: ‘The New Deal also took pains to improve the condition of the farmers, many of whom had been experiencing depression throughout the post-war years. Under the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), hundreds of millions of dollars were paid to farmers to increase their purchasing power, while the farmers agreed to cut down their production so as to raise the prices of farm products.’ Jean Sigmann, 1848: The Romantic and Democratic Revolutions in Europe (New York: Harper & Row; 1970), pp. 33, 34: Peterloo massacre: ‘The participation of the masses infused into an ideological trend already ancient, a revolutionary window unrivalled on the continent until the Parisian days of 1830. . . . With William Cobbett, son of a farm labourer and creator of the cheap popular press, and Francis Place, a former journeyman tailor, the radical press reached the proletarians of the countryside and the towns. Formidable slogans – universal suffrage, repeal of the Corn Laws – attracted large crowds: in 1816 at Spitalfields near London thousands of workers cheered . . . a green, white and red flag, symbol of a dreamed-of Republic of Great Britain. The agitation persisted until 16 August 1819, the day when fifty thousand workers met at St Peter’s Fields near Manchester. The troops charged; eleven dead and hundreds injured was the price paid by the English workers who, the first in Europe, dared openly to demand universal suffrage. . . . The English workers, however, soon withdrew from a foreign ideology to devote themselves to a specifically British form of activity, trade union action.’ _____________ March 2012
MOTHS AND MOWERS By A. Prentice Part Two of Two Part One can be found here Scripture references are to the New International Version-UK Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are cor- roded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the har- vesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have con- demned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. James 5: 1-6 THE FIRST INSTALMENT on this subject argued that the early Jewish-Christian congregations of the diaspora, to whom James addressed his epistle, comprised both worldly rich and poor. The imbalance in social standing fostered elitism – a sort of celebrity worship, replete with sycophants, reserved pews for the few and the back seat for the rest. It posed the questions as to whether James’ diatribe against the rich in chapter 5: 1-6 is to be read, (1) as an indictment of that immediate, local prob- lem (and thus his attempt to reform the practice in the affected churches) or, (2) as a wide-ranging prediction of a future, mighty clash between Capital and Labour. It suggested that the apocalyptic interpretation of James’ words has not yet occurred (and might not), but noted that there have been clashes of a similar nature at the state and sub-national level. Painting the Scene One may infer from the tenor of the epistle that some present at the reading of it were indeed rich, and guilty of the sins which James rails against in Chapter 5. Possibly some had – in the words of St. Paul, with reference to a different setting – ‘infilt- rated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves’ (Galatians 2: 4; compare, 2 Peter 2: 1- 3). Perhaps other members were attempting to reconcile friendship with God and friendship with Money (‘Mammon’) – an im- possible juggling act, which Jesus condemns (Luke 16: 13). Perhaps their being treated as ‘special’ by other members of the congregation had turned their heads. A like situation existed in the denominational church much later on, during the Gospel Age, with all its frippery, along with the tendency for congrega- tional authority to leech from laity to hierarchy, resulting in an autocratic institution. In Revelation 3: 17-19 the Laodicean phase of the Gospel-Age church is castigated in terms similar to those in James’ epistle. Analysis of James 5: 1-9 and 19-20 To make the following analysis easier to read, the Bible text is displayed in italics and is followed by comments in Roman type. Editorial comments within the text itself appear in brack- ets. The bibliography at the end of this article supplements the analysis with illustrations and sources from ancient and modern history. James employs ‘listen’ (2: 5) or ‘now listen’ (4: 13) to get the attention of his audience. Likewise, he prepares them for his criticism in 5: 1: 1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. The use of the personal ‘you’ perhaps suggests a direct applica- tion to his hearers, that his words are more than a rhetorical flight of abstract condemnation, detached from the experience of the congregation. These rich persons may have included landlords, money lenders, merchants – those who (directly or indirectly) recruited indigent workers at low wages, especially in agrarian industry, the principal mass occupation of the day. [See Matthew 20: 1-7.] The rich indicted in James’ epistle were such as liked to be on display. Jesus condemns their equivalents of His day, the Pharisees, who dressed to be noticed (Matthew 23: 5-7): ‘Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries [leather cases which held sacred parchments and served as amulets] wide [conspicuous] and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the market-places and to have men call them “Rabbi”.’ 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Not only did the rich hoard their monetary treasures, but also their expensive garments. Rust would eventually ravage the former, insects the latter. The process was already under way (‘has’, ‘have eaten’). 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. They will lose everything, as one might in an audacious stock market gamble. Angry, and broken in spirit, their lives will feel burdensome and useless. [Compare this with the Lord’s parable of the farmer in Luke 12: 16-21.] The expression (5: 3), ‘in the last days’, might also be rendered ‘against the evil day’ or ‘fully expecting to use it later’. The phrase has prompted some commentators to locate the fulfilment at the ‘end time’ – the classic ‘Time of Trouble’. If this is its meaning, then its applic- ation to those in James’ audience becomes moot. For how would his admonition then have relevance to his audience at that particular period? Would the brethren have understood that there could be no satisfaction for their grievances in their own lifetime? On the other hand, if James addresses the rich men at that particular time, we may understand his warning as a pas- toral effort to move them to urgent reform. And so he under- scores, in general terms, how the rich as a class will in the long run get their comeuppance. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the har- vesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. ‘The Lord of armies’; carried over from the Hebrew, sabaoth, a military term. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves [by your usurious profits as] in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered inno- cent men, who were not opposing you [effectively depriving them of a livelihood]. The rich were often despised by the population at large, not un- like the case of the Scribes and Pharisees, who exploited the people in religious matters, and by their unscrupulous practices in monetary exchange at the temple, and so on. The predatory rich cheated the workers, holding back their just remuneration on technicalities. See Deuteronomy 24: 14, 15. 7. Be patient [forbearing], then, brothers, until the Lord’s com- ing [‘parousia’, presence]. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the au- tumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, be- cause the Lord’s coming is near [close by]. James shifts rhetorical gears from prophetic to pastoral. Offering them an alternative view, he invokes the agricultural figure of verse 5 and beseeches the ‘brothers’ (including the rich among them) to forbear. Don’t be anxious or neurotic about the future. No need for selfish hoarding, for the Lord will fulfil His promises to you in due course. But you must wait for the appropriate season. In what sense was the Lord’s ‘coming’ close by? Certainly not in the way Jesus meant it in Matthew 24: 37: ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man.’ The Lord here describes events which were to occur centuries later, at the end of the Gospel Age – a time far distant from the brethren of James’ acquaintance. Indeed, the Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, cautions the brethren not to fall for the rumour that Christ had already come. He tells them how many events were yet to occur before the Second Advent (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3). In one sense the presence of the Lord is perpetually imminent.  For example, Jesus announced in Matthew 10: 7 that the ‘king- dom [basileia] of heaven is near’, in the sense that the calling of the heavenly elect had begun. And in Matthew 28: 20 He comforts His disciples with the promise that He is ‘with them’ until the end of the (Gospel) age – a long period of waiting until His Second Advent. This so-called dialectical tension on the matter of the Lord’s Coming – it is ‘at hand’, it is ‘far off’ – baffles many approaches to this subject. But it serves to remind us that from the time Christ first appeared in the earth, He has never effectively been absent. All events since the First Advent have step by step accomplished His Gospel mission. Through the epistle of James and the other New Testament writings, the elect Church was exhorted to live as though the ‘time is short’. They are reminded that although being in this world, they are not ‘of’ it. It is as though they had vaulted over the present age into the presence of the returned Lord. Indeed, from the per- sonal point of view, the presence of the Lord is as close as one’s death. 9. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you [too] will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! [near you] Summing up, James tells the brethren, you cannot safeguard your eternal future by hoarding. ‘Store up for yourselves treas- ures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy’ (Matthew 6: 19, 20). You can’t control the future, so don’t be anxious or fretful, for that only breeds discontent and arguments. Remember that the Lord is watching your intentions. (Compare Genesis 4: 7, re Cain.) In verses 10 and 11, James urges the brethren to follow the examples of the patient prophets – Job, for his suffering without complaint, and Elijah, who waited three-and-a-half years for rain. (Interestingly, James does not cite the sufferings of Jesus.) In the final two verses of his epistle, James returns to the en- couraging optimism with which he began: 19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. One likes to imagine that some of the rich in the congregation were converted by these words. Perhaps some left for good. Of Predictions So might this application of James 5: 1-6 prophesy a coming global clash? It has been applied this way by some in the past, and it’s stating the obvious to say that it hasn’t been fulfilled this way. Nonetheless, other biblical prophecies regarding the ‘last days’ have likewise failed to materialise, not because they are in themselves false (God forbid!), but because those inter- preting them have lacked, not sufficient piety, but sufficient data. Events which prevail at the time the prediction is made might be so complex – they may even ‘match’ the expectation – that one is misled into a false certainty. The Adventist expecta- tion of the Lord’s coming in 1844 is one of several examples. Caution is apropos when one attempts to extrapolate trends from the nineteenth century – an ‘analogue’ age – to the twenty-first – a ‘digital’ age’. Our generation is unique in his- tory: exquisite technologies have forced the re-distribution of Industry, Capital and Labour, away from their traditional bases. The upheavals have also altered the behaviour, mores and oper- ations of society, introducing new benefits and perils along the way. Human nature may remain the same, but the milieu in which mankind must now function is very different from that of previous generations. The impact of these changes is hard to overstate: they have modified not only the way in which indi- viduals and nations think and interact, but have introduced new trends, trends which may dictate the manner in which the fu- ture unfolds. One’s situation in the present precludes knowing with absolute accuracy what will happen years hence. It is reasonable to con- clude that if the thing predicted does not occur at the time fore- cast, then either, (a) the interpretation is wrong or, (b) the prediction is right, but the time for its fulfilment is farther away. Either way, a mistake has been made. How many times have we heard someone say of world events, ‘things can’t go on like this much longer’? But yet they do ‘go on’, decade after decade. This is a source of puzzlement and anxiety for many Bible Students. The social order is far more resilient than we give it credit for. And man is creative in adjusting his affairs to anticipate or address the various crises, thus deferring the ‘inevitable’. In Closing Assessments of future economic conditions vary from cau- tiously optimistic to dire. The long-term effects of the crisis in the Eurozone and the impact of sovereign debt for the United States are unclear. In this age of austerity, budgetary restraints, low rates of investment returns, erosion of currency values and rising prices, can nation-states shore up their pension and social security funds to satisfy the income needs of the large cohort of workers retiring over the next decade? What would be the con- sequences to civil society if they cannot? Would there be worldwide uprising, Greece-style, along the lines of James 5: 1-6? This is guesswork, and perhaps one ought not to press the James 5 passage to fit such an application. Nonetheless, if one insists that the passage does predict such an outcome, then one must prepare to be patient. In view of other biblical prophecies still awaiting completion, it might be many years until this world winds down and the Kingdom of Christ is established in the earth. ____________________ Selected Bibliography On James 5 Barnes’ Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews and the General Epistles (London: George Routledge and Sons; 1866): 2: ‘As the fashions in the East did not change as they do with us, wealth consisted much in the garments that were laid up for show, or future use. . . . Horace tells us that when Lucullus, the Roman, was asked if he could lend a hundred garments for the theatre, he replied, that he had five thousand in his house . . . .’ 4: ‘. . . used to denote labour in general . . . . the reaping of the harvest seems to be more immediately connected with the ac- cumulation of prosperity.’ Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary (Nashville: Abingdon Press; no date of publication): 3: Clarke opines that the destruction forecast for the ‘rich men’ was fulfilled in 70 A.D. (less than a decade after this epistle was circulated), when the Romans laid siege against Jerusalem. He writes: ‘the last days of the Jewish commonwealth . . . were not long distant from the date of this epistle.’ Author’s Note: The warfare against the holy city conducted by the Romans was mirrored inside by the persecution of Jew against Jew. Of this period, Josephus writes: ‘As for the richer sort, it proved all one to them whether they stayed in the city or attempted to get out of it; for they were equally destroyed in both cases; for every such person was put to death under this pretence, that they were going to desert – but in reality that the robbers might get what they had.’ (Wars; Book V, Chap. 10, 2.) C.T. Russell, The Battle of Armageddon (Brooklyn: International Bible Students Association; 1897 [repr. 1914]), pp. 410, 411: 4: ‘All the thinking people of the world are agreed that the la- boring and mechanical classes of Christendom are ripe for a re- volution which would sweep present social institutions with a besom of destruction, and that, if the large and hitherto conser- vative farming element were to join the ranks of the discontents and revolutionists, the combination would be irresistible. . . . Evidences on every side are that a very few years will suffice to bring about such an uprising. . . . Whoever will compare all these facts with James’ prophecy must be impressed with its ac- curate fulfilment.’ Commentary on the New Testament (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; 1880): 5: ‘It is not impossible that . . . the Apostle may refer to the wanton luxury of the Jews, leading to the terrible overthrow of their City and Temple by the Romans under Titus.’ Miscellaneous Pierre Berton, The Great Depression 1929-1939 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Inc.; 1990), pp. 446, 447: ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1938, Canada): ‘When the government closed the relief camps in 1936, it had instituted a program of farm placement camps in which single men were to be paid five dollars a month for agricultural labour. That was no more than the so-called “slave camps” paid . . . . The farm employ- ment scheme ended with each harvest, after which the men were left to fend for themselves. The government justified the callous policy by pretending that they could exist all winter on their summer savings. That was patently absurd.’ Carlton J. H. Hayes and Parker Thomas Moon, Modern History  (New York: The MacMillan Company; 1944), p. 841: The New Deal, 1930s, USA: ‘The New Deal also took pains to improve the condition of the farmers, many of whom had been experiencing depression throughout the post-war years. Under the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), hundreds of millions of dollars were paid to farmers to increase their purchasing power, while the farmers agreed to cut down their production so as to raise the prices of farm products.’ Jean Sigmann, 1848: The Romantic and Democratic Revolutions in Europe (New York: Harper & Row; 1970), pp. 33, 34: Peterloo massacre: ‘The participation of the masses infused into an ideological trend already ancient, a revolutionary win- dow unrivalled on the continent until the Parisian days of 1830. . . . With William Cobbett, son of a farm labourer and creator of the cheap popular press, and Francis Place, a former journey- man tailor, the radical press reached the proletarians of the countryside and the towns. Formidable slogans – universal suf- frage, repeal of the Corn Laws – attracted large crowds: in 1816 at Spitalfields near London thousands of workers cheered . . . a green, white and red flag, symbol of a dreamed-of Republic of Great Britain. The agitation persisted until 16 August 1819, the day when fifty thousand workers met at St Peter’s Fields near Manchester. The troops charged; eleven dead and hundreds injured was the price paid by the English workers who, the first in Europe, dared openly to demand uni- versal suffrage. . . . The English workers, however, soon with- drew from a foreign ideology to devote themselves to a specifically British form of activity, trade union action.’ _____________ March 2012
THE ARROW OF TIME Scripture citations are to the New International Version, UK edition (NIV-UK) ‘But,’ said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the fire, ‘if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is it, and why has it always been, regarded as something different? And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other dimensions of Space?’ The Time Traveller smiled. ‘Are you sure we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough, and men always have done so. I admit we move freely in two dimensions. But how about up and down? Gravitation limits us there.’ ‘Not exactly,’said the Medical Man. ‘There are balloons.’ ‘But before the balloons, save for spasmodic jumping and the inequalities of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical movement.’ ‘Still they could move a little up and down,’ said the Medical Man. ‘Easier, far easier down than up.’ ‘And you cannot move at all in Time, you cannot get away from the present moment.’ ‘My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong. That is just where the whole world has gone wrong. We are always getting away from the present movement. Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave. Just as we should travel down if we began our existence fifty miles above the earth’s surface.' ‘But the great difficulty is this,’ interrupted the Psychologist. ‘You can move about in all directions of Space, but you cannot move about in Time.’ The Time Machine, H(erbert).G(eorge). Wells (1866-1946); Source: http://ota.oucs.ox.ac.uk/headers/1901.xml (free download for non-commercial use) _______________________________________________ ONE CAN MAKE scrambled eggs from eggs, but not the reverse. This statement evokes the notion that Nature moves only in a forward direction. This is the general assumption behind the Big Bang. Triggered by a so-called ‘quantum fluctuation’, it is postulated that the Universe exploded out of a dense, compressed point of matter about fourteen-thousand-million years ago, and spread outwards at high speed, a process which continues. Likewise, forward motion presumably lies behind the process of Evolution in which living organisms ‘move’ from a simpler mode of ex- istence to the more complex (and not the other way round). This principle of the ‘arrow of time’ applied to history, suggests that time travel, the theme of the novel by H.G. Wells, quoted at the head of this article, is a physical impossibility. However, the universal interest in travelling back to the past intimates at a legitimate longing of the human mind. In its sentimental forms, time travel expresses itself as Nostalgia and Regret. This would seem to argue against the evolution of the human species, for Evolution is, by its very progressive nature, intended to produce the best adaptation of its subjects (or- ganisms) to the prevailing environmental conditions. If such be the case, then hankering after what ‘was’, rather than being content with what ‘is’, seems inexplicable. Even Cliff Richard Gets Older Ageing will never win in the popularity stakes. There are few of us who do not wish to hide our own slide in that direction by various adjustments to the face, the hair, or other aspects of our increasingly fragile and baggy-skinned anatomy. We glance back via nostalgia at the way we were. Indeed, so many of us are looking back now that there is a boom in the entertainment industry, reviving the plays and music of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, through which we may ‘travel’ back in time and relive our youth. As someone has said, ‘nostalgia is not what it used to be’ – especially when thinking about the past is an excuse for not facing the future. There is much fear abroad in Britain. From concern over global warming, terrorism, family breakdown, and preda- tions on city streets, to mental illness and one’s mode of dying, people are anxious. It’s not surprising that many prefer the past to either the present or the future. If Only . . . It’s a rare individual who would not like to correct his or her mistakes of the past. Overdone, regret can lead to exaggerated self-condemnation, despair and suicide. But it can also be salutary, a useful caution against repeating similar mistakes, and en- courage one to do better in the future. Indeed, regret is at the heart of Christian repentance. Without a recognition of our sinful, guilty state before God, we are not prepared to accept Christ Jesus as the Saviour. Longing for the Old Days Instinctively, the human race looks back to the old times which, oddly, none of us ever knew. The paradise which was Eden, from which Adam and Eve were evicted, was the cradle of human existence. And ever since the curse of sin and death was pro- nounced on the rebel pair, humanity has been in free-fall, checked here and there by God’s interventions throughout history. The most significant intervention of all was in the sending of Jesus to die on the cross. ‘The Son of Man’, Jesus said of Himself, ‘came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19: 10). The ‘lost’ includes the Edenic state and the race itself. That exile from Eden long exerted a powerful influence on the collective mind of Man. Though exchanged by many for faith in the passive, non-condemnatory ‘assurance’ of the theory of human Evolution, the original Fall from Grace is the reason for our present distress. Looking back is, so to speak, in the genes. The Apostle Paul notes that the human race unwittingly hopes for liberation from ‘its bondage to decay’, and longs to be ‘brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8: 21). If we put our faith in Physics and the immutable progress of time to an uncertain future, we need not be surprised that by de- grees we lose the anchors of consolation. Physics has no mercy. But the Creator of physics does. It is His express purpose, through Christ, to redeem the human family from grief past and present, and to restore it to its original state. The Future will be much better than the Past. __________________
THE ARROW OF TIME Scripture citations are to the New International Version, UK edition (NIV- UK) ‘But,’ said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the fire, ‘if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is it, and why has it always been, regarded as something different? And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other dimensions of Space?’ The Time Traveller smiled. ‘Are you sure we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough, and men always have done so. I admit we move freely in two dimensions. But how about up and down? Gravitation limits us there.’ ‘Not exactly,’said the Medical Man. ‘There are balloons.’ ‘But before the balloons, save for spasmodic jumping and the inequalities of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical movement.’ ‘Still they could move a little up and down,’ said the Medical Man. ‘Easier, far easier down than up.’ ‘And you cannot move at all in Time, you cannot get away from the present moment.’ ‘My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong. That is just where the whole world has gone wrong. We are always getting away from the present movement. Our mental existences, which are im- material and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time- Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave. Just as we should travel down if we began our existence fifty miles above the earth’s surface.' ‘But the great difficulty is this,’ interrupted the Psychologist. ‘You can move about in all directions of Space, but you cannot move about in Time.’ The Time Machine, H(erbert).G(eorge). Wells (1866- 1946); Source:  http://ota.oucs.ox.ac.uk/headers/1901.xml (free down- load for non-commercial use) _______________________________________________ ONE CAN MAKE scrambled eggs from eggs, but not the reverse. This statement evokes the notion that Nature moves only in a forward direction. This is the general assumption behind the Big Bang. Triggered by a so-called ‘quantum fluctuation’, it is postulated that the Universe exploded out of a dense, compressed point of matter about fourteen-thousand-million years ago, and spread outwards at high speed, a process which continues. Likewise, forward motion presumably lies behind the process of Evolution in which living organisms ‘move’ from a simpler mode of existence to the more complex (and not the other way round). This principle of the ‘arrow of time’ applied to history, sug- gests that time travel, the theme of the novel by H.G. Wells, quoted at the head of this article, is a physical impossibility. However, the universal interest in travelling back to the past intimates at a legitimate longing of the human mind. In its sentimental forms, time travel expresses itself as Nostalgia and Regret. This would seem to argue against the evolution of the human species, for Evolution is, by its very progressive nature, intended to produce the best adaptation of its subjects (organisms) to the prevailing environmental condi- tions. If such be the case, then hankering after what ‘was’, rather than being content with what ‘is’, seems inexplicable. Even Cliff Richard Gets Older Ageing will never win in the popularity stakes. There are few of us who do not wish to hide our own slide in that direction by various adjustments to the face, the hair, or other aspects of our increasingly fragile and baggy-skinned anatomy. We glance back via nostalgia at the way we were. Indeed, so many of us are looking back now that there is a boom in the entertainment industry, reviving the plays and music of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, through which we may ‘travel’ back in time and relive our youth. As someone has said, ‘nostalgia is not what it used to be’ – es- pecially when thinking about the past is an excuse for not fa- cing the future. There is much fear abroad in Britain. From concern over global warming, terrorism, family breakdown, and predations on city streets, to mental illness and one’s mode of dying, people are anxious. It’s not surprising that many prefer the past to either the present or the future. If Only . . . It’s a rare individual who would not like to correct his or her mistakes of the past. Overdone, regret can lead to exaggerated self-condemnation, despair and suicide. But it can also be salutary, a useful caution against repeating similar mistakes, and encourage one to do better in the future. Indeed, regret is at the heart of Christian repentance. Without a recognition of our sinful, guilty state before God, we are not prepared to ac- cept Christ Jesus as the Saviour. Longing for the Old Days Instinctively, the human race looks back to the old times which, oddly, none of us ever knew. The paradise which was Eden, from which Adam and Eve were evicted, was the cradle of human existence. And ever since the curse of sin and death was pronounced on the rebel pair, humanity has been in free- fall, checked here and there by God’s interventions throughout history. The most significant intervention of all was in the sending of Jesus to die on the cross. ‘The Son of Man’, Jesus said of Himself, ‘came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19: 10). The ‘lost’ includes the Edenic state and the race itself. That exile from Eden long exerted a powerful influence on the collective mind of Man. Though exchanged by many for faith in the passive, non-condemnatory ‘assurance’ of the theory of human Evolution, the original Fall from Grace is the reason for our present distress. Looking back is, so to speak, in the genes. The Apostle Paul notes that the human race unwittingly hopes for liberation from ‘its bondage to decay’, and longs to be ‘brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8: 21). If we put our faith in Physics and the immutable progress of time to an uncertain future, we need not be surprised that by degrees we lose the anchors of consolation. Physics has no mercy. But the Creator of physics does. It is His express pur- pose, through Christ, to redeem the human family from grief past and present, and to restore it to its original state. The Future will be much better than the Past. __________________ 2010
THE INVISIBLE GOD ATHEISTIC SCIENCE ASSERTS that there is no proof of an intelligent creator; that were God a reality, the entire cosmos would look different than it does. It claims that there are no indicators of ‘super-natural’ manipulation or intervention; that the universe was born in chaos, unordered and unsupervised. All this is advanced as ‘evidence’ of the absence of Presence. This viewpoint is now immune from any lay argument which claims that Nature itself reveals elements of design and intent.  The debate on this question is settled as far as atheism is concerned: The material world is the by-product of inanimate matter acted upon by undirected forces forging complex accidents. Practically Speaking Common-sense suggests that if an object – a chair, for example – looks as though it were deliberately made, it was, and we hu- mans understandably apply the same logic to the material universe. But Science says ‘yes’ to the first (the chair), and ‘no’ to the second (the universe) – that we are deluded on the second point and that ‘made’ objects can only occur in a world formed in ad- vance by the accidental development of human intelligence. Again, one’s natural inclination looks for ‘meaning’ to existence. But secular Science says that there isn’t any. Indeed, our in- stinctive human inquiries into the nature of things seem to be so often rebuffed by Science that one may wonder how well ad- apted we humans really are to the environment in which we exist. After all, it is our environment which prompts the questions, ‘How did we get here?’ ‘What’s the point of it all?’ But it seems that in this regard, too, we are incompetent to draw conclu- sions about the things with which humanity has interacted over thousands of years. This anomaly suggests a lack of synchron- isation between the body and the mind. That perhaps the oft-cited human evolution should have stopped short in the brain department. Perhaps then we could live in contentment, not bothered by all these elementary but apparently useless questions in the first place. Divine Intrusion Believers do not need to peer through either a telescope or a microscope to find ‘super-natural’ intervention in the world. Viewed through the lens of Scripture, it is obvious that an intelligent God has intervened in human history in countless ways, but especially by sending Jesus to be the Saviour of the world, so lately celebrated. As to chaos, the Bible already tells us that the prehistoric origins of earth were ‘without form’ – a disordered desolation (Genesis 1: 2; KJV). To bring order from chaos requires directed intelligent force and an object in view. Without purposeful dir- ection, those chaotic, diffuse forces purportedly unleashed at the Big Bang fourteen thousand million years ago could have had no particular end in view – certainly not the elegant, synchronised refinement of mind-body-emotion with which humanity is endowed. And without this ‘end-point’ refinement, there would be no human intelligence now able to differentiate between the material and the spiritual, and thus spark disagreement on these topics. ________________ 2012
THE INVISIBLE GOD ATHEISTIC SCIENCE ASSERTS that there is no proof of an intelligent creator; that were God a reality, the entire cos- mos would look different than it does. It claims that there are no indicators of ‘super-natural’ manipulation or intervention; that the universe was born in chaos, unordered and unsuper- vised. All this is advanced as ‘evidence’ of the absence of Presence. This viewpoint is now immune from any lay argument which claims that Nature itself reveals elements of design and intent.  The debate on this question is settled as far as atheism is con- cerned: The material world is the by-product of inanimate mat- ter acted upon by undirected forces forging complex accidents. Practically Speaking Common-sense suggests that if an object – a chair, for ex- ample – looks as though it were deliberately made, it was, and we humans understandably apply the same logic to the mater- ial universe. But Science says ‘yes’ to the first (the chair), and ‘no’ to the second (the universe) – that we are deluded on the second point and that ‘made’ objects can only occur in a world formed in advance by the accidental development of human intelligence. Again, one’s natural inclination looks for ‘meaning’ to exist- ence. But secular Science says that there isn’t any. Indeed, our instinctive human inquiries into the nature of things seem to be so often rebuffed by Science that one may wonder how well adapted we humans really are to the environment in which we exist. After all, it is our environment which prompts the ques- tions, ‘How did we get here?’ ‘What’s the point of it all?’ But it seems that in this regard, too, we are incompetent to draw conclusions about the things with which humanity has interac- ted over thousands of years. This anomaly suggests a lack of synchronisation between the body and the mind. That perhaps the oft-cited human evolution should have stopped short in the brain department. Perhaps then we could live in contentment, not bothered by all these elementary but apparently useless questions in the first place. Divine Intrusion Believers do not need to peer through either a telescope or a microscope to find ‘super-natural’ intervention in the world. Viewed through the lens of Scripture, it is obvious that an in- telligent God has intervened in human history in countless ways, but especially by sending Jesus to be the Saviour of the world, so lately celebrated. As to chaos, the Bible already tells us that the prehistoric ori- gins of earth were ‘without form’ – a disordered desolation (Genesis 1: 2; KJV). To bring order from chaos requires direc- ted intelligent force and an object in view. Without purposeful direction, those chaotic, diffuse forces purportedly unleashed at the Big Bang fourteen thousand million years ago could have had no particular end in view – certainly not the elegant, synchronised refinement of mind-body-emotion with which humanity is endowed. And without this ‘end-point’ refinement, there would be no human intelligence now able to differentiate between the material and the spiritual, and thus spark disagree- ment on these topics. ________________ 2012
‘LET THERE BE LIGHT’ All Bible references are to the King James Version (KJV). To read a Scripture text, click on it. THIS SUCCINCT, profound statement of Genesis 1: 3, we owe to William Tyndale, peerless translator of the Bible. To his genius we can trace many Biblical expressions which have survived through the centuries and become native elements of the English language, expressions such as, ‘the apple of his eye’, ‘signs of the times’, ‘the salt of the earth’, ‘the powers that be’, ‘my brother’s keeper’.[fn1] Once, in not-too-distant times, a gentleman’s education was considered incomplete if it lacked a working knowledge of the Bible, and these expressions were sprinkled throughout intelligent conversation. For most in the English-speaking world the standard was the King James, or Authorised Version, first published in 1611.[fn2] Genesis 1: 14-19 tells us that the sun and moon were revealed on the fourth creative day. The Sun was to ‘rule’ the day, and the moon the night. Lunar illumination has always been supplemented by artificial light. In ancient times this took the form of torches – poles around which were wrapped oil-soaked rags – tallow candles, or lanterns fuelled by vegetable oil or fat, and tow or flax for the wick. BETTER LIGHTS In 1863 the American John D. Rockefeller launched an oil refining business (later organised as the Standard Oil Trust), and built a personal fortune converting crude oil into paraffin and shipping it around the world. He monopolised that industry until his company was broken up into its component parts by the United States Supreme Court in 1911.[fn3] In 1878, the British inventor, Joseph Wilson Swan, lodged a patent for his electric incandescent lamp, and the following year began installing the bulbs in homes around England. His house in Gateshead, in the northeast, was the first residence in the world to have working light bulbs installed. After Thomas Alva Edison sought to patent his own version of the electric lamp in 1879 under a British patent, the two men accused each other of patent infringement but eventually settled their dispute out of court, creating a joint enterprise, Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company Ltd. In 1883 (‘EdiSwan’).[fn4] THE GREATER LIGHT The prophet Isaiah describes the world of his day as covered by the ‘gross darkness’ of ignorance. Not even the nation of Israel, God’s covenant people, enjoyed full illumination. For the law cast a shadow before it, an unremitting reminder of sin and the need for atonement, represented in the recurring sacrifices of bulls and goats. Embedded in the Jewish laws and the functions of the Tabernacle were the dim predictors of a permanent Reconciler, the promise of an end to the tyranny of sin and a vague hope for deliverance. This state of affairs lasted throughout Israel’s long history, as they by degrees abandoned their covenant calling and drifted into unbelief. And then there was Light. Jesus is the antithesis of darkness. He is The Light, of whom the Apostle John gave witness (John 1: 9). Christ brought life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1: 10), opening up a new way and, by His death on the cross, providing the antidote to the Jewish law of works. And to as many as would accept Him, he gave them power to become the sons of God through justifica- tion by faith. THE LIGHT FLICKERS With the rise of the apostasy predicted by St. Paul the Church got lost in a maze of traditions and errors which set back the cause of Christianity and led to the persecution of those who would not accept the innovations (2 Thessalonians 2: 3-12). After centuries of darkness, the light again began to break through, due to the efforts of early reformers such as John Wessel, Martin Luther, William Tyndale and many others. The Reformation restored the lost doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone. This set the stage for the Enlightenment, beginning in the 17th century. Though minds had been liberated from some of the worst effects of pagan and religious superstition, the corollary effect was to open the door for scepticism and infidelism. Lacking the knowledge to counter the arguments of the emerging Higher Critics, the Christian Church began to cede the field of battle. After Darwin, the philosophy of man would never be the same. The reli- gio-scientific debate which his ideas set in motion still rages, its arguments enhanced by numerous discoveries in the fields of palaeontology, anatomy, biology, and genetics. The Western world has for some time now been turning away from the Light and has entered what some commentators refer to as a post-Christian darkness, in which many of the benefits derived from the Christian faith are being demeaned or thrown away. The assaults on Christian belief are weighty and numerous, and it would be impossible to calculate the numbers who have fallen by the wayside in despair. EPIPHANY None of this is accidental, but of the Lord’s doing. We live in an interconnected world in which trends and movements are in- creasingly globalized. Our period is referred to in Scripture as the Epiphany, or ‘bright shining’, when knowledge in all its forms, high and low, is revealed, and social mechanisms – the springs and cogs of motive and action – are exposed for all to see. In the King James Version of 2 Thessalonians 2: 8, this Greek word is translated ‘brightness’, and is clearly associated with the returning Christ. This Epiphany is a time of agitation of the minds and hearts of the world’s population, and will lead to widespread infidelism. The effect of all this will be to de-stabilise society and will lead to severe upheavals. Christians will not be exempted from the troubles and will likely face severe persecution. When the time of trouble is over and the world is suitably prepared for the blessings of Christ’s Kingdom at hand, God will speak peace and, in the words of Isaiah 25: 7, will lift away ‘the vail that is spread over all nations’, and out of the dark swirl- ing mist of ignorance the sun-drenched uplands will appear. _______________ [fn1] http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/changlang/writtenword/tyndale/tyndalelang.html [fn2] Even the confirmed atheist Richard Dawkins regards an acquaintance with the Bible as essential to a literary foundation: ‘The King James Bible of 1611 – the Authorized Version – includes passages of outstanding literary merit in its own right, for example the Song of Songs, and the sublime Ecclesiastes (which I am told is pretty good in the Hebrew too). But the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our education is that it is a major source book for literary culture.’ (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 341; Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006) [fn3] The brand name, Esso, is the pronouncing acronym of S[tandard] O[il], and is used by Exxon outside the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esso [fn4] ‘Further links between the borough [of Gateshead] and historical figures of note include Sir Joseph Swan who invented the first elec- tric light bulb and Charles Parsons who built the world’s first turbine generator. An experiment involving Swan, Parsons and the firm of Clarke, Chapman and Parsons in 1886 saw skaters on Swan Pond in Gateshead Fell witnessing one of the first attempts at outdoor electric lighting.’ Sources: http://www.englandsnortheast.co.uk/electric1870s.html http://www.debook.com/Bulbs/LB03ediswan.htm ______ 2009
‘LET THERE BE LIGHT’ All Bible references are to the King James Version (KJV). To read a Scripture text, click on it. THIS SUCCINCT, profound statement of Genesis 1: 3, we owe to William Tyndale, peerless translator of the Bible. To his genius we can trace many Biblical expressions which have survived through the centuries and become native elements of the English language, expressions such as, ‘the apple of his eye’, ‘signs of the times’, ‘the salt of the earth’, ‘the powers that be’, ‘my brother’s keeper’.[fn1] Once, in not-too-distant times, a gentleman’s education was considered incomplete if it lacked a working knowledge of the Bible, and these expres- sions were sprinkled throughout intelligent conversation. For most in the English-speaking world the standard was the King James, or Authorised Version, first published in 1611.[fn2] Genesis 1: 14-19 tells us that the sun and moon were revealed on the fourth creative day. The Sun was to ‘rule’ the day, and the moon the night. Lunar illumination has always been sup- plemented by artificial light. In ancient times this took the form of torches – poles around which were wrapped oil- soaked rags – tallow candles, or lanterns fuelled by vegetable oil or fat, and tow or flax for the wick. BETTER LIGHTS In 1863 the American John D. Rockefeller launched an oil re- fining business (later organised as the Standard Oil Trust), and built a personal fortune converting crude oil into paraffin and shipping it around the world. He monopolised that industry until his company was broken up into its component parts by the United States Supreme Court in 1911.[fn3] In 1878, the British inventor, Joseph Wilson Swan, lodged a patent for his electric incandescent lamp, and the following year began installing the bulbs in homes around England. His house in Gateshead, in the northeast, was the first residence in the world to have working light bulbs installed. After Thomas Alva Edison sought to patent his own version of the electric lamp in 1879 under a British patent, the two men accused each other of patent infringement but eventually settled their dispute out of court, creating a joint enterprise, Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company Ltd. In 1883 (‘EdiSwan’).[fn4] THE GREATER LIGHT The prophet Isaiah describes the world of his day as covered by the ‘gross darkness’ of ignorance. Not even the nation of Israel, God’s covenant people, enjoyed full illumination. For the law cast a shadow before it, an unremitting reminder of sin and the need for atonement, represented in the recurring sacri- fices of bulls and goats. Embedded in the Jewish laws and the functions of the Tabernacle were the dim predictors of a per- manent Reconciler, the promise of an end to the tyranny of sin and a vague hope for deliverance. This state of affairs lasted throughout Israel’s long history, as they by degrees abandoned their covenant calling and drifted into unbelief. And then there was Light. Jesus is the antithesis of darkness. He is The Light, of whom the Apostle John gave witness (John 1: 9). Christ brought life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1: 10), opening up a new way and, by His death on the cross, providing the antidote to the Jewish law of works. And to as many as would accept Him, he gave them power to become the sons of God through justification by faith. THE LIGHT FLICKERS With the rise of the apostasy predicted by St. Paul the Church got lost in a maze of traditions and errors which set back the cause of Christianity and led to the persecution of those who would not accept the innovations (2 Thessalonians 2: 3-12). After centuries of darkness, the light again began to break through, due to the efforts of early reformers such as John Wessel, Martin Luther, William Tyndale and many others. The Reformation restored the lost doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone. This set the stage for the Enlightenment, be- ginning in the 17th century. Though minds had been liberated from some of the worst ef- fects of pagan and religious superstition, the corollary effect was to open the door for scepticism and infidelism. Lacking the knowledge to counter the arguments of the emerging Higher Critics, the Christian Church began to cede the field of battle. After Darwin, the philosophy of man would never be the same. The religio-scientific debate which his ideas set in motion still rages, its arguments enhanced by numerous dis- coveries in the fields of palaeontology, anatomy, biology, and genetics. The Western world has for some time now been turning away from the Light and has entered what some commentators refer to as a post-Christian darkness, in which many of the benefits derived from the Christian faith are being demeaned or thrown away. The assaults on Christian belief are weighty and numer- ous, and it would be impossible to calculate the numbers who have fallen by the wayside in despair. EPIPHANY None of this is accidental, but of the Lord’s doing. We live in an interconnected world in which trends and movements are increasingly globalized. Our period is referred to in Scripture as the Epiphany, or ‘bright shining’, when knowledge in all its forms, high and low, is revealed, and social mechanisms – the springs and cogs of motive and action – are exposed for all to see. In the King James Version of 2 Thessalonians 2: 8, this Greek word is translated ‘brightness’, and is clearly associated with the returning Christ. This Epiphany is a time of agitation of the minds and hearts of the world’s population, and will lead to widespread infidelism. The effect of all this will be to de-stabilise society and will lead to severe upheavals. Christians will not be exempted from the troubles and will likely face severe persecution. When the time of trouble is over and the world is suitably pre- pared for the blessings of Christ’s Kingdom at hand, God will speak peace and, in the words of Isaiah 25: 7, will lift away ‘the vail that is spread over all nations’, and out of the dark swirling mist of ignorance the sun-drenched uplands will appear. _______________ [fn1] http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/changlang/writtenword/tynda le/tyndalelang.html [fn2] Even the confirmed atheist Richard Dawkins regards an ac- quaintance with the Bible as essential to a literary foundation: ‘The King James Bible of 1611 – the Authorized Version – includes passages of outstanding literary merit in its own right, for example the Song of Songs, and the sublime Ecclesiastes (which I am told is pretty good in the Hebrew too). But the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our edu- cation is that it is a major source book for literary culture.’ (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 341; Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006) [fn3] The brand name, Esso, is the pronouncing acronym of S[tand- ard] O[il], and is used by Exxon outside the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esso [fn4] ‘Further links between the borough [of Gateshead] and histor- ical figures of note include Sir Joseph Swan who invented the first electric light bulb and Charles Parsons who built the world’s first turbine generator. An experiment involving Swan, Parsons and the firm of Clarke, Chapman and Parsons in 1886 saw skaters on Swan Pond in Gateshead Fell witnessing one of the first attempts at out- door electric lighting.’ Sources: http://www.englandsnortheast.co.uk/electric1870s.html http://www.debook.com/Bulbs/LB03ediswan.htm ______ 2009
Sitting Down In The Kingdom Of God There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. Luke 13: 28-30, Authorised Version In this text Jesus addresses the Pharisees, who constantly opposed Him and His teachings. Smug in their customary office as arbiters of the Law, they guarded their role jealously and resented this parvenu from Galilee who threatened to unseat them. They evidently were not paying sufficient attention to the signs of the times, not seeing that their days were numbered. Assailing their assurance that they were heavenʼs favourites Jesus reveals to them that the patriarchs and prophets of old – the Ancient Worthies – whom the Pharisees professed to honour but whom they privately disdained, would be the leaders in the future earthly kingdom of God. And there would be much ʻweeping and gnashing of teethʼ when the Pharisees recognised (ʻye shall seeʼ) they themselves were ʻthrust outʼ. From East, West, North And South The ʻAndʼ which begins v. 29 elaborates on Jesusʼ prophecy. For not only would the Ancients displace the Pharisees, but a yet- higher class, the Little Flock, to be gathered from all points of the compass would also take their seat in heaven, as overall rulers of the future kingdom. See 1  Pet. 2:   5,  9; Rev. 1:  4-6. Although the Very Elect is now complete, earthʼs affairs still proceed, and the earthly kingdom is not yet set up, which suggests that new groups of Christians have been under development in the ensuing decades. A Wider Application Extending the latitude of this interpretation, those who sit down in the kingdom may also include the present-day consecrated and unconsecrated Christians of various faiths, those who take a firm and often public stand for truth and righteousness. We refer to them as the quasi-elect, because although they do not belong to the principal Elect groups of the Gospel Age, they nonetheless display the essential characteristics of sincere and zealous believers – faith in Christ as Saviour and King – and they exhibit an unselfish desire to live godly lives in these ungodly times. Such believers bravely and zealously rebuke the world for its perversions and ungodliness and, for instance, promote true family values in a Christian context. They employ a wide variety of modern techniques and media to affirm the basic Gospel message and to exhort their fellow-Christians to resist the pressure to compromise their faith, and to be prepared to suffer persecution. This group comprises people from all walks of life, including professionals from many fields, secular and religious. They come from all the figurative points of the compass: a range of Christian sects, denominations and evangelical backgrounds. The figurative Pharisees, who exist in all churches, sects and fellowships, disdain such Christians as immature, old-fashioned and naive. Convinced of their own superiority in religious knowledge and theological understanding, such Pharisees, dwindling in authority and failing to read the signs of the times, will be startled to discover that they have been displaced in God’s estimation by these upstarts. ___________ May 2017
Sitting Down In The Kingdom Of God There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. Luke 13: 28-30, Authorised Version In this text Jesus addresses the Pharisees, who constantly opposed Him and His teachings. Smug in their customary office as arbiters of the Law, they guarded their role jealously and resented this parvenu from Galilee who threatened to unseat them. They evidently were not paying sufficient attention to the signs of the times, not seeing that their days were numbered. Assailing their assurance that they were heavenʼs favourites Jesus reveals to them that the patriarchs and prophets of old – the Ancient Worthies – whom the Pharisees professed to honour but whom they privately disdained, would be the leaders in the future earthly kingdom of God. And there would be much ʻweeping and gnashing of teethʼ when the Pharisees recognised (ʻye shall seeʼ) they themselves were ʻthrust outʼ. From East, West, North And South The ʻAndʼ which begins v. 29 elaborates on Jesusʼ prophecy. For not only would the Ancients displace the Pharisees, but a yet-higher class, the Little Flock, to be gathered from all points of the compass would also take their seat in heaven, as overall rulers of the future kingdom. See 1  Pet. 2:   5,  9; Rev. 1:  4-6. Although the Very Elect is now complete, earthʼs affairs still proceed, and the earthly kingdom is not yet set up, which suggests that new groups of Christians have been under development in the ensuing decades. A Wider Application Extending the latitude of this interpretation, those who sit down in the kingdom may also include the present-day consecrated and unconsecrated Christians of various faiths, those who take a firm and often public stand for truth and righteousness. We refer to them as the quasi-elect, because although they do not belong to the principal Elect groups of the Gospel Age, they nonetheless display the essential characteristics of sincere and zealous believers – faith in Christ as Saviour and King – and they exhibit an unselfish desire to live godly lives in these ungodly times. Such believers bravely and zealously rebuke the world for its perversions and ungodliness and, for instance, promote true family values in a Christian context. They employ a wide variety of modern techniques and media to affirm the basic Gospel message and to exhort their fellow-Christians to resist the pressure to compromise their faith, and to be prepared to suffer persecution. This group comprises people from all walks of life, including professionals from many fields, secular and religious. They come from all the figurative points of the compass: a range of Christian sects, denominations and evangelical backgrounds. The figurative Pharisees, who exist in all churches, sects and fellowships, disdain such Christians as immature, old- fashioned and naive. Convinced of their own superiority in religious knowledge and theological understanding, such Pharisees, dwindling in authority and failing to read the signs of the times, will be startled to discover that they have been displaced in God’s estimation by these upstarts. ___________ May 2017