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Is it the end of the world?

End of the World

Is this the moment we all have been waiting for?

This is a brief look into the end-of-the-world theology, its oral history, and a few thoughts along the way.

Another round of end-of-the-world scenarios are in vogue throughout the world. This time the date is set for September 20th, or September 23rd, 2017, depending on who you listen to.

Christians have been anticipating and hoping for the end-of-the-world for over two-thousand years. Each generation believes they are the last. A Wikipedia page is devoted to listing predictions made by a variety of Christians and sects throughout history. This list is by no means exhaustive but shows that the human psyche is fixated on this theme.

Why people get excited about this theory

Jesus warned that the end-of-the-world was near. He stated that the signs can be found in the increase of wars, even just rumors of them, famines, social unrest, lies, delusions, political instability, and earthquakes. He unequivocally stated that these were necessary precursors before He returned.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.(1)Matthew 24: 4-8

St. Paul suggested an immediate return of Christ during our near his lifetime.(2)This topic remains a debate among theologians and historians. See Ben Witherington’s Jesus Paul and the End of the World for more info. He likely would have found Jesus’ return two-thousand years or more in the waiting highly inconceivable.

The Biblical texts allude in metaphorical language about the end-of-the-world. Readers and ardent religious followers have been challenged to unlock these metaphors into actual dates using a variety of methods. None have succeeded to unlock these literary devices into actual dates.

The advent of the internet has brought abundant information about climatic, environmental, agricultural, historical, social, political, and warring conditions throughout the world. This information has made us more aware of world instability — a heightened sense of how fragile our network of communities and the earth are.

End times doctrine is not a deal breaker

There are ardent Christians who associate acceptance of a certain end-time system as a mark of a true Christian. One may hear theological buzzwords such as pre-, post-, or a-millennial, tribulation, or rapture. However, the end-times doctrine carries no weight in the grand scheme of the christian religious life. No one who enters the pearly gates is going to get graded on their theological view of the end times.

The closest times we came to the end of the world

There are five occasions that came close to the end of the world. These conclusions are mainly based on a Western Civilization view of history that align with the biblical narratives. There are two more possibilities that only modernity could supply.

  1. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Vespasian and Titus.

    This event was likely the closest symbolizing the end of the world. Jesus predicted the destruction and warned people to flee when this event was to unfold. The first-century historian Josephus chronicled this devastation in his book, Wars of the Jews.

    No early christian writing specifically acknowledges or details the impact of this destruction. This absence has always been puzzling.

  2. The Bubonic Plague in the 1300s.

    This plague was a human tragedy of epic proportions. It is estimated that 25 to 60 percent of the European population was wiped out with this epidemic. The death toll may even be higher if one includes China and its neighboring countries. There is no real estimate of the worldwide loss except that it was massive. Agnolo di Tura survived the plague and narrated his experience in detail. Here is a quote from his Plague in Siena:

    There was no one who wept for any death, for all awaited death. And so many died that all believed that it was the end of the world.(3)Plague in Siena by Agnolo di Tura (translator unknown)

  3. World War I and its child, World War II.

    These wars created casualties not just from war, but famine and disease. The high death toll plus the conversion of the military from hand to hand into technological warfare had almost brought the end-of-the-world clock to its final position.

  4. The volcanic eruption of Mt. Tombora in 1816.

    Rated as one of the greatest eruptions ever, this Indonesian volcanoe caused the the year without summer. The ash in the atmosphere impeded sunlight reaching the earth. It was responsible for over 100,000 deaths in Europe.(4)Mt. Tambora The eruption happened while the world lacked the scientific know how nor the communication systems to educate about the origin of this year without summer. It must have scared a lot of people.

The devil doesn’t need to directly intervene in order to achieve his evil objectives with the next two. He can just sit back and watch. Mankind can do this without outside assistance.

  • The present nuclear age.

    The nuclear arsenal around the world is enough to destroy the majority of humankind and destabilize the planet. The earth could potentially fall into a perpetual darkness called a nuclear winter for many years.

    If a nuclear war began, would that bring on the end? I don’t know.

  • Toxic Waste

    Polluting our air and oceans, deforestation, mining, fracking, oil drilling and so many more activities are highly destructive. The earth may not be able to sustain or replenish life at the current progress that it is being gutted and altered. When that point comes, if ever, I don’t know.

God by very nature is not restricted by time as we humans. He doesn’t work by a timeclock at all. The end could be tomorrow, or it could be another 2000 years. His reasons are beyond time. Neither is our intellectual capacity able to grasp such big things. We cannot play God on this issue.

The ability to kill on such a large scale would mean that there would be no humanity, and in a worst-case scenario, no habitable earth left to direct under the devil’s control. Perhaps, even the devil is restrained from encouraging these destructive capabilities.

Traditional Jewish perception of the end

Some sects of Judaism emphasize that the end of the world will occur when the last soul is born. They believe when God created the world, He created all the souls at the same time. Once that supply is finished, the end will come.

the Messiah, son of David, will not come until all the souls of the body have been finished – Yebamot 62a

The manufacturing of the end of the world

A commonly held perception among some circles of Judaism and Christianity (especially the Protestant sects of Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, and Charismatics) is the establishment of the nation of Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. These are thought to be the surest signs of the end-times.

The formation of Israel in 1948 was greatly advanced by political leaders in Britain and the United States who were personally influenced by the biblical narrative regarding Israel.

For more information on the topic of Christians and the formation on modern Israel, see the following:

The fervor associated with the re-establishment of Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple has allowed for Arabs to be second class citizens. Protestant Christians have especially turned a blind eye to the humanitarian and legal rights of Arabs in doing so.

This blind zealousness teaches a lesson that the manufacturing of end times is dangerous. The culmination of the end is God’s job, not ours. Anyone who facilitates such an agenda that allows for the building up of arms, denial of rights, disrespect, and war, has failed in the primary objective of Christians to love their neighbors.

The AntiChrist

Jesus predicted many future leaders would arise that would either claim to be Him or an ardent follower of Him. He cautioned that many would do this to achieve their own personal agendas. The term for these type of leaders is called the antichrist.

The Popes and the Romish Church are historically the most popular names of being called the antichrist. The Reformation leaders such as Martin Luther entrenched this theme in the early protestant identity.

Evangelical and fundamentalist christian tradition generally believes the antichrist is yet to come. This figure rivals in the power and glory of Christ. He will be a powerful dictator with authority that encompasses all the nations. This one world rule is when the ultimate battle between good and evil occurs.(5)https://www.britannica.com/topic/Antichrist

The rise of technology which allows people of diverse languages and backgrounds to work together has created suspicions within pockets of these communities. There is a sense that it only a matter of time now that the antichrist will rise and rule over the earth.

A tongue-in-cheek historical review of 14 people being named the antichrist is found at Rose Publishing. There is a special emphasis connecting the numbers 666 to their identities. Although this is a playful article, it does show how numerology is an important aspect of building end-of-the-world theories. Numerology in this scenario is about converting letters and words into numerical symbols and then applying a mathematical calculation. The results are intended to predict future events.

How can we prepare for the end of the world?

The Biblical texts on a number of occasions speak of the end occurring like a thief in the night.(6)I Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 24:43; Revelation 16:15 In other words, the event will come as a total surprise. Judging by the long wait of over 2000 years since this idiom was given, every generation has a small chance of witnessing the end of the world.

The Canadian Government recommends that everyone should have an emergency kit that is good for up to 72 hours. Whether it is a house fire, an environmental disaster, a major storm, or other dire fortunes that can possibly surprise us, we have to be ready. Perhaps the end of the world or the apocalypse should be added to the list for emergency preparedness.

References   [ + ]

7 Facts About Speaking in Tongues

A seven point historic portrait on the christian doctrine of speaking in tongues. The conclusions have been derived from the Gift of Tongues Project. A research work that has a fourfold aim of locating, digitizing, translating source texts and tracing perceptions from inception to modern times.

These seven points may change if any new documents arise with important new clues.

Click on any of the conclusions for more documentation.

The goal of tracing the perceptions of tongues through the centuries may not necessarily align with the actual realities that surrounds the events. The realities are up to the reader to decide. Go to the The Gift of Tongues Project for the source information.

This is only a general summation. There are many more details and movements at the above link.

*7 does not have a clickable link because no documented study has been found.

Late Medieval People Speaking in Tongues

Introduction to the late-Medieval accounts of Christians speaking in tongues.

Medieval Hagiographa accounts are an important part of the christian narrative and have a special section in the Gift of Tongues Project. The Medieval doctrine of speaking in tongues demonstrate this practice has progressed from the fourth-century. However, Medieval literature is steeped in christian mysticism and often saturated with excessive miracles and witnesses of the supernatural. Many works are good, some bad, and others in between. One has to be conscious of discerning between what is real and myth within these documents. This is not an easy thing to separate. Even if a certain story is indeed myth, it plays an important role of story telling and teaching, reflecting the perceptions of that time. It should not be easily discounted. The stress here is to investigate with a sympathetic and cautious attitude.

The Christian Hagiography section in the Gift of Tongues Project is dependent on a number of sources. Two of them are by far the most prominent. The first one, The Legenda Sanctorum, was originally compiled from earlier sources around 1260 by Jacobus de Voragine. He was an Italian chronicler and archbishop of Genoa.(1)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08262b.htm This book soon evolved and settled into the name Legenda Aurea “because the people of those times considered it worth its weight in gold”.(2)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08262b.htm

Jacob de Voragine attempted to make short biographies of hand-selected Christian Saints and attached these personalities with a specific day in the year for remembrance. His biographies portrayed these Christian heroes in mythical proportions with sensational miracles and epic supernatural tales. These descriptions are a fanciful read, but these accounts cannot be taken as factual historical documents. Neither is it easy to discover where these perceptions were first established and how far back these thoughts go in history. However, it does reflect the theological, mystical and intellectual perceptions of the late-Medieval period. This is very helpful for the Gift of Tongues Project. Portions of their stories demonstrate how the late-Medieval Church and society understood the christian doctrine of tongues. Perceptions do not necessarily need to be right or real. They simply are what they are.

For a full history and debates about Legenda Aurea’s credibility, see the Catholic based New Advent website article: Legenda Aurea.

Legenda Aurea was constantly being updated, translated and distributed throughout Christendom. By 1450, with the aid of the printing press, the Legenda Aurea began to outnumber the Bible in editions. Fordham University claims it was the most printed book in Europe between 1470 to 1530 and over 900 manuscripts are available today.(3)http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/goldenlegend/

An English edition, called the Golden Legend, has its own unique history and is described at Fordham University’s website;

There have been numerous translations, into English and other languages. The Golden Legend was one of the first works produced by the English printer William Caxton. This was reproduced and “modernized” frequently. Now, the standard English version is the 1993 translation by William Granger Ryan. The 1993 version is a full translation, unlike his earlier 1941 translations, which summarized many of the stories.

The English references used at the Gift of Tongues Project will be the 1931 edition edited by F.S. Ellis and found housed at Fordham University’s Golden Legend website.

Some Saints listed under Christian Hagiographa section may overlap with earlier mentions in the Gift of Tongues Project outline, but the Hagiographa stories will not be integrated with them. They will remain separate. This is because these hagiographa are late-Medieval perceptions. They are stories that do not fit in the earlier narratives. These works align with the religious experiences, perceptions, and expectations found in the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries. It is a reflection of these times and little to do with anything earlier.

The Acta Sanctorum is another work similar to Legenda Aurea and plays an important part for late-Medieval studies. ProQuest has digitally captured the entire 68 volume work and describes it as;

“. . .a principal source for research into the societies and cultures of early Christian and medieval Europe. Our knowledge of this period relies heavily on Hagiographa literature, and specifically on this monumental collection of texts, published over a period of 300 years by the Société des Bollandistes.”

The resurgence of interest in Hagiographa materials in recent years reflects the growing recognition of their value to historical research of many kinds—social and ecclesiastical history, art and architecture, literature, folklore, and ethnology. Acta Sanctorum records every detail of domestic and public life. It’s an inexhaustible fund of information on every aspect of life from the beginning of the Christian era to the end of the 16th century.(4)http://www.proquest.com/products-services/acta.html

The Christian Hagiographa section of the Gift of Tongues Project wishes to thank Christine F. Cooper-Rompato’s excellent book, The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages for bringing to light such important sources from the late-Medieval period. It is the best book on the christian doctrine of tongues published so far.

I had thought that the genre of tongues speakers in the late-Medieval Church was small and careful attention, except for one or two persons, was not necessary for this period. Cooper-Rompato dispelled this notion.

This author makes an important assertion about Medieval tongues being ubiquitous during this period.

. . .descriptions of the xenoglossic gift became more popular in the later Middle Ages because there occurred an “expectation of tongues”; once the miracle entered the horizon of expectation of audiences, the miracle propagated itself. The miracle also became an important proof of sanctity. . . . To call attention to the lack of xenoglossia in the life of a popular holy preacher would seem to indicate that by this period the gift of tongues was almost expected in the vitae of famous preacher, and that if a prominent preacher perceived as blessed did not receive it, an explanation was deemed necessary.”(5)The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages Pg. 14

As per the mandate of the Gift of Tongues Project, a digital copy of the pertinent texts will be available in the original language, along with an English translation, and some commentary.

There are a number of Christian Saints who spoke in tongues according to the Medieval accounts and they will be added on a person by person basis. This will happen on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until complete. The best way to keep up with the latest additions is to become a subscriber. This can be done by clicking the subscribe button found on the right sidebar.

The following Saints will be documented. If completed, a link will be available in a bold font:

There are also women who spoke in tongues according to Christine F. Cooper-Rompato that needs documenting. These are a bit harder to cover. Cooper-Rompata described that female accounts of speaking in tongues are different from male accounts. They are accidental, semi-private, temporal, and convey a lack or limit of control. They are also frustratingly brief accounts.(6)The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages Pg. 40

This genre is in development and will be included later on.

References   [ + ]

Evangelicals in the Canadian Political Realm

How Evangelicals can and can’t contribute to the diverse Canadian social mosaic.

Many Evangelicals hold to an ideology that to bring about positive moral change in Canada is to directly influence those in power, and the values endorsed by the powerbrokers will trickle-down to every part of society.

In order to bring about this type of revision, the Christian movement needs leverage, clout and people power — a force that draws the attention of the key public decision makers, who then recognize the political necessity to change. If a maxim existed for such an approach, it would be, If you want God’s kingdom to have a strong influence on this land, learn to influence the key decision makers in all.

This immediately poses a number of questions. Two especially come to mind: is this trickle-down concept moral or the best methodology the Evangelical community can provide? And, are religious leaders properly equipped to delve into the political realm?

Religious Canadian leaders have successfully entered the political realm. Powerful voices in the such as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, and William Aberhart have contributed with great success. Their experience has demonstrated lessons for others who follow. However, the line today between religious and civic leaders are drawn with little crossover. It is a new era where those Evangelicals entering today must be fully aware of what they are getting into. It can be done and is necessary, but most churches are not prepared, nor politically astute enough to provide the proper checks and balances.

Religious leaders can be exploited because of their lack of experience with the political system. David Kuo, former second in command to President Bush’s office admits to milking the religious right for their allegiance. In a Time Magazine article, he quoted Chuck Colson, once aide to President Richard Nixon, saying, “I arranged special briefings in the Roosevelt Room for religious leaders, ushered wide-eyed denominational leaders into the Oval Office for private sessions with the President,” and then Colson adds, “Of all the groups I dealt with, I found religious leaders the most naive about politics. Maybe that is because so many come from sheltered backgrounds, or perhaps it is the result of a mistaken perception of the demands of Christian charity … Or, most worrisome of all, they may simply like to be around power.”(1)David Kuo. Tempting Faith. And Inside Story of Political Seduction. New York: Free Press. 2006. Pg. 172

The late Chuck Colson, who was an important aide to President Nixon, and later a born again Christian, added that Christians must be engaged, but with eyes open, aware of the snares and to not be beholden to any political ideological alignment.(2)Charles Colson. Kingdoms in Conflict. New York: Harper PaperBacks. 1990. Pg. 477

No religious leader can remain altruistic. One of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the quest for power exists in every individual and must be publicly recognized.

Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the concept of power and one-upmanship as being motivated by the ‘Drum Major Instinct’, and that no-one, including himself, is outside its influence.(3)http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_the_drum_major_instinct/ If this is true, one of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the drum major instinct exists and must be publicly recognized.

If people or organizations from a faith perspective do not acknowledge the drum major instinct within their realm, along with the proper checks and balances to control, potential problems may arise in the future that not only defeats the aims of the political activist, but harms the corporate religion.

Another important point Canadian religious leaders must be mindful of is public fear that religious advocates would force their agenda. Preston Manning opined this at McGill University’s “Pluralism, Religion, and Public Policy” conference held in 2002, “When advocates of faith-based positions convey the impression that they would force their positions on the rest of the population, if only they had sufficient power and influence to do so, is it any wonder that the rest of the population is reluctant to grant them standing and influence?”

From a Canadian standpoint, this fear is very ubiquitous and is found both in our creative literature and in politics. For example the well-known Canadian literary giant, Margaret Atwood, wrote a fictional novel, The Handmaiden, on what she thought could potentially happen if protestant fundamentalists took over the government — an event that she perceived would have catastrophic repercussions on the role of women in society.

The public ideological alignment of Evangelicals with the Conservative Party of Canada could especially have long-term negative damage. Although this party may best represent many Christian principles, it is still a political party, and any large political fallout with the public by way of hypocrisy, scandal, war or moral debate may cause a harsh public backlash against the Evangelical Church and foment publicly acceptable anti-Christian and Church rhetoric.

A closer look at Jesus teachings on leadership indicate that the trickle-down theory was antithetical to a message to the majority of people whom He served. He did not come to persuade the powers-to-be. He came directly to the disenfranchised and gave them hope.

Traditional Evangelicals may posit that the power Christians are to wield in this world is evangelism. Social reform is dependant and can only happen through widespread personal repentance and submittance to God. Although evangelism has a high importance, this is an incomplete answer that is over-simplistic.

Many belonging to the burgeoning charismatic movement would argue that power is to be defined in supernatural terms; it is to destroy the works of Satan. This too is not a consistent nor a comprehensive definition of power from a heavenly perspective.

Nor is it the Churches purpose to respresent, lead, and empower the oppressed and marginalized to overthrow tyrannical despots, or corrupt leadership. This is also a top-down strategy that is ineffective.

St. Francis of Assissi provided part of the answer when he wrote: “where there is hatred, let me sow Your love” which tends to go nicely together with Christ’s admonition, “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either”. This may seem like such a cowardly withdrawal from conflict that allows for exploitation or abuse, but rather, it is breaking the cycle of absolute power. They are encouraging people not to be controlled by conventions of worldly power, but guided by a higher law of love and servanthood that is not subject to corruption, dishonesty, anger, bitterness or revenge.

Jesus described the heavenly definition of power as that of servanthood, “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.” And also, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve”. His definition of power ascribed almost the exact opposite of what we instinctually believe it to be.

The idea of leadership from a heavenly perspective is about the person who is most willing to do whatever it costs for the betterment of another being and respects everyone as equal partners. In many circles this is called service. It is the opposite to pursuing power. Carl Jaspers, a humanist philosopher concluded this when he wrote, “Where love rules, there is no will to power and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”

There are many implications of holding onto such a philosophy, especially where faith and politics intertwine. First of all it changes the role of the Christian. Instead of the Christian standing aloof and judging against the world, the main purpose is helping others arrive at completeness in whatever area they lack, whether spiritual or physical.

It also avoids and corrects the idea that the Church and Christians want to lord over others and force their opinions.

The mission of helping others then becomes the message. People such as Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, and lesser-knowns such as Dr. Paul Brandt, a specialist in leprosy, the late Winnipeg Pastor and activist, Harry Lehotsky, and more whose mission to serve has naturally also became the message. These names are all a positive part of the public conscience and transcends racial, socio-economic, cultural and religious barriers.

The Church then becomes a center for serving those in need and constantly making adjustments as the needs arise. By doing this, the Church through service will become an active part of the Canadian mosaic rather than an outside bystander.■

References   [ + ]

Fanatics, Extremists, and Religion

The difference between fanaticism and true religion.

Fanaticism is an unhealthy set of principles that takes the letter of the law too literally and avoids compassion or feeling towards self or others. It is found in all faiths and ideologies. It is part of the human narrative.

On the other hand, true religion is one who lives by the higher law of love and commitment to truth. A condition that takes much more effort, patience and sacrifice to achieve than simply following a legal code.

There are good Christians and bad Christians, same with socialists, capitalists, Jews, and also Muslims. History shows that even non-religious systems such as Communism, and the attempted establishment of Western Democratic countries in the Middle East have run into the same problems of fanaticism. The ancient texts and modern history weaves the account that wherever humanity exists, greatness is found, but also the element of corruption and inhumanity always runs in parallel.

Is it the fault of religion or ideology? No. Any system designed for the benefit of humanity can also be a source of bondage. From my observations as a member of the Charismatic Church community, there are many stories where people are rescued from their own destructive behavior and discover a newfound sense of community. However, there are also those who have personally suffered either at the hands of those asserting legal principles over human need or are using religion to avoid dealing with their inner demons.

How can that be? If one lives simply by the rules and adheres to the Bible as a legal text of dos and do nots, it absolves one of any personal responsibility. The letter of the Law does not require one to love another, or even care while the spirit of it does.

The present Church is a combination of some who just go by the letter, and those who strive hard to go by the higher law. Most vacillate between the two sides – not because these are bad people, it is because the Church is a human entity. Being human is a problem of imperfection, and the ensuing challenge is to go beyond self and to be altruistic. The achievement of such a condition is not an easy path to follow.

The legal vs. spirit of the law is not just an ancient religious problem. It is a common theme today but masked in different motifs. It is seen in my place of employment where the Collective Agreement between the Union and Management is like a Bible. There is no higher standard than the words in the agreement between the two parties. Management does not have to care at all about the individual employee in any decision-making, and can harass, shame, or push for productivity as long as it does not contravene the Collective Agreement. The Union too can call out names and shame management, and treat with contempt because this behavior is not explicitly found in the Collective Agreement and therefore not punishable. The Agreement is not designed to force anyone to like, respect, or treat each other humanely. This is not in the spirit how people should treat each other, but this is the reality.

People can easily hide behind the façade of the secular Western democratic systems of governance and justice.The halls of democracy can equally abuse as that of a religious system. If people follow the legal text without being encouraged to reach for a higher standard above the Law – that is of loving one another, then it fails.

When the Law becomes a daily part of our lives, and the spirit of the Law is removed, it takes away the responsibility to think about others, communicate, or even care. Inhumanity then easily can sink in.

Are there fanatical Christians? Yes. Fanatical Muslims? Yes. Fanatical Jews? Yes. Fanatical secularists? Yes. Are most people fanatics in any system or ideology? No, but the majority voice of compassion and patience can be drowned out by a small minority of passionate zealots. Fanaticism is not the fault of any religion or ideology, it is simply the dark part of the human character that hides behind legal texts for its self-seeking purposes, and thus avoiding any personal responsibility. It’s an easy-way-out.

To not recognize or address fanatical elements in any religious system or ideology is an immature view of our human capabilities for both good and evil. It is also dangerous because ignoring the fanatical dark side in any movement can have damaging future consequences.