Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Woden's Day Apocalypse

The Big Haus fall Bible study began last evening on the perennially ignored (by me in schedule not in assessment) Revelation of John. As you who have read this blog regularly know, I am not eschatologically riveted. The views expressed at this Bible study are those never heard dropping from any other lips in Christendom. The word Apocalypse means "a lifting of the curtain or veil" and that is precisely what I hope to do.
Last night the faithful were told of the need to resolve certain issues in their minds in order to approach the Revelation.
First: Is the Future actual or conceptual? In other words was John's vision a transport through time to look upon the events and describe them OR does God provide a symbolic image of what He will bring to pass.
Second: Are we willing to hope patiently in that which we discover is still to come rather than fictionalize a fulfillment so we can believe it better? Romans 8 reminds you that hope which is seen is not hope. Future stories are fiction. Do not write them. Instead read real stories for the Glory of God's prophetic will is only to be seen in the histories of the past. Did it happen? How will you know about it unless you read the histories. When Tacitus mentions the host of armies in the clouds over Jerusalem prior to the fall in 70 A.D., God is potentially glorified for seeming to fulfill His promise to show those who pierced him his coming in the clouds.
Third: Can we recognize the distance in the relationship that each symbolic item has to the symbolized? For instance, the 7 heads of the sea beast measure three distances. 7 heads= literally 7 hills and 7 kings. The first distance is the number seven's symbolic distance from the number seven is zero. The second distance is the heads representing kings, which is not 1:1 but is a natural poetic distance. At the same time, in the third distance, the heads are hills which, without that being told to us, the distance of head to hill is so great we would never have figured it out. The heads are not hills like the 7 are 7. A greater distance, perhaps an recognizable distance once pointed out, exists between the realities of the 7 hills of Rome and the 7 heads of the beast. Christ is in the same book one like the son of man, a wounded lamb and a small child. Each has varying distance from the thing symbolized.
Fourth: Let the clear passage define the unclear. If the book tells you something means something, set that point as an anchor and chart the more vague portions from its vantage.

9 comments:

Jackie said...

Evan, thank-you for posting this! I had hoped to get there last night, but too many things got in my way!

Jackie Bolden

Jeff Moss said...

Sounds like a very interesting study.

Your third and fourth points here are quite helpful.

On the second, however..."Future stories are fiction"? Daniel 11 laid out all sorts of intricacies of Near Eastern history, four centuries before it happened. So are we supposed to think this chapter is fiction?

And as for the first point: "In other words was John's vision a transport through time to look upon the events and describe them OR does God provide a symbolic image of what He will bring to pass." Answer: All of the above (It's a false dichotomy). Throughout much of the Bible, future events are seen and described, but much of it is in the form of symbolic images. Psalm 22, for instance: "Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me...dogs have surrounded me...save me from the lion's mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen!" Here is the crucifixion of Christ, seen through David's eyes with a generous helping of symbolism.

The Oracle said...

Thank you, Mr Moss.
I agree with your underlying point but since "fic·tion (fĭk'shən)is a literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact." i considered that those written by an omnipotent God to be exempted. Perhaps I could phrase it better by saying "Future stories imagined in the inspired prophesies by the uninspired reader are fiction"
On your last comment:
It is not important to me whether or not John used symbols to describe a future he saw or he described the symbols of the future God planned. It does matter that the reader decide which tact he/she is taking and be ready to defend it. An existent Time (with its magical claims of an available atemporality) is not self evident. Your example of David must be asked (for my concerns) if David saw, in the future, Christ hanging on the tree and imposed himself to symbolize the Christ and the torments Christ endured, first as his own and second poetically as by bulls and dogs. It is not really the kind of prophesy that John or Daniel encountered which was more to my point. They are story telling visions.

Jeff Moss said...

An additional comment:

"The views expressed at this Bible study are those never heard dropping from any other lips in Christendom."

Interesting how this seems to be the inverse of Vincent of Lerins' criterion of "true doctrine": "what has been believed always, everywhere and by all."

The Oracle said...

Jeff,
What Vinnie has failed to answer(as have you)is the necessarily addended question "By whom?"
"By Christians," I imagine Vincent saying.
What makes a Christian so that I can ask that subgroup what they have always believed?
Vincent might then suggest (I of course don't know what he would suggest)that those who are baptized in a trinitarian formulation are Christians.
I think you will agree with me that many of those who have been dragged into the church at infancy and dipped into the covenantal soup are not elect by decree(your view) or choice (my view). They do not believe the gospel that regenrates. So we must, you and I, agree that Vincent has lost his wits.
I suppose, if Vincent is in any way correct (and there is no reason to assume he is)then, for us, the subgroup must be those who have passed from death to life by faith in Jesus Christ. That in order to keep the Gospel orthodox. Thankfully for my eschatological speculation there has never been agreement on the Apocalypse. And we can't say that the converse of Vinnie's Law is true. That which has not been believed by all, always is not automatically false.

Jeff Moss said...

Evan, thank you for the detailed responses to my responses.

Your example of David must be asked (for my concerns) if David saw, in the future, Christ hanging on the tree and imposed himself to symbolize the Christ and the torments Christ endured...

Well, how about this? Did Abraham and David "really" see Jesus in the future and learn some things about how His life would go, or did they just see symbols that were as yet empty of meaningful content?
Jesus: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56).
And Peter: "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:29-31).

Jeff Moss said...

Now for Vincent of Lerins and his "always, everywhere, and by all":

I don't think this principle was ever meant to be an absolute rule, but more of a handy measuring stick--like some of the general statements that you find in the book of Proverbs. If there's a doctrine (like the Trinity) that churches and individual Christians everywhere generally believe, it's probably true. If another doctrine (like pretrib premill dispensationalism) turns out to be confined to a certain sub-period of history and a certain corner of the world and even certain socioeconomic classes, it's not one to put much weight on.

What Vinnie has failed to answer(as have you)is the necessarily addended question "By whom?"...
I suppose, if Vincent is in any way correct (and there is no reason to assume he is)then, for us, the subgroup must be those who have passed from death to life by faith in Jesus Christ.


Sorry, but that takes away the whole point of Vincent of Lerins' dictum (but maybe that's what you wanted all along! Ha!). We can't ask, "What is the set of doctrines believed by all those who have truly passed from death to life?" because we can't know for sure who all those people are. The question is, does the visible Church (you know, the one that Jesus said He would build) generally back this teaching? If so, that's a good sign. If not, maybe we should go back to the drawing board. Alternatively, if we know that the thing is true and Biblical, we need to keep trumpeting the Word of God on that subject, until all the faithful get it and the rest decide they really don't want to be Christians after all.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Regarding the Vincent quote, St. Paul says that the Church is the pilar and ground of truth. (Just for clarrification I am not arguing that the Roman Church is the pilar and ground of truth.) But for this statement to have any import at all, it has to be true of a Church I can identify. And for exactly the same reasons your subtle analysis of the church explains away Vincent's statement, it likewise explains away St. Paul's.

The other problem with limiting the Church to the truly born again (actually I believe the Church is only the born again, I just believe the new birth is from water and the Spirit), is that it either excludes everyone who does not look like me from the church, or intollerably lowers the standard of godliness, or both.

"We ought to walk as He walked." So it is only those who walk as Christ walked who are members of the Church? Is anyone then a member of the Church? The standard is unbelievably high. Just as He walked, so we must walk. Read The Cost of Discipleship to see a little of what I am saying. Only Bonhoeffer is too light.

On the other hand, we may say "Only those who walk as He walked are born of Him, I am born of Him, therefore He walked as I walk." Not that anyone would actually say it when it's that obvious, but my guess is many sorta feel that way.

Finally, "look at how ridiculous sin he was commiting, he must not have Christ." But again, this could be said of anyone, including ourselves. Therefore, it just excludes those who have the opposite vices to ours, and makes us incapable of learning.

Anyway, on any of those analyses, and also for Jeff's reason, St. Paul's sstatement that the Church is the pilar and ground of truth is made pointless.

Ken said...

Evan,

Good luck on your study; it should be required of all Baptists as a reasoned alternative to their stubborn millennialism fixations. Ie. even if they are right, there is a reasonable alternative that kooks & non-kooks can hold.

Ken