Sunday, November 20, 2011

Discourse on Jesus Return - Civil or Not?

Recently, a discussion broke out at Father Tim Moyle's Blog "Where the Rubber Hits the Road" over what appeared to be a humorous and innocuous posting he made linking to Harold Camping's revised prediction of the Rapture coming on October 21, 2011.
If you are reading this, then you know that the Rapture, if there is ever really going to be one, did not occur as promised by Mr. Camping.  This was not his first prediction of the end, but was as accurate as his previous ones.

But, of greater interest was the ensuing comment thread, largely involving myself, and another Catholic Christian named Paul, pitted in a contestuous battle of wits, our 2 halves against Martin's nit.

The discussion I felt was worthy of being brought out more into the open, because Martin, who was educated here in London, Ontario at St. Peter's Seminary has taken the knowledge he received and has built upon,  and has wandered over to the dark side (no offence meant Martin).

We have ultimately agreed to disagree.  At least we do disagree, and have drawn no closer to agreement.  Ignore the testiness that crept into the comments, particularly my own.

The actual frolicking began when Paul reerenced the bible stating that we know not the time nor the place of Jesus' return, in reference to Mr. Camping fixating on a particular date and time.  Martin is categorically an SD (you know disturber of excrement), and so he dutifully stirred the pot.

He raised the ante, by referencing Luke 21:32, "In truth, I tell you before this generation has passed away all will have taken place."  Specifically, he said:
Jesus clearly tells his audience that the world will end in their own lifetimes. Not only was Jesus wrong, but his words contradict your citation. No matter how you try to square that circle, the world cannot be both ended in the lifetime of the apostles and still in existence and facing an immanent destruction in 2011.
There was more and you can read it in the comments, but that was a pretty pivotal point, and remained the main topic of the comments.
Frankly, it seemed such a walk in the park to refute what Martin had said, that I started out lazily, and never really got past it, try though I might.
What, of course, was missed in the discussion, was when the text of Luke and the parallel texts of Matthew 24, and Mark 13 were actually written.  Since Luke was not probably written until about the 60s AD, use of the term generation becomes even more of a challenge.  So, I looked up this commentary from Bible and quote from there:
Jesus assures the disciples that these signs will be so. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." The things Jesus has taught are true, more firm than creation itself.

In the midst of this note of assurance is one of the most-discussed passages in Luke. For Jesus also says, "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." The prediction is made emphatically, using the strong Greek phrase ou me. This generation will not (!) pass away.

On the surface it looks as if Jesus is predicting the end within his generation, especially since Luke normally uses the term generation (genea) to mean the current generation (7:31; 9:41; 11:29-32, 51; 17:25; Acts 2:40; 8:33). Often the term also has a negative implication, meaning this current generation is evil. Against applying this interpretation to 21:32, however, is the reality of the delay. The generation of Jesus' utterance was passing away even as Luke wrote, and Luke had described numerous intervening events. Jesus had spoken in the thirties, but Luke was writing, in all likelihood, in the sixties. A reference to the current generation is unlikely.

Neither is it likely that Luke refers to the Jews as this generation. According to this view, the promise is that "the generation of Jews" will not pass away. Though this approach removes any problem for the meaning, it is unlikely because genea is not used in this general, nontemporal, ethnic sense elsewhere.

Two other options are possible. If the term has no temporal force, then it could mean "the evil generation of humankind." Using the term with this descriptive, ethical force would mean Jesus is speaking of a quality of human being: evil persons will not escape the judgment when it comes. This evil generation will not pass away before God deals with them. There will be judgment and vindication.

Finally, the term might refer to the generation of the end. In other words, once the beginning of the end arrives with the cosmic signs of verses 25-26, the Son of Man will return before that generation passes away. Such a meaning honors the term's temporal force and reads it as somewhat contextually limited by Luke's clear distinction between near and far events. This view has been rejected by some as too obvious a sense--the last generation will not pass away (Stein 1992:526). However, this misreads the view's force. It is arguing that the end will occur within one generation; the same group that sees the start of the end will see its end. This is the option I slightly prefer, though the previous sense is also possible.

However the phrase this generation is taken, Jesus' statements in verses 32-33 emphasize that Jerusalem's destruction and then the events of the end, including the Son of Man's return and the cosmic signs that accompany it, are more certain than creation's permanence. Be assured, Jesus says, these things will come to pass.
It was and may continue to be an interesting discussion.  But, what came to me in prayer was some thoughts on attitude.  Zig Ziglar, a well known Christian says this: “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude”.

Though I respect Martin's knowledge, my challenge is with his attitude towards the Bible, and Catholic teaching.  Jesus told us that we were to come to Him like little children.  Well, little children are curious, inquisitive, helpful, and trusting.  At least, they are that way until we, of the older generations, train it out of them.  We eventually train them not to trust, to be petulant, and argumentative.  They move from being child like, to being childish in their behaviours and attitudes, and that is how we enter adulthood.

I hope I am not misrepresenting concepts I believe I have read from him.  What I have understood from what I have read, is that he takes a critical approach to scripture, what I would characterize as a childish attitude, as opposed to an attitude of trusting inquiry and inquisitiveness.  This is not meant as a criticism of Martin, as when I look at some of the things I have written in response to him, I see the same petulance and childishness.  In fact, I doubt that the verbal jousting would have gone on as long as it did if I had presented a better attitude.

Be that as it may, mayhaps we will re-engage over this topic or others as time passes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

No Hurry???

From Father John Pirt's Sermon This Morning

Today's Gospel reading was about the 10 virgins waiting for the Bridegroom (Jesus) to come (Matthew 25:1-13).  The scene of the gospel was apparently a common scene in Jesus day on earth.  The bridegroom would possibly play tricks on the bride and attendants by showing up at an odd time.  So, while 5 attendants had lamps and oil, five only had lamps, and ran out of oil before the bridegroom arrived, and their lack of preparedness and diligence was to their eternal sorrow.

To start his homily, father John told this story about the devil.

The devil was about to send three newly trained devil apprentices to earth to test our their skills, and so he met with them prior to their starting this assignment.

He asked the first one what he planned to do on earth.  He said, he was going to tell everyone he could that there was no God.

Satan smiled at him, and told him that that would get a few, but that most over time know from their heart that there is a God, and so as a strategy, it would not be very productive.

When he queried the second one, his response was that he planned on telling everyone he could that there was no hell. 

Again, the devil was amused but told him that the people on earth knew in their hearts that there was a hell, and so he might have minor success, but that it was not a very effective plan.

When he asked the third demon what he planned, his response was chilling.  He said that he was going to tell everyone on earth, that there was no hurry.

The Gospel tells us to stand guard, be vigilant and prepared.  The devil tells us there is no hurry.

Who are you going to believe?