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End Times 
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 Re: End Times
Jan_wow wrote:
He taught that certain events need to take place before the final seven year countdown, one of them is the Middle East peace agreement.

We can relax then, with Jared Kushner in charge of that process plus his father in law undermining his efforts... :lol:


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Post Re: End Times
Harry Marks wrote:
I am sure that a Platonic Noble Lie had some appeal in an age when it was absolutely guaranteed that some of the population could not spare the time to be educated and attend to public affairs. Today, by contrast, we have a democratic system in which the argument that a lie is useful will be recorded by some sting journalist and go viral on social media.
You are over-estimating public intelligence and concern, and under-estimating private venality and ability to exploit psychology. With a lie able to travel half way round the world while truth is getting its boots on, the idea that media holds people to account in an effective way is not always true.

Venal people can see that lies are useful. However, as with myths, the power of a lie is destroyed when the liar admits he is lying. Even if spin doctors are forced to admit they are lying, when the lie is sufficiently appealing and profitable they will continue to peddle it. That seems to be the case with fossil fuel industries who recognise climate science privately while peddling denial in public. Lies about climate and food and health and religion often continue to be told and believed.

When a lie is a convenient belief for economic reasons it will continue to be propagated. As Upton Sinclair said, 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.'
Harry Marks wrote:
There is no substitute for honest persuasion.
Sadly, too often dishonesty and ignorance are a substitute for honesty. Dishonest persuasion relies on telling people what they want to hear, or telling people lies that will profit the teller. Of course, dishonesty is evil, since dishonesty produces delusion, and delusion produces suffering. And even with honesty, myths can evolve and mutate so that an honest account of an old story becomes distorted over time.
Harry Marks wrote:
the disdain for the mythological needs to be reconsidered.
That observation about disdain should be central to analysis of religion.

Disdain, the arrogant dismissal of the value of an idea that is seen as politically incorrect, fails to see that a surface error in religious concepts could conceal a deeper truth. Just because a religious claim is literally untrue does not make it meaningless, but that is the fallacious argument advanced by secular disdain for myth.

The truth in myth is symbolic, not historical. For example, the myth of Jesus Christ puts even older myths which involved worship of nature into symbolic human form. That means that in rejecting Jesus, ultimately we reject nature.

Now that is a complicated argument, since on the surface the opposite seems true, given how Christianity has expressed disdain for nature, but it illustrates how immediate disdain is incapable of seeing below surface impressions. Mockery of Jesus Christ leads to an inability to analyse end time concepts.

The modern rational cult of secular “laïcité” is built upon disdain for myth. Laicity, the core theme of the French Revolutionary values of liberty equality and fraternity, is the core ideology of western secular atheism, and has strong ethical basis in modern opposition to the corruption of the church and to the church-state alliance. However, laicity has its own myths, such as that humans have no need for ritual worship and ceremonial symbols, which are primary bearers of myth. Even though popular substitutes for the psychological comfort of religion emerge in secular pursuits such as sport and movies and music, ironic disdain for the power of mythical symbols remains a common attitude in the secular world.

Disdain for myth produces a superficial ideology that fails to connect human life to our surrounding natural context. My view on this is that understanding the structure of time is the fundamental key to understanding mythology. Starting from astronomy, we can discover how the temporal order of our planet is the foundation of Christian myth, including its eschatology.
Harry Marks wrote:
I was witness to a small revelation of this disdain, one which may potentially have gotten Ronald Reagan elected and set us onto the path of denial and fragmentation where we find ourselves in extremis today.
The classic sneer at myth is Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ remark. Progressives have always hated conservatives for believing myths, and conservatives have returned the favour.
Harry Marks wrote:
The sociology of intellectual superiority is an aggression, even, in mild form, an oppression, which only the elites can take responsibility for.
’Elites’ is such a loaded term, since the Koch Bros are also elite. But accepting the usual frame of the cultural elitism of progressive liberals, we currently have Milo Y touring Australia, subject of an aggressive ‘no-platform’ campaign, a good example of this growing sociology of intellectual superiority.

This problem of elite oppression that you describe is exactly the cause of the Trump phenomenon, that a large demographic find their cultural values are considered deplorable by dominant opinion leaders. That sociology of sneering at religion means people are simply not capable of rational dialogue about end times mythology. Elites impose their own misperceptions of religion to prevent discussion.
Harry Marks wrote:
from the perspective of religious people, it is not healthy to deny the wrong beliefs which led Jesus and Paul to declare apocalyptic urgency.
Which wrong beliefs exactly? The Roman destruction of Israel was an apocalyptic event in local cultural terms. But in any case, in addition to the wrong ‘this generation’ remark, Jesus said the end of the age would not come until the gospel had been preached to the whole inhabited earth, and traditional Christianity interpreted that to mean in about 2000 AD, implicitly aligning the second coming with the dawn of the Age of Aquarius.

There is good ground for apocalyptic urgency today in view of the grave peril posed by global warming. Humanity is on a trajectory towards extinction, and requires a comprehensive paradigm shift to avoid that fate.
Harry Marks wrote:
Honesty of accepting facts can be integrated with faith.
But only when the surface error of traditional faith is reinterpreted as symbolic.
Harry Marks wrote:
It is possible, for example, to point directly to the urgency as a representation of the nature of God's time, in which we critique ourselves, and see that being factually mistaken about it doesn't disqualify it from being spiritually effective, even spiritually "true" in the sense of accurately capturing the internal issues at stake.
Apocalyptic urgency has always been one of the primary motivators of social movements of faith. Now that we live in a world situation where science can directly explain the impending mechanisms of collapse, such urgency is entirely justified. The earlier historic sense of spiritual urgency in millennial movements can be explored as an intuition that the fall from grace into corruption had placed humanity on the wide and easy path to destruction.
Harry Marks wrote:
Okay, you have certainly got me wanting to read more Tillich. He was looking at life under the Third Reich and seeing the faith of God's Chosen People in the age of empires as a helpful guide.
The Shaking of the Foundations by Paul Tillich might be a good non-fiction selection for booktalk. The link is to a free online copy. You make a good point about how Tillich saw the apocalyptic context of the Second World War, with Nazism shaking the foundations of all established moral values.

My fear is that human culture wrongly considers Hitler only as an aberration, failing to understand the continuity between Nazism and modern politics. This failure is an anaesthesia doused in petrol. Tillich stared into the abyss of human depravity with an authentic existential resolve.

There is no question ancient Israel faced an apocalyptic world, since foreign conquest of your homeland is a form of apocalypse that the Jews lived through several times. And the Holocaust is a type of modern Apocalypse. But WW2 may be just a prelude to the coming horsemen, given the expanded interconnected fragility of our world today, and the dire risks of collapse under the weight of global warming.
Harry Marks wrote:
Maintaining any honest connection to the divine, eternal order in a pathological social system is difficult.
That is precisely why I see Jesus Christ as such a valuable point of stability and connection, symbolising the presence of the eternal within time, the golden age in the midst of the iron age. Honest integrity in a pathological social system involves the way of the cross, which itself symbolises the union of the personal and the social.
Harry Marks wrote:
It requires constant re-negotiation of the terms of compromise, figuring out how much to accept the injustice of the system in order to give space to the majesty of being.
Cathedrals give wonderful space to majesty, at the cost of a corrupting alliance between throne and altar. Negotiation of the terms of compromise is a good way of framing the problem of religious integrity. Christ described himself to Pilate as a martyr for truth, setting the standard for pure integrity.

The Gospel story of Jesus Christ presents an uncompromising purity, a messianic vision of a transformed and liberated world. But when Christian revolutionaries have tried to implement these values they have faced suppression by the powers of stability. So Luther and the Anabaptists assessed the terms of compromise differently. The zealots accepted an apocalypse of martyrdom, following Christ to the cross, while Luther saw the ability of the church to support stability of the state as a higher good in his circumstances.
Harry Marks wrote:
None of the many alternatives is entirely satisfactory, because salvation can never be wholly individual.
That relational nature of human identity is an essential point that is often missed under the powerful weight of the modern myth of the individual as the unit of personal existence. The rise of rational individualism neglects how existence is intrinsically social and tribal, being with others in community of shared meaning.

John 3:16 is often viewed as the comforting story of personal salvation, in a completely individual sense, that true believers will go to heaven. Yet the very next verse, John 3:17, rejects any form of individual escape by saying Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn the world. The Last Judgement at Matt 25 explains this social concept of salvation purely in terms of performance of works of mercy, giving no basis for personal belief as a criterion of going to heaven.
Harry Marks wrote:
If you don't have some "arc of history" basis for seeing progress, then you don't have the faith to do what Dr. King did, or Gandhi, and confront the injustice directly without first trying to use it to take power.
I like your idea of an ‘arc of history’. My interest is to develop an empirical framework for the structure of time, extending the objective orbital millennial framework of celestial mechanics from the current scientific analysis of climate cycles to also see historical cycles.

The big picture is that the actual astronomical period of a Great Year, in terms of planetary climatic cycles, is 21,000 years, due to other factors modulating precession. We will bump along the bottom of the cycle, equivalent to going through mid winter, for the next thousand years, before beginning an ascent to the next golden age, which will peak ten thousand years from now.

The arc of history has to encompass the scientific story of human evolution to provide a basis for analysis of end times mythology. With that larger heuristic of planetary dynamics, the traditional 7000 year Christian theory of time matches the fall and early winter of the orbital climate year, providing a basis to combine science and myth.
Harry Marks wrote:
Character is the factor which converts fate to destiny. Character is the potential for transformation which sees, say, the accumulation of greenhouse gases, and decides to do what is needed to prevent the disaster "fated" by the causal relation.
A famous saying from Heraclitus, ethos anthropoi daimon, Ηθος Ανθρωπῳ Δαιμων, a man’s character is his guardian angel, summarised by Novalis as ‘character is fate’, suggests a causal principle that the inherent tendency of things produces their outcome.

And yet, for human causality, free will is the joker in the pack, the indeterminate unknown, the character of destiny. Our fate is in our hands.

You mention ability to respond to greenhouse gases as a physical manifestation of end times fate, against which humanity seems helpless. Climate change may seem too big for anyone to do anything, and yet it is a good example of a situation against which free will and character can have a spiritual power to overcome apparent blockages, with faith having power to move mountains, metaphorically speaking.
Harry Marks wrote:
God's time is the time in which we reveal our character, and the destiny it implies.
Now that is an interesting conclusion Harry. One mystery about this term you raise, ‘God’s time’, is that it seems that humanity has a limited cultural capacity for understanding, and there is a real sense in which people who are before their time cannot be understood.

So with the concept of end times, it is plausible that a range of people perceive some part of the puzzle but not the whole, and the time becoming right, God’s time, means perception of the whole story.


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Post Re: End Times
Robert Tulip wrote:
However, as with myths, the power of a lie is destroyed when the liar admits he is lying.

Well, that is not actually true of mythology. People can be quite aware that they are "hearing a story" and still feel the power of myth. The Prodigal Son (or the Yellow Ribbon on the Old Oak Tree) stands as eternal testament to this power. Some philosophers are arguing that theater is the locus of modern propagation of morality by its function in generating empathy. This has some truth to it, though I have a few reservations.

The discovery of manipulative intent will kill a lie to a great extent, but if people feel themselves to be aided by the manipulation, that is if the lie is "on their side" in a truly critical battle, denial of the falsity kicks in. We are watching this play out in U.S. politics in one of the most gripping and horrifying dramas ever enacted in real cultural dynamics.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Even if spin doctors are forced to admit they are lying, when the lie is sufficiently appealing and profitable they will continue to peddle it. That seems to be the case with fossil fuel industries who recognise climate science privately while peddling denial in public. Lies about climate and food and health and religion often continue to be told and believed.
Another word for a profitable lie is a fraud. The tobacco companies were eventually forced to reckon with this, but few would argue that even the stiff penalties they paid have offset the profits they made from the fraud.
Robert Tulip wrote:
even with honesty, myths can evolve and mutate so that an honest account of an old story becomes distorted over time.
Well, I would argue that it would satisfy reasonable standards of honesty to, in a time before science, tell a story of volcanoes erupting that then commented "Old Hades was really worked up!" Now, obviously the person did not know this, nor have any basis for making a factual claim about it, but then, people understood the context.

Christianity has painted itself into an odd corner in which eternal life itself is believed by fundamentalists to depend on believing "things you know ain't so." The context has changed, but the insistence on literalism has put people in a position of believing they will fry in eternal punishment if they don't agree to claim that the dead got up and walked around when Jesus was crucified.

The more I have considered this the more convinced I have become that the problem arose because the church engaged the use of ideas about the supernatural to enforce good behavior. They weren't the first to try such a thing, but it was spiritually bankrupt (as Dostoevsky pointed out in the famous Grand Inquisitor scene of the Brothers Karamazov) long before it was clear that it was a Platonic Noble Lie.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Disdain, the arrogant dismissal of the value of an idea that is seen as politically incorrect, fails to see that a surface error in religious concepts could conceal a deeper truth. Just because a religious claim is literally untrue does not make it meaningless, but that is the fallacious argument advanced by secular disdain for myth.
I would argue that this is a case of denial (the intellectuals deny that, for example, atonement myths have any validity for transforming lives and society) in which the manipulation involved in a "debunking" is presented not as manipulation at all, but as simple honesty. The fact that it is perceived to be aiding the cause of intellectuals in a truly critical battle makes them unwilling to engage with the culturally problematic sides of their myth-denial. An enormous dose of humility might overcome this denial, but, like the literalist accepting a mechanical atonement theology, they also have trouble seeing through it.

It is a curious thing to watch intellectuals who will accept mythological thinking from, say, Gramsci (who quite consciously states its mythological functioning) and are then unwilling to give the time of day to the parallel use of emotion in religion. Why are they hung up on the supernatural claims? Partly because they detest authoritarianism, rightly sensing that it is inherently anti-intellectual, and associate religion with authoritarianism (unfortunately also, on the whole, correctly) but also partly because the sociology of the use of ideas makes religious symbolism disreputable in many ways.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Christianity has expressed disdain for nature,
That strand of Christianity descends much more from Platonism than from Yahwism.

Robert Tulip wrote:
laicity has its own myths, such as that humans have no need for ritual worship and ceremonial symbols, which are primary bearers of myth. Even though popular substitutes for the psychological comfort of religion emerge in secular pursuits such as sport and movies and music, ironic disdain for the power of mythical symbols remains a common attitude in the secular world.
This needs to be much stronger. The modern, educated person sees religion in terms of "psychological comfort" (a "crutch" to put it bluntly) without having much sense at all that it is a form of psychological structure, empowering people to resist mental illness and moral corruption (a "house" in traditional religious metaphor). Nobody sees sport or movies as building a "house" for the self, but you would find wide agreement among the religious that religion does in fact function that way.

This goes back, IMO, to the way we explain things in Western discourse. Following the fracturing of Western culture in the Reformation, philosophers took the approach advocated by Margaret Mead at the end of "Coming of Age in Samoa" of educating people for choice. By this they meant individual choice, and the basis for individual choice was meant to be reason. All sounds great, but the discourse implies that there are no other relevant factors to consider.

As a result, nihilism concerning values (in the form of relativism) was treated as given even when it was explicitly denied, because the top-down approach inherited from religious institutions was simply incapable of coherently addressing the problem of value formation with the tools of reason. You cannot provide evidence that what is right ultimately is actually right, you can only appeal to the honest desire to do the right thing and offer a persuasive reason to see it as right.

Alisdair MacIntyre addressed this brilliantly in his book "After Virtue" in which he observed that expecting integrity in a philosophical system that purports to provide incentive for good behavior is as incoherent as expecting sportsmen and women to play cleanly (looking at you, Lance Armstrong) when the game is understood to be played for monetary reward. Moral behavior stems from the desire to behave morally or it has inherent lack of integrity.

Yet philosophers, invested in an individualistic approach to basing beliefs on reason, have failed to engage with this fundamental requirement that the desire to live morally is indispensable to morality as a coherent way of living.

In part this is because "desire", in an individualistic mode of analysis, has to be treated as a given. The idea that we pick up our goals and aspirations from the society around us is either denied, in an effort to base all on reason, or absolutized, in treating it as an intractable psychological force. Its delicate interweaving with relationships, understanding, status and, therefore, mythology is given no philosophical weight.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The classic sneer at myth is Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ remark. Progressives have always hated conservatives for believing myths, and conservatives have returned the favour.

It is interesting to me that conservatives see the "deplorables" remark in terms of myths, religion and worldview. It was an honest remark about bigotry, about the resistance to universal health care due to bigotry, and the bull-headed opposition to any success for Obama as bigotry. It may not have been too perceptive, and it was surely a political blunder, but it really had little or nothing to do with religion. Clinton is, actually, religious (unlike her opponent) and would never consider someone deplorable for being religious.

That said, I think we have reached a point where progressives take a condescending pride in resisting the great myths of a coherent society, such as patriotism, sacrifice, solidarity and yes, family values. I had a recent exchange with a well-meaning progressive who took several rounds of explaining to even see the possibility that patriotism could be something other than "the last refuge of the scoundrel." Independent thinking and individualist choice of values have become myths for progressives that they have trouble seeing through.

Robert Tulip wrote:
This problem of [intellectually] elite oppression that you describe is exactly the cause of the Trump phenomenon, that a large demographic find their cultural values are considered deplorable by dominant opinion leaders.

It isn't easy to untie all the knots that have bound us in this position, but only the intellectual elites are capable of undertaking it. Trump is amply demonstrating that the emotional morass of Tea Party populism is easy to weaponize but hard to build a house for the soul in. The party of knee-jerk corporatism and manipulation of ignorance on behalf of the rich will never have the integrity to actually perform some reconciliation.

Robert Tulip wrote:
That sociology of sneering at religion means people are simply not capable of rational dialogue about end times mythology. Elites impose their own misperceptions of religion to prevent discussion.
Well, I have had considerable success engaging people on serious forums on the internet. There remains a hunger for an honest account of value formation, which engages the issues of character and of social inclusion. I have had quite a few sneer at me, but not a one who comes away believing that they are my intellectual superior and thus entitled to sneer. Still, that is small beer. I would feel much better if I had found that a significant share of people I engage with came away recognizing that intellectuals need to do the heavy lifting to glue society back together.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Which wrong beliefs exactly? The Roman destruction of Israel was an apocalyptic event in local cultural terms. But in any case, in addition to the wrong ‘this generation’ remark, Jesus said the end of the age would not come until the gospel had been preached to the whole inhabited earth,

The destruction of Israel was not the Second Coming anticipated by Paul and the early church. I recently read some scholarship that is re-evaluating Paul's perspective and writings, and they concluded that Paul's call to preach to the Gentiles (not "conversion" - that is a misnomer) was a conclusion he reached because he saw Jesus' spiritual resurrection (dramatized by an appearance to Paul himself) as the first fruits of the impending resurrection of all the saints. For me that was a sudden gestalt pulling together a number of opaque elements of Paul's writings.

In literal terms they were just wrong. But their vision of a new heaven and new earth stemming from the resurrection was remarkably insightful. The resurrection was in fact the first fruits of an apparently fragile but actually remarkably durable growth of a counter-culture of radical personal equality and mutual support as people faced their own internal spiritual needs.
Robert Tulip wrote:
WW2 may be just a prelude to the coming horsemen, given the expanded interconnected fragility of our world today, and the dire risks of collapse under the weight of global warming.
Agreed. How many even realize that the chaos of Syrian refugees traveling to Europe is almost a direct result of global warming? We shudder and cross our fingers, hoping the problems will only happen "over there", even as the heaviest hurricane season ever dwarfs Katrina in cost and the fires burn the forests of the Western U.S. while the Great Barrier Reef is dying fast.

Yet we are doing this to those people "over there." We are the guilty party. And people have the gall to claim we are a Christian nation. Christian in the sense that Torquemada was Christian, perhaps.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Honest integrity in a pathological social system involves the way of the cross, which itself symbolises the union of the personal and the social.
I know you can't take credit for recognizing this first, but let me say that the recognition carries incalculable value.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Christ described himself to Pilate as a martyr for truth, setting the standard for pure integrity.
I have come to see his passion as a piece of theater more than a stand made inevitable by the requirements of integrity. Yet, in choosing to be the peaceable Messiah, I believe he was acting purely from integrity, and demonstrating that integrity of true values is sovereign over temporal calculation of advantage.

Robert Tulip wrote:
John 3:16 is often viewed as the comforting story of personal salvation, in a completely individual sense, that true believers will go to heaven. Yet the very next verse, John 3:17, rejects any form of individual escape by saying Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn the world.
The whole concept of eternal life is ripe for re-interpretation. At this point, suffice it to say that eternally valid values are inherently, fundamentally social.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The arc of history has to encompass the scientific story of human evolution to provide a basis for analysis of end times mythology.
Well, evolution provides us with a picture of a tension between competition as conceived in game theory, including through coalitions, and cultural success through cooperation. The Kingdom of God is a state in which cooperation radically breaks through as freedom from the oppression of constant conflict. Nothing short of loving our enemies will put that radical outbreak on clear display to our benighted calculating shriveled up egos.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
God's time is the time in which we reveal our character, and the destiny it implies.
Now that is an interesting conclusion Harry. One mystery about this term you raise, ‘God’s time’, is that it seems that humanity has a limited cultural capacity for understanding, and there is a real sense in which people who are before their time cannot be understood.
Cannot only because people allow themselves to be blinded by their fears, and the systems of warding off threats to their ego which they have built around those fears.
Robert Tulip wrote:
So with the concept of end times, it is plausible that a range of people perceive some part of the puzzle but not the whole, and the time becoming right, God’s time, means perception of the whole story.
I will give that some thought. It sounds like it is on the right track.



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Post Re: End Times
Robert Tulip wrote:
Which wrong beliefs exactly? The Roman destruction of Israel was an apocalyptic event in local cultural terms. But in any case, in addition to the wrong ‘this generation’ remark, Jesus said the end of the age would not come until the gospel had been preached to the whole inhabited earth,


Over and over this thread I go. Each time I think I pick up a little more understanding of the discussion, but I'm far from grasping every concept expressed here. So I want to back up a little and ask a simpler question that's been on my mind for years.

In To His Coy Mistress, Andrew Marvell writes "Till the conversion of the Jews." He is using the expression simply to connote there's no point in waiting for an event in the distant future because they do not have "world enough and time." The source for the line about the conversion of the Jews line is:

Romans 11:25-27

25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

So as far back as the mid-17th century, it was widely believed by Christians that the world would not end until the Jews became Christians. Marvell's casual use of the conversion of the Jews line in the poem tells us he expects most people to understand and accept what he's saying.

If I'm grasping this correctly (big if,) I'm wondering how widely this belief is accepted today. If you are studying the Bible to predict end times, must the Jews be converted before the Second Coming?


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Post Re: End Times
Litwitlou wrote:
must the Jews be converted before the Second Coming?

My interpretation is as follows.

The generally accepted history of the early church, based on the Gospels and Acts, is actually quite different from the real history. Establishing what the real history involved is extremely difficult, and is a question of high and broad controversy, with serious scholars subjected to exclusion and shunning. The whole set of questions around how the New Testament came to be written, in what order, for what purpose, by whom, produces wildly conflicting answers.

Part of the problem is that for more than a thousand years, under Christendom, any questioning of the accepted literal faith in Christ was condemned as heresy or blasphemy, and became a capital crime. As a result, scholarship was corrupted and intimidated, and people assumed that generally believed stories must be true, a syndrome that continues to degrade the conversation about Christianity.

Against this history, the view is strongly emerging that the Gospels are entirely fictional, that Jesus Christ was invented, that there is no evidence whatsoever for any claims in the Gospel, and that the whole story of Jesus can only be explained as imagination, not as reality.

If this shocking claim is true that the Gospels are fiction, then it stands to reason that Jewish communities early in the common era would have been well aware of this fact, because they were the victims of the mass deception which falsely blamed them as Christ killers. Jews would have strongly protested the Christian effort to claim ownership of the Jewish sacred texts to promulgate a political lie.

Unfortunately, almost all ancient writings that might support that theory have failed to survive. We have the Church Fathers texts where apologists attacked their critics, such as the Contra Celsus and the Dialogue with Trypho, but never hear these early critics of Christianity speak in their own voice.

We might think that such general failure of the sources to back up the hypothesis that Jesus was fiction in a clear way makes the hypothesis weak. But this is a very special case. Firstly, the Roman destructions of Jerusalem in the first and second centuries were the biggest war effort in the whole history of the empire, a military context that made religious propaganda, including the development of literal belief in the gospels, a key instrument of strategic conquest. Then, as literal Christianity triumphed, the faith was co-opted by the empire, and imperial edicts made possession of heresy a capital crime for more than a thousand years.

In that context, it actually is plausible that the efforts to eradicate specific major heresies such as the belief that Jesus was fictional could have been successful. And indeed, that heresy has a name, Docetism, the belief that Jesus only seemed to come in the flesh, a widely discussed belief for which almost no supportive documents exist in any direct way. The only support is found in concealed locations, in cryptic language in other texts, of the type that could plausibly survive the monkish sieve, the efforts of librarians over generations to neglect and discard any writings seen as suspect.

My reason for introducing this material in response to the question of the end times conversion of the Jews is that explaining Christianity in a rigorous way is essential for an understanding of the relation between Judaism and messianism. Judaism maintains that the messiah has not yet been born. I think that is a very plausible argument, set against the real framework of what Harry Marks has called the arc of history.

The real ‘arc of history’ can be seen by study of deep time, the emergence of humanity from Africa a hundred thousand years ago, then the peopling of the world over the five successive glaciation cycles of rising and falling seas and advancing and retreating ice since then. Against this big arc, the modern world is a severe aberration, since our technology dating from the Neolithic prevented the natural fall back into a new ice age, due mainly to methane from rice and cow cultivation. So we have an artificial world where humans exercise dominion. In the fallen alienated context of supernatural religion, dominion over nature is wrongly interpreted as domination, while in the messianic transformed vision of the future seen in the Gospel texts, dominion is read as stewardship.

I find it very helpful to interpret these big issues against the real astronomical framework of climate change, with the orbital drivers producing what Indian myth calls the cycle of the Yugas, between gold and iron ages over a twenty four thousand year period, in a remarkably accurate intuition of the historical reality.

By that frame, the messianic impulse is the presence of the spirit of the golden age in the midst of the iron age, with a transformative call that is utterly rejected by the alienated ignorant spirit of iron, and yet proves redemptive, powerful and enduring. This historic vision of gold and iron ages extended from India to Babylon, Israel, Greece and Rome, including in Plato’s Noble Lie as the basis of the philosopher kings, and is encapsulated in the archetypal Christian myth of cross and resurrection.

Now what is really interesting in comparing Judaism with Christianity is that this astronomical orbital model of time can also see the messianic impulse against the framework of zodiac ages, produced by precession of the equinoxes. While speculative, this model has enough purchase on scientific reality to be worth pursuing. What it indicates is that the Christian messiah Jesus Christ was imagined by his astronomer-priest inventors as the avatar of the Age of Pisces, when the equinox precessed from the sign of the ram into the sign of the fishes in 21 AD, a celestial event they could predict for centuries beforehand. The Jewish coming messiah, by this astronomical model, is imagined as the avatar of the Age of Aquarius, the transformation of global consciousness that is occurring as a result of modern global unity.

Further, this model involves the idea that Piscean Christianity has ‘primed the pump’ for the emergence of an Aquarian messiah, through an explanation of what messianic consciousness involves, in a world that was not ready to hear those transformative ideas. Therefore, the advent of the Jewish Aquarian Messiah is one and the same event as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Aquarian Messiah will arrive in power as king of the world while the Piscean Messiah only fulfilled that role in imagination. Christianity has explained what a Jewish messiah will do, around the central ethical principle of the Gospels, from Matthew 25, that the least of the world should be treated as though they are Jesus Christ.

Marlowe’s coy line about the conversion of the Jews therefore emerged from the false consciousness of Christendom, the corrupted Roman idea that the Gospels were history. The end of the age will not bring conversion of Jews to Christianity, but rather conversion of Christians to a renewed form of Judaism that recognises the Christian Gospel message as the central ethical story of salvation through love and truth, while seeing how the depraved state of fallen humanity failed to accept the imaginative truth of that story and instead twisted it into a mythical doctrine of imperial security and stability.

Empowering Jesus Christ as king of the poor does not imply a communist revolution, but rather a complex open redemptive dialogue, a scientific analysis of how the truth may set us free, and an evolution of culture building upon the rich precedents of Christendom, Judaism and all the deep religious heritage of all humanity.


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Post Re: End Times
Litwitlou wrote:
In To His Coy Mistress, Andrew Marvell writes "Till the conversion of the Jews." He is using the expression simply to connote there's no point in waiting for an event in the distant future because they do not have "world enough and time."

So as far back as the mid-17th century, it was widely believed by Christians that the world would not end until the Jews became Christians.
I'm wondering how widely this belief is accepted today. If you are studying the Bible to predict end times, must the Jews be converted before the Second Coming?

Interesting question. It seems to be true that Paul thought that the Jews must "come in" to the fold of Christ-followers before the end of the age and the beginning of the new Kingdom on earth. Among those who study the Bible to predict end times, this often gets featured prominently. Romans is the main source for this, and Paul presents it as a kind of mysterious prophetic answer to a question only he is asking, so it probably wasn't part of his regular preaching.

Apparently Jews at the time of Jesus were already studying Daniel, Isaiah and other key end-times texts to try to work out how it would all end. It is a good warning to us that their conclusion invariably was "soon."

Since Robert has gone to the trouble of introducing his perspective, let me try to build a little background on mine.

First, I would never treat any scripture as a supernaturally revealed source of insider knowledge. No more than I would credit the prophecies of Nostradamus. When Christians faced the fact that their supposedly revealed truths included falsehoods, scholars began putting together a serious look at the question of whether there were other things of interest in the religion. The answer is mainly in the realm of values.

It's helpful to think of talk about other-worldly entities as a way of expressing truths about values. To give a very basic example, the gods seem to have originally been oath-enforcers, so that saying "you are cursed for breaking your oath" was to say that the community would reject you, not trust you, and expect bad things to happen to you. Anything bad that happened to you would be a sign that more bad things were going to happen to you. In a world with science, we don't expect such magic to literally work, but we can still recognize the words of rejection and condemnation as important.

In the more advanced religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, and modern Islam, Taoism and Judaism, the interest of the gods or of spiritual forces comes to rest mainly on personal behavior and not especially on national fates. The ancient language of relationship or judgment seems to still apply, but if we want to use it (or replace it) with any dexterity we have to be aware of the problematic aspects of supernatural claims even while we are aware of the claims about values which are the true focus.

So, enough about basic orientation. Some simple vocabulary: "spiritual" refers to the dynamic process of being able to make choices about one's own character. Kierkegaard explained "spirit" as "relationship related to itself", which applies to a society-level "spirit" such as Hegel's "Zeitgeist" ("spirit of the age") or to an individual with some ability to reflect on his or her own motivations and change them. The old supernatural conception of a soul, which might be judged in some afterlife, can be seen to capture this self-reflective property, as in the question "What shall it profit a person to gain the whole world (or the Presidency) at the cost of their soul?"

In the same way, ancient language about "God" referring to (well, to what, exactly? An all powerful creator, perhaps?) functions as a symbol for existence, for the matter of having a life at all and relating to, or avoiding, one's own spirit. To wrestle with God, as Jacob was said to do when re-named Israel, is to finally be serious about engaging the whole matter of what life means, why it matters, and what accountability we face for it. This is an existentialist way of discussing the matter - I am an existentialist and take my cues for interpreting religious concepts from religious existentialists such as Kierkegaard and Tillich. As a result, I have no interest in claims about God being omnipotent, omniscient or omni-anything else. And I believe that humans embody the spirit which is God (God is love, the Christian scriptures declare) even if there is some component of God which transcends the bodily and temporal limitations of humans.

By the way, even though I am a feminist I find "To his Coy Mistress" to be delightful poetry. Marvell is transacting with a woman in what Sartre would call "bad faith" since he simply wants sex from her, and yet underneath there is a genuine relationship in his pointing out that she is also being manipulative and, well, we only live once.



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Post Re: End Times
If you people keep writing like this it's going to cut into my book reading time.


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