It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Reality Check - Part 1

Pat Robertson says Disasters point to 2nd Coming
{Read Full Story Here}

Apocalyptic anxiety runs high in disasters' wake
{Read Full Story Here}

Earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, tsunamis and WAR! Is "the end" near? I know I'm going to hack off a lot of my Christian friends when I say this, but I'll go ahead and bite the bullet. I say NO.

Yes, I said it! Gasp! What kind of blasphemy is this!?! How could I, a Christian, honestly believe that these signs DON'T point to the second coming of Christ!?! Well, before I go on, let me just say this. I am a practicing Roman Catholic, and I do believe in the literal second coming of Christ. It's written into the Nicene Creed which I recite at mass every Sunday. I also study the Bible, which also tells us of Christ's second coming. But it is precisely because I study the Bible that I believe these natural disasters DO NOT point to Christ's second coming and the end of the world.

With all due respect for my brother Christian, Pat Roberson, I believe he is a victim of superficial Biblical interpretation, which is sadly all too common in Evangelical groups these days. The problem comes when Scripture is not carefully interpreted and placed into proper historical context. Too many people read the Bible as if each and every verse was written with a modern 21st century context in mind. In addition, another common problem is the lumping together of verses that have no contextual relation to each other whatsoever, and the simultaneous breaking apart of verses that should be contextually linked. In this particular case however, the problem arises from casually glossing over a particular passage that should be more carefully read. So what is it that Jesus actually said? This commonly misunderstood passage comes from the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus' disciples asked him when the Jewish Temple would be destroyed, and when would be the sign of his second coming. The passage reads as follows...
Matthew 24: 6-8
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.
First, Jesus tells us not to be alarmed by wars and rumors of wars, because "the end" is not signaled by these things. Second, he goes on by telling us that there will be wars, famines, and earthquakes, but these are only the beginning of things -- not necessarily the end. Some people, like Pat Robertson for example, point out that these things are increasing in frequency and intensity over the last few decades. They rationalize that this is a sign that "the end" is just around the corner. Pat Robertson is not alone in this. He is accompanied by dozens of television evangelists who broadcast the same message. This of course leads to millions of television viewers being led to believe the same thing. But pay attention to what Jesus actually said in Matthew 24:6-8: "you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed.... there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.... all this is but the beginning" -- not the end. What is Jesus saying here? He's saying that wars, famines and earthquakes (i.e. natural and man-made disasters) DO NOT necessarily signify his second coming. In other words; don't look to events on earth to tell you what is about to happen in heaven. Don't expect that either man or nature can forecast when Jesus is coming back. They can't forecast it, and they won't. Next, Jesus monologue goes on in Matthew 24 to vividly describe his answer to the apostle's first question about the destruction of the Jewish Temple. He uses elaborate apocalyptic language to signify the world shattering changes that were about to fall upon the Jewish Nation -- Israel. But in his answer about his second coming (i.e. the end of the world), Jesus is less specific. What does he say?
Matthew 24: 36-44
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
So concerning the timing of his second coming and "the end" of the world, Jesus has only the following to say: "of that day and hour no one knows... they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man... Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming... for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." I think Jesus is being pretty clear on this. He's telling us to live every day as if he were coming tomorrow, because you'll never be able to predict the timing of it. No obvious signs shall precede it. No noticeable changes in the earth or mankind shall signal its arrival. In other words, Jesus said STOP GUESSING!!!! You won't know! You'll never know! So you might as well drop it! Be comforted with the knowledge that Jesus is coming back, and learn to take comfort in the fact that you'll never know when. I'll tell you what! I'll make a prediction based on Jesus own words. Here it comes. Brace yourselves!

Jesus Christ will come back when he's good and ready,
and not a moment sooner!
Furthermore, recent disasters probably DO NOT point to his immediate return.

Now why would I say that!?! How could I say such a thing, especially because of my religion and what the Bible says? It's precisely BECAUSE of what the Bible says that I make this bold statement. The reason why I don't think Jesus is coming back anytime soon is because EVERYBODY seems to be expecting him to! Television evangelists broadcast it to millions every day! Hundreds of millions of people think about it every day -- expecting it to happen soon! I'm saying it probably WON'T happen precisely because so many people are expecting it to happen, when Jesus himself said "the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." Sorry, that's just the Biblical way of looking at it. Now I admit that I could be wrong. I admit that Jesus Christ could return tonight, and the world could end tonight. In some ways I hope I am wrong, because as a Christian, I look forward to the second coming of my Lord and Savior. However, I suspect that I'm right about this, and the world will continue to go on for quite a while. Perhaps fifty years, perhaps a hundred, perhaps a thousand or more; I don't know and that's the whole point -- nobody knows!

Biblically speaking, the catastrophic wars and natural disasters signify nothing other than the fact that we can expect them to happen. These things happen in cycles. The last time we experienced such catastrophic events was back during the turn of the last century (1890-1920). Weather experts assure us that hurricane seasons are decades long, and they are cyclic. They come and they go, and each generation thinks it's the worst it's ever been. Earthquakes happen in clusters. They result when molten magma, miles underneath the earth's surface, generates enough pressure to break loose the friction locks that hold continental plates stationary. Once one such lock is broken, the settling effect triggers an earthquake, which is followed by several other earthquakes nearby (aftershocks). What people often forget is that continental plates are connected. So once a seismic event happens on one side of the world, it often triggers another on the other side, but not always right away. Sometimes the reaction can be delayed by days, weeks, or even months. To the casual observer this may seem like completely unrelated events happening relatively simultaneously, but they are not. Consider the following hypothetical scenario.

An earthquake in North America during January, causes a volcano eruption in the Philippians in February, which in turn causes another earthquake in Japan later that month. Meanwhile the volcanic eruption from the volcano in the Philippians sent enough ash and sulfur into the atmosphere to block out the sun and cool the neighboring regions of the South Pacific more than usual. It wasn't noticed much by casual observers, but the cooler temperatures did manage to bring more rain into the region, where the ground had already been saturated by heavy rains back in October through December. The unusual amount of rainfall cause a massive mudslide killing tens of thousands of people. All of these conditions then cause an unusual amount of strain on the local governments, which are unable to handle the damages they caused. Some of these governments were unstable to begin with, and the unusual strain from natural disasters just made them more vulnerable to armed revolutionaries. As civil war followed in one of these areas, neighboring countries joined in to honor treaties previously made with the toppling government and protect their interests. The war then escalates. Meanwhile the earth is still settling from it's recent seismic activities resulting in more earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. What we have here is a classic hypothetical situation of a series of disasters caused entirely by one single seismic event that just happens to occur cyclically about every hundred years or less. This sort of thing has been going on since the beginning of the world, and it will continue until the end. That's the message Jesus is giving us in Matthew 24, and we shouldn't take recent natural disasters to mean "the end" is at hand. Granted, Jesus may return at any time, but this has always been the case for the last 2,000 years. Natural and man-made disasters are not "signs" of the second coming. The Scriptures do speak of a certian "sign" that will preceed the Second Coming of Christ, but this sign is nothing new. It has been with us for the last 2,000 years. In my next article I'll elaborate on this.