Thursday, November 27, 2008

Apocalyptic reflections

We had the second of our two mid-week gatherings devoted to the Apocalypse and end times stuff yesterday evening. It seemed to go well - people were engaged and asked intelligent questions afterwards.

Given that I was offering a somewhat different take to the one many of my hearers grew up with, some of the questions were about trust and change. They were along the lines of 'why was I to be trusted when what I was saying was different from some great preachers of the past?' and 'how hard it is to make the changes required in one's thinking when what I'm saying is so different from what people have believed up till now.'

I was reminded of the wonderful BBC film shown last weekend about Einstein and Eddington and Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. For some people moving from the dispensationalist paradigm (which still shapes most popular end times thinking even if no one reckons they're a dispensationalist anymore) to something different is as enormous a step as moving from the Newtonian paradigm to Einstein's theory of relativity (so brilliantly conveyed in the BBC film).

Such revolutions happen because evidence piles up that questions the veracity of the previous paradigm. It doesn't happen overnight. Little pieces of evidence relating to one aspect of current thinking change our view of that aspect. This change has an influence over another aspect related to the first one. So if we change our minds about the synoptic apocalypse and see that some of it relates to the fall of Jerusalem, how does that change the way we read other apocalyptic material in the New Testament? Bit by bit our position shifts.

I was also reminded of that fairly naff hymn that contains the great line 'the Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from his word.' That remains a fantastic and seminal Baptist principle, it seems to me. we are all still lurking in the shadows hoping the Lord shines a little more light on us as we read, reflect and pray.

Well, we upped the wattage a little last night.

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