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This too has clear bearing on prophecy. Iraq (*7), with its Saddam Hussein, has spoken of Holy War; and while other Moslems do not quite see the point, feeling it more of a political venture, some feel perhaps an ancient stirring of Moslem 'glory' (see Chapter 10, Extension 5).
The significance of the Moslem heresy to the Christian fulfilment of Biblical prophecy, at the hand of God, has also been considered (ibid. - see also index). It means further, not merely the agglomeration of Roman, Arabian - both of them now internationalised - and Jewish mishandling (*8) of the Christ of whom the contemporary records spoke; and this misuse, in a series of misled religions encompassing (formally) hundreds of millions of peoples. This alone gives the career of Jesus Christ a vast if distorted witness. It means more however: that in the Middle East the disparate currents of oceans of people in swirling beliefs, falsely dynamised by a refusal of the claims of Jesus Christ in one form or another, are making and will make, a violent vortex.
This appeared hundreds of years ago, in the Crusades. It appeared in the Jewish wars in which the Arabs sought to drive the Jews, somewhat unproductively as an aim, into the sea. The Arabs have, after all, vast tracts of land; and Jordan is already substantially Palestinian, and Moslem. These lands are world-wide; nor are the Arabs noticeably destitute (as they float on oil, in some of their kingdoms), of ready cash. This is not to say that its expenditure always makes for peace - as in a few trillions to re-establish the Palestinians. This expenditure would have been far less felt, perhaps, if the Mos1em wars had not erupted for the last decade or so. The trillions have had other uses.
This same vortex of violence has now re-erupted in Iraq in a new wave of enthusiasm. Not satisfied with perhaps years of conflict elsewhere, Iraq has now taken on - indeed ostensibly at least taken over - another Moslem kingdom, in Kuwait. This time there seems little present intention of restoring anything.
The ingredients relate to prophecy not merely in highlighting the obvious fact, which so many seem to have desired to ignore for so long: that prodigious powers are in the hands of various bodies at war with the Biblical Jesus Christ, as we later note. It not only brings a largely sleeping world to consider that religion has objective claims in such cases, right or wrong, so that objective results may be expected; and to recognise that where violent claims are made, violent deeds might be expected.
It does more. It allows the world to see, yet once more, how the Lord will deliver Israel in the way we have already considered. This in turn makes clearer the fact that God stressed in Ezekiel 36, that the return of the Jews to their land was not a reward for merit, but happened despite demerit; for God determined not only to discipline them, but also to honour the unconditional land covenant made with Abraham. All this has been studied, and is pondered even further, in Appendix A (infra); but here it is applied.
As Ezekiel there proclaimed, the nations will know that God punished the Jews for their sins. He brought them, in their rebellion, just as He said, into duress; and He brought them, just as He said, in His time, back again. Further, He defended and protected them on their return, amidst all their fears and their terrors; for the land, He gave them. It was His gift.
This assault of Saddam Hussein does more even than this, however. If it does not directly lead to deeper involvements now, as may seem unlikely, though possible; it may bring new fluidities, new orientations, new alliances of spirit, which may later flower as those of hand. The Moslem population of southern U.S.S.R. (*9) sees and feels the appeal of what many so mistakenly regard as an Arab hero, replete with the violent ways that came near to conquering Europe in 732 A. D. at the Battle of Tours. A new seething and drawing of forces to the Middle East is stirred by the panache of this conflict, a new practicality to the deadly distortions, and their mutual hostility. Which ? those already noted, concerning Jesus Christ. We see the way in which the Lord may draw, or gather the nation to the Middle East, as He indicated in Revelation 19:19, in Zephaniah 3:8, Joel 3:2.
The way in which such a scenario as this has already developed, readily suggests how they may be gathered to 'make war' on God. Now war is not always declared (Numbers 16:3,11); but when Christ is so treated by such vast bodies of men in misled religions, this is war indeed; and to name Him and then so act in that name, as we have just seen, is to draw forth a wrath which though long delayed, comes - as prophetically long announced - in its time, to fruition.
Over and over again, with Baghdad the leader, there have come calls, or demands or surveys or scenarios in which the Jews are to give up their 'invasion' of Palestinian territory, and have their mini-bikini land cut up still further. If it is a mere skerrick now, what would it be then ? If it is scarcely defensible now (except perhaps with regionally disaster-producing atomic power and radiation that might make Chernobyl look like child's play, though it is not so to the thyroid glands of some children even in West Germany), what would it be then ? If Jerusalem should be 'internationalised', this is what it would have been in 1947 by the U.N.. This call the Jews then accepted after soul-searching, being saved from it only by... the Arab refusal to accept this plan!
How ironic that what they would now fight for, then they would have been given! If peace is the purpose, the plan was there; but God has for the Jews some better thing with the land promised to Abraham.
Indeed, the West Bank would not have been Jewish, had the Arabs accepted that more than generous U.N. provision, rather than seeking the destruction of Israel at that time. It was the Jews through Abraham (Genesis 17) to whom God Biblically accorded this land, perhaps near 2000 B.C., on the moral guilt of the Canaanites reaching proportions on which He deemed it fitting to rain judgment. In fact, He acted only after waiting hundreds of years from the time He first intimated the deserts of that Canaanitish people. How often do people giddily assume that because God is marvellously merciful, He is somehow gullible or susceptible to deception. The mistake can be deadly!
Now with Israel restored to little more than a backyard, internationally speaking, as it is, will man more boldly contest the word of God by stripping this nation further? We shall see whose word will stand; just as Saddam has recently seen... (cf. Jeremiah 44:28, Ezekiel 36:23,26).
The 'Palestinian' creation of Jordan sees fit NOT to act on the now exiled Palestinians' behalf, Moslem though it be. In what way, not to act ? In this, that it would exclude them. They are not there. They are, it seems, too difficult. Yet to have the Jews still further crowded, because Moslems find Moslems too difficult, Arabs find Arabs not congenial or acceptable or livable or whatever, appears an odd resolution. More: the lands of Pakistan and Algeria, Morocco and Iraq - yes Iraq - Iran and Syria are not without space. Comparing their territorial capacities with those of Israel, the matter brings forth not a smile but a guffaw! How a desire for further land grabs from the Jews, evicted by the Romans with horrific cruelty, reminiscent of that of Saddam Hussein in the final assault, can seriously be countenanced... this is one of the marvels of the twentieth century, latter phase! Those who fled an assaulted Israel (1948) and their aggregations and descendants, must return there!
Nor is this all. The invasion, by the exponents of the Moslem heresy, of the land of the Jews, when Israel has as yet only part of what might be claimed in terms of history, if that is 'relevant', would leave something resembling the invasion of Northern Irish territories by the Southern administration, in Ireland: less and less opportunity for them to practise in any security, their own religion.
If one considers the disproportion in that respect: Arab claims for more of current Israel, including the zones acquired when Arabs unsuccessfully sought their destruction, become almost a sort of extension of much repeated earlier claims for Jewish destruction. David Barnett puts it strikingly in The News (18/2/91) Adelaide, in a feature article.
Some 600,000 Arabs who fled 'were kept as pawns... against the day when Arabs were to reconquer Israel.' (Bold added.) Their uses were for strategic play, perhaps revenge, perhaps as assailants as well, seems to be the implication.
However, our major concern here is not some sort of secular-historical review. The perspective, on logical and faith grounds often enough given, is Biblical. In terms of justice, there is need for a word or two; but in the end, the land is theirs because God accorded it to them in terms of His own justice and judgment and jurisdiction. Now any endeavour for players to act otherwise, now that the Jews are duly back after that long and languishing discipline for disbelief (so often predicted by God), coming to crisis in their rejection of their own Messiah: this will lead to the 'burdensome stone' syndrome. Such stones hurt. Thus God undertakes to make Jerusalem of the Jews a "burdensome stone" in this period of their eventual return, to all who occupy themselves with its overthrow (Zechariah 12). All this we have pursued elsewhere, and now apply.
Our special interest is first this: Saddam Hussein who kept in a state of war with Israel for over 43 years, from 1948, has had his read-out (*10), according to the Bible... God has done what He said, despite the gigantic proportions of the war machine devoted not least to Israel's destruction. Indeed (AAP, Adelaide Advertiser, Oct. 17, 1994) in 1991 Iraq bombarded Israel with 39 Scud missiles and had thoughts of 'burning half Israel' ! The negative result was . . . predictable: though Israel is acutely vulnerable.
Surely God has disciplined the Jews as He said, and they have wandered, despised and rejected, as He said, and for long, as God also said. He has brought them back, as He said; and they have been still further assaulted on their return, yes... as He said. They still have no peace, as He indicated would be the case until they accept the Messiah, the Christ, whom they despised and rejected. Yet in the mercy of His grace, He makes the point to the world (as announced in Ezekiel 36-39); and He will continue to make it, as He has determined and declared. The world is not master of its own real estate. God is master of the world; though He has loved it enough to send His only begotten Son, suffering the Arab Mosque in Jerusalem to have inscribed in splendid Arabic on its wall, 'Allah has no Son'. Clearly Allah is not God.
God who is just, is He. Thus our second special addition is this: the much repeated calls before and during this hundred hour land war of 1991, for a 'settlement' of the 'Palestinian question', with clear content of some revision and reversion for the captured territories held by the Jews and contested by the Palestinians, will lead, if implemented, to horrific consequences.
From an apologetic point of view, indeed, the call for this, made in France, in Russia and in Baghdad, made to circulate as if naughty Saddam who stole Kuwait is only first on the list: now naughty Jewry who stole Arab territories must relinquish something, and set right that matter also: it is fascinating and as always, supportive. Of what then is it supportive ? Why of this dynamic: that the nations will not rest till there is an assault on the land of Israel, a thrust to be divinely disrupted, an assault on what the Jews declared in 1980 to be their eternal capital city, Jerusalem. (Cf. pp. 510-513 supra, 1102 ff. infra.)
That assault is indicated in both Ezekiel 38 and Zechariah 12, and will occur. Now the preliminary rumblings have reached their greatest height, just as the U.S.S.R. is beginning to loosen its grip on its territories a little, and we hear more of the many millions of Moslems held in its southern territories, who with other Moslems, make small secret in general of their desires on Israel, relative to the 'Palestinian question'. Did not Jordanians cheer on hearing the hitting of Israel with Scuds ? The militant character of Moslem beliefs was felt sufficiently by Europe in the 8th century, and for many generations thereafter. It needs no further demonstration; though it is getting it. Thus the build-up psychologically and internationally, and even in terms of pagan approaches increasingly aired with aplomb, is coming to the point the blind could perceive it. A March 1994 resolution finds the U.N. seeing in Jerusalem ... occupied Arab territory! The knife for a new 'final solution' is sharpened; Hitler's failed.
Now with Israel having once accepted the U.N. desire and Middle East design of 1947, only soon to be allowed to suffer the combined assault of Arabs who rejected it and wanted more; and despite this and enormous odds (just as Zechariah so clearly predicted), having taken the victory, and with it small increments of territory and the rest of Jerusalem: efforts to remove the Jews by force of one kind or another, loom larger and larger. It is like an ocean liner approaching the wharf in the mist. It is not yet there; but its very size, and the steam of its sailing, are very apparent. The desire is growing, growingly asserted and divinely predicted. It verifies. The Jews must give up this and that, and the Arab mosque, sitting like a dagger in Zion, in its most sacred historical place, must have more than mere right to exist in a Jewish State. That is the sweep and swirl of things at present. One cannot help wondering if one sees... oil, in the froth.
Now all this is by no means to accept the Jewish religion, for it is based not least on the rejection of Jesus Christ; and in God's own justice, they have been exposed as they exposed Him, beaten as they beat Him, and rejected as they rejected Him. They are wrong; but this does not remove the justice of God, or make of Israel an open-day target for international practice. In God's prediction (Romans 11, Zechariah 12), they are to repent and accept the Messiah, being in large measure brought back to the One who alone has world... or any other peace, in His hand.
God has not left Himself without a witness; and what a witness is this same Jesus Christ, to Jew and Moslem, secularist and atheist alike. What He says, goes: whatever Arab or international 'community' (more accurately, disunity) may say. In unity (cf. Revelation 19:19), they will however, have in due course one thing: there will be a willingness for more from Israel, less for Israel.
Internationally, however, what are we finding in this topic: Instead of inference, or trend, there is statement. But now what of this ? In another field, instead of hearing, in the Bible, of one coming event, we are physically seeing it. In particular, we are seeing Iraq rebuked vis-à-vis Israel (Micah 5:5. Isaiah 30:27-33, and see *7 infra).
So we go from force to force, dimension to dimension.
A shadow has literally come into the Middle East. It moves, not only as a sight, but as a stench, into surrounding territories, well beyond Kuwait. In Iran, lights come on in the day time, headlights in cars, while darkness seems to shroud that part of the earth.
It billows, it seeps, it obscures. The sun shines in vain, increasingly. Estimates are made of the effects on temperature (5 to 15 degrees colder, one expert surmises, could be the result); on the crops. As to the effects of this witness to Arab power and its exercise and defeat, assaulting Israel as an extra, they are evident.
Oil in its millions of barrels; cheap energy in its volumes; aid to the afflicted, power for poverty (potentially, though has it not yielded much more, in wealth for the Kingdoms concerned ...?), this is literally going up, if not in smoke, then in clouds. The atmosphere is imperilled, the region is being darkened, the wild-life afflicted.
Jesus Christ indicated, as did Joel, the prophet, that the time would come when the sun would be darkened. The journalist uses now just such words. Now if this is the beginning, what is the end ? If this is what this provocation yields, what will the final assault on Israel ? or what will be the obscuration of Armageddon, when the nations come to fight, more explicitly, against the Lord, as the Bible predicts! (Revelation 19:19).
"The sun shall be turned into darkness..." says Joel 2:31, as it surveys the events leading to the end of the Age.
Peter quotes from this, as he surveys the events leading to the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus declares that this will indeed be one of the signals for His coming back! Oh yes, Jesus is not merely a suffering servant whose lovely morals, divine certitude and clear teaching amazed the world; not alone is He the sacrificial substitute, serving as a ransom for the sins of many. He is also a coming King. He was rejected in closely predicted circumstances, signalling His saving power, when the arrest and exposure, according to divine plan, made Him serve as Saviour. He will however complete the circuit and come again, to judge, as He often indicated, from earlier stages of His ministry (e.g. John 5:19-29). In Luke 24:25-26, He summarised both facets, the sacrificial and the sovereign, in one (cf. Mark 14:62).
In Matthew 24, we read of His account of the end of the age, as He responded to a question on this topic, from the disciples. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light... and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven... and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and glory" (v.30).
Clear directions are given about the coming physical separation of those who receive Him, and those who do not. It reminds one of iron and brass filings, in front of a powerful magnet. The response differs... one coming to the magnet; the other not.
Thus current happenings give more and more, shall we say 'storm warning' of coming events. What was heard, is seen; and what was read of, this becomes visible. The escalation in the Middle East is going strictly and in precise detail, according to plan.
When God's word is set against man's word - and one is reminded of the callow expectations of evolutionary madness, now necessarily 'revised' - it is perfectly clear whose word works; and whose word has stood; and does stand. God's word makes no changes: it is history which changes. Man's word changes continually, and still does not make it! Apologetically, in terms of our subject, this is of the utmost significance!
There is a certain Dr Lewis, whom we met earlier, and he declines to dispense from the prescriptions of Dr Bultmann. That artist and his practices we have earlier regarded; but a word from Lewis here is a significant response from the dispensary. Now as to Bultmann, this German savant in his theological ramblings so cognate to earlier German 'heavy' metaphysics - not least that of Hegel, a metaphysics which discredited to some extent the very name, it would seem, of that study - is quoted by Lewis, as follows: 'The very personality of Jesus has no importance for the kerygma either of Paul or of John... Indeed the tradition of the earliest Church did not even unconsciously preserve a picture of his personality.'
However, if there is one thing that thousands of authors and speakers and missionaries agree in emphatically, surely it is this: that the deliciousness, the majesty, the awe-inspiring simplicity of grandeur, the dazzling integrity and kingly compassion of Jesus Christ is what illuminates (*11) the whole landscape of the Bible. He fascinates, draws, appeals, reproves, entices, challenges and gives such a light of purity and goodness as all but sends one reeling. Of course, there may be a rational explanation at this level for the Bultmann exception: his numbness to this dazzling marvel, the personality of Jesus Christ.
We all know how we cannot understand how John or Jim find such and such a subject so appealing. How could they ? We look at the arid seeming texts and strange looking symbols and marvel. To them however the book lies open. Their delight in the subject approaches rhapsody; it does not seem hard to them, merely engaging. Like a romance, it is virtually a love affair in which the mind runs happily along like a hunting dog. Why ? It is because they have met their subject. It has become alive in them. They have understood.
Now the New Testament is a self-interpreting book: we are seeking verification of it, and we must deal faithfully with the internal conditions it sets, for any objective investigation. It states that many people read the scriptures, but do not come to Christ:
You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me; but you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John 5:39-40).What would happen if in fact, they did not come to Christ ? Presumably for capable scholars who laboured but did not follow the directions to the living Christ, there could be a syndrome such as that which the Pharisees had, or the Sadducees, if they also rejected parts of scriptures, as these tended to do. What do we then find of such in the scripture ? Luke 11:46 has this: "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered." Their response, they began to assail Him 'vehemently' (Luke 11:53) and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait, we find. In a literary parallel, this would mean attacking the record and trying to reconstruct it - assailing it because of dissatisfaction.
Further, they laid in wait to see if they could gain grounds to accuse Him - and the result of that ? In a blasphemy case, of course, they could (and here did) look for death. But will those who reconstruct (a gentler word than put to death) Christ... know Him ? Could they understand Him as He is ? If they will not use the only key there is, will they ever experience the reality and power of the personality, whose ways they reject ? Of course not.
This, taking Bultmann's object of attack - the scripture as the parallel to that Christ whom it depicts - naturally would mean that he would not gain sound impressions of that which he did not accept. How would you take to heart what you refuse to accept, and insist on changing!
As always, the scripture gives the power to explain the facts, and there is nothing - unlike the case of all other systematic approaches to reality - where one finds it fails. It explains in this field of pathology, what will happen, why it will happen; it gives parallels of what did happen, and provides explanation for diverse and odd responses to Christ such as Bultmann's. As Professor Lewis puts it - it is Bultmann against the world, in this matter of the personality of the Biblical Christ.
Bultmann, like Barth and so many other misled students of scripture, seems to have rambled on the heights of the Kantian Grampians where the 'noumena' roam, and are never seen; though marvellously, it is known that they are there and they manage very well when necessary, to bridge the gap from the unknowable to knowledge. We have discussed Kant before, and the confused contradiction of his system which, another illustration of delusion, has quite irrationally captivated so many thinkers. In a land of shadows, nothing seems very real, and the swaying mists of metaphysics replace the clear ground of reality.
To know a system of this kind, you need precisely the real vantage point in order to see the correct perspective; but it is just that which is denied you, so you end with massive and total contradiction, as with all endeavours to found something from an unknowable source. Let us however return to the actual ground of evidence and response to the actual, scriptural Christ: that does not reconstruct by metaphysical plastic surgery, a divine being it declines to know. Lewis proceeds, summarising Bultmann:
So there is no personality of Our Lord presented in the New Testament. Through what strange process has this learned German gone in order to make himself blind to what all men except him see ? What evidence... [that, let us interpolate, is an interesting thought if we use logic, and have any taste for the modesties of scientific method and their due relation to a perceived factual base ...] ... have we that he would recognize a personality if it were there ? For it is Bultmann(There is this glorious idiosyncratic-seeming solipsism, literary solipsism gaily reconstructing the man of sorrows: you see there is no limit, no reason and no Lord. As to Bultmann, on his own admission he has lost any hope of finding him ... but let us revert to Lewis.)
"If anything whatever is common to all believers, and even to many unbelievers, it is the sense that in the Gospels they have met a personality... Even those passages in the New Testament which superficially, and in intention, are most concerned with the Divine, and least with the Human Nature, bring us face to face with the personality. I am not sure that they don't do this more than any others. "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of graciousness and reality... which we have looked upon and our hands have handled." What is gained by trying to evade or dissipate this shattering immediacy of personal contact by talk about 'that significance which the early church found that it was impelled to attribute to the Master'. This hits us in the face. Not what they were impelled to do but what impelled them. I begin to fear that by personality Dr Bultmann means what I should call impersonality: what you'd get in a D. N. B. article or an obituary..." (Bold added.)
This comes from Christian Reflections, pp. 156-7. Lewis however is not finished.
That is my first bleat. These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can't see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.Using his own experience about such activities of 'reconstruction', even where it is merely a matter of a fellow human being in the same culture, Lewis laughs uproariously at the pretensions of literary licence with a field as wide as the heavens open to them:
I have watched with some care similar imaginary histories both of my own books, and of books by friends whose real history I knew. Reviewers both friendly and hostile, will dash you off such histories with great confidence ; will tell you what public events had directed the author's mind to this or that, what other authors had influenced him, what his over-all intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything... My impression is that of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right. You would expect that on mere chance they would hit as often as they miss. But it is my impression that they do no such thing.Those who were there, and experienced for themselves what was happening, were much better placed to understand such matters. Lewis castigates the perilous presumption of history-makers at a distance: "The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous."
Professor Blaiklock of New Zealand notes on p. 18 of his Who Was Jesus ? that Renan, this antisupernaturalist of the nineteenth century in France, tried to write a life of Christ on terms to his liking. His response as he studied the New Testament:
A species of brilliance, at once mild and terrible, a divine force, if I may so speak, underlines these words, detaches them from the context, and renders them easily distinguishable ... The actual words of Jesus, so to speak, reveal themselves; as soon as we touch them... we feel them vibrate; they translate themselves spontaneously, and fit into the narrative naturally. (Vie de Jésus, 1868, introduction.)Renan, comments Blaiklock, 'sceptic though he was in all those spheres where the supernatural intruded, called attention to the manner in which the words of Christ separate themselves from the Gospel and shine with authenticity.'
Despite contrary assumptions fixed in his mind, Renan's experience as he studied that source, the New Testament, discovered to his mind a powerful personality who virtually indeed seemed to control something of his (Renan's) own writing! He spilled over the weir of his thought, cataracting down the green tunnels of His life, stark, incalculable, overwhelming.
Now all this is doubly desirable from the point of view of verification. Not merely is there primary evidence from one not believing in these things, of the thrust and force seeming latent in the overpowering personality revealed in the Gospels; but at the very same time, we see more evidence concerning the source of the polluted waters pumped up from the slag heaps of human rebellion. It cannot reach the pages of the New Testament... explosively driving off all lesser streams, all pollution which cannot attain to it. The stream of unbelief, now an atomically powered jet-stream, propelled at the pages of the New Testament, has no answer to the supernatural thrust, but in comparison both bathetic and pathetic, resembles the walking of a spider on a lily-pad, in comparison with the elemental force of that power which commandingly oblivious of all folly, is thrust out, declaring God.
These polluted waters, now in our century a torrent, carry nothing away. Thus there is again fulfilled, more abundantly the prediction: "Evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13). It is not merely a matter of the alienated from outside, but the imposters from within the church! Misuse of the word of God is no small matter in God's eyes (Isaiah 8:20)! Simultaneously confirmed, then, is the claim: "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). The more it is assaulted, the more it assaults. That too fulfils the teaching of Isaiah 55:10-11. Nearly everything we touch turns to verification.
Thus Schweitzer, even though himself astray on the reality of things, smashed the anti-supernatural 'Jesus' attempt to re-write history with a blundering tele-pen; and the study of prophecy shows that the times for the peak of such happenings of systematic assault on the scripture were predictively set, the scenario pre-written for a period long after the time of Christ's crucifixion. With an end time deliberately hidden (Mark 13:34-36, Acts 1:7), the succeeding events, secure and all in their places, are now happening like a program!
Not only is the impact of the inescapable Jesus unchanged, but the impact of His inescapable words of prediction is augmented in this, that they thunder into history with the same uninhibited spectacle which would be spectacular, if it were not for the awesome alliance of humility and holiness, pathos and undiminished appeal (cf. Proverbs 3:1-5, 8:1-11, 1:20-33). That however further attests the imponderable majesty and the indescribable incandescence of His person.
Thus it is back to the supernatural Jesus and with that, back to the prophetic spacing of events and their fulfilment; and with that, back to the Bible. Whether of course that leads one back to the Lord is a personal matter; and it is not determined by logic, even though His refusal requires the refusal also of reason, and reason is a pointer to revelation which attests Him.
Before we leave the dispensary, we should look at some of the scriptural prescriptions in a little more detail. Thus:
i) II Timothy 4:3 foretells accurately what we have been historically reviewing - that in the last stages of the era, many will not be able to "endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers"... We have seen some who cannot stand correct teaching about Jesus Christ, even using the name and reputation of Christ as a cover for their philosophies: gratuitously, irrationally and unethically. Most important for our purpose: they do so in accord with Biblical prediction, in contemporary droves, like particles flung from a cyclotron; almost as if compulsively.
ii) II Timothy 3:7 refers to the mentally-debauched seeming practice of "ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth". Barth with his absolutely 'other' so-called 'God', whose 'word' is a sieve of errors and whose virgin birth involves no actual incarnation, and who is not to be taken too personally... why this is a very marvel of fulfilment. It fits like a tumour.
Professor Cornelius Van Til gives an outstanding exposé on the topic in his work: 'Has Karl Barth Become Orthodox ?' With Biblical terms guilefully re-defined, Barth's approach, in form, matches also what follows. Words cover, but do not expose the portrayal of the realities. Like smog, they do not affect the peaks themselves, only the perception. Before we refer to this, however, we think of Bloom's indictment of the vacuous failure to address, as of yore, the fundamental questions with zeal, in the academic heights. As a trend, he found this to be very substantial. Blindness is always one potent reason for that result.
Within this genre, the theological move is not dissimilar. Thus Bultmann, by his own admission, does not feel he can find the truth for his researches. The multitude of Old Testament maulers of Moses are also constantly in disarray, as archeology exposes repeatedly their mutinous mumblings. They have come by many diverse paths to nowhere, in a mixed morass of irresolvable turmoil, aching with the archeological verifications of early Genesis at Ebla, Ras Shamra, Tell-el-Amarna. God was right. They were wrong.
iii) II Peter 3:1-3, speaking of the many false teachers to defile the flock in the late part of our era, specified that they would "exploit you with deceptive words". The modern variant of the 'unknown God' (Acts 17:23), that of Barth is not to be confused with the One, knowledge of whom Jesus Christ specified as a necessity - John 17:3. With his verbal reconstructionism carried out by a self-disauthenticating non-knower of God, it is an ideal seeming example, both of the fruits of not knowing God and the poison of intrusive philosophy, advising God by re-definition of terms, about how He must exist, and where He must evacuate, proposing for Him the normal Kantian chains (Ch.5, Section 1 supra, and see Kant, index), which hold nothing, being mirage.
But what shall we say of Altizer, Kierkegaard,
Tillich, Teilhard de Chardin and that specimen of specimens, Karl Marx
who - as shown so well by Lester De Koster (Communism and Christian
Faith) uses wholly divergent but parallel categories, in a
materialistic caricature of Christianity, featuring proletariat, the superstar ? Mainly it is this: we have a museum with some theological fish even in the aquarium from modern times, precisely fitting in profusion and confusion the Biblical specifies for the times nearing the return of Christ.
Moreover it develops: From toying with history - creatively... the mood has gone on to toying with words; and even to toying with the soul, with 'gut-feelings' such as one finds in Altizer, though the precise lengths to which the intestines will go in such matters, seems undefined. Meanwhile, existentialism broods and breeds in its various ephemeral moods and modes, beyond reason, looking back to Kierkegaard in his passionate angst, and on to even more surrealist theologies.
In much of this, paradox became a mode word, and truth became contingent on experience; whilst the Bible could be pressure-cooked with philosophy to create a divinity as far from the Trinity as Tillich's ground of being is from the Creator of the ground.
Indeed these new 'gods' may even relate to an extent, by contrariety, to an alternative in which the substitute for divinity gradually appears, developing itself happily, while it is not there, until it is.
Thus it is the opposite of Alice's Cheshire cat, in that other Wonderland; for he continued to leave till only the smile remained. Marxism, with some overtones of Hegel, and many applications, moving on to the murky mysticism of Darwin, are rather of this kind. As if absent-mindedly, they continue (in theory) to come until what sent them is there, so that it would then be in position to do the sending. It is like building a house with the materials you will make when the house is built.
The leaping false prophetic frogs of Revelation 16:13-15 (perhaps identifiable as Freud, Marx and Darwin in their -isms, or the whole organic brew of derivatives and combinations) are croaking; and their voice is harsh. So is the history which accompanies them, as Revelation made clear would be the case (Revelation 16:16-18). So indeed you would expect (cf. Amos 4:6-l2); so that this is all further verification of specific prophecies and prophesied principles. (Cf. pp.305 ff. supra.)
iv) II Timothy 3:4 refers to a distinctively developing syndrome for this last phase: "Men will be... lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Their godliness, it proceeds, will be a matter of a form, not of power and of reality. Perhaps self-worship would fit ?
That is the prophetic prescription in our dispensary. What however is the medicine perceptible in history ? What do we actually see ?
What indeed... Whilst the lust for power is all too visible, the power of lust alike is clearly seen. Venereal disease is regaining its corrosive power over the body and threatening the mind of many. Its medicines are no longer seen as invulnerable as comfortable licence laughs at judgment, and corrosion of love is seen in every version, conversion, subversion and perversion of sex, as though reproduction were a toy, and the human race were a play-pen of exploitation and degradation... Meanwhile, AIDS makes its ghastly comment on ghastly deeds of incompetent immorality, for which the body is not designed: mounting into alleged millions by spreading waves of interaction, in the U.S.A. alone! and with escalation rates, subject to revision.
What is more, as if the beauty of love were not enough for defilement (Freud defiled it verbally, this generation specialises in incremental practice), even the lungs of man are made a labyrinth of pleasure with tobacco, attractive to many, ending in the wheeze of weeds that can become emphysema, cancer, and less conspicuous anguish in limping life. Pestilence, like famine, now is asked for, and now is provided more directly, in the petty grandeurs of men's desires. We could, but will not, stress the pestilential character of the less reviled drug of alcohol, so sweet to so many and so much a source of pleasure... with its millions of road results, that are less light-headed as inhalation than the aroma of the liquor; marijuana with its possible genetic damage for the next generation, and its current defilement powers over mental application and concentration.
How much pleasure it all is taken to be, and what a price to pay for this merry-go-round of whirling delights to the amoral soul! Pleasure indeed is becoming a god for devotees, whilst plagues, pestilences in atmosphere, smog, radiation, cosmic rays given more access through defiled ozone channels, pollution of water proceed to reflect in the cosmic 'physiology' what is already so notable in that which is human. Space itself, defiled with space craft waste, is likely to find more horrors, as the US announces in January 1992 the joy of real space travel to come, to the stars, with proper nuclear power. Soon, at this rate, a writhing, tormented mess of matter, mind and man, with defiled spirit, will be sending urgent RSPV's for judgment, and not altogether in vain.
As to the pestilences, these too were predicted in their place (Matthew 24:7). The mental, moral and spiritual pestilences are the worse, and some of these, as we have seen, are specially cultivated in schools and fed to the children, along with calcium enriched milk! We laughed at ancient Rome. We should spare some humour for our own day, though the grimness is gaunt. At times, indeed, laughter can be therapeutic and assist perspective.
Some generation! Some prediction! Some verification. It is in fact a source of real delight to see the word of God so brilliantly precise in writing as it is also in our cells, which carry out works also of brilliant precision with brilliantly coded speech controlling them. (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3, Psalm 29:4,9, Colossians 1:16-17, John 1:3, I John 1:1-2, Psalm 139:14.) Perhaps our generation (*12,*14), more than almost any other, needs to learn one thing at the outset: God can talk and He has things to say.It is well to listen... at last. In the end, even pleasure can become... unpleasant, when its seat and source are so polluted and so defiled, that the world will lose even more of its moorings and, proceeding with morbid willingness wilt, unrepentant, in its predicted woes (cf. Revelation 9:20-21, Amos 4).
It is well the gospel is now moving so fast to cover the rest of the globe, which it must do, as predicted, before Christ returns; for the place is becoming challenging even to the technology it creates (Matthew 24:22).
Clutching our massive verification vouchers, expanded since our first meeting in Chapter 8, let us leave the dispensary, and move to a good filing store, in the Bursar's Office - our last place to call.
Scorning the flamboyant self-assurance of someone feeling confident to imagine and reconstruct, for works thousands of years old, their real basis, when in Lewis' own experience no one has ever, even within his own generation, managed to discern what his personal purposes, intended audiences and so on had been, behind and beyond what he himself had stated, Lewis lambasts Bultmann's subjectivistic methods. (See pp.865 ff. infra.)
Refreshingly direct is his exposure of this anti-historical reconstructionism, in its delusive reductionist categories... which commence by selectively rejecting what is there, so that Bultmann concludes by failing to perceive the personality of the newly mutilated Christ. (Such a process could be called 'literary crucifixion'.)
Bultmann's stated failure to perceive the personality of the Lord is hardly surprising, just as the disciples failed to perceive the body when it was in the tomb, following the crucifixion... Capriciously rejecting what is there, he fails to invent what is not. That is scarcely hard to explain when what you are not creating, is God. In compIete contrast to this playing of God on the part of Bultmann, in making a man in his own (cultural) image - a farce that failed in its own admission to reap the fruits of reality - is the procedure of C.S. Lewis. He, for his part, exposes from the text of scripture itself, something of this Personality, rather than substituting his psyche for God (pp. 155-156 loc.cit.). A baulked Bultmann expresses the negative verification of the method, the assumptions; an exuberant Lewis gains his impressive and graphic portrayal, by keeping simply to the text.
Blasphemy apart, Bultmann's Christ-creative process simply doesn't work. We have heard of king-makers in politics, sometimes shadowy or perhaps delusive characters; but making Christs makes the creation of Niagara Falls child's play, by comparison. It takes God to make personalities, and the eternal personality itself is scarcely plausibly available for re-constructionists, themselves His creation. Very well, Bultmann's effort admittedly didn't work. You would not expect it to do so!
Lewis however, observing the data, discerning the drama, expounds the contested passage Mark 8:31-38, to which Bultmann had referred in the occasion in question. Lewis cohesively outlines the development with emphasis on the commanding personality of Jesus Christ. Laughing at Bultmann's claims that there is an 'unassimilated' manner in which the prediction of the parousia follows on the prediction of the passion, he brilliantly expounds from the passage the intense and intimate process of development leading to the summary: "If you disown Christ here and now, He will disown you later." He then summarises re Mark 8:31-38:
Logically, emotionally, imaginatively, the sequence is perfect. Only a Bultmann could think otherwise (p. 156).He then excoriates the Bultmann view that 'the personality of Jesus has no importance for the kerygma either of Paul or of John...'
Certainly a failure to see what is a record of the most fascinating, intriguing, buoyant, brilliant, imaginative, colourful, disciplined, holy personality ever known on earth, not to mention One filled with restrained passion, triumphant tenderness and earnest solicitude, adorned with direct and dire penetration of the human heart... this requires an opacity in spiritual vision so intense as to make in itself a study in ineptitude. What one may think of this personality is being confused with being able to see the personality itself. Such confusion is scarcely worthy of thought, as Lewis rightly indicates, asking:
What evidence have we that he would recognize a personality if it were there ? ... (p. 156, loc.cit.).That is a sound scientific point. If Bultmann merely eschews the concept of such a personality, failing, unlike Lewis, to show the developments of events in the aura of this Man's lustre, smudging the picture, whilst Lewis brilliantly exposes the thrust and interaction in words of force, simplicity and clarity, what does this constitute ? If Bultmann's failure to fabricate a personality is an admitted one, it is yet scarcely theology ... or science, whether by method or results.
Here, in this, as with remorseless repetition elsewhere, the Biblical Christ is verified; and this is so in both dimensions. He alone remains; and as we have seen, this is seen whether in practical power or in theoretical probing.
Speaking of the extensive data of the early church, Professor Lewis points out that it was not a matter of what they 'were impelled to do, but what impelled them'. (Cf. Chapter 6 infra.) He adds, in beautiful expression of the 'great, swelling words of vanity' prediction and of Jesus Christ's prophecy that "if it were possible" in the last times approaching His return, the "false Christs and false prophets" would "deceive the very elect"(Matthew 24:24):
I begin to fear that by personality Dr Bultmann means what I should call 'impersonality'.Such semantic antics and conceptual spectacles are less than likely to be brave partners in practical probing. One could be baulked not only by seeking for what is not there, but by failing to seek for what is...
The Lord is not like a piece of fish; this is not His scriptural designation: nor is He analysable, scrutinisable and reconstructable; and it verifies Scripture that He is to be found as precious jewels are, in caverns, by diligent and wholehearted seeking, as Jeremiah declares it in the name of the Lord (29:13-14):
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you and you will seek Me and find, when you search for Me with all your heart.He advises men not to cast their pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6), and does not make a display of Himself. Jesus repeatedly told people not to tell of His healing (cf. Mark 3:12, Matthew 12:16, Mark 1:34, Matthew 8:4, 9:30, 17:9). The matter lies deeper. The revelation of God, the exposure of His person is something directly under His control (Matthew 11:27). Even with human personalities, there is a measure of parallel which makes this matter relatively easy to apprehend. We do not - or not all - throw about our inner beings for review by the crushing mêlée.
Jesus said (Luke 10:22):
All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.Not only, then, is God to be found not by looking for what is not there (as happens in some misled scientific experiments when the whole topic may be, for a time, misconceived), but He is found by diligent, wholehearted seeking, and that, in terms of an inter-personal communication at His discretion, limited to the terms of His goodness in giving the Gospel and in receiving His Christ (John 10:1-10, 1:12; Acts 2:36, 1:11, II Corinthians 11:4,13-15). Is it possible that men and women in our generation have become so used to playing God, that they forget God means business?
He is certainly not available for reconstruction, plastic surgery or barter. He proceeds by gift, and the jumbling throng of Jesus-jostlers, who affirm merely their own thoughts are as far off in their disagreeing, and disagreeable presumptions as are the galaxies from home, for a lost child; yes further, for they are more than a universe away. Their clashing frustrations serve to fulfil II Timothy 3:1,7.
They do serve, moreover, as God makes the wrath of man serve Him, a fact which we repeatedly see (Psalm 76:10): for the abject failure to find any even plausible model for a reconstructed Christ sets their created imaginations at odds with His creator's sublimity, in a way both in accord with what He says, and what you would expect for such a Being as our only Creator.
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