By Karl Arnold Belser
19 November 2014
I just returned from a 15 day tour of Turkey, and the
person sitting next to me on the long flight from Frankfurt to San
Francisco was a Croatian Biblical Studies professor whose main interest
is the Apocalypse described in the book of Revelations. The discussion that I had with the professsor was a natural extension to my October post The State of the World 2014.
Normally I would not consider any prediction about the future to be valid because the future is governed by uncertainty that cannot be predicted by anyone because of Black Swan events or written down by anyone because of the Godel Incompleteness Theorems and the Church-Turing Thesis. In short these mathematical facts point out that a human being does not have the senses or mental ability to understand everything about reality. Further, it is impossible to write any complete description, even by God, of this complete reality. Hence, there have to be paradoxes and inconsistencies in any written description, even in the Bible.
i initially thought that the professor was referring to the first definition. Clearly, at some point in the far future, there will be the complete destruction of the world because of the second law of thermodynamics. However, I think that the professor was more interested in a near term event with the second coming of Christ.
Google gives the following definitions of the noun: Apocalypse:
Again from Google:
The Second Coming is when Jesus Christ will return to earth in fulfillment of His promises and to fulfill the prophecies made about Him. Jesus Himself promised, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.
The first definition is concerned with the WHAT of apocalypse rather than HOW the apocalypse might happen. But the professor said that he was interested in the Greek meaning, which is the disclosure of something hidden, So maybe he was flirting with the more nuanced second definition. If so the apocalypse would fit into my concerns about the Uncertain Future in which I am trying to understand HOW some major crisis might occur. One might call such a crisis an apocalypse.
I realized in talking to the professor that the Bible has already dramatically affected the course of Western Civilization as Charles Murry describes in is book Human Accomplishment. The Jews and Christians were responsible for much of the prosperity of Western Civilization because, in Juedo-Christian eyes, God manifests itself through individuals. This empowerment has resulted in the stopping of slavery, the empowerment of women and wide racial and ethnic tolerance. I observe also that the advancement of science that happened in the Protestant Reformation happened through empowered individual religious leaders.
Further, the book The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker shows that the current state of the Western World is as peaceful as it has ever been in the history of mankind.. Although Pinker does not explicitly point it out, the better angels arise from Jeudo-Christian values such as empathy, self-control, morality, and reason.
Given the facts that the Bible has apparently shaped human behavior for the better, could this be part of the second coming? And, if so, how might religion shape the uncertain future?
I think that the clash between Judeo-Christian civilization and Islamic civilization has to be resolved for the advancement of peace and prosperity of the whole world. This might be considered a Biblical issue because the core value differences come directly out of each religion.
The professor argued that maybe with time Islam would become more secular and accepting. This is certainly a possibility, but the evidence suggests that the Islamic position is becoming more entrenched.
I saw in Turkey, which is probably the most progressive secular Islamic state, that the Jews and Christians are leaving because of the undercurrent of religious pressure. The current president of Turkey is a fundamentalist Muslim and seems poised to convert the state from a secular one to an Islamic state. Turkey seems more focused on religion than on prosperity.
I discussed this issue with my Turkish tour guide, who was a Jewish woman, and she confirmed this intimidating environment. She and her husband would like to leave Turkey but are not leaving because they don't know how to provide a good standard of living for raising their children in another country. This argument sounded like the argument that might have been used by the Jews in pre-WW2 to stay in Germany.
Also,during my tour of Turkey there were several opportunities to purchase expensive hand made leather clothing, rugs and ceramics. Many people bought these expensive goods, but I know that the quality of machine made goods might be better than the hand made goods at a significantly lower price. I wondered why Turkey did not embrace automation and high technology. Automation is a direct way of freeing individuals from wage slavery and the women making rugs with a wage of less than one dollar an hour were essentially wage slaves with no opportunity of self actualization. It appears that Turkey does not have the human potential momentum to embrace many of the Judio-Christian characteristics that have helped the western world achieve success.
At the other extreme, the ISIS kalifait in Syria and Iraq are committing clear crimes against humanity with beheading, body part amputations and genocide using conventional, chemical and biological weapons in the name of enforcing Sharia Law, These Muslims interpret the Koran as the absolute word of god, which I believe thwarts the activation of human potential.
One might wonder HOW the second coming might be implemented.
The mithod chosen by Islam is dictatorship, in which some person or groups judge what is good or bad. This kind of top down behavior was tried in Fascist Europe in the first half of the 20th century as a part of Christianity. See my post Fascism as a Black Swan for a more detailed explanation of why central control of morals will not work.
Thus, I think that any change that occurs must be a general sense of awareness and agreement on behavior from the bottom up, not top down. The changes would be gradual, a slow motion epiphany. The positive changes manifested by western civilization that I described above are examples of this kind of slow motion epiphany. Maybe the second coming will not be an abrupt change like the appearance of Jesus. Maybe it will be the gradual appearance of values that are accepted by everyone.
The clash of the Islamic civilization with the western Judeo-Christian civilization would seem to be a possible up-coming apocalyptic event that western civilization will sooner or later have to forcefully deal with if the future peace promised by the second coming would be allowed to occur. The question remains as to the Biblical interpretation that would agree with this kind of development. And it may take the push of religion to continue the path of Judeo-Christian progress. See the Washington Post book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, The Foreign Affairs article The Clash of Civilizations, the article in the Atlantic The Roots of Muslim Rage, and the Pieria article On the Inevitability of War between the West and the Islamic State.
Last updated December 5, 2014
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