Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Four Horsemen

Here's today's, actually made yesterday:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/5YDiG .  The kind of question many people ask about the Book of Revelation is what the author was smoking when he wrote it.  It's difficult to see how the historical-grammatical method of the plain sense of the text can be applied to it.  However, that's a more general point about the book.  More specific are the questions of the Millenium, the Tribulation and so forth.  This video is intermediate, and concerns four popular approaches.

One popular attitude is the Preterist - that the book is an account of historical events in the persecution of the early Church.  This is supported, for example, in the fact that the Number Of The Beast, 666, appears to be the value of the Hebrew letters for Nero, NRWN QSR if i recall correctly.  However, regarding that, so many interpretations of the number have been made, such as Ronald Wilson Reagan - three six letter names - that that in itself is not very easy to accept.

A second approach is Idealism - the idea that the book is an account of the triumph of good over evil, or in a more Christian sense, that it's about the victory of the Church.  It would probably be generally agreed that this is a major theme of the book by anyone.  In fact, this illustrates the common phenomenon in religious discourse of the compatibility of several approaches, which is also found in theories of atonement for example.

Both of the above approaches are compatible with atheism and metaphysical naturalism.  The other two are harder to reconcile.  One is historicism, the view that the book is an account of events from the time of writing up until the end of history.  Finally, there is futurism, the most popular view in Protestant evangelical historical-grammatical circles, that the book is basically about the End Times.

There are both finer details and more general approaches to text and the Bible, but talking about those here would complicate things, so i didn't.  Probably another time.


The trouble with this video is that it's in the middle.  In more general terms there's Biblical criticism and the terrifying realm of textuality which could just make my whole world collapse, and in more specific terms there are the details of the interpretation of Biblical apocalyptic literature such as dispensational postmillenialism, the Rapture and so on.  However, to me that's way down the road from the issue of what the book is supposed to be, or rather, how we're supposed to react to it, to which of course there's not just one answer.

One thing that interests me is the question of what approaches are compatible with atheism and metaphysical naturalism, considered as two separate, though often coinciding, views.  Regarding Idealism, just as the story of Jesus can be treated as an inspiring story, so can this.  It reminds me of Iain M Banks again, in fact.  Look at the book as Ancient Greek science fiction.  There will be persecution and struggle, but in the end evil will be totally defeated forever.  Preterism is also compatible with atheist metaphysical naturalism - the book is an encoded account of the history of the church from its foundation to the end of the first century.  Historicism and Futurism, however, are dicier as both involve prophecy, and are therefore very probably not compatible with metaphysical naturalism, and at face value, whatever that is, even with atheism or agnosticism.  It is of course fuel for outlandish interpretations and in fact this is probably its greatest difficulty - resisting the temptation to read your own prejudices into it.

Anyway, tomorrow should bring another Big Science video.  At some point soon, i want to do a video on the Yates-Leason Effect, which is of course made up but i maintain is a solution to the problem of temporal paradoxes, and another on pocket universes and their relationship to the metaphysics of space-time.

Anyway, that's it for now.