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Posts Tagged ‘Revelation’

From time to time the course of events hands to us a particularly pleasant fruit encased in a most bitter shell.

The genre of biblical literature—it is of course to be found outside the biblical text as well—that is called ‘apocalyptic’ addresses itself to the faithful who have lost control. Words like ‘power’, ‘influence’, and ‘clout’ have meaning in a society and an historical moment in which the pious can share in the shaping of their space, their time, their shared destiny. Often this privilege is denied. Then, apocalyptic speaks its word. (more…)

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I am not a doomsayer.

If this sounds both egocentric and unrequired, I risk making my statement in just this way because I am headed in the direction of one of those apocalyptic texts in Revelation of which the doomsayers drink deeply and then scatter their painfully precise predictions to the wind.

As I write this, we are in the midst of or in the wake of or at the beginning of an economic shakedown that many are calling unprecedented. I’ve consulted with a lot of smart people on where events appear to be taking us. None of them knows. (more…)

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For a reader like me who has lived without hunger and first-hand experience of judicial violence, it is difficult to fathom the venom that the writer of the Apocalypse injects into his depictions of cosmic villains. Babylon the great mercantile capital, figured as a woman, is a case in point:

So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly amazed.

John sees an incorrigible evil in the world’s conventional arrangements that I do not. Where he detects the brazen drunkenness of a woman who has gulped won ‘the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus’ from a filthy goblet, I see a flow of goods and services that perhaps could become a bit more fluid if only the boys at the WTO would get their act a bit more together on the Doha Round. (more…)

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Anger, we are resolutely assured, is not a bad emotion. If societal instruction comes to us in unanimity on any topic, this one surely occupies the top of the list.

It is also true: anger is not in itself a bad thing. (more…)

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Rarely does the identity of a drama’s principal players come so clearly stated. At the beginning of the apocalyptic scroll that we call John’s Revelation, both the Lord God and the work’s human author declare themselves. It is a most pregnant juxtaposition:

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

The Lord God declares himself earlier and later than all reality that is knowable from our human perspective. He is its antecedent and its epilogue. There is no seeing beyond him, no shape or substance outside of him and his creative will. He has no shelf date, no competitor in the race of time.

This is conventional stuff, though hardly superficial. Faith in one God is capable of absorbing these statements without violence to its tissue, although the knowing of God in the flow of time will absorb all the energy, conviction, and life of those who determine to know him here. (more…)

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There seems to be an inverse relationship between the repugance we feel over bloody scenes of vindication, on the one hand, and the weight of evil’s crush that we have known or observed from close corners, on the other. It is easy to become too precious about gore when life has not pressed our noses into the human cost of evil unbound. When oppression is just a notion, the blood of vindication running up to the horse’s bridles seems per se a grotesque and unnecessary image. (more…)

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The funerals of judgmental prophets often attract applause. Their death is good news. Their stillness means we can get back to what we were about. The shadow of doubt regarding their potential credibility is lost in normalcy’s reassuring brightness.

It is this way with prophets. They are mortal. They bother us for a time, then move on. Some become irrelevant, others discredit themselves and their message, still others overreach and become absurd. Some of them we kill. It seems continuity’s only option. (more…)

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Christian faith hinges upon the relationship between God and humankind. Specifically, it discerns in the person of Jesus Christ a mystery that probes at the edges of monotheistic conviction while fully embracing it. Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human, a conviction sketched out in the New Testament but requiring centuries before its formulation in more or less classical form in the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Definition.

Christians do well to call this a ‘mystery’, not because it is antithetical to careful reasoning but because it is deeply paradoxical. (more…)

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