I had posted earlier about Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s book Morality without God, an atheist attempt to develop an ethical system of morality without any appeal to God or religion. I have now finished reading and studying the book. There were several good points made in the book. Most of the time that I agreed with him he was criticizing something in Christianity that I don’t view as true biblical Christianity (i.e., his attacks upon Roman Catholic dogma). I also believe that his book is good in the sense that it helps true Christians know that atheists do think about morality. Sinnott-Armstrong presents the best case for atheist ethics that I have seen although, of course, as a Christian I have serious disagreements with him on almost every page of his book.
Archive for March, 2011
I have just finished my reading of Shalom Goldman’s excellent book Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, and the Idea of the Promised Land (UNC Press). Goldman is professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern studies at Emory University. I had made an earlier post on it in my earlier stages of reading. While I think there are times when he is off in his assessment of various relationships and his portrayal of various theological views, on the whole he has provided an excellent outline of the historical convergence of Christian forms of Zionism and Jewish forms of Zionism since the late 1800s. Perhaps the primary contribution he makes to the history of Zionism is to show that it is not a monolithic movement. While this has been recognized on the Jewish side, on the Christian side it has been assumed in some circles (popularly?) that modern dispensationalism, which is Zionist by its very nature, is the only Christian form of Zionism. This came home to me a few years ago at the Evangelical Theological Society. Tommy Ice, a dispensationalist responder, pointed out to the main speaker Timothy Weber, that in his analysis (see Weber’s book On the Road to Armageddon) he assumed that all Christian Zionists were dispensationalists, when such is not the case. Goldman’s book helps to support Ice’s conclusion and critique.
In earlier posts, I mentioned Tom Krattenmaker’s article “What if the end isn’t near?” (USA Today in August 2010). It is largely a criticism of the pretrib view of the rapture and the alleged motivation such a view is toward inaction on the part of the Christian in the world to engage social problems, etc. In my first post, I listed some concerns which I began to flesh out briefly in other posts. I have provided them below. In this post, I want to finalize my initial analysis.
1. How many pre-trib Christians hold different views of nuclear weapons and environmentalism from the author’s because of factors other than biblical views of the end times;
2. The generous use of overstatement throughout the article;
3. Unwarranted assumptions and limited options that are sometimes given (why are there only two futures? why not 3 or 4? are we really dealing with all the possibilities?);
4. The false charge of fatalism in light of the true nature of the doctrine of imminency;
5. The use of fringe views or minority views instead of scholarly and thoughtful presentations of the pre-trib perspective;
6. As a corollary to # 5, the futurism of the pre-trib view which does not allow for predictions of the future in a true pre-trib perspective. In other words, the article seems to be unaware that it is being critical of historicist misrepresentations of the pre-trib perspective rather than the pre-trib perspective itself.
7. As a corollary to # 1, the idea that the article (may) assume that current political environmentalism is what the Bible teaches about care for the created order.
To begin, I want to make some remarks about unwarranted assumptions and limited options that are given in Krattenmaker’s article. This is demonstrated at the very outset of the article. Citing Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (favorably), Krattenmaker says “he sees two futures. In one, the world has rid itself of nuclear weapons. In the other, the world has been destroyed by them.” These two options appear to be the thrust of the title of Wigg-Stevenson’s organization the Two Futures Project. It is quite appropriate for someone to voice his view of the dangers of nuclear weapons. I have absolutely no problem with that. All wars are to be avoided if at all possible, not just nuclear ones. However, is the opinion that these are the only two options (world-wide destruction or no nukes exist) a wise one to possess on such a critical issue? Is there no middle position that is possible? Why craft the issue in these stark terms? One must live in reality not in a dream world. It is not at all a sure conclusion that the world will destroy itself with nuclear weapons if they are allowed to exist. It is certainly a theoretical possibility. However, it is not an inevitable one. One cannot assume the world-wide catastrophic end when the next nuke is used (although some pretribs do hold this view). Of course, this view could be seen as playing it safe to prevent the catastrophe. Unfortunately, in a fallen world this may not be appropriate. If evangelicals rose up to be against nuclear weapons and helped lead America to unilaterally destroy all their nuclear weapons, it is not at all assured that the same would be true of other parts of the world. A wise use of nuclear weapons as deterrents has been quite effective for decades in preventing catastrophe and/or servitude.