Combined with fears of a global pandemic of avian flu, the calamitous flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina and last year's tsunami in Asia, the predictions of the end of the world are to be expected, religious historians said. After all, Christians have been predicting the end of history since the beginning of theirs.On the other hand, I really don't want to know.
"The doomsday scenarios are fairly cyclical," said Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College. "The theology they are based on is a very linear view of history. They believe we are now ramping up to the end of time."
While these predictions have been around for thousands of years, the fixation on the so-called end times may be greater than ever on the American religious landscape, said Timothy P. Weber, a church historian and the author of "On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend."
Fascination with the end of days is seemingly everywhere, in popular television ministries (like Pat Robertson's), on best-seller lists (the "Left Behind" series) and even on bumper stickers ("In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned").
What could be behind this fascination? Many church leaders and theologians, including evangelicals, give little effort to trying to interpret natural disasters and other events that might portend the end of history. The preoccupation these days stems mainly from the outsized influence of a specific, literalistic approach to biblical prophecy, called dispensationalism, which only came to occupy a dominant place in American evangelicalism relatively recently.
"Dispensationalists have never had the kind of public exposure and the kind of political power that they have now," Mr. Weber said. As a whole, evangelical Christians are united in their belief that Jesus will come back in human form at some point in history. Where they, as well as members of other Christian groups, have differed is precisely how this will occur, depending on how each interprets a single verse in the 20th chapter of the Book of Revelation and its allusion to a 1,000-year reign by Christ.
This difference, in large part, Mr. Weber said, shapes how much they are "players in the end-time game."
Sunday, October 16, 2005
zoe kentucky | Sunday, October 16, 2005 |