The Dalai Lama's journey: 10-28-10
Meeting Teilhard de Chardin: 10-30/31-10

Dating the world's demise: 10-29-10

Because today is a special date in our family (one of our kids is having a birthday), I'd like briefly to take up the topic of religious date setters.


I'm talking about those people who think they have figured out exactly when the world will end, when the Second Coming of Christ will occur and on and on.

One reason to think about this now is that we just passed a flip-side date -- Oct. 23, the date on which Irish Bishop James Ussher claimed the world began. Ussher undertook a literal reading of many of the dates (who begat whom) in the Bible and announced that the world had been created at 9 a.m. (Greenwich time) on Oct. 23, 4004 BCE.

And as we all know, God always operates on Greenwich time. I think.

Anyway, throughout history many folks have tried to convince others that the end of the world was coming on a particular date. So far all these date setters have been wrong, but that doesn't seem to prevent others from setting new dates and doesn't seem to prevent people from believing in those dates.

One of the latest date setters is Harold Camping, an 89-year-old preacher behind “worldwide Christian ministry” Family Radio, whose analysis of the Bible proposes that "Judgment Day" will be May 21, 2011 and that the end of the world will follow five months after Christ’s return, on October 21, 2011. The "Harold Camping" link I've given you in this paragraph will take you to a "Sightings" column from the Martin Marty Center by a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School. It describes the Camping phenomenon. And the Family Radio link offers its warning of the May 21 date. 

I think all of us understand the profoundly human desire to know what's coming at us, what the future will bring. But when we combine that with the hubris of imagining that we can read the mind of God we wind up as embarrassed date setters.

In some ways, the only truly important date is today, which is a gift to us. We devalue that gift by using part of it to set dates for what only God can know.

* * *

GOD VS. SCIENCE, PART 73041279097

Pope Benedict XVI has told a Vatican gathering on the sciences that science can help humans understand God. Well, yes, but because many (not all by a long shot) scientists think there is no God or that one does not need God to explain the creation, the argument the pope made probably will convince no one who doesn't already agree with him. Still, the pope's argument deserves to be heard if only to buck up the spirits in the choir to whom he is preaching.


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