Day by Day Daily Cartoon by Chris Muir

The Mad Scientist... Mwahahahahahahahaha

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The End Of The World: Is That So Bad?

Well, yes, yes it is. To any conservative, this is an obvious answer. After all, the way I understand my strain of conservatism;

  1. Because humans are generally prone to failure and lack much foresight, it is always better to deny or delay new laws and new ways of doing things until we are sure they don't have any unintended side effects or consequences.
  2. By the same token, we hope that our forebears understood the same thing, and therefore whatever laws and ways of doing things we currently carry on from the past would have had the necessary testing and trials by fire.
Hence, while change is the only constant, it does not follow that it is always a good thing. Of course, sometimes it is the right course of action, but usually the best kind of changes are those that bring us back to the fundamentals. And in any event, there is usually nothing wrong in examining and testing things out first.

The end of the world, by definition, will completely wipe out our current existence; we may carry on living, but our ways of life and thinking will forever be altered, and there will be no turning back. No conservative on the face of the planet will sign up for that, unless it is really going back to the way things were really meant to be in the first place.

Scientists are (or should be) inherently conservative creatures. You do not change the understanding of the nature of physics unless you have compelling proof; proof that will satisfy a hard scientist is not something you throw together in a matter of hours. Technology progresses and changes at a rapid pace, sure - but the underlying sciences do not.

In Christian theology, however, the end of the world, while not something to be wished for or hastened or predicted, is however to be prepared for. It is a time when God declares human history to be at an end, and prepares Creation for judgement. We do not know when this will happen; we do know what must happen first, and so in a sense we 'know' when it will not happen yet (for example, one of the things that must happen before the end of the world is that every tribe and every tongue must have had the chance to hear the Gospel and turn to Jesus - God does not say that we have to do the witnessing because He is quite capable of doing it Himself, but it is a reasonable assumption). This is a major change, and our ways of life will be irrevocably altered. Unless, of course, our way of life is already closely matching the way our new life is supposed to be like. Then the change will not be so terrifying.

On something of a tangent. In the anime series Clannad, one of the episodes deals with a girl who lost her parents due to an airplane crash on her birthday. The details are unimportant, but one of the things that make this series one that tugs on the heartstrings is a short segment on how her parents' last thoughts were of her, and of making sure that her birthday present and their last well-wishes - possibly penned in the last moments before they hit the ocean - reached her. They placed the present - a teddy bear - and a letter that asked the finder to pass it on to their daughter in a suitcase, which passed from person to person, country to country, continent to continent, until after several years it finally reached the hands of the girl. It is a short segment, but a powerfully emotive one as we see the travels of that battered suitcase - and hear each person in his or her own language asking the next bearer to pass it on.

Why do I bring this up? Because in a way, it reminds me of what is to come. In Revelation 7: 9-10, St John records,

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Which is why we say that the world will not end until this comes to pass - that every tribe and every tongue is represented in that great throng in Heaven. But God has His own ways of ensuring this comes to pass - so it's not as if we should be complacent about it either.

Now, just to give you a glimpse of how radically different the Christian concept of Heaven (and eternal life) is to the rest of whatever other religions have to say, you have to grasp the love and the intimacy that ideally exists mother and child, father and son, husband and wife, brother and sister. Now, picture those emotions, the commitment, the closeness... and now understand that we will be sharing that with everyone else in Heaven, and individually and corporately, with God our Father through Christ our Brother. That's how the Church Universal is described; as the Bride of Christ. Now you know why Jesus says in Heaven there is no marrying or giving in marriage - because there is no need. The closeness, the intimacy that was previously sanctified and celebrated and exemplified only within the holy institution of marriage is now available to everyone. Our fellow Christians are our brothers and sisters. There will be no more hunger, and no more thirst, and no more sadness, for God will fill our every need and desire. We will be clothed in the Glory of God, and His Presence will light New Jerusalem. There will be no more war, no more pain, no more sorrow. Every day will be the best day ever, because every day will be spent in God's presence singing God's praise, and every day will be better than the day before.

You know, some of you might be thinking, jeez, what a boring afterlife, but think harder. What would your ideal afterlife be like? Playing unlimited PvP WoW? Unlocking all the mysteries of the universe? Having an unlimited stomach capacity in the universe's largest buffet with a global selection of foods, wines and spirits? Having an eidetic memory and being able to read all of history's works, hear all of the music in all of time, see all the plays, maybe watch history unfold and knowing what really happened during the Flood? Becoming a demigod with incredible powers?

Hmph, how limited a vision. God says that he who truly receives and believes the Gospel and turns to Jesus with all his heart is already more than a conqueror, a prince and co-inheritor of the Kingdom of God, enrolled in spiritual warfare against not flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, fully armed and armoured by God, and upon death exempt from God's condemnation, having received His mercy and grace, provided with Human Body 2.0 (Resurrection version), which by Jesus' demonstrations is pretty awesome, having all physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs filled to overflowing. He will never be lonely, because he will be surrounded not only by his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but by God our Father Himself. Every day he will learn something new, something awesome and something incredible, which will cause him to praise God more and more; not that he needs any further encouragement, because praising God is the right thing to do anyway. If you thought the Internet was pretty cool for allowing all kinds of people all over the world to communicate to each other, imagine what Heaven is like, with people across time and space.

People do ask, you know, why Christians believe what we do. I do not presume to speak for anyone else, but this is my answer; nothing else makes real sense. Agnostics cannot give a clear answer to save their afterlives; it's all a Great Maybe to them. Atheists answer, but it is a bleak, soul-crushing answer, and quite frankly, what is the point of consciousness now when it becomes oblivion then? Hindus and Buddhists sacrifice their individuality for nirvana or enlightenment, which also snuffs out your being in favour of becoming One with... whoever. Yeah, thanks, guys. Let's not even talk about the Muslims, whose idea of a physical, sensual Paradise cannot even agree amongst themselves whether you get 6 dozen nubile females or seedless dried-up old prunes.

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