All nations welcome

When it comes to the nations of this world, God doesn’t play favourites.

I love this vision from the climax of the book of Revelation: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it.” (Revelation 21:22-26)

Cultivating Visions through Biblical Meditations

The following extract comes from, “Cultivating Visions through Exegetical Meditations” by Dan Merkur, an article from “With Letters of Light: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic, and Mysticism” by Daphna V. Arbel and Andrei A. Orlov (Eds.)

What I found fascinating in this article is Merkur’s suggestion of direct correlations between the letters to the seven churches and the vision of the seven seals in the book of Revelation, and more, that they reveal the visionary meditation method of the author as being not so far removed from lectio divina and even less so from my own less formulaic approach. He says,

The monastic practice of converting concepts into images as a prelude to meditation is demonstrable, centuries prior to the rise of the monastic movement, in the New Testament book of Revelation. Whether the text is, as Marshall (2001) plausibly argues, Jewish and not Christian, it dates to the late first century, the precise period of Yochanan ben Zakkai and his students, whose legends are narrated in the second chapter of Hagigah.

Revelation asserts the allegorical character of many of the images in its visions. The first vision, which accomplishes John’s commission as a prophet, concludes with the statement: “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Rev 1:20). In this manner, Revelation, like Daniel 7, appropriated the mythological tropes of the ascension apocalypses and invested them with allegorical meanings. Among the topics that John allegorized, I suggest, was the praxis of exegetical meditation. Let us attend closely to the motifs of seven letters and seven seals.

John is told to compose seven letters that are to be addressed to the angels of seven churches. Each letter is different, and there are no manifest connections among them . They are presented simply as a collection of unrelated letters that an angel happened to reveal to John (Rev 2:1-3:21). Next comes a vision of a throne in heaven, with one seated on the throne, surrounded by twenty-four elders and four living creatures (4:1-11). The enthroned being holds a scroll that is sealed with seven seals (5:1). John then mourns.

And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev 5:2-5)

These verses express the interplay between meditative technique and its revelatory response. John cannot open the scroll, because he cannot produce revelations. Only a heavenly being can open the scroll. Like mental imaging, however, weeping was a means by which seers might pray or prepare for revelation. The mixing of metaphors, by which the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5) is a Lamb (5:6, 8) who opens the seals (6:1), emphasized the psychological nature of the vision. Like Pharaoh’s dreams of seven cattle and seven sheaves of grain (Gen 41:1-7), the Lion and the Lamb were mental images that were equivalent or interchangeable for John’s purposes. John constructed the mental image of the Lamb in the hope that it would function as a vehicle of revelation within a vision. He could as easily have meditated on another image such as a Lion.

Following these prefatory indications about mental imagery in general, John proceeded to the details of each of the seven seals . Scholars have not previously noticed that some of the verbal contents of the seven letters correspond to some of the images on the respective seven seals.

1 . The letter to Ephesus, the first church, states “To him who conquers, I will give permission to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7b) . The image of the first seal was a rider on a white horse, who had a bow and a crown. The text states that “he went conquering and to conquer” (6:2). In this way, the image on the first seal allegorized the ideas in the first letter, transforming a topic of abstract verbal conceptualization – “conquest” – into a mental image that could be used in meditation in order to cultivate a vision .

2 . The second letter, addressed to Smyrna, includes the statements: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10-11). The second seal portrays a rider on a red horse, who is given a great sword, and removes peace from the earth, so that people kill one another (6:4). Once again, the image allegorizes ideas in the corresponding letter. The concepts of the devil and tribulation were expressed as the mental image of a sword-bearing rider who kills people.

3 . The third letter and seal introduce a new detail regarding the selection of imagery for meditation. Instead of having the motifs of the seal repeat the motifs on the letter, the second sets of motifs contrast with the first. The third letter refers to church members at Pergamum “who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality” (Rev 2:14). The third seal (6:5-6) similarly addresses the topic of food; but it does so differently, by portraying famine. Within the third seal, the visual image of scales to weigh food is inconsistent with the auditory reference to the cost of grain by volume (Aune 1998: 396). Discrepant doctrinal ideas are similarly juxtaposed. In 1 Cor 8, Paul permitted eating food sacrificed to idols, on the grounds that idols have no real existence; although he allowed that some individuals might be led into sin through the practice. In 1 Cor 10:23-11:1, Paul again permitted eating food sacrificed to idols; he acknowledged, however, that on-lookers might thereby be led into sin. John’s criticism of Balaam and Balak may have been addressed to followers of Peter and Paul (Himmelfarb 1997: 90). Certainly the phrase “stumbling block” alluded to Paul’s teaching that Mosaic law is a stumbling block for Jews (Rom 9:32-33) . Through its image of famine as a rider on a black horse who holds a pair of scales (6:5), the third seal alludes to a different criticism of rabbinic teaching. Scores of rabbinical sayings discussed good and bad deeds as earning merits and demerits that were recorded in a heavenly Book of Life. By the first century B . C . E ., imitatio dei had translated this trope about divine retribution into a practice of judgmentalism within the Jewish community . The mishnaic teaching, “Judge all men on a scale of merit” (Abot 1:6) was explicitly rejected by Jesus’ saying, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1; compare Luke 6:37) .

4 . The fourth letter, addressed to Thyatira, includes a discussion of the process of divine retribution: “those who commit adultery… I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent… I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve” (Rev 2:22-23). The letter’s description of “this teaching” as “what some call the deep things of Satan” (2:24) referred, I suggest, to God’s purpose in creating Satan. In Job and rabbinic teaching, Satan furthers God’s purposes by exacting retribution on God’s behalf . The fourth seal allegorizes these ideas of divine retribution in its image of a rider on a pale horse. His “name was Death, and Hades followed him; they were given authority” (6:8). As an abstract concept, retribution could not be converted directly into a mental image; the somewhat far-fetched reference to “the deep things of Satan” provided the opportunity, however, to portray Satan as the rider named Death . The identification was rabbinic: “Rabbi Simon ben Laqish said: Satan, the evil inclination, and the angel of death are one and the same” (b. Baba Batra, 16a).

5 . The fifth letter, addressed to Sardis, advocates the perfection of works. The letter ends with the promise that those who “are worthy” will “walk with me in white” garments (Rev 3:4) . This image recurs on the fifth seal. On the seal, “the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God” (6:9) are given white robes (6:11) .

6 . The sixth letter, to Philadelphia, promises deliverance in the endtimes. “I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth” (Rev 3:10). The abstract concept of a trial could not be expressed as a mental image that was suitable for use in meditation. Because individual trials could be pictured in their concreteness, the sixth seal conveyed the general idea of trial by portraying disaster on a cosmic scale: “there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (6:12-14). The motif of trial occurred within the mental image as direct speech. Men call “to the mountains and rocks…the great day of…wrath has come, and who can stand before it?” (6:17).

7 . The seventh letter, addressed to the church in Laodicea, demands repentance. “I know your works… .For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked… .Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; so be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:15, 17, 19). As an abstract concept, repentance was unsuitable for representation by a mental image that could be used in meditation. The seventh seal instead portrayed the worship of God. “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (8:1) . The motif alluded both to the revelation of the “still small voice” to Elijah on Mount Horeb in 1 Kgs 18:11-12, and also to Ps 65:2, “to You silence is praise,” which the Qumran Songs of Sabbath Sacrifice interpreted as the worship distinctive of the highest angels in heaven (Alexander 2006: 22, 38, 41, 98 n . 3).

The correspondence of the seven letters and the seven seals is tidy. The seals expressed concepts in pictorial imagery that the letters had formulated verbally. Because the letters to the seven churches alluded, among other texts, to the letters of Paul (Charles 1920: 94-95; Fiorenza 1985: 151), the seven seals provided object lessons in the procedure of exegetical meditation on the letters of Paul, as well as on the seven letters of Rev 2-3. Revelation indicated how to prepare scripturally based, abstract ideas in forms that could be visualized as mental images for the purpose of cultivating visions. The first two seals presented simple examples of the procedure that depended on literal correspondences between texts and images. More sophisticated procedures were illustrated in the further examples. The third letter borrowed a phrase from Paul, but the third seal devised an image that alluded to a contrary teaching by Jesus. The fourth letter, on divine retribution, briefly mentions the concept of “the deep things of Satan”; the fourth seal was wholly devoted to exploring this doctrinal curiosity. The fifth, sixth, and seventh letters each mentioned abstract concepts whose pictorial representation by the corresponding seals required still greater ingenuity. By these examples, the seven letters and seals together comprise an introduction to the practice of exegetical meditation.

The procedures of exegetical meditation that were outlined in Revelation can also be discerned in midrashic descriptions of visions. In Mechilta d’Rabbi Ishmael, Rabbi Akiba resolved the apparent paradox in Exod 20:18, “And all the people were seeing the sounds,” by explaining: “Seeing and hearing that which is given to sight; they saw a word (Hebrew Diber) of fire coming out of the mouth of the Gevurah (= dynamis) and being hewed on the Tables” (as cited in Gruenwald 1980: 73, n . 1). According to this midrash, the Israelites at Sinai heard the ten commandments and mentally imaged an archangel whose mouth spewed fire that carved the two tablets of stone. The Sinai revelation was not an instance of synesthesia, when sensory channels are confused. The Israelites saw a coherent symbolic vision that portrayed the miraculous carving of the words in stone, precisely as though they had been performing exegetical meditations.

The Four Drones of the Apocalypse

Four-drones-of-the-apocalypse-by-matt-stoneThis is a personal creation called “The Four Drones of the Apocalypse”. Based on Revelation 6 it symbolises the terrors of war, famine and death; terrors which inevitably follow in the wake of conquerors bent on conquest (the first drone of the apocalypse). The lamb unveils the truth behind the fog of propaganda that conquerors cloak themselves with.

Revelations that some Patriots won’t like

The_Whore_of_Babylon_by_tuchka702

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” (Revelation 17:1-2)

Hey, what if evil is closer to home than you think? This painting by Dasha Biggs is called “The Whore of Babylon”. With her lady liberty headgear I’m sure you can figure out what he is suggesting.

 

 

Ben Witherington on Dispensationalist Deviations

Having critiqued the Calvinists in “The Problem with Evangelical Theology”, Ben Witherington III moves on to another popular Evangelical stream, Dispensationalism. This extract represents what he sees as the most problematic features of Dispensationalist Theology, which I have further highlighted in some areas for emphasis:

What may we learn from this lengthy discussion of Romans 9–11? First, election does not work as Calvin thought it did. Second, Paul consistently affirms that there is only one people of God at any one juncture in human history. It would be a very odd thing to argue that God was busily fulfilling promises and prophecies to non-Christian Israel in the present when he had in fact broken them off from the people of God temporarily during this same period of time! The fulfilling of promises to Israel in this text is said to happen when Christ comes back, and Israel is grafted back into the people of God. The two-track system of Dispensationalism, with some promises being fulfilled in Israel and some in the church, simply will not work in the Pauline scheme of things, when one examines the details of Romans 9–11. Paul also in this section of Romans stresses that in the end all are saved on the same basis, by the grace and mercy of God, and through faith, not by some predetermination from before the beginning of time. Paul’s conception of the people of God is Jew and Gentile united in Christ as Galatians 3:28 says, and the old categories no longer count in the body of Christ. We have learned something else in this chapter as well: Paul was not an early example of a Dispensationalist in the mold of Darby or Scofield. He believed, for example, that the teaching Jesus gave to his original disciples was applicable to his own converts. Thus he draws not only on Matthew 24 but also the Sermon on the Mount at various points to teach his converts how to live the Christian life. He also believed any number of OT prophecies had already come to pass in Christ, were coming to pass in the body of Christ, and would continue to come to pass precisely in that context.

There is in addition a hermeneutical issue that needs to be stressed. As we saw in our discussion of prophecy, including apocalyptic prophecy, this was not material meant only for late western Christians. It was intended to be revelation for the first-century Christians, and every generation thereafter. It had meaning for those first Christians, and both John of Patmos and Paul would be very surprised to hear many of the correlations that are being made today by Dispensationalists with what they said, not least because they were not making specific comments about figures in American history, or in twenty-first-century struggles.

John and Paul were talking about their own era leading up to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and its aftermath, and they were talking in general terms about the consummation of human history which would indeed be brought about not by the plans and schemes of humans but by the one and only visible return of Christ who would judge the nations and silence the armies of the world with fire coming down from heaven (see Rev 20:8–9). There will be no final battle, only a conflagration. The armies are assembled only to be dismissed when they are “fired” from above.

But there is more. According to the book of Revelation only God is the proper executor of justice and final judgment on the world, not human beings. Revelation is about the most antimilitaristic book in the Bible as it never once encourages any humans, never mind Christians, to take up arms. Rather it encourages them to pray and be spiritually prepared to suffer for their faith. A theology of suffering and becoming victors through martyrdom, not through killing, is enunciated in this work. The author would find shameful the way this book has been used in the Left Behind series and by many of the televangelists.

And there is yet more. Both Paul and John in the book of Revelation call believers to live their lives and make their major decisions on the basis of faith, not fear. The called-for response to persecutors and tormentors is not to respond in kind at all, but rather to be examples of suffering love just as Jesus was when he died on the cross. It calls for trust that history is in Jesus’ hands, and vengeance or, better said, justice is his, not ours. Paul’s and John’s words were meant as words of comfort for a persecuted minority, which was even enduring martyrdom in some cases, not words encouraging triumphalism by those with nuclear weapons.

As C. Hill stresses in his critique of Dispensationalism and especially the theology of the rapture:

“Ideas have consequences. . . . At worst, such a belief is a form of escapism. The hope of impending departure can lead believers to abandon interest in the world and its problems. The expectation of deteroriating conditions prior to the soon-approaching rapture is morally corrosive, encouraging pessimism, fatalism, and the forsaking of political responsibility. Disengagement from the problems of the world is ethically indefensible, but it is all too common among today’s prophecy elite. Their books tell us that nuclear war is inevitable, that the pursuit of peace is pointless, that the planet’s environmental woes are unstoppable, and so on.94”

In fact we even have Dispensationalists opposing the Middle East peace efforts and the like because it impedes the progress of the prophecy timetables, and the desire is for an acceleration of ruin so that the rapture will hurry up and arrive. There is nothing in this outlook compatible with Jesus’ blessing of peacemakers! But alas, this characteristic pessimism and fatalism and escapism is an endemic part of the Dispensational system, and has been since day one. It was Darby himself who wrote, “I believe from Scripture that ruin is without remedy,” and he goes on to stress that Christians should all expect nothing but “a progress of evil.”95 How very odd it is to read these words in the twenty-first century after so much remarkable progress in various positive ways in the world of medicine, technology, education, and other fields since 1750. Darby obviously was not only a prophet of doom; he was also a false prophet in various respects.

As we conclude this section of our discussion of the problems with Evangelical theology, one thing has come to light that we have not properly stressed thus far and wish to highlight now. It would appear that it is precisely in the ways that Dispensational and Calvinist interpretations deviate from various forms of early Christian interpretations of the NT (by early, I mean pre-Augustinian) that these systems go wrong. Put another way, it is in the distinctives of these systems that they deviate from the scriptural teaching on a variety of subjects. For example, Dispensationalists are right that Revelation 20 talks about a millennial reign of Christ on the earth. This is very much how Christian interpreters understood that text before the time of Augustine. Where they go wrong is in adding their distinctive and unbiblical idea about the rapture as a prelude to that reign. Similarly, it is not in their high Christology, or their Trinitarian emphasis, or in their belief in the atoning death of Jesus or in the fact that God is omnipotent that Calvinists go wrong. It is rather in the distinctive way the T.U.L.I.P. theological system (Total depravity, Unconditional Elect, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints) causes them to interpret the death of Jesus or the sovereignty of God that causes divergences both from the historic way the relevant NT texts were understood by exegetes ranging from Ignatius of Antioch to Chrysostom, and from the most probable reading of a whole host of NT texts, especially Pauline and Johannine ones. The antidote to such misreadings is: (1) a better and more openminded reading of these texts without imposing later theological systems on the text, and (2) a reading with an open exploration as to what could have been meant by authors of a Jewish background, such as all NT writers were (with the possible exception of Luke), who brought Jewish ideas of election and apostasy and the coming of the Messiah into their Christian ways of thinking. Notice the discussion above about early Jewish ideas about apostasy and election.96 There is much more to be said along these lines, but now we must turn to yet another popular Evangelical school of thought that has its own distinctive way of looking at the NT in light of concepts of prevenient grace, perfection or entire sanctification, and even eradication of the sin nature. I am referring to Arminianism, more commonly called Wesleyanism, to which we now devote our attention.

Dispensational, Covenant and Christocentric Theology

covenant-dispensational-christocentric-theologyFor those of you who may have missed this buried in the comments, I thought I’d draw attention to an essay by James Fowler on the differences between Dispensational Theology, Covenant Theology and Christocentric Theology.

I think this is very important for understanding why NeoCalvinists and NeoAnabaptists often end up talking past one another.

And before anyone asks, yes, I’m unapologetically Christocentric in my interpretation of scripture.

The Ophite Diagrams

Ripple Lately I have been exploring connections between the Ophite diagrams and Revelation 4. There seems to be a way in which the vision of Revelation 4 could be interpreted in a mandala-like fashion, of concentric circles radiating out from the throne of God, with revelations within revelations flowing from the initial revelation of the scroll, holding the whole text together. Have any of you ever explored this?

Can dispensationalism ever accommodate pacifism?

Had a matrix download this morning, while dressing for work and playing with the kids. I gather my subconscious has now had sufficient time to process the Bonhoeffer 4 conversation last week over at NeoBaptist, and now insights are bubbling to the surface. Phase change.

Here are some of the threads:

Suggestions that pacifists don’t take the Old Testament seriously enough drew out the fact that my theology of war and peace is deeply eschatological, that I do not see pacifist ethics as timeless, but rather, that I see them far more climactically and post-resurrectional.

It also drew out that I see the state as Babylon, not Jerusalem, and draw a much stronger distinction between the church and state than Christendom-defending Christians are comfortable with.

And of course it highlighted that I see read the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, that my understanding of Christian interpretation is deeply Christo-centric.

This got we wondering about rival eschatologies, like dispensationalism. I recently read a suggestion that dispensationalists read the New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament, that they are much more Israel-centric, in complete reversal to me.

I recalled that dispensationalists draw a strong distinction between Israel and the church, that they saw a eschatological role for the state of Israel that rivalled that of the church, and this fed back into how they interpreted state-church issues.

I realised that their much publicised literalism was not monolithic but deeply Israel-centric. They are as figurative as amillenialists in their own way, but in rival ways. They’re figurative about New Testament ethics but literal about Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel.

And it hit me: Christian pacifism, at least the sort of Christian pacifism that takes the Old Testament seriously, may rest on an eschatological understanding of the church as the new Israel that is deeply antimical to dispensationalists. It may be that dispensationalists have no way to embrace pacifism and stay dispensationalists. Could it be that Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists are right in a way? That the brand of Christianity they know, dispensationalism, IS intrinsically violent? If true this could have deep implications for future conversations.

How apocalyptic are you?

 

Heavens-torn-open After watching Terminator Salvation last night, I turned to John Morehead’s article on Apocalypse and the Postmodern Imagination tonight. Have a read yourself. I think it raises some interesting questions.

And I want to ask you some questions too. What is your understanding of apocalypse? Do you think the dispensationalists should have the last word on Revelation? Where do you see the apocalyptic imagination making itself felt in popular culture? What about yourself?

I’ll be honest, I think my understanding of Christianity is deeply apocalyptic, just not in the way dispensationalists or gnostics would recognize. Unlike them, it does not involve any myth of redemptive violence. For me apocalyptic imagination is very much interwoven with the New Testament themes of hope and the dreaming of a world without tears.

Understanding Revelation

The-day-of-the-lordSince a lot of people shy away from the book of Revelation I thought I should do what I can to make it a little more understandable.

One of the big problems, as I see it, is that many people miss the parallelism. They read the visions, and like good rationalist Westerners, assume they’re to be read in series, that the visions make up one loooong and elaborate prophecy.

But that’s not the case at all, its actually much simpler, its the same prophecy, repeated over and over again from different angles, ramping up with each repetition. That’s how dreams and visions work. Think of it like a stack of transparencies that, when laid on top of one another, each add up to a fuller picture. No, don’t just think about it, click on this graph I’ve put together and read up the various references. See the parallelism for yourself. This graph highlights how common visionary elements keep reoccurring across each vision. I’ve added in some visions from other New and Old Testament books too just for reference. Revelation is actually not so different from the mini apocalypses you find elsewhere in the bible once the parallelism is recognised. It makes the dispensationalist nonsense totally superfluous.

Still not convinced? Here’s just one more visionary thread:

Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:5)

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. (Revelation 11:19)

And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. (Revelation 14:2)

Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. (Revelation 16:18)

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. (Revelation 19:6)

Look closer at the book of Revelation and you’ll see more.

So, look for the repetitions, look for the repetitions.

Eschatology and Cosmology – Part II

To continue the thread:

Western theologians, in spite of their Christological and Trinitarian beliefs, often revert to philosophical unitarianism when they discuss creation and providence. Barth pointed out that classical Reformed and Lutheran ideas of providence were vitiated by the fact that the deity who preserved, accompanied, and governed creatures in those theologies did not have the distinctive features of the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ. This tendency to be content with a general theism, rather than a distinctively Christian belief, poses dangers for dialogue between science and Christian theology, including theological assessment of quantum theory, because such dialogue must consider creation and providence. [from Does the Trinity Play Dice?]

This is a major beef of mine with many contemporary Christian apologists. In a pluralistic context, apologists commit a gross error if they think proving God equates to proving Christianity (and that’s bracketing for a moment the issue of to what extent anything can be proved). If Deists or Atheists are your only dialogue partners fair enough. But that world is back in the past. One of my first introductions to spirituality was via Fritjov Capra’s “The Tao of Physics“, an influential New Age text back in the 90s. The name should say it all.

But things get even more interesting when you consider quantum cosmology and, in particular, the many-worlds interpretation.

A many-worlds interpretation would raise serious theological questions. We would need to consider, for example, Barth’s concept of evil as the “nothingness” which God has not chosen. Such a concept is meaningful for a single universe, but its significance in a many-worlds picture is unclear. For instance, there would be some branches in which Hitler won, and others, such as ours, in which he did not. Which branch represents the will of God? Which expresses the nothingness which God does not choose? [from Does the Trinity Play Dice?]

The ‘many worlds’ hypothesis lays down a major challenge for a religion like Christianity that is so rooted in a specific event of history: the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Far more so that for religions like Hinduism or Buddhism which indeed posit a pleathora of alternate universal cycles. This demands a thoughtful response.