Lucifer’s Kingdom

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagoni...
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Saul Alinsky has become somewhat notorious for dedicating  his book “Rules for Radicals” to the “first radical” Lucifer. The dedication reads,

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from whom all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom-Lucifer.

Alinsky was wrong. Lucifer did not gain a kingdom. Hell is not Lucifer’s kingdom, it is his prison.

The popular conception of the Devil, which Alinsky seems to share, is shaped by John Milton’s portrayal of him in his classic epic poem “Paradise Lost“. At first glance, Lucifer appears to be noble and heroic. He has been beaten but has not given up. In the opening of the poem,  Lucifer and his angels are recovering from their lost battle and exile into Hell. Lucifer surveys his new home and gives a speech which is probably the most quoted part of Paradise Lost.

    “Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,”
Said then the lost Arch Angel, “this the seat
That we must change for Heav’n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since hee
Who now is Sov’ran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equall’d, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell happy fields
Where joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what should I be, all but less than hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign seure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n

Many readers believe that Milton has cast Lucifer as a romantic hero, a rebel who does not given up even when all seems to be lost but instead, makes the best of his circumstances. Milton seems to be on the Devil’s side.

In fact, Milton is more clever than that. Lucifer’s speech is bravado. Because he will not acknowledge God as his Creator and Lord, Lucifer loses everything, even his own self in his pursuit of vengeance. His comment about the mind making a Heaven or Hell means more than he intends. The mind may make its Heaven or Hell, but Heaven or Hell makes the mind, as Milton shows when Lucifer enters Paradise to tempt Adam and Eve.

Haply so ‘scaped his mortal snare; for now
Satan, now first inflam’d with rage, came down,
The Tempter ere th’Accuser of mankind
To Wreak on innocent frail Man his loss
Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell:
Yet not rejoicing in his speed, though bold,
Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast,
Begins his dire attempt, which nigh the birth
Now rolling boils in his tumultuous breast,
And like a devilish engine back recoils
Upon himself; horror and doubt distract
His troubl’d thoughts, and from the bottom stir
The Hell within him, for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step more than from himself can fly
By change of place

Lucifer realizes this and despairs

which way shall I fly?
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threat’ning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.

He considers giving up and asking for pardon, but he cannot do it. His hatred and pride will not allow him to submit. Even if God forgives him, Lucifer knows he will rebel again.

But say could repent and could obtain
By Act of Grace my former state; how soon
Would heighth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay
What feign’d submission swore: ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void
For never can true reconcilement grow
Where wounds of deadly hate have pierc’d so deep:
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse,
And heavier fall: so should I purchase dear
Short intermission bought with double smart.
This knows my punisher; therefore as far
From granting hee, as I from begging peace:
All hope excluded thus, behold instead
Of us out-cast, exil’d, his new delight
Mankind created and for him this World.
So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,
Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my Good; by thee at least
Divided Empire with Heav’n’ss King I hold
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign
As Man erelong, and this new World shall know

Lucifer is successful at tempting Adam and Eve, but in the end he fails. He and all his demons are changed into serpents. But even  worse is the transformation that Lucifer has caused to himself. From being Lucifer, the bright Morning Star, he has become Satan, the Enemy of God and man, the Devil, the Liar. From being the greatest of the Arch Angels he has devolved into a being consumed with hatred and pride. Hardly a model for the successful rebel.

The Archbishop Sees the Light, Maybe

From Jihad watch. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is fairly loopy, even for a liberal protestant. In the past he has been inducted as a druid, criticized the US as the “worst” imperialists,  driven his church apart over the ordination of gay bishops, and suggested that sharia law is unavoidable in Britain. There may be some hope for him yet, however, as he has spoken out against the increasing persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, Dr Williams said he was “guardedly optimistic” that the political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa would bring greater democracy to the region.

“In the long term, of course, a real participatory democracy in the region is bound to be in the interests of minorities because good democracies look after minorities,” he said.

But in the short term, he warned, people were using the chaos it had brought to attack Christian minorities.

“There is no doubt at all that it is a very anxious time for Christian communities. There have been extremist atrocities already, especially in Egypt,” he said.

“It is a fairly consistent pattern over a number of months. Although at leadership level in the Muslim community in Egypt there is clear condemnation of this, it’s evident that there are other forces at work which of course may not be native Egyptian,” he added.

He suggested outside elements had entered Egypt from “more traditional sites of extremism”, such as Saudi Arabia and northern Sudan, and did not rule out activity by al-Qaeda.

Dr Williams said violent extremism had made life unsustainable for Christians in northern Iraq, in a way that amounted to ethnic cleansing.

“The level of violence has been extreme,” he said.

“More and more there is the talk of an ‘enclave solution’ to the problem in Iraq – that is a sort of safe territory for Christians, which Christians and their leaders don’t particularly want, but many would think is the only practical outcome now.”

He said even in Syria, where Christians and Muslims had long lived together peacefully, tensions were building to breaking point.

Even in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Christians who had once been in the majority were now a “marginalised minority”, he added.

Of course he still uses the politically correct rhetoric, saying extremists are responsible, rather than even considering the idea that Islam’s sacred scriptures call for Christians and Jews to be persecuted, but one step at a time.

Ban the Bible

From Jihadwatch and Assyrian International News agency. In Pakistan the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party is trying to get the Bible banned because of its blasphemous and pornographic content.

Adam and Eve sans fig leaves, Lot getting drunk, Jesus stopping a stoning . . . This is all too much for Muslims represented in Pakistan’s parliament by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party. They view Bible stories such as these to be “pornographic” slurs against the biblical figures whom they claim as their holy prophets. They are now demanding that the country ban the Bible because of such “blasphemy” and exact a “punishment.” There seems no limit to what could be considered an offense against Islam under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws.

At a press conference on May 30 in Lahore, party leader Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi informally petitioned the Supreme Court, complaining that the Bible includes stories about some of the biblical prophets that include “a variety of moral crimes, which undermine the sanctity of the holy figures.” A newspaper reports: “Farooqi cited a number of [supposedly pornographic] scriptures from the Bible, saying such ‘insertions’ strongly offend the Muslims, who hold all prophets and holy books in high esteem, as part of religious belief and never even think of committing any blasphemy against them.”

The verses in question are:

Genesis 19:33–36, 29: 23, 32–35, 38:18

Exodus 32:2–6

1 Kings 13:2–29

2 Samuel 11:2–27, 13:1–22

Matthew 1:13, 16:23, 26:14–47

They have a point. Many times the prophets and  apostles in the Bible are not presented in a very good light. This is because the Bible presents these people the way they were, sins and warts and all. God makes use of some very imperfect people to accomplish His will.

In the Koran, by contrast, the various prophets, Abraham, Moses, Jesus are presented as ideal Moslems, reciting the same message as Mohammed. There is little sense of any individual personality for any of them. Some of the best parts of the Bible are when the prophet, etc must confront his own weaknesses and overcome them. David and Bathsheba, Jacob and his poor treatment of Esau, Peter’s denial of Jesus, etc. Religion and theology aside, this is one of the things that makes the Koran far inferior, in the literary sense, to the Bible.

Doomsday Prophet, Followers ‘Flabbergasted’ World Didn’t End

Harold Camping in 2008
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From Yahoo News. I would really hate to be Harold Camping right now. Somehow he has to explain why everyone in his congregation is still here on Earth. I would hope he has a good explanation for Robert Fitzpatrick who spent $140,000 on advertising the upcoming Rapture.

I can’t feel too bad about Mr. Camping. It doesn’t look as if he was trying to defraud anyone. Apparently, he sincerely believed the End was at hand. If there is any lesson to learned here, it would be to study the Bible in context and don’t read things into scripture that aren’t there. The Bible nowhere gives a date for the end and Jesus explicitly said that no one could know except God.

End of World Coming Tomorrow!

Well, according to one Harold Camping, the Rapture will take place tomorrow, May 21, 2011. I am not sure just how he arrived at the date, though the article I linked to provides an explanation;

Harold Camping’s homemade mathematical formula for the apocalypse works, in part, like this.

He bases it on a verse in Chapter 2 of Peter verse 3:8, which says that one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day to God.

Elsewhere it is said that there will be seven thousand years between Noah’s flood and the end of the world.

Camping believes that the Noah’s Ark flood happened in the year 4990 BC.

So to Camping, the seven days translates to 7,000 years.

And 4990 plus 2011, minus one because there was no year ‘0’, equals 7,000 years.

The date of May 21 has been derived from complex mathematical formula made up from numbers that appear repeatedly in the Bible.

And apparently people are organizing “Rapture Parties”. I think Mr. Camping would be well advised to reread his Bible, particularly Matthew 24:35;

 36 “But as for that day and hour no one knows it – not even the angels in heaven – except the Father alone.

Is the New Testament full of lies?

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I got this link from a friend of a friend, Cedric Klein. He posted this response to Bart Ehrman’s latest book, “Forged”, in which he contends that many of the New Testament books are simply forgeries, not written by the authors named. That is, about half of Paul’s letters First and Second Peter, James and Jude were not written those apostles. What is more, Dr. Ehrman says that most if not all Bible scholars know this.

To be honest, I am not impressed with this line of reasoning, for the simple reason that I don’t see any way to prove the matter one way or another. And, it seems to me to be a little presumptuous to believe that a scholar is able to know more about the authorship of any document two-thousand years after it was written than someone who lived within a generation of the writers. The early church leaders who first put together the New Testament canon were certainly aware of the existence of forged or spurious works attributed to various apostles and they did go through quite a bit of effort to weed them out.

It seems to me that some of the skepticism regarding New Testament authorship follows the reasoning that Peter or Paul would not or could not have written something like that, so therefore he did not. But, to tell the truth, we do not know how or what they could have written since their only surviving writings are in the Bible.

Take Peter, for example. We only have First and Second Peter as possible examples of his writing. What can we compare them to? It is widely believed that Peter could not have written the two letters because the Greek is too elegant for an illiterate fisherman who did not even speak Greek. However, we do not; in fact know that Peter was illiterate, though he likely was. Aramaic was his native language, but it was very likely that he spoke some Greek. In any event, he, and the other New Testament writers used scribes or secretaries, who had some freedom in choosing the words to express the ideas of their employers.

Given the use of scribes, it seems to me that it would not be easy, or even possible to make any definite conclusion that someone wrote this Gospel, or someone could not have written that letter. That being the case, I am going to tend to trust the judgment of those closest in time to the actual writing of the New Testament.

I realize that the question is quite a bit more complicated than this but this post is already going longer than I had intended, so I’ll stop for now.