Monday, November 10, 2008

revelation, pt. 2 (or What the Grotesque Tells Us about the Last Day)

The Southern novelist Flannery O’Connor (“A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “Judgment Day,” “Everything That Rises Must Converge”) wrote that “redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.”

O’Connor continues, “The novelist... will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience.”

This is exactly the sort of thing that I believe Cormac McCarthy has done in No Country for Old Men. Now, I have not read the book, but I have read his Pulitzer-winning The Road. I saw the movie based on No Country for Old Men and was really impressed/disturbed. I will not make a broad recommendation that everyone should see the movie because I think it would probably scandalize a number of people. However, I do want to point out that No Country for Old Men expresses an idea that is central to the book of Revelation. It is the idea that evil is getting worse and worse, but at the same time, the evil that is seen is just the same old evil that man has known from ages pass.

The opening words speak to the sense that evil is becoming increasingly intense. It is a theme that is seen throughout the story. Evil is pervasive and sinister and it is an evil that seems to be growing. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell remarks, “The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, ‘O.K. I’ll be a part of this world.’”

Bell’s friend, Ellis tells him, “Watcha got ain’t nothing new.”

The book of Revelation was given to encourage believers (Rev.1:3). As one reads the book there is a recurring theme about the evil and persecution and darkness that faces the people of God. Believers are essentially told “Watcha got ain’t nothing new.” Yeah, things are terrible. There is darkness and suffering. And yeah, it is getting worse, but at the same time, it is the same old evil that has been there since Eden. The encouragement in Revelation goes beyond this and reminds believers that there is a coming day when evil shall be no more.

This is where there is a stark contrast between No Country for Old Men and Revelation. The one offers a terrifying picture in which evil cannot be stopped and carries on without foreseeable end. The other offers hope and a promise that there is a bloodied King who has conquered, and will conquer, evil decisively.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

revelation of Jesus, pt 1

(or An Introduction to why Revelation is more about Jesus than it is about Obama, McCain, the pope, Russia, Iran, helicopters, credit cards, or Kirk Cameron)

I have had a number of questions about the book of Revelation recently. I think that this can largely be attributed to the election craze and the throwing around of words and phrases like “signs of the times,” “he might be the antichrist,” and “the end of the age.”

As a result, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at the book of Revelation. It would seem that there are a lot of questions about this book. Admittedly, I stayed away from it for a time. A professor I had last year, Thomas Schreiner, opened the book up to me and helped me realize that Revelation is meant to encourage and grow me in the Lord in the same way that the rest of the Scriptures are meant to give us hope. From him I learned that Revelation is much more mainstream and normal than it is generally perceived to be. It is not eccentric and outside of mainstream Christian theology as it is often treated. It is not astrology, it’s theology. This is a lesson that was in large part learned through reading Schreiner’s New Testament Theology.

There are various approaches to interpreting the book of Revelation. It is not my intention to discuss the different views. Rather, I am going to attempt to primarily emphasize aspects that we can all agree upon. After all, the book was written to be useful and meaningful (Revelation 1:3). It is my sincere hope that at this series of posts will motivate my friends and family to dig into the Word.

Inevitably, my view of interpretation will come out at points. When that happens I will try to note it.

***For those who wonder, I tend to see recapitulationism (also called iterism or idealism) as doing the most justice to the Book of Revelation. Don't worry Brent, I still hold to Newtonism... Recommended reading: Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, Book III and Dennis E. Johnson’s Triumph of the Lamb.