Thursday, March 11, 2010

Conversations with Rowland (part 1), What Would YOU Say?

Below is a conversation I am having with someone on Facebook...I had/have no idea how to get through to his heart that God is real and that He loves him.

Rowland Nelken
And if I judge that the Bible is a fallible, man made creation; that Daniel's prophecies apply only to his anger at the Greek occupation, and that Revelation is concerned purely with anger at Christian collusion with the Roman Empire, have I thereby condemned myself to destruction, according to your weird theology?

Fundamental Adventist
How can you judge Daniel's prophecies to be "only his anger at the Greek occupation?" Regardless of whether he was angry at being carried away captive to Babylon, his prophecies are still testable, yeah?

I mean just the simple prophecy in chapter two with the image...of which he clearly states that the head of gold represents Nebuchadnezzar (sp?) and his kingdom, Babylon, and that it would be followed by 3 successive empires then be split into ten divisions as opposed to conquered by a 5th empire. Seems like you'd have to either speculate that the book of Daniel was written AFTER Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome's rule OR believe that it was a prophecy that nailed hundreds of years of history in advance.

Rowland Nelken
It is well known and accepted that Daniel was writing in 165 BC, two years after the defilement of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes IV. He pretended to have been living in the last years of the Babylonian occupation and the first years of the Persian. He was 'prophesying' after the fact.

Fundamental Adventist
I dunno, man...I was just reading this article that has some compelling evidence otherwise.

Fundamental Adventist
Plus...if Daniel was a liar then the entire Bible couldn't be trusted, but most importantly, Jesus Himself would have to be a liar because He referred to what was "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" He would have been endorsing a liar, making Him decidedly NOT God.

Rowland Nelken
It seems that 'lying' or, to use a posh word 'pseudopigraphy' was an acceptable genre in Daniel's time. The Books of Enoch and Jubilees claim to be authored by Enoch and Methusaleh, though the language is contemporary with that of Daniel. You are right, sir, the Bible cannot be relied upon as a history book by modern standards, and Jesus, whoever he was, was certainly not God. Whether or no there is a God, I would not presume to know. It is beyond proof or disproof. Such depictions of God as we have, in a range of Holy writings, though, are quite definitely works of the human imagination. Alone amongst the animal kingdom, we humans have a curiosity about our origins and purpose. The Bible and Koran are attempts to satisfy that curiosity in a distant, pre scientific age.

Fundamental Adventist
There must be something inside you searching to know seem so interested in these things

Rowland Nelken
I was raised partly as a JW via my mother, though my father was both Marxist and Zionist. All three movements, I have concluded, are ridiculous. They have, however, inspired millions of people, not all of them stupid. Many, indeed, have demonstrated prodigious learning.

The power of delusory notions, is dangerous. I t has been the engine for religious persecution, for ethnic cleansing, for the Nazi Holocaust, for Stalin's purges, for the current troubles in the Holy Land, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan and many more places.

A 'search for understanding' no way implies that I expect to find a God at the end of it, any more than I expect to define a master race or a perfect political/ economic system. Crackpot notions, JWdom in particular, overshadowed my childhood. I believe that a world without the notion of God written books, would not, of itself, create happiness. It is, however, an essential step on the route...

Rowland Nelken
Further, were I to conclude that there is probably a God, it would bear no relation to the genocidal God of the early Old Testament or the vengeful, arbitrarily destructive God of the Book of Revelation.

Fundamental Adventist
From what I've observed in the world...the only hope humans have of achieving any kind of lasting happiness is if God miraculously steps in and destroys the sin that makes us act so vile to one another.

I carry that hope around with me because He promised there WILL be a day when "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Rev 21:4

Rowland Nelken
The preordained paradise delusion is a copout. Sure, life is messy, unpredictable, unfair and often cruel. It is up to us, the fallible human race, to do what we can to improve it. Lenin thought that helping with famine relief during the Czarist era was a waste of time. The preordained Communist Paradise would render aid superfluous and irrelevant. Lenin believed in the economic numbers of Karl Marx. JWs trust to the Biblical numbers of Daniel, Revelation et al. to give them the excuse to shut themselves off from the world and await Divine deliverance.

I agree that the poetic imagery, in your quote from the end of Revelation is beguiling. This peace and beauty only arrives, however, after an orgy of arbitrary destruction. If Paradise means living in a world where virtue is defined as believing in Hebrew number puzzles, then I prefer the world as it is.

Fundamental Adventist
I've heard it said that once we reach a certain age we start to become the architects of our own demise by the way we live, the choices we make...smoking, drugs, unsafe sex...whatever they may be. I think the same can be said of our species as a whole: the weapons we create, the ecosystems we destroy, the natural resources we drain, etc.

My hope of the eternal paradise God has waiting for those who surrender to His goodness does is not something to be used as an excuse for excuse to put my head in the sand and wait for Christ to make everything better. On the contrary, my belief in God's words compel me to go and make things better. For Jesus is my example and He said He came not to be served...but to serve. God calls us to be good stewards of this planet and its creatures.

So whereas some belief systems cause its adherents to "copout" and turn their backs on all the good that needs to be done and simply trust that the system they follow will fix everything for them, I believe Christianity...true Christianity, not religion, causes the opposite.

Rowland Nelken
Evidence of doom mongers recurs throughout human history. Zoroaster, 'Daniel', the Revelation man, whoever he was, and you, are but a small sample. Read Act 4 Sc. 4 of Shakespeare's 'Winter's Tale' - you will see a classic - yoof today - the world's going to the dogs' type whinge.

Try getting some ecstatic visions of your own, writing them down and having them appropriately bound. With the right PR machine you could generate a doomster cult of your very own. Why stick with the Hebrews of old?

Rowland Nelken
'Beloved men, know that this is the truth: This world is in haste, and approaches its end,

and therefore always in the world
The longer it is, the worse it gets

Wulfstan, Archbishop of York (died AD 1023)

Rowland Nelken
Have just now read your link, 'Fun. Ad'., to the Apologetics bit on Daniel. It is meaningless. The author of the 'APologetics' piece says that Daniel's Babylonian/Persian pedigree is questioned on account of the prophecies' uncanny accuracy. That is not the case. It is the style of Hebrew and Aramaic that has led scholars to place it in the 2nd century BC. The writer also refers to Daniel's canonical status in Qumran. This, it is said, would be impossible with a contemporary work. Veneration demands antiquity. 'Jubilees' and 'Enoch' are also Qumran sacred works, contemporary with Daniel, and, like 'his' book, are pseudopigraphical.

I appreciate your wish to see the Bible as a unified and sacred document and a guide to our future. Facts, alas, (or fortunately, respecting the Bible's horror stories and its sometimes murderous God) obstruct the realisation of that wish at every turn.

Fundamental Adventist
Have faith, bro...God won't let you down

Fundamental Adventist
In regard to the article, the date of Daniel is questioned by critics for a few reasons, the prophecies being one but the style of Aramaic being another...and the author does address the latter.

"A final contribution from Qumran to the biblically claimed date for Daniel’s composition comes from linguistic considerations. Though, as we mentioned earlier, critical scholars argue that the Aramaic sections in Daniel indicate a second-century B.C. date of composition, the Qumran materials suggest otherwise. In fact, a comparison of the documents at Qumran with Daniel demonstrates that the Aramaic in Daniel is a much earlier composition than the second-century B.C. Such a comparison further demonstrates that Daniel was written in a region different from that of Judea. For example, the Genesis Apocryphon found in Cave 1 is a second-century B.C. document written in Aramaic—the same period during which critical scholars argue that Daniel was composed. If the critical date for Daniel’s composition were correct, it should reflect the same linguistic characteristics of the Genesis Apocryphon. Yet, the Aramaic of these two books is markedly dissimilar."

Fundamental Adventist
"The Genesis Apocryphon, for example, tends to place the verb toward the beginning of the clause, whereas Daniel tends to defer the verb to a later position in the clause. Due to such considerations, linguists suggest that Daniel reflects an Eastern type Aramaic, which is more flexible with word order, and exhibits scarcely any Western characteristics at all. In each significant category of linguistic comparison (i.e., morphology, grammar, syntax, vocabulary), the Genesis Apocryphon (admittedly written in the second century B.C.) reflects a much later style than the language of Daniel (Archer, 1980, 136:143; cf. Yamauchi, 1980). Interestingly, the same is true when the Hebrew of Daniel is compared with the Hebrew preserved in the Qumran sectarian documents (i.e., those texts composed by the Qumran community reflecting their peculiar societal laws and religious customs). From such linguistic considerations provided by Qumran, Daniel hardly could have been written by a Jewish patriot in Judea during the early second-century B.C., as the critics charge."

Rowland Nelken
Some folks will stop at nothing to try and salvage the Bible's reputation as a unified work, which tells the story of mankind from Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. Historically, due to its influence in shaping nations, its role as a factor in Christendom's wars, the Bible is of huge importance. With careful selection, some transcendental teachings can be found within it.

Where, though, is the virtue in having 'faith' in the strange imagery and number puzzles? I would not put my faith in a God who starts off as one of many Gods (in Genesis), becomes a supernatural racist warrior (Joshua), and an arbitrary murderer of much of humanity (Revelation).

En route, he has decided that he is the only God. The other rival Gods, are suddenly, and arbitrarily, declared fictional. This 'same' God in the psalms promises a return of the Jewish people to their homeland and rich harvests. COmes Daniel and the promise of resurrection and everlasting life is thrown into the mix.

A preacher appears, a freelance rabbi with some new teachings for a post nationalist age. After his death Jesus is ascribed a miraculous birth, a Davidic lineage and an ascension to Heaven. With John's Gospel his story is taken back to the beginning of time.

A successor (Paul), creates a radical Jewish sect awaiting an imminent rapture to Heaven. When the rapture is delayed the sect morphs into a separate religion. Gentile recruitment requires a toning down, and then an abandonment, of Jewish law.

Where is the virtue in believing that this intriguing historical development of ideas, nations and sects is some Divine Truth, which belief will give a chance of everlasting life?It is preposterous. As a JW kid, I believed a version of the above implicitly. I have since discovered that End of the World doomsters have been around, certainly since the time of Zoroaster.

Wm. Miller, Ellen WHite, Pastor Russell, David Koresh can join the ranks of CHristopher COlumbus, Archbishop Wulfstan, Isaac Newton, St. Augustine of Hippo, Gerrard Winstanley, Mahomet, Several pretend 'Mahdis' as well as Rudolf Steiner and Peter the Hermit.

The APocalypse is a figment of the human imagination.I am not going to sign up to one of the current options and I hope you recover from your delusions.

Best wishes,


Fundamental Adventist
Maybe you won't come to God, but humor me because I enjoy the conversation. Your posts leave me with more questions than responses so if you'll lend me even more of your time and thought I'm curious about your answers. (side note: I've placed this dialogue we've been having on my blog but will change your name to "anonymous" if you want?

Which passage in Genesis are you referring to when you mentioned "starting off as one of many Gods"?

In regard to the "arbitrary murderer of humanity," I don't see it as arbitrary at all...but as the only possible way to get the universe back to a state of perpetual happiness, i.e. to destroy sin.

I suppose someone could say, "Why not destroy the sin and leave the people alive, sinless?" But that would essentially be creating slaves that behave as God sees fit. As opposed to beings who enjoy the freedom of choice and decide of their own free will that they want to follow God's way of happiness and peace.

What caught a glimpse into the future to see the Bible really is God's word and that Jesus truly is the Saviour of mankind? What if someone you found that the reality you so firmly believe at this very moment was actually an illusion created by your past and the various teachings that colored the lens with which you evaluate all things Holy? Is it possible...only if for a step outside of all your beliefs and opinions and say "What if...?"

It's obvious you are an intelligent guy so I know you are familiar with the Bible verses that speak of scoffers in the last days who say things have been the same since the beginning, there's always been people around saying "the end is near! the end is near!"...knowing you think it's truly safe to base any conclusions on what other people have done or said in the past?

If you don't want to continue the conversation that's okay, and best wishes to you as well.

Rowland Nelken
'COming to God?' What does this mean? The God of CHristopher Columbus, he who was cited by Isaiah as the one who would bring the Word of the Lord to the distant isles? (i.e. Cuba and Hispaniola). If one were raised as an Egyptian Soldier, doing one's sacred duty chasing after runaway slaves, a drowning in the Red Sea would seem an arbitrary punishment. The early OT God is a racist. I do not want to 'come' to such a God.

I wonder did COlumbus enquire of scoffers what might be their reaction if, having glimpsed the future, they could see that COlumbus was right and the World would End a la Revelation in 1658?

I was hoodwinked by a bunch of JW doomsters as a kid. I am not going to leap into believing some related APocalyptic myth simply because you are going through a stage of finding such a preposterous idea appealing.

I have no wish to hide my name, and will get back to you, Chapter and Verse, on the nature og the OT God as simply one of many.

Rowland Nelken
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 95. 3 - The above implies that the belief in God as a top God, rather than the only God, was abroad amongst the Hebrews when the Bible was compiled and redacted, early in the Persian period.

Fundamental Adventist
True, the Hebrew people many times not only believed in other gods, but worshipped them instead of the true God. But again, I simply cannot base what I see as truth on what other people throughout history may have said or thought...I can base reality only on what God has said and done.

As far as the Egyptian soldiers...I can only say that as a human we are nothing if not fallible and blind so I must defer to the mighty God, who created all things and can see the thoughts and intents of men's hearts as clearly as the noon-day sun, to judge, and judge righteously, the people He has destroyed.

I often wonder about the "What if"s of God's judgment, such as, "What if one of those Egyptian soldiers would have eventually come to believe and follow the true God and been saved had not he been destroyed before he got the chance?" Or, "What if some of those destroyed by Christ's second coming would have, if given more time, chosen to follow Him and been saved if only Jesus would have delayed His coming a bit longer?"

To these questions, again, I can only believe that because God is all-knowing and exists outside of the constraints of space and time, always seeing the beginning from the ending, He knew who would continue in their sins regardless of how much time they were given.

It seems that God can no more do something arbitrarily than He can do something evil....and even beyond that: what I believe about God, my opinions and assumptions and beliefs, mean less than nothing. It would be as if an ant could judge the infinite cosmos accurately and precisely.

Ultimately, our perception of what is real has no bearing on what is actually true in this life or the one to come.

Rowland Nelken
I appreciate that human knowledge about the universe is still partial, albeit iincreasing enormously. I can see that you are likely to remain, as I was as a JW kid, a Bibliolater. FOr you there is a connection between virtue and an implicit belief in the literal Truth of the Bible. I see no such connection. You sound like a decent guy. I do not envy you the mental gymnastics essential for reconciling this violent God, whose proclaimed Word has generated such fruitless and destructive prophetic speculation, with your own, apparently benign attitude towards humanity.

I look forward to the day when the Bible and Koran are recognised as significant purely for their historical interest. It may one day be a source of wonder how these works from a distant primitive age, continued to be regarded as complete guides to life, past, present and future, for so many centuries after the scientific revolution should have consigned their importance to history.

Fundamental Adventist
I'm sure you already know which day it is that I look forward to.

Until that day, friend. :-)

Fundamental Adventist
God loves you.

Rowland Nelken
What is your Christ returning/Rapture/Armageddon/Day of Judgement date? As you know, from Biblical text juggling a whole range of End Times scenarios can be dreamed up. 1658? St. Augustine of Hippo and Christopher Columbus.
2062? Isaac Newton - 1843/4? - William Miller, 1881/1914/1915? Pastor Russell - 1925/1941? - Judge Rutherford. 1834? Elspat Buchan. 1975? Nathan Homer Knorr.

When they fail you can use the 'Thief in the Night' quote.

I have no evidence that God would love me. The God of my childhood was due to murder all who did not attend the Kingdom Hall or go door to door with a bag of mags. The OT God killed Mrs. Lot on account of normal human curiosity.

The OT God massacred the Amalekites for belonging to the wrong race. What makes you so confident that this strange God creature of your imagination would love me?

Best wishes Fundy; I hope that one day you recover from your delusions.


Fundamental Adventist
Ahh I can't tell you when Christ is coming...and the thief in the night quote would be certainly misapplied in that situation. Sometime after 1844 is all the Bible tells us...there are no more time-prophecies left to be fulfilled.

A passage not out of context would be Christ's words when He said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only."

Anyone who sets a date has always been and will always be in error. Don't forget the even more recent predictions of the 1980's return by Hal Linsey and Arnold Murray, etc.

In response to your other question...I am confident that God loves you because He created you...everything about who you are He made and loves and wants to be with forever. He is more your Father than any man or woman could ever be. Your intelligence, your wit, your heart...everything good in you is His creation and He loves it, because it is who He made you to be...holy, happy, loving, compassionate, kind, humble, forgiving, trusting, believing...full of joy.

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