Theology Thursdays: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Prophecy and Messiah VII
I once had a business meeting with an individual that went well for a couple of hours. Towards the end of the meeting the person said to me, "Cedric, we agree with each other on a lot of things but I think we may have problems because I am an atheist and you believe in God." I just smiled, not concerned, having already become quite familiar with the mindset of people who state they do not believe in God and reject religion. I said to this person, "Well, I am not so sure where we really have a significant disagreement. You believe that the universe and life within it is graded, right?", I asked. The person agreed. "You believe that human beings have manifested different levels of intelligence and power, in a variety of categories, right?" The person agreed. I said well then I think if we reasoned enough with one another we could arrive at a criteria by which we could identify the supreme being on the planet earth." To that, this person also agreed. I continued, "The only thing that we may not agree upon at this early stage is whether or not this supreme being is vested with the power to create or re-create the universe or control the course of human events." This person agreed again. "So we are not that far apart, right?" I asked. The person said, "I guess not" and smiled. We both laughed.
Too often when we discuss God and religion we deal first with rituals, next dogma and then doctrine. We reason with one another less frequently than we should. We parrot more than we explain. We skim and read more than we study. We present hardened positions more than we engage in dialogue. The same takes place in politics.
One of the most interesting things to consider is whether or not there is any real difference in religion and politics. Is not one's politics their religion? Don't both subjects deal with the best way to live or enjoying the highest possible quality of life, as individuals and communities?
Try science and religion.
Is there really any difference? Consider carefully, this thought-provoking statement from theologian Jabril Muhammad in his book, This Is The One:
There are people who tell you they are realists, who say "I don't believe in anything I can't see." Who can see sound? Who can see what the nose smells? Who denies that people become aware of different things through different senses. For instance, electricity can't be seen. But we use it every time we turn on the radio; the television; use the phone, or turn on a light bulb. Furthermore, who has ever put his physical hand on a law of nature, such as the law of gravity? But if you deny its existence and step out of a window on the 10th floor of some building, you will be in big trouble.
There are Black people who claim to be realists, who will admit the above, yet deny the existence of any wisdom higher than what can be learned in the white man's colleges and universities. They confess that they do not know everything and that white people do not have a monopoly on wisdom today. Still, they speak and write as though there is no greater knowledge beyond what they have gained, or are studying, that comes from white people. They are like those whom the Holy Qur'an condemns when they say:
Our hearts are repositories. (2:88)
They feel that their knowledge is sufficient. They are puffed up over what they have learned, and they do not see or feel the need for information from any source they think is "beneath" them. Such proud people regard the truth of Allah as "beneath" them, or at least, irrelevant to the real problems of today. Such people will usually tell you that "science" deals only with perceptible and verifiable realities. Therefore, the findings of "science" are superior to the results of "religion," which they say concerns that which cannot be demonstrated. Is this so? Is it not true that the scientists of this world depend on the unseen universal reign of law that is inherent in everything everywhere? Is not their ability to reason rooted in the belief, if not the conviction, of the rationality of existence, which is grounded in that which they cannot see with the physical eye? What prevents us from believing that there may be dimensions of existence transcending the level we are now aware of? Nevertheless, many Black people deny that there is a higher level of perception than what they are on. This is pathetic! This is a shame!
We are all acquainted with the fact that existence is graded. That is, we observe and experience, matter (stone, sand), life (insects, plants), animal life (dogs, camels) and humans. We also know that the human mind has grades. There is nothing irrational in believing that there are realms, or mental levels, beyond the experience most of us live on.
The supposed dialogue that has taken place between the "religious" and "secular" has left much to be desired in my view. In an honest discussion, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that any criticisms the non-religious person has of religion could easily apply to science and mathematics. Scientists, when you look at the premises, assumptions and presuppositions that undergird their work, are absolutely dependent upon the unseen, and grounded in that which they cannot see with their physical eyes.
Just focus on mathematics like we did last week. Scientists cannot even give you a coherent explanation of what it is, why it works and where it came from - yet they still get great utility from it. Yes, they depend upon it.
Essentially any dialogue between the scientists, atheists and religious over reality and life must focus on whether or not intelligence and will "produced" the universe and life or whether the universe and life are accidents. Is the universe and life here as a result of purpose, or as the result of an accident? A person once told me "if it takes intelligence to understand the universe, it took intelligence to produce it." What is the best way to discuss this subject?
What is an accident? Accident is defined in dictionaries as: "An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm" and "Lack of intention; chance."
What is purpose? Purpose is defined in part, in some dictionaries as: "The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal" and "A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention."
What about intention? Intention is defined as: "A course of action that one intends to follow." And "An aim that guides action; an objective."
Ask anybody whether they believe their life is intended or an accident. Ask a person do they believe they are fulfilling their purpose. If so, ask them where did that purpose originate - with themselves or from a source outside of themselves? Can there ever be an effect without a cause?
Scientists are very much concerned with the function of every entity in the universe. They go into great depth to identify the degree to which each thing, person, animal, plant, planet or star relates to every other. Can there be a reasonable explanation of the function of a multi-layered universe without there being a discussion of whether or not there was a design or concept that preceded that universe? Again, if intelligence is required to understand the universe did not intelligence precede the universe's existence and even design it? Can there ever be an effect without a cause?
Design means, "To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent; To formulate a plan for; devise; To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form; To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect; To have as a goal or purpose; intend; To create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner."
The universe cannot be fully understood; the various functions fulfilled within it identified; nor explained; without the use of mathematics - in study or presentation.
OK, think now about your own reasoning and thinking process. Get personal. What is the process by which you are "convinced" of anything? How do you arrive at whether or not a decision is proper or not? How do you determine whether something which has occurred is an accident or by design? How skilled are you at identifying a purpose in anything or anyone? How skilled are you in tracing the cause of an event by studying its effect - the event itself? People look for patterns in determining whether or not there is intelligence, reason, cause, design, intention and an active will at work in the study of phenomenon. Pattern is defined as, "A model or original used as an archetype; A person or thing considered worthy of imitation; A plan, diagram, or model to be followed in making things; A representative sample; a specimen; A design of natural or accidental origin; A consistent, characteristic form, style, or method, A composite of traits or features characteristic of an individual or a group."
People claim that history repeats itself or that there are striking patterns in an analysis of the course of human events. Historiography deals with this study. It is defined as: "The principles, theories, or methodology of scholarly historical research and presentation. The writing of history based on a critical analysis, evaluation, and selection of authentic source materials and composition of these materials into a narrative subject to scholarly methods of criticism. A body of historical literature."
What about in the future tense? Can historiography be used to predict future events? Does an intense study of recorded history allow one to write history in advance or to prophesy? Are there other ways to predict the future that involve different sciences which take people into higher "realms or mental levels, beyond the experience most of us live on?"
If a person were today, able to predict every NBA game in the upcoming playoffs correctly - including the details of every box score and major statistic, what would you think of that person's mental level? Could it be possible that every team in the playoffs and every player on that team was in collusion or working in concert with the person predicting the outcomes of each game? Is it reasonable to believe that every player has enough control over their own behavior and has the skill level necessary to perfectly follow a script, for a game written in advance? In other words, suppose the predictions regarding the game were given to each player in advance and they were able to study their part or predicted performance, weeks in advance. Would they be able to produce game results and box scores - rebounds, assists, turnovers, fouls – exactly as they were written? My opinion is that they could not in the course of a game that followed NBA rules that govern a normal game.
What if a person were to have told you in 1990 that George W. Bush was going to be President of the United States after the 2000 election? And what if they told you the exact number of votes he would have and that a Supreme Court decision would be involved; and the date and hour that Al Gore would "concede" the election. What if they were able to tell you the exact number of votes that Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader would get in that same election? 10 years in advance! Would you think that this was an accident?
Get personal. What if someone told you today that they could see in advance what you will be doing tomorrow? Suppose they told you to select 8 different 20-minute time periods and that they would write on a piece of paper and then place in a sealed envelope and give to you, a full page of details of what you would be doing, thinking and feeling in each of those 8 time frames that you randomly selected in advance. Suppose 48 hours later you opened that sealed envelope and everything written had come to pass. Would you think that this prediction was mere chance or coincidence? I would not.
Why would most people be startled by the above examples? What pattern is demonstrated and what pattern is apparently violated by the predictions?
What if you were told that over 15,000 years ago a detailed view and description of these days was foreseen and written down? What if you were told that a man, over 5,000 years ago was actually spiritually shown in advance Black people being tricked and betrayed in Africa and sold into slavery in the Western Hemisphere. And that same man, was told how long the enslavement would last and the manner by which the people would be freed. Suppose that man was so horrified by what he saw that he asked the Source of his vision of the future, to help the enslaved people – specifically asking that a leader from among them be raised for them who would educate his people in such a way that they would be raised out of their enslaved condition according to the knowledge, wisdom and understanding contained within two books? What if you were told that his earnest request or supplication was recorded and was granted and fulfilled and that you could read all about it today? Would your interest be piqued?
Suppose that the Source of the future vision of this man would eventually reveal to others thousands of years later (but hundreds of years before the event actually took place) a detailed description of the liberation process of the enslaved people and a detailed description of two principal leaders that would lead them out of their condition – and every major detail would be included - their talents, domestic lives, principal helpers, strategies, tactics, plots hatched against them, their most intimate hopes and fears? Would you be interested in this? What if you were one of the people who were living and suffering through the period of enslavement? Wouldn't you want to know everything you could about the process and the two leaders who would lead you and your people to a better life?
What if you were the chief political leader of the nation in which these enslaved people lived? Why wouldn't you be interested in these predictions?
The hard copy of the March 4, 2003 edition of The Final Call newspaper - Volume 22 Number 22 - has a picture of Minister Farrakhan on it with a headline, "Minister Louis Farrakhan delivers A Final Warning to America." Below that headline reads a quote of Minister Farrakhan, taken from his recent Saviours' Day address. It reads:
"The United States matches the nations styled in scripture as Babylon, Egypt and Rome; and her prophesized downfall for rejection of God's way begins with war in Iraq."
Based upon what information is Minister Farrakhan making that statement? I could answer that he speaks as he does based upon the exegesis of both the Bible and Holy Qur'an that he was taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And I could say that while many people may not initially agree with Minister Farrakhan's statement, they could not disprove it or provide a reasonable basis for their disagreement without engaging in historiography and mathematics – whether they believed in religion or not.
Many people all over the world are part of what is described as the anti-war movement or peace movement. They oppose President Bush primarily on moral, economic and political grounds.
Some of their positions are very powerful and persuasive. In my view, Minister Farrakhan uniquely opposes President George W. Bush's intention to invade Iraq. His warning against what President Bush has in his mind is composed of moral, economic, historical, and political elements that are all aspects of his deeper prophetic understanding of the time or term that America has come to. He is arguing that war in Iraq triggers an irreversible phase of the prophesied War of Armageddon and fall of America. I can't point to another leader that makes the comprehensive presentation that he does.
Many Christians speak of the "prophetic" tradition and of "prophetic utterances." Many of them (and others) see Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a prophetic voice especially heard during the Vietnam War. At one point during the height of his opposition to the Vietnam War, Dr. King outright stated that the United States Of America was a "Modern Rome."
What was the basis of his statement?
Engage in a bit of historiography of your own. Visit a good public library, bookstore or college library and review Ernest Gibbons' "Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire." Then get the best definitions from the biggest dictionaries you can find and look up "coincidence," "chance," "collusion," and "collaboration." These terms are important for the mathematics we are moving into relative to proving the reality of prophecy and the power verifying it.
And don't forget to start digging into what is wrapped up in the word "epistemology."
Thursday, March 6, 2003