Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In studying (the) apocalypse...

If you have ever thought about THE APOCALYPSE, the wikipedia article is a MUST read. Evidently there is more to it than the end of the world. In Greek, it just means visions / information revealed to a person by God. More recently (last 1700-1800 years) apocalypses refers to the things Peter was told about in "The Apocalypses of Peter", or "Revelations of Peter" aka "The book of Revelations. But there are MANY books of revelations made to many people, and certainly not all about the end of the world.

If we are only talking about 'apocalypses', then there needs to be room to consider any number of issues. Personally, world destroyed by nuclear holocaust I don't find very delightful, not to mention not really a subject I think is very interesting, in so far as I might have influence or learn something from its study. However, in a broader sense, its relationship to "special" knowledge, like does God talk to people and tell them things that nobody else gets to know and we have to trust them, and about truth and stuff... much more interesting.

As for the broader topic, there is lots of great philosophers out there that discuss 'what is truth', and how do we believe things, and does 'God' talk to us, and what of visions that might make one think that they are directly communicating with 'God'.

Some insightful quotes from various Wikipedia articles:

"[Calvin] states that the whole sum of our wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.[48] Calvin argues that the knowledge of God is not inherent in man nor can knowledge be discovered in observing this world. The only way to obtain it was to be taught through scripture." ~John Calvin

"[Thomas] Aquinas believed that truth is known through reason (natural revelation) and faith (supernatural revelation). Supernatural revelation has its origin in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and is made available through the teaching of the prophets, summed up in Holy Scripture ... Natural revelation is the truth available to all people through their human nature; certain truths all men (and women)can attain from correct human reasoning." (Thomas Aquinas, Wikipedia)

"[Descartes] attempts to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt ... he rejects any ideas that can be doubted, and then reestablishes them in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge... Initially, Descartes arrives at only a single principle: thought exists." (Rene Descartes, Wikipedia)

"Being a "Spinozist"... was the equivalent in his time of being called an atheist. Jacobi claimed that Spinoza's doctrine was pure materialism, because all Nature and God are said to be nothing but extended substance." (Spinoza, Wikipedia) also has LOTS on the study of the subject and many philosophers that talked about empirical and divine truth, and the difficulties of each.

If we want to take a closer look at apocalypse, or THE Apocalypse, why should we be interested in group think driven Bible lesson?

"[Sarah] Kierkegaard criticizes all systematic philosophies which attempt to know life or the truth of existence via theories and objective knowledge about reality. As Kierkegaard claims, human truth is something that is continually occurring, and a human being cannot find truth separate from the subjective experience of one's own existing, defined by the values and fundamental essence that consist of one's way of life." (Truth, Wikipedia)

This seems like a great argument against apocalypse. In my understanding, truth can only come from sharing and recycling such conclusions one draws themselves until a collective experience is able to project a closest possible approximation of the truth. However, group think and "tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions" (Confirmation bias) can still create mass falsehoods. This is why things must always be up for debate, and in relationship to the scientific method, must be testable such that a model is able to bring about information that wasn't otherwise known, continues to confirm a theory.

The idea of an Apocalypse attempts to completely circumvent such processes to assert truth that can only be confirmed by itself (See Immanuel Kant). No matter how scary such predictions may be (See Revelations of Peter) or consequences of denying such truth, to accept these as "Transcendent Truth" without further empirical analysis is reckless. You might as well give all your money to the next guy you see on tv that asks you too (Like the 700 Club).

There is an strange divide in what some accept as reasonable proof of historical events, and what we would accept today as new truth or better understanding. I will admit that it appears we are a bit more skeptical today than we have been in the past, or at least hope. Many people accept the revelations of Peter as fact, but I would find it very difficult to anyone would take seriously similar predictions if made today (not counting Global Warming), at least with respect to predictions of what "God" wants or will do in either the near or far future. Any such prediction would require some kind of outside confirmation.

It could be argued that people are enchanted with the idea of terrorism. Bush said God tells him to bring democracy to the rest of the world (at any cost), but is this the same kind of predictions made by Peter if we are to accept his 'visions' as truth? If Bush's visions are just a modernization of the same old 'story', shouldn't that give even greater reason for skepticism?

I mean, look what happened last time. Please, when are we going to expect a minimal amount of prudent skepticism of the past that we already expect today, and awknowledged WE HAVE CHANGED.

Guess it would need to be true first. :)

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