Tuesday, December 06, 2011

HT City of God: Andrew posts something about the Antichrist


Though, sadly, he offers no insight on when Nicolai Carpathia will appear, O’Donovan offers some otherwise helpful thoughts on the nature and function of the Antichrist. From The Desire of the Nations:

Mission is not merely an urge to expand the scope and sway of the church’s influence. It is to be at the disposal of the Holy Spirit in making Christ’s victory known. It requires, therefore, a discernment of the working of the Spirit and of the Antichrist. These two discernments must accompany each other: to trace the outline of Christ’s dawning reign on earth requires that one trace the false pretensions too. One reason that the idealist language about the Kingdom of God in the late nineteenth century failed to avoid the trap of civilisational legitimation was that it never identified the false horizon, and could grasp social evil only as a regression from civilisation into barbarism. [emphasis added here by the American Indian descended Wenatchee the Hatchet] Recognition of the Antichrist is a recurrent theme in the doctrine of the Two. Gelasius observed it in the pretensions of imperial authority; Gregory VII in the involvement of kings in episcopal appointments; Wyclif and his successors paradoxically in the structure of papal administration which Gregory’s successors created. Yet there is a single theme which connects the varied warnings of Antichrist in different ages: the convergence in one subject of claims to earthly poltiical rule and heavenly soteriological mediation. John of Patmos found it present not in the Roman empire as such but quite specifically in the imperial cult. It was therefore not inappopriate to discern Antichrist even in the papacy, while it claimed universal juridical competence over political societies and wielded it in the name of mankind’s salvation. The rejection of Antichrist is the rejection of a unified political and theological authority other than that which is vested in Christ’s own person. [emphasis added by Wenatchee the Hatchet] That is to say, it is implied in the basic structure of the Two itself. (pp. 214-215)

We are tempted to think, perhaps, that the concept of Antichrist, capable of such shifting and contrasting applications from age to age, is useless for serious theological analysis; but it is not so. There is no one Antichrist; but in any period of history Antichrist may take shape as one thing, challenging the claims of God’s Kingdom with its own. Every candidate nominated for the role of Antichrist has passed away. That does not itself invalidate any attempt to identify it; for that identification is part of an age’s secret knowledge about itself, its interpretation of its own ‘today’ from the point of view of its today. Of course, those who never want to be out of date will never interpret their today; they will wait until they can read about it in the newspapers. But those whose business lies with practical reason cannot take their place among what P. T. Forsyth called ‘bystanders of history’. When believers find themselves confronted with an order that, implicitly or explicitly, offers itself as the sufficient and necessary condition of human welfare, they will recognise the beast. When a political structure makes this claim, we call it ‘totalitarian’. (pp. 273-274)

I'd actually write something about this but I have more pressing things to do lately.  I will say, though it may be construed as purely polemical, that you need to be able to see the Antichrist impulse in yourself and your own associations before you go looking for it in everyone and everything else.  It is also important to bear in mind that the way most Christians use "Antichrist" is in a way that conflates the Antichrist with the Beast, which won't necessarily be an accurate conflation.  John's epistles indicate three kinds of antichrists: 1) those who leave the Christian faith 2) those who deny that Jesus is the Christ and 3) those that deny Jesus came in the flesh.  The Beast, however, could be construed as including all three types and the mark of the beast may be seen as the veneration required by the imperial cult for Roman citizenship and trade. 

What is interesting is how selectively American pastors and pundits have been about identifying an executive as an antichrist.  Liberals have said that George W Bush was an antichrist for claiming God backed the United States.  Conservatives have referred to the Obamanation of Desolation.  Notice what doesn't get said by either side, that the United States itself must be the Beast for such an association to even get made with any seriousness.  No, we don't want to suggest the United States itself is the Beast becasue America was founded on Christian principles, right?  Or America was founded on secularist/deistic principles promoting religious pluralism and liberty and so couldn't be something as oppressive as a Beast from Revelation, right?  Well, pretty much wrong on both counts.  Psalm 2 refers to all the nations and does not omit a few select entities that might now conveniently have certain alliances to Israel.  Not that Israel is somehow not part of "the nations" for that matter but that's another subject.

Well, okay, so I ended up writing a few things anyway.  That wasn't the plan.  But as I have often said, I ramble.

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