Meditations on INTERPRETATION & AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
Note: the following was posted May 26, 2010 by Don Doherty on The Weinland Witness blog. Since it will probably be deleted soon, I have captured it here.
All is quiet on the Weinland Witness blogs. Time perhaps for some reflection to re-examine the basis of Mr Weinland’s end-time teachings.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
or Meditations on INTERPRETATION & AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
MEDITATION No. 1: ON THE BACKGROUND TO “GOD’S 7000 YEAR PLAN”
“God’s 7000 year plan”, as such, is not mentioned in the Bible, but was formulated by inference from 7-day-week typology by 2nd century Christians. The hopes of early Christians were, at first, dominated by the firm expectation of Christ’s imminent return. When that expectation was not fulfilled, most adjusted with remarkable ease to the notion of an indefinitely postponed Second Coming and others to the more finely tuned “God’s 7000 year plan”. Some thought that the 6-day working week and the Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11 might represent symbolically a 6-thousand year period (mankind’s existence) and a further 1000 year period (millennial reign by Jesus Christ), respectively. The conceptual origins lie in Jewish Rabbinic Literature of traditional Judaism, e.g. in Sanhedrin 97 of the Talmud, Rabbi Kattina is quoted: “One thousand years out of seven shall be fallow”. Further concepts from Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8 and Revelation 20:6-7 complete the ingredients for the “plan”. The first instance in which a Christian writer indicates that the world as we know it would last 6000 years followed by a 1000 year reign of Christ is in the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas 15:1-8 (early 2nd century AD).
MEDITATION No. 2: ON MR WEINLAND & THE ACHAEOLOGISTS
(a) The essential presupposition on which “God’s 7000 year plan” relies is that current mankind has existed on earth for no longer than 6000 years. That “6000 year” presupposition is so dominant and so all-pervading in Mr Weinland’s end-time thinking that he returns to it repeatedly and emphatically as a constant underlying theme more than 40 times in his book “2008 God’s Final Witness” (pages 2, 7, 10, 11, 12, 16, 20, 26, 50, 51, 52, 55, 56, 57, 58, 62, 65, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 81, 82, 84, 112, 129, 133, 139, 143, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 173, 178, 179, 180, 224, & 244). The “6000 years” presupposition is derived from taking as historical fact a LITERAL INTERPRETATION of the Genesis creation stories of Adam and Eve and Biblical genealogies. In Mr Weinland’s view, the “plan” indicates that God has now allowed mankind 6000 years of inept, bloodstained, and disastrous self-rule, therefore the return of Jesus Christ to establish a peaceful millennial rule on earth is imminent.
(b) The unanimous and universally accepted finding of mainstream archaeologists is that we, current mankind (the sub-species Homo sapiens), are directly descended from our behaviourally modern Homo sapiens ancestors who lived at least 40,000 years ago. This is undisputed in mainstream science and archaeology. It’s based on a unanimous INTERPRETATION of archaeological evidence of Homo sapiens found world-wide in reliably dated time periods going back tens of thousands of years. Archaeologists are not merely saying that other now-extinct types of non-humans (e.g. Neanderthal man) who were not our ancestors once lived prior to 4000 BC, but that we are direct descendants of Homo sapiens ancestors who lived at least 40,000 years ago.
On page 27 of his book “2008GFW”, Mr Weinland says, “Lying is the outcome of people being right in their own eyes and stubbornly holding to their own viewpoint, regardless of evidence to the contrary”. Even though he repeatedly stresses his “6000 years existence of mankind” viewpoint more than 40 times in his book, Mr Weinland never acknowledges the existence of the well-known scientific “evidence to the contrary”. It’s never raised or discussed. The problem with investigating prehistory solely by consulting scripture is that it ignores the wealth of available material evidence, and bypasses the stringent checks and balances of the scientific method. The result will be a THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION of historical scripture, but not a SCIENTIFIC INTERPRETATION of the pre-historical evidence.
However, as the online article at
http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p87.htm entitled “Adam, Eve, and the Hominid Fossil Record” points out: “The God of the Bible is also the God of nature. We need to embrace a worldview that remains true, both to responsible interpretations of the Bible and also to our present scientific knowledge of the world”. The article goes on to say, ”The fossil record gives no indication that humans appeared suddenly. Rather it suggests continuity between pre-human and human physical forms. This evidence suggests a strong, unbroken sequence of forms from Ardipithecus to Australopithecus to Homo sapiens. Although it cannot be proven, the simplest conclusion is that the later forms were descended from the earlier ones”. However, what can and has been proven, and what is undisputed in mainstream science and archaeology and accepted by a majority of Christians, is that behaviourally modern Homo sapiens appeared about 40,000 years ago and that we are their direct descendants.
If the Biblical story as seen by Mr Weinland contradicts that, maybe it’s because he is INTERPRETING scripture in a way that’s inconsistent with the God of nature. Most mainstream Biblical scholars conclude that the Genesis accounts of the creation of the world have their background in ancient Near Eastern mythology, and should not be INTERPRETED as providing a scientific account of the origin of the universe. For instance, according to Professor J.R. Porter (Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Exeter, UK) such accounts are religious, not scientific, statements which are designed to show God’s glory and greatness, the result of theological reflection by which the older mythology was radically transformed to express Israel’s distinctive faith (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, New York/Oxford, OUP, 1993, p.140).
MEDITATION No. 3: ON KEEPING PACE
“God’s 7000 Year Plan” was formulated in the 2nd century at a time when all Christians believed, according to THEIR LITERAL INTERPRETATION of scripture, that the Bible taught that our entire universe, including the earth and all living creatures, were literally created by God around 4000 BC. This is no longer a majority Christian belief. Mr Weinland himself, for example, accepts (a) that the earth is millions of years old, and (b) that forms of life existed on earth prior to 4000 BC (pp.150-152, 2008GFW). Had he been an early Christian living in a pre-scientific age, he most certainly would not have held those beliefs. These are but two examples of how RE-INTERPRETATION of scripture is required to keep pace with universally accepted mainstream scientific and archaeological discoveries.
However, having accepted archaeologists’ above findings, Mr Weinland then labels as “sick” anyone who might teach that mankind has existed on earth for at least 40,000 years, or, as he puts it, “doesn’t accept the story of Adam and Eve as part of his history” (p.55, 2008GFW). Why does he accept the former archaeological findings but reject the latter? Because it challenges HIS INTERPRETATION of scripture. If mankind’s origins can be traced back more than 40,000 years, then it’s certainly not the case that “God’s purpose from the outset, before He ever placed man on earth, was to give him 6000 years of self-rule”, as Mr Weinland claims (2008GFW, p.72). If the archaeologists are right, “God’s 7000 year plan” instantly self-destructs because it never existed in the first place. Rejecting scientific findings on the basis of lack of evidence or faulty analysis of data is fair enough, but Mr Weinland never explores that. Rejecting a scientific finding on the basis that it challenges one’s INTERPRETATION of scripture is one of the hallmarks of fundamentalist Christianity. For example, based on his astronomical observations in the 17th century, Galileo taught the heliocentric view that the sun, not the earth, was at the centre of our universe (i.e. that the earth revolved around the sun, not the sun around the earth), thus challenging the then current Christian INTERPRETATION of scripture. In 1616, the then-fundamentalist Catholic Church condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture”, and later convicted Galileo of heresy. Lesson learned: The problem wasn’t Galileo, or scripture, or science – the problem was ILL-INFORMED INTERPRETATION of scripture, an important distinction.
The above three examples – the age of the earth, life forms prior to 4000 BC, and heliocentrism – illustrate how RE-INTERPRETATION of scripture is required to keep pace with scientific and archaeological discoveries. Science, by its very nature, is always open to RE-INTERPRETATION of the evidence, and subsequent fine-tuning of its findings. That’s a given, and that’s how advances in knowledge occur. But any fine-tuning of modern major scientific findings which have long enjoyed universal support, such as the age of the earth, life-forms before 4000 BC, heliocentrism, and mankind’s descent from ancestors who lived 40,000 years ago, is unlikely to displace the central tenets of those findings.
Science is not the only field of human endeavour which drives changes and revisions in INTERPRETATION of scripture. More enlightened social attitudes also lead to such changes. For example, in 19th century America, many fundamentalist churches vigorously quoted scriptural passages to justify retention of slavery. In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a sincere apology for its past policies on race, slavery, and segregation which their members had previously justified by THEIR INTERPRETATION of scripture. They had formerly taught that because God’s laws (e.g. Exodus 21:1-11,20,26,32, Leviticus 25:39-46, Ephesians 6:5-8, Titus 2:9, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, & 1 Peter 2:18) so clearly endorse the institution of slavery, then slavery must also be legitimate for modern Christians – “Slavery is of God!” cried the anti-abolitionist preachers. (Whether the Bible actually endorses slavery as it existed in the 18th and 19th centuries is another question, but the point is that that was THEIR INTERPRETATION.) These four examples – the age of the earth, life-forms before 4000 BC, heliocentrism, and the question of slavery – all make the point that INTERPRETATION of scripture needs to change to keep pace with scientific discoveries and more enlightened social attitudes.
Mr Weinland presumably accepts the necessity to revise EARLIER CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATIONS OF SCRIPTURE to keep pace with those abovementioned four examples. However, his LITERAL INTERPRETATION of Genesis in relation to mankind’s time on earth has failed to keep pace with one of the most important scientific discoveries of modern times. Mr Weinland never acknowledges this in his writings. As far as I can tell, the point has never been raised for discussion in these blogs either, almost as if readers are trying to ignore the well-known and all-too-obvious inconvenient truth or “elephant in the room”. There is an excellent online article at http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?446 entitled “Science and Religion: Handling Conflicts” which I think is a thoughtful and balanced approach to the “elephant” problem.
Those who use “God’s 7000 year plan” to indicate the timing of the return of Jesus Christ must surely know that it’s a plan based on the demonstrably false assumption that mankind has lived on earth for no longer than 6000 years, that it’s not explicitly taught in scripture, and that it’s constructed by man not by God. Some might say that the “plan” comes to them by divine revelation, but that doesn’t negate the fact that ultimately it’s based on a fiction. Suppose someone INTERPRETED SCRIPTURE to say that the sun revolves around the earth (it’s been done before as we’ve seen!). Suppose he based his key theological position on that assumption. Suppose that basic assumption was so important and so integral to his teaching it became a pervasive concept permeating his explanatory book to the extent of being emphasised more than 40 times. Suppose he labelled as “sick” those who refused to believe that God caused the sun to revolve around the earth. Suppose he knew that mainstream science said that his basic assumption was a fiction in that the scientific evidence showed it was the earth which moved around the sun. Suppose he just completely ignored that evidence and that objection, and in his book went on to develop complex theologies as if the fictional assumption were true. How much credibility would you assign to such a person? Would not all of this, based on his faulty INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE and his unwillingness to come to terms with reality, cast doubt on his ability to properly discern and assess material relating to his key teachings? Mr Weinland’s situation precisely parallels this scenario.
My INTERPRETATION of scripture tells me that none of the dramatic end-time events of great global importance as predicted by Mr Weinland will happen, and that consequently there are going to be very many more disappointed and disillusioned people over the next two years leading up to 27 May 2012. It’s likely that Mr Weinland will be obliged to produce yet more “divine revelations” to explain why God has delayed or cancelled the predicted complete collapse of the US, UK, Canada, Australia & NZ, and why God has delayed or cancelled the predicted outbreak of World War III between a coalition of Chinese-Russian led “Asiatic” forces and German-led United States of Europe forces, and finally to explain why God has delayed the return of Jesus Christ as predicted by Mr Weinland.
I note that he has already taken the wise precaution of alerting his followers to expect even more delays and changes to his revised end-time scenario. In his website posting of 24 December 2009 under “Final Fulfillment” he looks to the future and says: “God alone is responsible for the revelation of Christ’s return and the timing involved. If God changes or in any fashion alters the timing involved, then He will reveal it through His prophet. God has also altered the timing for massive destruction to begin. God can do that whenever He chooses. He is God!”
According to Mr Weinland, eighteen months of the three and one-half years period of tribulation have now elapsed. On the 27th of May 2010 it’s exactly two years to the return of Jesus Christ as predicted by Mr Weinland. Time will tell whose INTERPRETATION of scripture was soundly based.