On November 22, 2015, The Telegraph reported on the two very different responses to the Paris attacks from England’s most senior clergymen.

C of E ‘doubt’

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby now doubts the presence of God:

Asked if these attacks had caused him to doubt where God is, he said: “Oh gosh, yes,” and admitted it put a “chink in his armour.”

He told BBC Songs Of Praise: “Yes. Saturday morning – I was out and as I was walking I was praying and saying: ‘God why – why is this happening? Where are you in all this?’ and then engaging and talking to God. Yes, I doubt.”

I cannot help but wonder whether the ABC is a preterist, one who believes that Jesus’s prophecies about the end times and the events in Revelation all came true with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

If so, I can see why he would doubt. What else is there?

Preterism, it seems to me, is a position adopted by Christians who wish to appear sophisticated and intellectually-minded.

Yet, when one examines Revelation and our Lord’s prophecies in the Gospel, which of those happened when the temple was destroyed? Certainly, there was a long-running conflict between Romans and Jews which culminated in 70 AD, but many events had not yet come to fruition.

Mark 13, about which I wrote in 2013, explains it well. Jesus talks about the coming destruction of the temple in the first two verses. The next set of verses — Mark 3:3-13 — record His prophecy of horrors, from false teachers to wars to natural disasters:

6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.  (Mark 13:6-8)

13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:13)

All these are to bring us to repentance, a deeper faith and appreciation of the life to come, rather than rely on mankind and nature in the here and now.

God works all things to His divine purpose. I do not think this was the time for a clergyman to say that, as events were too raw and shocking.

However, the ABC would have been better placed to ask that Anglicans join with him in praying for the friends and families of those who have died and for the survivors, especially the wounded, that the peace of Christ Jesus helps them to cope in the weeks and months ahead.

Incidentally, I know a number of preterist clergy. They have rather odd views on Christianity. For them, because all has been ‘accomplished’, church is more of a tradition and a social club. I’m not even sure they think that much about the afterlife. They’re too wrapped up in their own neuroses and health issues.

Although Welby acknowledges that the terrorists have distorted religious views, he warned against attacks on IS:

A bombing campaign against Islamic State was launched after the events, but the Archbishop of Canterbury warned against a potentially damaging instant reaction …

‘If we start randomly killing those who have not done wrong, that is not going to provide solutions. So governments have to be the means of justice.’

Why does this not come as a surprise?

Catholic ‘strong action’

Meanwhile, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales:

called for “strong action” to defeat terrorism.

“Terrorists and those who persecute and belittle people in the most terrible ways have to be stopped,” he said. “The judgement of how best to stop them is a political and a military judgement – but there is no doubt that strong action has to be taken.”

Too right. As Secretary of State John Kerry said after the attacks, there must be a multi-faceted approach, elements of which can be worked on simultaneously. These include co-ordinating attacks on IS, improving anti-terrorist intelligence in our own countries and arriving at a panel of Syrians who can sensibly determine how to transition out of the Assad regime into a democratic one not under threat from extremism.

It’s not often when I agree with Cardinal Nichols and John Kerry, but this is one of those rare moments.

Advertisements