Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Or perhaps neither is the Antichrist?

I have not blogged much of late, partly due to internet issues but more than that to the fact that I have not found all that much objectionable in what he has said. I largely agreed with his take, for instance, on the issue of the Gospel of John's authorship. I also think that this an instructive case on what happens when Mark plays to those areas where I think that he is the strongest ( i.e. where he has done serious research on the question) versus those where he is not (i.e. much of his political and social commentary). It is in my likely unfounded hope of engaging the former that I would like to challenge him on the following assertion:
Do recall that the basic narrative of the New Testament indicates, not a final triumph by Islam, but a temporary triumph by anti-christ. That figure is not seen coming from outside the Christian world but from inside. He is not an atheist and he is certainly not a Muslim. He is deeply spiritual. It's just that he Believes in Himself and insists that you do too:

Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Quick question: Does such a figure sound more likely to arise in the Islamic world, which has an utter horror of the confusion of creature and Creator--or in the "enlightened post-modern West" which routinely urges us to believe that we are the creators of reality, that is constantly urging us to move past our pathetic humility to God, and that labors to return to a pagan worship of nature and of those special enlightened avatars whom destiny has chosen to free us from the shackles of the God of Abraham and lead us into a future of peaceful prosperous harmony with nature. That may take some sacrifice, as it has in achieving other secular messianic dreams of a Third Reich, or a Triumph of the Proletariat. But then religious visions always require that.

He follows this up here with:
As I already noted, the biblical description of anti-christ is mighty hard to reconcile with Islam. That doesn't mean Islam isn't a huge danger. It just means that I think Islam will ultimately lose the civilizational struggle--to something worse. Indeed, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see a figure arising in the "One Abrahamic religion is just as bad as another" West who will promise us peace and safety from Islam (oh, and Christianity too) and a grand campaign of secular messianism.

I would actually argue that it would be quite easy to reconcile a number of potential Islamic figures with the Antichrist - particularly the Twelth Imam of Shi'a Islam as he is conceived by the Hojjatieh cult that serves as the dominant influence in the Abadgaran movement of Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi. That said, I find the assertion that present trends must be continued until the eschaton to be a kind of spiritual narcissism, to say nothing of being one that makes the least amount of sense given the sheer number of ideologies that have come and gone in the course of the twentieth century.

The kind of postmodern libertine transhumanism that Mark seems to fear the most has only been around for a couple decades and I think if you look at the parts of western Europe where it is most established you will find that far from growing into a global menace it is already deep into decline. The ability such a regime's coercive power to strike out with the level of power ascribed to the Antichrist looks pretty laughable given just how powerless the cultural thought police are to enforce their edicts at Finsbury Park Mosque or in the ghettoes of Paris. If there is going to be a major pogrom against Muslims in the future (something that Mark has already stated that he fears in the event of another terrorist attack), I think it's pretty clear that the postmodern libertine transhumanists are unlikely to be the ones leading that particular charge. Their epistemological presuppositions, I would argue, make it next to impossible for them to survive an existential challenge, which is why they keep wanting to give way to Islam at every turn. To put it another way, you aren't seeing institutions like the Episcopal Church swimming in a sea of popularity these days. In the end, I suspect that postmodern libertine transhumanism is likely to end up in the dustbin of history alongside Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, Theosophy, etc. Indeed, one could argue that all postmodern libertine transhumanism actually is is nothing more than one of the latter systems under a different name.

That said, I don't think that Islam is the harbringer of the antichrist either. Certainly it doesn't appear to have the destructive power or capabilities that the Soviet Bloc or the Axis Powers did. That will remain true even if they do manage to nuke a Western city, I think. Given that we fought and defeated both Soviet communism and Nazi fascism in the last century without either developing into the eschaton, why should we believe that the current conflict with Islam should be any different? Conflicts between the West (post-Christian or not) and the Islamic world have been a staple of history for quite some time now. Why should this time be any different?

If you want my honest opinion, I suspect that the outcome of the current conflict will be for the West to rediscover its Christian heritage on the spiritual level and to develop a new international system on the temporal one. This is one of the reasons why I took Mark's prayer that the West and the Islamic world destroy one another with such vehemence - in my view it misses the entire point of the exercise.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Shea is simply so convinced of the evil of the post-Christian West that he seems unable to comprehend its weakness. The modern liberal order is Totalitarianism-lite, the last dim echos of Stalin and Hitler and Mao. It will not outlast "The Children of '68". Besides, basing your geopolitics on the basis of your reading of the Book of Revalation would seem to be ill-advised at best, and an actof hubris at worst.

Victor said...

Yes ... Torq and anon.

Any attempt to read contemporary history and cast it according to the template of (some understanding of) the Book of Revelation irredeemably marks the reader as a presentist fool. The centuries are littered with identifications of the Antichrist as some temporal "bad guy," based on nothing more than the assumption that *this* is the end times. It's an evangelical bad habit that one doesn't expect from Catholics.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

I think the essence of our clash of civilizations is between those who want to remake the world in the image of Foaming Bronze Age fanaticism and those who want to indulge in the secular messianism fantasy of a humanity that will be saved by some amalgam of Self-Esteem, Technology, pagan spirituality (including the worship of Pleasure and her consort Pride, {expressed by countries as Nationalism), militarism, money, and Machiavelli. Neither of these visions has the least room at all for the Church, except insofar as Christianity is useful.

Translation of Shea's gibberish:

1. Any conservative who disagrees with me wishes to see the Church and the values it proposes destroyed.

2. All conservatives who disagree with me are obsessed narcissists who want to kill as many people as possible to prop up their faulty value system.

This coming from a man who has no compunction about murdering the character of anybody whom he perceives to be a threat, let alone who disagrees with him.

Some of us conservatives disagree with Shea not just because he is a blithering idiot on these matters. Some of us disagree with him because he shows no appreciation for the good that Western culture has accomplished: personal freedom(despite its abuses), the disestablishment of religion (due to that big bugaboo, The Enlightenment) and increased living standards (i.e., fewer poor whom the Church could exploit for its own purposes).

Some of us disagree with him because we know that Islam would destroy the very things that he (and us) value -- not least of which is the freedom to worship without paying a "tax" (i.e., bribe), which Caliphate authorities demanded.

Some of us also disagree with his "application" of Catholic moral theology because we recognize that, all too often these days, "Catholic moral theology" is neither Catholic nor moral nor theology.

Anonymous said...

"Or perhaps neither is the Antichrist?"

Neither is. I am the Antichrist.


Yours in Beelzebub,

Dr. 666