Re: [asa] Radioactive decay of U-238 is imminent (just wait a few billion years)

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 17:31:34 EST

Your point is well taken. What you note of theological usage re
"imminent" applies more generally to terms in technical contexts. I
recall one of my colleagues noting with disdain a student who tried to
solve philosophical problems by referring to /Merriam Webster's
Collegiate Dictionary/, in common use in the States. The same would apply
to any other respected lexicon. A similar point was made by the person
who described scientific language as consisting largely of dead

I cannot recall the reference, but C. S. Lewis wrote about the change in
meaning over time and the errors that spring from using current meanings
in older contexts. "Exceptions prove the rule" is a good example. The
black swans of Australia do not prove that "All swans are white," which I
think goes back to Aristotle, is true.
Dave (ASA)

On Mon, 26 Jan 2009 07:25:48 +1100 Murray Hogg <>
> Hi Bernie,
> Burgy's remark that a dictionary definition is a poor guide when it
> comes to theological terms struck me as apposite. So I did a quick
> check of my theological library, and came up with the following.
> They serve to illustrate the point I've been attempting to make that
> when used in the context of Christian theology, "imminent" does NOT
> mean "soon" but rather "at any time" or (as I actually prefer to put
> it) "suddenly and without warning".
> Note that Gudrem has a pretty good response to the claim that the
> biblical materials teach that Jesus return would be "soon" - like
> myself he notes that NONE of the texts regarding Jesus return
> necessarily require such an interpretation.
> What's interesting about the below - particularly the passage from
> Bilezikian - is that it is apparent that there is great possibility
> for confusion regarding the use of the term. Whereas traditional
> theological usage (to which I appeal) has used "imminent" to mean
> "at any time" (now or in a million years) this stand in some tension
> with the common usage in which "imminent" is taken to mean "soon".
> Note that IF one REJECTS (as I do) the claim that scripture teaches
> Christ's return will be "soon" in favour of the idea that it will be
> "suddenly and without warning"; and IF one defines "imminent" in
> accordance with traditional theological usage to mean "at any time"
> (now OR in a million years), THEN there is no shell-game being
> played.
> Hope the below is helpful in furthering your appreciation of the
> point being made - that "imminent" when used in the context of
> Christian eschatology has an particular meaning which is determined
> by something other than common usage.
> Blessings,
> Murray
> From Stanley Gundry, "Imminence," in Evangelical Dictionary of
> Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984), 551;
> <cite>
> The doctrine that Christ can return at any moment and that no
> predicted event must intervene before that return."
> </cite>
> From Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to
> Biblical Doctrine. (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1994.)
> 1096n7.
> <cite>
> "In this chapter, it must be made clear that I am not using imminent
> as a technical term for a pre-tribulational rapture position
> (explained below), but simply to mean that Christ could return at
> any day, or even any hour. Furthermore, I am not using the word
> imminent to mean that Christ certainly will come soon (for then the
> verses teaching imminence would have been untrue when they were
> written). I am using the word imminent to mean that Christ could
> come and might come at any time, and that we are to be prepared for
> him to come at any day. (Others define imminent more broadly, taking
> it to mean that Christ could come in any generation. I am not using
> the term in that way in this chapter.
> </cite>
> From Bilezikian, Gilbert G. Christianity 101: Your Guide to Eight
> Basic Christian Beliefs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993. 231-32.
> <cite>
> Practically every church creed or statement of faith that mentions
> the Second Coming confesses that no one knows for certain the time
> of the Parousia, but acknowledges that it will surely happen. It
> could happen at the present moment or in a million years, but its
> eventual occurrence is certain. From a human perspective, the time
> of the event is unknown, but the fact is unquestionably confirmed in
> Scripture.
> Generally, this is the meaning that the word "imminent" is intended
> to convey when it is used in relation to the Parousia. Strictly
> speaking, however, the word "imminent" means something else.
> According to the dictionary an event is imminent when it is just
> about to happen. For instance, should someone pull the pin off a
> hand grenade and let go of it, the explosion of the grenade would be
> imminent, in the sense that it would happen almost [232]
> immediately. But should the pin have corroded and seem weak enough
> to let go on its own, we could not say that the explosion is
> imminent. All we could say is that it is "possibly imminent," with
> the exact time being unpredictable.
> Likewise for our own individual demise, we all know that death is
> inevitable. Any of us could die at any moment. But people in
> reasonably good health do not say that their death is "imminent."
> This can be said only of people whose vital signs are down and who
> are visibly on their way out of this life. Thus, to speak
> accurately, the word "imminent" must be qualified when it is applied
> to the Second Coming. That is why we have placed it in quotation
> marks in the title above. We are using the term as a concession to
> tradition and as an attempt to communicate the concept in familiar
> terms. But we qualify its meaning here to convey the idea of the
> possible imminence of the Parousia, an event that will happen for
> sure but at a time that cannot be accurately anticipated by humans.
> Indeed, the occurrence of the Parousia could be imminent, but it
> could also be a long time in the making.
> Any discussion of the time frame for the Parousia must be grounded
> in Scripture. Fortunately, the New Testament yields abundant data in
> this area. The New Testament gives ample evidence that the early
> Christians believed in the possible imminence of the Parousia and
> that they lived in a mode of active expectancy for the Lord's
> return, yet without attempting to seek signs or to set dates.
> </cite>
Click here for free information on how to reduce your debt by filing for bankruptcy.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sun Jan 25 17:41:28 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Jan 25 2009 - 17:41:28 EST