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

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 18:17:04 EST

Hi Merv,

Actually, as a somewhat pedantic quibble, one couldn't actually eliminate even the shortest half-life elements as there's no statistical impossibility to the idea that an atom of an isotope with a half-life in seconds might remain undecayed for thousands, if not millions, of years.

But such observations merely highlight why I thought this a reasonable illustration: it's the sense of chronological uncertainty that I'm trying to emphasize and this example certainly illustrates chronological uncertainty.

Now, I quite appreciate the point about enthusiasm - and my perception is that this is a significant issue for many. That is, they feel that UNLESS that one has a sense that the return of Jesus is likely to be very soon then one looses motivation for action. My problem with this is my entire position is PRECISELY that the 2000 year lapse between the resurrection and today has NO bearing on the question. I acknowledge that other people think that "the Lord is slack concerning his promise" but one really ought to take that up with them, not with me. In my view (and how often to I have to repeat it?) the return of Jesus is ALWAYS imminent - it could be in the next second, it could be in a million years. THIS is how I (and Christian theology traditionally) uses the term "imminent" in relation to Christ's return. Christians, accordingly, ought ALWAYS to be about the master's business. Such obedience, to me, demonstrates a quite acceptable level of fervency.

Further to this, I'm strongly of the view that the degree of ones' sense of eschatological urgency should have no bearing upon the content of one's ethic. One can live out the Christian life quite adequately without giving the timing of Christ's return any consideration. Equally, one can be motivated, on the basis of one's eschatological expectation, to act in a manner which I would consider to be quite inconsistent with a Christian ethic.

Indeed, I would suggest that one of the observations made earlier in the discussion - i.e. that for many heightened eschatological expectation mitigates against environmental concern - merely serves to demonstrate that eschatological urgency can potentially lead us AWAY from Godly behavior. As I see it, either environmental concern is a valid Christian concern or it is not. Assuming that it is (and note the assumption!), then we ought to be about it BECAUSE we expect the master of the house to come at any moment rather than abandoning it on that exact basis! But by a rather bizarre logic there are those who seem to think that a purported immediate return of the master actually absolves them from responsibility to obey his commands.

Other examples could be multiplied but the basic point is that if ones' ethic is primarily of a pragmatic, consequentialist sort where outcomes are the primary consideration, then one will hold the view that what matters are the outcomes of actions and that, if there isn't TIME for actions to have consequences, then this determines whether one should engage in those actions or not. I am personally of a different view: that one ought to live in obedience to the master's commands REGARDLESS of how one understands the time-frame.

So, yes, being all very motivated on the basis of eschatological expectancy is well and good - but unfortunately such motivation often seems to lead people to do very bizarre things, even (it seems to me!) to the extent of acting inconsistently with the teaching of the very Lord whose return is supposedly the grounds of such motivation.


Merv Bitikofer wrote:
> Of course, Burgy's bomb has been armed & we're going on 2000 yrs now, so
> the "victims" can now eliminate all the shorter half-life possibilities
> in the table. Since that only leaves the longer half-life options
> with considerably bigger gaps between them, the victims are now less
> edgy and more inclined to even forget the original suspense.
> More seriously, though -- unlike totally unpredictable individual atomic
> decays, the events in the world don't happen in a vacuum but may be
> accompanied by signs or prophecy. As a teacher colleague of mine (and
> my own mother as well) would point out, God is visibly at work in the
> world today. And I am enthusiastically informed by them of how many in
> Israel are turning to the Lord. And they see in all these things signs
> of imminence (in the ordinary time-focused sense of that word) of Jesus'
> return. I have no problem (I don't think) with such enthusiasm even if
> I am skeptical about my/theirs/&everybody's claimed knowledge over the
> specifics. But meanwhile, if they wish to rejoice and hope & pray
> fervently, I am left wondering what it means to hope in Christ if it
> doesn't include this very kind of activity. I generally admire their
> fervency and am left to contemplate my own fervency which is found
> wanting in comparison.
> --Merv
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Received on Sun Jan 25 18:17:29 2009

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