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

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 18:58:44 EST

Hi Dave,

Thanks for these comments, which I think are helpful.

I think the C.S.Lewis reference may be the preface to Mere Christianity where he uses the corruption of the term "gentleman" to support his argument that one ought not engage in a "spiritualizing" of "Christian" to mean "a good person"?


D. F. Siemens, Jr. wrote:
> Murray,
> 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
> metaphors.
> 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 <>
> writes:
>> 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>
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Received on Sun Jan 25 18:59:29 2009

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