It's obvious that we got off a bit on the wrong foot but that all seems to be behind us now and for that I'm grateful. I enjoy arguing as long as it's all above board and friendly. I get tired of the baseless accusations that seem to so often accompany argument. I'd rather it were treated as a sport and see it function inside the confines of good sportsmanship, just like we were taught as kids playing baseball. That way maybe we'll all come out the other side with a better understanding of the others opinion and have some fun along the way.
Part of Salvage's question was comprised of two separate parts:
"Your god is getting set to destroy the world using our geopolitical situations as some sort of trigger?
Why does your god need triggers much less triggers determined by our rather base actions?"
The problem with these questions and many others is that it's hard to explain the reasons that God chooses to use nature or man, or in many cases let things play out as they do to someone that doesn't accept the existence, or at least the possibility of the existence of God, or understands the underlying philosophy of the last 2000 years of Christianity or the thousands of years of Judaism that led up to it.
I realize that I'm making an assumption here because Salvage may be the most well educated religious scholar in the world and I'm just a carpenter stumbling my way through this stuff, picking up what I can along the way. And believe me, that last part is the God's honest truth. Hell, I barely got out of high school. Fortunately for me, I love to read and have ever since I can remember so I've been able to make up for my lack of formal education by constantly pushing myself through reading.
So I suppose that before I can answer Salvage's question I need to explain a bit about why I believe what I do. If nothing else it'll supply more fodder for the fight.
At the most basic level I don't know why I believe in God. I always have. Now, that doesn't mean that I always paid much attention to Him or cared much one way or the other about what that belief meant, I just knew that He was out there. I suppose I could feel it or intuit it but not really explain it. Anybody that knew me growing up would tell you I was pretty much like everybody else except I probably cared less about school and more about having a good time than many. And I grew up as a teenager in the '70's when a good time was never far away.
So I got married, had kids, went to work and partied my way through life. I drank too much and smoked too much, didn't go to church and never gave much thought to whether I needed to or not. Sundays were for sleeping off Saturday night and starting over again as soon as I woke up.
But I guess God never left me alone. There were times when I knew, without doubt, that what I was doing was wrong. And all the reading I continued to do, all the history and biographies, left me with the nagging feeling that over the course of time it was evident that something larger was at work. This is hard to explain and even harder to quantify but I could sense patterns in history. There seemed to be much more than just random results generated by random occurrences.
About 15 years ago I was working as a carpenter alongside a bunch of Pentecostals, a fundamentalist religious group of a Christian persuasion. All day long, as carpenters are wont to do, we argued back and forth to pass the time while we were working. The topics were scattered all over the place but religion seemed to be central. Now, I hadn't read the Bible all that much and I hadn't been to church all that much since I was a kid so I was at a distinct disadvantage. Of course, that didn't stop me from joining in.
The only thing that I had going for me was my knowledge of history and it became apparent to me pretty early on that the Bible was not all that far off from the secular understanding of historical events. So this kind'a drew me in. However, the philosophical issues that were being touched on just didn't ring true to me but I had no way to refute them. And I hate when I can't get in a good lick or two in an argument!
So this forced me to put down the histories and pick up the philosophy books. I sampled a bit of everything, some of which made sense, some not and a whole bunch my feeble, drug addled brain just couldn't wrap itself around. But one stood out among the rest; St. Thomas Aquinas. I got a book titled, "A Summa of the Summa" by Peter Kreeft. This opened my eyes to a way of thinking and more importantly, reasoning, that I'd never seen before. I ended up buying the complete Summa and have continued to marvel at the clarity of thought, and how long it takes me to understand it.
Like most people I had consigned religious belief to some sort of feelings based, faith driven crap that had no real basis in fact, apart from the subjective reality of the believer. It hadn't occurred to me that a good deal of what Christianity teaches is provable using the scientific method. Like every other product of our pathetic public school system I'd been taught that science only applies to the material and that the spiritual, IF IT EVEN EXISTS, could never be proven. Aquinas changed all that for me.
So I started reading more about religion, Christianity in particular because it offered, at least in my mind, the most well formed and reasoned explanation for the existence of God, and us. Inside Christianity I found that all roads led back to Rome. I already knew from all my history reading over the years that claims from the many different Protestant churches to the contrary not withstanding, The Roman Catholic Church, along with some of the the Eastern Churches, was the historical Church, the one started by Jesus and carried on through the Apostles, so it seemed logical that unless I could find some clear break that this would be the place to start. That and the Protestant reliance on Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide seemed completely illogical for a variety of reasons to me and I couldn't get around that.
So today I find myself a Catholic, the Church of my birth and one that I had completely abandoned. I came here because of reason and stay because of faith. I wouldn't have gotten here if I hadn't found a clear and well marked road laid out through scientific inquiry of the spiritual sort, philosophy.
I know, because I've heard it so many times, that one can't believe with any surety that God exists because it can't be proved, we can't see him. To that I would say that a good deal of what we accept as material science can't be seen, either, but the road to the conclusion is paved with good solid evidence and reason demands the conclusion that is accepted until it can be disproved. Many of the "facts" that we teach our kids in school about science, whether evolution or the big bang are really no more than dogma taken on faith because reason has led us to them. And if you can accept that in the material world it should be acceptable in the spiritual.
Many would argue that there is no spiritual reality, that if we can't see it, measure it or touch it then it doesn't exist. I would reply that we can't see love, hate, greed, jealousy, envy or any other emotional reality but we know they exist because we feel them and we see their affects. But many would say they are just the result of electrical impulses in the brain. Maybe, but at this point you're relying on faith to make that assertion. You have your faith, I have mine.
I've written all this for one reason. I wanted Salvage and others like him to understand that I have reached my conclusions about God honestly. I don't just say God, God, God in some mindless robotic rant because that's what I've been programmed to do by a preacher or parent. I got to where I am by using reason, and that reason led me to faith. And, until someone can prove conclusively that my faith is misplaced, that the reason that underlies it is faulty, then here I'll stay.
So, back to Salvage's question, which I think can be fairly boiled down to this: Why does God use natural means to chastise man? If he is all powerful, why not just smote us and get it over? Further, is it possible that what I and many others see as the real possibility of an endtimes scenario in our current events could even be rational? Or, are we just following the Millerites and other apocalyptic groups into some sort of mass delusion?
First of all, He's God, I'm a carpenter, what the hell do I know about why He does what He does? I mean really, as far as absolute answers, you've come to the wrong place. However, I can make some assumptions based on reason and history.
God allows free will. We get to do what we want, when we want. That doesn't mean that we are free to do anything and everything, thus the existence of sin or crime, but we are allowed to make our own decisions. Some of the time we make the right decision and sometimes the wrong one. We can't see the effects of the decisions we make except perhaps the most immediate. And we don't know how our decision will interact with other decisions made by ourselves or others. We just ain't smart enough. But God is.
Now when Christians and others say that God knows the future it's not because He controls or decides it. He can see the entirety of time so he knows how our decisions play out over the course of the whole show. We exist in linear time with a beginning, middle and end (we can thank the Jews for this concept). We are heading towards something. The thing is, that something is the sum total of all our individual choices played out over thousands or millions of years (depending on your faith). ONLY God can understand how it all fits together.
Think how many things in history could have been altered by a change of mind. Judas had said no to betrayal. Napoleon had held off on attacking Russia. Henry VIII had decided to stay with Catherine. It just goes on and on. So many what if's. And they all add up and coalesce in a point in history, a point that many in religious circles call The Endtimes.
God knows where we're headed and because He gave us free will He's letting it all play out. You see, God isn't using us to destroy humanity, He's allowing us to do it all by ourselves. Because we've chosen it. Because He knows where we're headed and because He loves us He's given us a guidebook, the Bible. In the Bible He lays out the signs of the Endtimes so that we can have some warning. Admittedly, some of these signs have occurred repeatedly in history yet the world still exists. Of course, the Bible also tells us that we can't know the exact time or place so the signs can be taken only as a warning, not a prophecy.
The thing is, at least from my perspective, though many of these things have happened in history I'm not aware of a time when they've happened over the whole world in a seemingly coordinated way. Usually crazy weather, earthquakes, political turmoil and all the rest are fairly well isolated. Sure, Europe could have fallen to Suleyman and the Ottoman empire would have been vast. It didn't, thank God, but if it had it wouldn't have been a catastrophic event changing the entire world in one moment. China would have remained, more or less as it was. America would have seen some affect when the age of exploration was altered by a different power structure in Europe and on and on, but still nothing worldwide, immediate and cataclysmic.
Today is different. Because of our global interconnectedness, food supplies, energy and money effect us all. It is entirely possible to have global collapse leading to massive war and destruction on a scale never before even dreamed of, except of course by the prophets of the Bible. And it's entirely plausible that out of this wreckage a leader would emerge, a savior of sorts, a man of evil clothed as a man of peace. An anti-Christ, just as the prophets foretold.
Will it happen? Because of my faith I believe that it will, sometime. Is this the time? I don't know but the signs are there. Is it worth paying attention to the things that are going on around us? YOU BET!
Salvage, regardless of whether these are the times spoken of in the Bible or not we're speeding along the edge of a cliff and we could plunge over it at any time. I think that it's worth preparing for collapse. More than that, I think we are obligated to prepare and warn as many as we can. Maybe you would disagree. Fine. The only thing I would ask is that your disagreement comes after honestly assessing the threats that face us. You object to the things that Glenn Beck is talking about, how the Marxists and the Islamic radicals seem to be joining forces. I think he's right and I've seen the same connections that he has over the last few years. Look, both these groups are pragmatic when it comes to allies. They'll work with anyone to achieve their objectives. They always have. It doesn't always work out well for them in the short term but over time their goals always seem to be met. And now I'd lump a big part of the Conservative movement, especially the Neo-cons in with them. The bankers profit from war and the Marxist/Islamists are more than willing to provide it. The soldiers in both camps probably aren't completely aware of the manipulation that plays them. But that doesn't matter as long as they keep showing up to support the money interests.
So I hope you look into some of this stuff. We're all in this together and the sooner we all recognize the enemy the sooner we can work to defeat him. My guess is that we're too far gone now so the best we can do is try to warn people of the coming storm. We are our brothers keepers after all.
I'll leave you with the opening paragraph of the encyclical "Fides et Ratio", which I would recommend you read if you want to understand the realtionship between faith and reason:
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves"