Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The great David Pawson / Simon Woodman apocalyptic smack-down

Church Times, 31 October 2008, p.18
What the Spirit is still saying
Here are two very different ways of reading the Bible, says Michael Perry

David Pawson, the veteran Baptist preacher, says: “I would feel terribly insecure if my religion was not founded on something or someone infallible because I would never know whether I was right or wrong in my faith.”
But have no fear: the Revelation of St John, on which he provides a running commentary, and which, he assures us, comes directly from Jesus, “is there to tell us accurately what future history will be like… Every single thing that this book says will happen will certainly happen” (and probably within the next 30 years).
Some of it, of course, is symbolic; but Pawson takes its basic thrust literally – including the 1260 days of the final tribulation, the 3944 million cubic miles of the New Jerusalem, and the precise site of Armageddon. We should love god, provided we fear him first; because the anger of Jesus, like the vengeance of God, will come to judge all those who reject the message and to bring them eternal punishment. Activities like inter-faith dialogue, or support for a world government, sail dangerously close to the wind.
If this is not your way of reading the book of Revelation, you may be happier with Simon Woodman – another Baptist, but with a very different agenda.
Woodman writes with second-year undergraduates in mind, but his book will appeal to a far wider clientèle. He gives us no verse-by-verse commentary, but a series of essays looking at the overall impact of John’s exuberantly kaleidoscopic metaphorical vision.
John wished to encourage the Church of his own day – small, apparently insignificant little house churches, beleaguered and seemingly powerless. He showed them what they really looked like – from a heavenly perspective, in which they were vital participants in a cosmic drama.
Woodman expounds the book’s structure, its dramatis personae, its imagery, and its message – which is not simply for the Church of the last days, but for Churches of any age. Those who persevere through hardships and persecutions will eventually enjoy the future that God has planned.
There will be bloodbaths and natural catastrophes on the way, but they are not vindictive punishments. Satanic evil holds the seeds of its own self-destruction, which will be the natural outworking of a system in which the mindless luxuries of the few are provided by the repression, poverty, and hunger of the many.
Rome feasted on titbits while its provinces starved. Do we do any better, nowadays, for the Third World?
Canon Perry is a former Archdeacon of Durham.

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