Volume. 12234

No Christian scholar says Bible predicts end of world: philosopher
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TEHRAN – Professor Chad Meister says “most serious Christian scholars maintain that the Bible does not predict a specific timeframe for the end of the world.”

However, “some filmmakers continue to create films that feed on the fears of many by portraying that the end of the world is imminent," Meister, a professor of Philosophy at Bethel College in Indiana, told the Mehr News Agency. 

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What is the definition of religious film?

A: I would define a religious film as one which emphasizes a primary issue or set of issues that have been discussed and debated within a religious tradition. These would include, for example, the existence and nature of God, conflicting truth claims among the different religious traditions, the relationship between science and religion, and the doctrines of creation or salvation, among other topics.  Defined this way, a fair number of the films in the West are religious in nature—even some of the films produced in Hollywood, although many devoted religious persons find at least some of these to be sacrilegious (the film Bruce Almighty might be an example of this).  The Passion of the Christ was both religious and controversial between the Christian and Jewish traditions. 

A further and broader definition might include films that deal with larger issues addressed by religious traditions, such as what it means to be human or whether our moral choices are real.  Examples abound in science fiction films, including Centennial Man and the Matrix trilogy. The Book of Eli, another recent film, contrasts how sacred texts can positively and negatively influence culture.  Because humans are inherently religious beings, many films fit this broader definition of religious film. 

It is also true that many films are religious in profound but less obvious ways.  For example, some have scapegoats, or superheroes (gods/messiahs), or pilgrimages, or hospitality (sacred meals), or rain/bathing (baptism).  Recognizing such symbols or archetypes can be helpful in understanding the religious meaning of a film that on the surface may appear to have little or nothing to do with religion.
Q: What are the main reasons for producing “end of the world” films in the West? Do these films show the whole truth?

A: I think there are several reasons why there are a number of “end of the world” films in the West.  One reason has to do with Christian eschatology (the theological study of the end times).  Many Christian theologians and pastors and priests have taught and do teach that Jesus Christ will one day return to the Earth to rule humankind in righteousness.  On some widespread interpretations of the last book of the Bible—the book of Revelation—there will be a great battle between good and evil in the eschaton and this battle will usher in the end of the world as we know it.  

Another reason has to do with the fact that on the Western calendar, we are now at the beginning of the second millennium (the Western calendar is based on the birth and death of Jesus). In biblical chronology, it seems that major events occur every couple thousand years, so many people have concluded that the time is ripe for something significant to happen—something of biblical proportions.  Added to this was the Y2K scare in which many computer engineers and others believed that computers would crash when the year 2000 CE occurred, and in some quarters there was widespread panic about this.  This fueled an end-of-the-world hysteria.  
It is also that case that doomsday endings are oftentimes probably motivated by secular fears of nuclear wars, environmental degradation, and other natural catastrophes.  For example, there is a story that has been widely circulated on the internet which claims that Nibiru, an alleged planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed our way and will soon crash into the Earth.  Initially, it was predicted that this catastrophe would occur in May 2003.  But when nothing happened, the date was moved forward to December 2012.  In addition, some people also believe that the ancient Mayan calendar ends at the winter solstice in 2012.  Taken together, these add up to the predicted doomsday date of 21 December 2012.  Though these are simply fables, the truth is that apocalyptic films do well at the box office.  In fact, the recent film 2012, which graphically depicts the end of the world next year, was enthusiastically viewed in the West.    
Most serious Christian scholars maintain that the Bible does not predict a specific timeframe for the end of the world.  And most serious scientists in the West maintain that there is no real warrant to the claims of a pending doomsday for planet Earth.  Unfortunately, however, some filmmakers continue to create films that feed on the fears of many by portraying that the end of the world is imminent.

Chad Meister is Professor of Philosophy at Bethel College in Indiana, USA.  He holds an MA in philosophy of religion and a Ph.D. in philosophy.  He has written or edited twelve books, including Evil: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum), The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity (Oxford University Press), and Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge).  He is General Editor (with Paul Moser) of the forthcoming book series entitled Cambridge Studies in Religion, Philosophy and Society (Cambridge University Press).

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Last Updated on 10 December 2011 16:16