Prophesy vs. Free Will

When you're confronted with a religious fanatic at your door talking about "the End Times", try this line of reasoning.

FAN: "Be aware of the signs and make your peace with the Lord, for the time of his coming is upon us.
ME: "Says who?"
FAN: "It's written in the Book of Revelation. The rise of the Antichrist is at hand! The Evil Empire is in place! Soon the righteous will be enraptured and lifted up by God, and those left behind will face the tribulations of Armaggeddon.
ME: "Let me get this straight, all of this stuff about the End Times is written in the Bible?"
FAN: "Yes. The Book of Revelation."
ME: "And the Bible is divinely inspired?"
FAN: "Yes."
ME: "So, God is bringing this to pass?"
FAN: "No. The Antichrist is."
ME: "But the Antichrist's presence is predicted in the Bible. God knows the Antichrist is coming. God, the all powerful being, created the Antichrist just as he created Satan."
FAN: "Uh... no, you don't get it. The evil in men's hearts will bring about the Apocalypse."
ME: "Just the way it is written in the Book of Revelation?"
FAN: "Yes."
ME: "And my only choice is to pick a side? This battle is going to happen, no matter what I do or try to do? Even if I get a million people behind me to prevent war, war is going to happen? Because God wills it to happen? God wants the Antichrist to come and put the world to trial so that we're all forced to choose between Heaven and Hell? All this is God's doing?"
FAN: "Um..."

One thing I am certain that God created is free will: the ability of all intelligent beings to make a choice between good and evil. After creating the world, giving humanity intelligence, and setting us on this path with a number of warnings to play nice, he's generally left us to our own devices. I believe in God the father and, like a good parent, he loves us, but he's willing to let us make our own mistakes. He doesn't call us on our answering machine to remind us to take in our laundry.

If we did not have free will, and the ability to make our own mistakes, the concepts of good and evil become muted in our world. Hitler wasn't evil, he was simply following a script laid down for him at the creation of the world and predicted by Nostradamus. Ghandi's selfless acts are just that: acts written by God and put forward against evils also written by God. The Antichrist isn't evil; the Book of Revelation calls for him to appear, to put the world through terrible tribulations, and to bring about the final battle between good and evil that will determine who goes to heaven, and who goes to hell. If Life is just a script, written by God, and acted by us automatically, then the responsibility for our actions isn't ours, it's God's. Legally, we are not responsible for our actions if we had no ability to choose between good and evil.

As long as we have that ability to make that choice, prophesy can't happen to the degree written about in the Book of Revelation.

These are one of the many problems arising from taking the Bible literally. It gets me that there are protestant sects out there that actively want the End Times to come about. Even as the end of the world is now at least two years behind schedule (without even a Y2K computer apocalypse to slow us down), there are people out there who want the Jewish temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem, not out of solidarity for the Jewish faith, but because it's one of the key elements mentioned in the Book of Revelation that brings the apocalypse about. Doesn't the desire for war and the deaths of two billion people (one-third of the world's population, as predicted in the Book of Revelation) make you evil and send you to hell?

You can apply the concept of Armaggeddon metaphorically, looking at humanity's tendency to self-destruct and applying it with the requisite pessimism to our future. Lord knows we have several ways to destroy ourselves (ecologically, biologically, and with the use of nuclear weapons), so we can take the Book of Revelation as a warning of what could happen if humanity doesn't clean up its act. But once you start looking for signs of the coming apocalypse in the existence of the Evil Empire in the former Soviet Union or a United Europe, you've thrown humanity's responsibility for its own actions to the wind. You are relying on a script to control your life. You've made God into a manipulator, and not the loving parent.

When God gave us free will, he gave us both the curse and the blessing of having no guarantees. True good can only exist if the possibility for evil also exists. True good is the choice, not the act. A scripted apocalypse that doesn't involve an asteroid dropping on us removes that choice, making good and evil cease to exist.

As long as free will exists, there's no guarantee that humanity will destroy itself.

And I know in my soul that God is sitting up there, rooting for us. The Book of Revelation is one script he hopes isn't acted out.

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