Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Barak Obama the Antichrist?

In the Sermon on the Mount of Olives (Luke 21.5ff) Jesus talked about the turmoil that will precede the end of the world: wars, famines, earthquakes, and persecution. Jesus makes it clear that the world is not going to get better and better; rather it will descend into selfishness, hatred, violence and destruction. In desperation people will look to anyone who can save them. This is where the doctrine of the Antichrist comes in.

Apparently in our school this has become quite a topic. Some of the children are saying that Senator Barak Obama is the Antichrist. So I addressed this topic briefly in our chapel service this morning (September 18, 2008).

St. John speaks about the Antichrist in his first letter... "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us..." (1 John 2.18-19). Notice in this passage that anyone who turns away from Jesus and teaches things contrary to His teaching is an "antichrist." But there is a premier Antichrist coming.

St. Paul speaks about this in 2 Thessalonians... "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2.18-19).

In each case this premier Antichrist is one that arises out of the church as a false teacher. There have always been good and bad political leaders. It is a distraction to label one of them the Antichrist. In the past Caesars, Adolf Hitler, Mikhail Gorbachev, and President Bush have been identified by some as the Antichrist. But the Bible tells us to look in the church or to those associated with the church - to look to for false teachers who claim to speak for God.

So, I'm sorry, I disagree - I don't think Barak Obama is the Antichrist. More importantly I wouldn't worry so much about politicians as I would those who claim to speak for God. Do they? I think Joel Osteen is an small "a" antichrist because he teaches things clearly contrary to Jesus and the apostles. When we Lutherans look around and ask who "sits as God in the temple of God" we say that the closest candidate for that office is the papacy. Who else in the Christian community claims to be able to speak for God? If you would like to learn more about that, read "The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope."

As the end of the world comes closer (John said, "It is the last hour..."), we would do well to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and His word. Then we will not be deceived.

Luke 21.18 "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

No Fear?

Everywhere you look these days you see the decal: “No Fear.” The motto has arisen from the generation of young people who are into extreme sports such as grinding skate boards down handrails and racing bikes down steep mountain sides. I well remember my own issues with fear. When I was in the fourth grade I jumped for the first time from a high dive at Ellenberger Pool in Indianapolis. In my senior year of highschool I flew an airplane for the first time by myself in Vandalia, Illinois. There is a satisfaction to be discovered when we face fear like that and overcome it.

But there is a danger in thinking that we can overcome all fear on our own. Ultimately it comes down to the fear of death itself. Luther complained about the moto: Qui mortem metuit quod vivit perdit id ipsum. “He is a fool who is afraid of death, for through such fear he loses his own life.” Luther goes on to say, “The advice might be helpful if man alone could replace fear with something else. But casting fear away like this is no different than the expression “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15.32). (What Luther Says, p. 364).

Christianity offers a much different approach to fear and especially to the fear of death. Don’t look to yourself. Don’t cast yourself off the cliff hoping to be lucky. Look to God. He alone deals with fear and with death itself. The Christian’s motto is not simply “No Fear” but “Love casts out all fear” (1 John 4.18). For more on the topic of the fear of dying see my sermon “On Being a Christian: Dying.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Ichneumon Wasp and the Problem of Evil

One of our members brought me an Ichneumon Wasp that he found buzzing around in his garage recently. This wasp would give most people a scare with what appears to be three, five inch long stingers dangling from it abdomen. But as it turns out they are not stingers, rather they are "ovipositors." With these long tubes the wasp is able to lay eggs near beetles and other insects that are deeply embedded in trees. The larvae then feed on the bugs, and in this way they are extremely helpful for controlling pests.

I was amazed to hear how this little creature operates, and how God has designed this world with a delicate balance between "every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Charles Darwin didn't think so. In a letter to American botanist Asa Gray, Darwin wrote: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice."

Why did I immediately see God's design in the Ichneumon while Darwin saw something unworthy of a "beneficent and omnipotent God"? The reason is that Darwin's view of God is just too small. Most atheists reject God because of the problem of evil. They can't believe in a God who can be good and all-powerful and also allow evil to exist. (I don't think wasps eating beetles is necessarily evil, but Darwin was a very sensitive man!) Darwin's view of God did not include the possibility that, along with allowing evil to rise up in this world, God might turn evil into good.

Wasps killing beetles or cats playing with mice may not seem very nice to us. But I believe that God knows what He's doing, and I'm amazed that even in a fallen world God is still working everything together for good. Jesus is certainly the ultimate example of God's good overcoming this world's evil.

Galatians 1:4-5 [Jesus] gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

For more on my approach to Creation and Evolution, see my Bible study (with Audio files, handouts, and Powerpoint slides).