Speaking of sophism, I received in the mail a little brochure that demonstrates my point. It also offends me as a Christian and as a rational human being for which life hasn’t always been easy.
The brochure, from an unnamed organization, reads, “Interested in Biblical Prophecy?” My immediate response is to demand an explication of the terms used. It seems that 3 of those 4 words have been horribly abused in modern church marketing. I know they’re abusing the terminology here but I’ll ignore it to address the bigger issues.
Inside the pamphlet, it claims that you can receive a “free book” explaining things like “the end times” and “why God allows suffering and death.” It’s nice that it is free, except that it is only a free sample. The actual book, tape series, etc. runs over $200. Which quite frankly is a very small fee to pay to understand eschatology and theodicy. Heck, I spent $100,000 and 5 years of my life trying to build a reasonable theodicy just to arrive at the conclusion that such things aren’t for me to know. If only I had the foresight to buy a $200 book that explains in only 450 pages all of the themes and secrets that the Bible intentionally obfuscates.
Of course, buying Biblical secrets is simony — a grievous sin. Groups that claim to possess these secrets are called gnostics. These are the religious terms for Sophism. Sophists, however, are a lot better than these Biblical soothsayers. Sophists teach valuable skills, and by Socrates own admission do a pretty good job of it. Sophists actually possessed the knowledge they claimed to have, and that knowledge was not readily available elsewhere.
These “Christians” don’t have the answers they claim. What I’ve learned is that whomever claims a working theodicy is only a few days of suffering away from recanting everything. C.S. Lewis actually wrote an entire book on pain and suffering, then lost the love of his life, and changed his mind about almost everything. His final conclusion was that he had no conclusion. That’s pretty wise.
Eschatology, likewise, has been an open debate for 2,000 years. Even longer if you count the Jewish traditions. In essence, this organization wants to sell me 450 pages of probably wrong idle speculation.
Please, I can generate 450 pages of probably wrong idle speculation in a couple of weeks, and it won’t cost me a thing.
1. any system of doctrines concerning last, or final, matters, as death, the Judgment, the future state, etc.
2. a vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil.
3. Judging by their methods, “gnostics” would be a better term.