I posted about Thiel’s new book, 2012 and the Rise of the Secret Sect. He draws together all sorts of false prophecies in the book to weave, I suspect, his tale of a temporary but false peace that will precede the real one. If I’m wrong, I apologize up front as I haven’t yet read the book (and not even sure I want to).
What I do want to expand upon is the idea that we in the Church of God should be paying a lot of attention to Mayan calendars, Hindu, Buddhist or even Catholic prophecies.
Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;
That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:
But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.
~ Jos 23:6-8
There is some obvious hyperbole here, for taking this literally would mean you couldn’t even read portions of the Bible out loud. So, we need to step back and look at the entire passage and gather the context.
In addition to not mentioning their gods’ names, they are to not swear by them, serve them nor bow down to them. All these are acts of worship. The purpose of mentioning their name, then, is to acknowledge their power (such as swearing by) and to worship them.
So, then is it wrong to study comparative religion? No, of course not. In fact, it can be beneficial in order to understand some groups’ beliefs, to be able to relate to them and to present the truth to them. It is also beneficial to know how many of the traditions we have evolved over time and syncretized with Christianity.
I think the Church in the past has made a mistake about telling members to never read religious material from other organizations. It’s sort of like living in a vacuum. Sure, you’re not likely to get sick as long as the vacuum is in place, but the strength of the immune system isn’t exercised, so it gets weaker. A vacuum is not a natural condition, however, and sooner or later it will get breached. Then, with a weakened immune system, even a common cold could seriously impair or kill you.
Back to the passage, whenever there is hyperbole, there is intent behind the extreme words. Can you take the study of others’ beliefs too seriously? Yes, you can. We are supposed to meditate on what is pure and true (Php 4:8), not on what is false.
Studying false religions to see how they are false would be a time-consuming chore, though, and not very profitable. Tim Challies makes the point in The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment that to learn how to spot counterfeits, you concentrate upon recognizing real currency. Why? There are hundreds of ways to make false money, but only one way to make real currency. (See “Book Review on The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies” for my review of the book.)
You have to ask yourself some questions when you study other religions. Why study these other religions? Are you “getting into” the study of it too intensely? How grounded are you in the truth? The Church may have been overly protective in the past, but it was based upon a very real concern. Without being grounded in the truth and staying close to God, we can become victims of deception and lies.
Perhaps one of the biggest questions is whether or not Hindu, Catholic, Buddhist or Mayan prophecies really matter in the first place. God gave us a Bible to read. God gave His Church keys which the majority of the world does not have: The identity of Israel, the purpose for life, the identification of where the Beast will arise, God’s plan of salvation revealed through His Holy Days, etc. Other than preparing ourselves for the worst of times, esp. spiritually, what else do we really need?
After all, what is the purpose of prophecy other than to lead one to repentance and cause that person to draw near to God?