Friday Challenge — The Pillars of Faith



Pillars are interesting things. They make interesting images, and they provide interesting metaphors. We all know what it means to be a ‘pillar of the community,’ or the ‘pillar of an organization.’ Local churches have a handful of people who are called ‘pillars of the church.’

Pillars can also define belief systems. There are the five pillars of Islam. And while no longer heard so commonly, some of us remember hearing about the pillars of American society, or the ‘pillars of a free society.’

Googling the word ‘pillar’ turned up something I had not considered.

Pillars and Idols

what is a pillar - Google Search

The reference to ‘stone, wood or metal’ is much like the Bible definition of idols [Dt 29:17]. It is expected also that idols will sit up erect and straight, unlike the unfortunate experience of Dagon [1Sa 5].

Also, both pillars and idols can be broken. Samson’s last chapter opens by recounting the great day of worship [Dagon style], but ends with him pulling down the pillars of the building [Jdgs 16:23-30]. So pillars do provide ‘essential support.’ But then again, so do idols, which is why the Philistine lords attributed the victory over Samson to Dagon.

Fallen Pillars, Fallen Idols

It can be disturbing to see your idols lie flat on their faces [1Sa 5]. This can create a theological crisis. But then, the disillusionment this involves can be very liberating also. This may be especially so when righteous pillars are replaced with wrongful and misguided ones. Hence today’s top photo with its five pillars:

  • Hysteria
  • Denial of Reality
  • Thought Control
  • Name-Calling
  • Projection of Guilt.

Today’s Friday Challenge

Columns broken by earthquake at Bethshan
Broken by earthquake. In faith and life as much as geography, earthquakes do this.

Most of us have at some time lost sight of the big picture or ‘gone off the deep end’ of some point we were making. If not, we’ve been manipulative, or wanted to connect someone with some verbal creativity. But these are not the pillars of our lives. That’s the rub. In some contexts, the ‘pillars’ are needed because without them, the whole edifice collapses.

What gods and pillars have you seen in Fundamentalism? What pillars have you seen fall? Why and to what end did this happen? What was left standing after the fall? What idols/pillars yet NEED to fall? And what things need to stand?

Revelation as an Apocalypse

Perspective 6
The Andromeda Galaxy, an immense island of some 200 billion stars, 2.52 million light-years away from our galaxy. Together with M33, the Milky Way and a handful of dwarf galaxies, M31 is in the local cluster of galaxies. This may help put some things in perspective…

Apocalyptic Perspective

‘Apocalyptic’ is a literary genre to itself. Its distinctive characteristics, motifs and perspective must be interpreted AS apocalyptic. Daniel has apocalyptic passages. Sun and moon darkened, earth shaking, creation unmade etc. are also apocalyptic themes [Is 13:10; Ezek 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Mic 3:6; Mt 24:29; Ac 2:20; Re 8:12, 9:2, etc.].

RB notes that Revelation is an apocalyptic work in many respects. But he focuses on two main points.

Transcendent Perspective

John wrote seven churches Asiatic churches in concrete, historical situations, and gave them a transcendent perspective on the world.

John enables churches to see God’s purpose for their specific situations, and bring a kingdom-appropriate response. That’s the point of Re 4-5.

God transported John by this vision into his throne room. There, he saw God’s take on the world. He saw behind-the-scenes glimpses which give him understanding/meaning to world events in every time and place.

One immediate result is to break the boundaries of Roman power and ideology. Believers in the seven churches could then see the transcendent greater purposes of God at work in the world. And so can we!

John’s intent is NOT to give esoteric knowledge the future, but to let us see the here-and-now very differently, as through God’s eyes.

Revelation ISN’T about seeing a DIFFERENT world; it is about seeing our OWN world very differently IN WHATEVER TIME OR PLACE we live.

John intends for the churches to see and respond very differently to the dominant, Roman imperial view of the world and all that said view entailed. RB writes: ‘Revelation counters that false view of reality…’

[I think that once this is grasped, it has explosive potential to revolutionize the church and its role in the world. Ex: rather than bemoaning social conditions as ‘signs of the times,’ preachers can say that current social distress are judgment on the world: because whenever nations war, poverty reigns, social calamity befalls us and death tolls rise, it means that the four horsemen bestride us. And we can point to our political parties and say together, they have four policies — War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. So why should we follow any of them?].

[Ironically, this actually makes the Revelation FAR more accessible to and relevant to believers than what we’ve been told.].

Who Is Lord

As soon as you touch on the boundaries of power, the question arises, ‘who is Lord over all the world.’

RB notes that Jewish apocalypses [books of Enoch, Abraham, etc.] were concerned with unfulfilled promises, judgment on evil, the salvation of the righteous, and God’s rule over the world. Other apocalyptic themes include the suffering righteous, flourishing righteous, and the rule of the world — not by God, but by evil.

He continues saying that apocalyptist bolster the faith of the righteous against the oppression of evil, political power. But it is characteristic also for the apocalyptic worldview to insist that ‘despite appearances, it is God who rules his creation,’ and that ‘the time is coming soon when he will overthrow the evil empires and establish his kingdom.’

RB’s take on Revelation is that God’s rule over the world is contradicted by the rule of Caesar, whose rule [in any time or place, and by any name] hijacks the rule of God to itself. So apocalyptic seeks to demonstrate that God, not Caesar [under any administration, by any name, in any time or place] is in fact, ‘Lord.’

While irrelevant to the study of Revelation [or Bauckham’s book], it may help those grappling with a Fundie past to think of Fundamentalism as an apocalyptic sect. It certainly evidences very similar traits.

But more, this reading of Revelation gives Christians very serious reason to consider who/what they call ‘Lord.’ Certainly, the correct answer in the theological sense is to say, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ The problem is, John is intent on challenging our relations with the world. Many of us may stand in need of repentance. Your IFB pastor/university/ministry included.