Monday, 3 October 2016

The final Antichrist: the different views

In this essay I discuss the most important views about the final Antichrist. The main question is: Should we expect a final Antichrist who will appear in the period preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? And if so, how will we recognize him? I provide a fresh assessment of our understanding of the major Bible prophecies that have traditionally been interpreted as referring to the final Antichrist. Previous essays in this series include “The final world empire: the different views” and “The final seven years: the different views”.

Bible prophecy has throughout the ages intrigued many generations of Bible scholars and students. One of the topics that has been extensively studied is that of the Antichrist. This figure is of special importance in the sense that he represents that which is the opposite of the Christ/Messiah. Many Christian scholars believe that he would rise in the end times in the climax of the ages to fight with Jesus Christ during the great battle of Armageddon – and that his rule would be accompanied by special hardship and tribulation. Other scholars think that we should rather think in terms of various antichrists that include historical persons like Nero, although some of them would not exclude the possibility of a final Antichrist arising at the end of time.

The word “antichrist” appears only in the epistles of St. John. He mentions that there would be many antichrists as well as a final Antichrist: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come” (1 Joh. 2:18). He also says that the spirit of the Antichrist was already working in the world during his own time. Although the word Antichrist does not appear elsewhere, various prophecies have been interpreted as referring to this final Antichrist among which the most important are in the Books of Daniel and Revelation as well as in St. Paul’s writings.

In this essay I take a fresh look at the person of the Antichrist. In doing so, I carefully consider the most important views about the Antichrist, namely the Biblical Criticism view that takes the prophecies as merely referring to historical persons (some of these scholars reject the notion of prophecy itself, see [1] for a discussion), the Historical view as well as the Futuristic view. I ask: what view makes the best sense when the integrity of the text and the historical context are considered. In my view we should in any such study take care to really listen to the voices of the prophets and the Hebrew tradition from which they originate.

Any serious scholar would have to admit that old Israel believed in prophecy in the sense of divinely inspired pronouncements that goes beyond the limited perspectives of the prophets [1]. Although scholars may disagree with that notion due to their own metaphysical commitments, they should at the very least accept that old Israel believed in it. As such we might allow that – if God truly inspired the prophets – some of these prophecies may refer to a final Antichrist who will appear at the end of days. We should not exclude certain views in principle just because we do not believe in it.

Does the Antichrist only refer to past historical persons?

In our study about the Antichrist, we restrict ourselves to the most important prophecies that are generally considered to refer to the final Antichrist. The first of these appear in the Book of Daniel, chapter 7. This is a very remarkable prophecy according to which the prophet Daniel is said to have had a vision in which various beasts appear one after the other from the sea, namely a lion with the wings of an eagle, a bear with three ribs between its teeth, a leopard with four heads and finally a dreadful and terrible beast, with iron teeth, that was exceedingly strong. This final beast had ten horns on its head.

While the prophet watched, another horn appeared on the head of the final beast that grew to be greater in appearance than the other horns. It had the eyes and mouth of a man. This entity spoke pompous words against the Most High and persecuted the saints for a period of “a time, times and half a time”. The prophet then saw how the judgment seat of the Ancient of Days was put in place and how all the heavenly multitudes appeared around it. The beasts were judged. Then he saw one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Days and received an everlasting dominion over all peoples, nations and languages.

There are general agreement among Biblical scholars that these beasts should be taken in geopolitical context as referring to the various empires that appeared in the Middle East to rule over the land of Israel. The question is, however, which empires are referred to? There are agreement that the lion refers to the Neo-Babylonian Empire (626-539 BC) to which the great Nebuchadnezzar belonged. The second beast, namely the bear, would refer to the next great empire, namely the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) [2]. As for the rest, scholars are divided as to how exactly the application should be made (for a detailed discussion of the different views, see [3]).

Scholars from the Biblical Criticism school believe that the “prophecy” was written after the events happened. This means that all the relevant events should fit into the period before 164 BC (the book was written shortly after that in their view). Although many traditional scholars take the eleventh horn on the head of the fourth beast as referring to the final Antichrist, Biblical Criticism scholars believe that it refers to the Syrian (Seleucid) king Antiochus IV Epiphanus who captured Jerusalem in 167 BC. In their view one should regard this horn as the same one that is mentioned in the next chapter (8).

In Daniel 8 we read that the prophet saw a ram with two horns fighting against a male goat with one large horn between its eyes. The male goat with the single large horn cast the ram on the ground and trampled on it. After that, the goat grew very great, but then its horn was broken and four notable horns came in its place. Out of one of these came another horn that grew very great. It took power over the “Glorious Land” (Israel) and cast down some of the host of heaven. During that time the sanctuary was desecrated for a period of two thousand three hundred days and the holy people were “destroyed”.

In this case the interpretation of the vision is also provided. The ram with two horns is said to refer to the kings of Media and Persia. This is a reference to the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC). The male goat is said to refer to the first king of the kingdom of Greece – that is, Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), founder of the Greek (Macedonian) Empire. The four horns that rose in the place of the first one are said to refer to the four kingdoms into which his kingdom was divided after his death. These were the Ptolemaic kingdom, the Seleucid empire (later kingdom), the kingdom of Pergamon and the kingdom of Macedon. The fifth horn refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanus (175-164 BC), who became king of the Seleucid kingdom. He persecuted the Jews and defiled the temple.

The essential question is whether the eleventh horn in the prophecy about the four beasts is the same as the fifth horn in the prophecy about the ram and goat? Since it is assumed in Biblical Criticism circles that the book was written after the events that happened during the time of Antiochus IV, they accept that the author cannot refer to anything else but those events. The problem is, however, that there are important differences between the two visions that made such a view suspect. Although the horn in the vision of the ram and goat obviously refers to Antiochus IV, the horn in the other vision does not appear on the head of the corresponding beast, which is the leopard with four heads (which signify the four parts into Alexander’s empire was divided). Rather, it appears on the head of the next beast, the great and terrible one with ten horns, which has no equivalent in the vision of the ram and goat.

Although one may try to force everything mentioned in these visions into the historical period that ends with the death of Antiochus IV, this is not good hermeneutical practice. One should be open to other possibilities, especially that which is clearly alluded to in the book, namely that this is a prophecy about future events. In this case one cannot but to see the remarkable correspondence between the great and terrible beast and the Roman Empire (see [3] for a detailed discussion).

Of special importance is the fact that the eleventh horn that grew on the head of this beast is said to appear in the period before the final judgment, when one like the Son of Man would appear on the clouds of heaven. To what does this refer? Jesus applies this prophecy in the Book of Daniel to his Second Coming: “they will see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30).

If we take Jesus’ words serious, then the prophecy about the four beasts covers a very long period, namely from the time of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, when Daniel is said to have lived, until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This means that the eleventh horn does not refer to Antiochus IV but to an Antichristian figure that would appear at the time of the end. In this case Antiochus IV may be regarded as a type of the final Antichrist, but he is not the only such figure referred to in the Book of Daniel.

Another important prophecy that is often taken as referring to the final Antichrist, is that about the beast in the Book of Revelation. The interesting thing about the description of this beast, is that it builds upon the prophecy in the Book of Daniel about the four beasts that we have just discussed. In fact, the beast of Revelation shows a remarkable correspondence with the eleventh horn in Daniel’s prophecy (in chapter 7). If we accept that the beast is just another reworking of the original prophecy in the Book of Daniel, then it might again refer to the final Antichrist. But again, Biblical Criticism scholars beg to differ.

We find a detailed description of the beast of Revelation in chapter 13. In this case we read that the beast is a composite figure with characteristics of all four the beasts that appear from the sea in Daniel’s prophecy. It looks like a leopard, has feet like that of a bear, with a mouth of a lion and ten horns on its heads (it has seven heads). As is said about the eleventh horn in the prophecy of Daniel, the beast blasphemies against God and makes war against the saints and overcome them. He does this for a period of forty-two months – which agree with the period mentioned in Daniel, namely a period consisting of a time (1 year), times (2 years) and half a time (½ year).

Scholars from the Biblical Criticism view believe that this beast refers to one of the Caesars of the Roman Empire who lived in the time before the Book of Revelation was written (in about 96 AD). Nero is often mentioned. In this case they believe that although the images originate from Daniel 7, they are now applied to the Caesar. Again they believe that no future prophecy is intended. And again this involves forcing certain aspects of this image within an historical perspective that do not fit well.

We read, for example, that the beast would rule with ten kings who have not yet received kingship in the time when the book was written: “The ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour [period] as kings with the beast. They are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Rev. 17:12-13). This strongly suggest that future events are intended.

What is more, in this case we again find that the reign of the beast is placed in the time of the Second Coming of Jesus. We read that the beast will make war with the Lamb [Jesus Christ] (Rev. 17:14). This war is depicted in Revelation 19 where Jesus Christ is described as riding out on a white horse against his enemy. In this case we read: “And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and his army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence” (Rev. 19:19-20). Although it is true that the Book of Revelation is to be read carefully with due consideration for all the many symbols used in the book, there cannot be any doubt that a good hermeneutical approach means that we should consider all the parts of the story about the beast together.

As such it is quite clear that the reign of the beast is placed in future perspective. Although scholars from this school of thought may reject the idea of a future Second Coming, they have to admit that the Christians of that time did think in such terms and that this view is reflected in the book. Again, one should at least be open to the possibility that this should be considered as prophecy, as it is also stated in the beginning of the book (Rev. 1:3). Insofar as this may be considered to be prophecy, the beast is merely another depiction of the eleventh horn of Daniel 7 which refers to a final Antichrist who would appear in the time of the end.

The man of sin

Another important prophecy that is taken by many traditional scholars as referring to the final Antichrist, is in St. Paul’s second Epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 2. In this famous passage St. Paul describes the period preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He writes that the Thessalonians should not think that the “coming of our Lord Jesus and our gathering to Him” can take place at any moment. Before that can happen, certain important events would first happen, namely the “falling away”, which refers to a period of religious decline, and the “man of sin” must be revealed.

St. Paul writes: “that Day [of the Lord] 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 Th. 3:3-4). St. Paul writes that the Thessalonians know what is restraining him that he may be revealed in his own time. He says that it is only once he who now restrains is taken out of the way, that the “lawless one” will be revealed, “whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Th. 2:8). The revelation of the "man of sin" would be accompanied with great power, signs and lying wonders worked by Satan himself.

Most Biblical scholars believe that St. Paul refers to the final Antichrist when he speaks of the “man of sin”. It is quite clear from the passage that this person would be on the world scene in the time when Jesus appears in the time of his Second Coming. This is also in line with our reading of the prophecies in the Books of Daniel and Revelation that such a person would appear in that time. In fact, all the prophecies that we discuss place the final Antichrist in the period before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven). All scholars who take this as referring to a future Antichrist do, however, not agree about the meaning of the passage.

Some scholars, from the Historical School (the name originates from the way in which they interpret the Book of Revelation), believe that St. Paul does not refer to a single person but to an office that is occupied by many different persons, namely the papacy. Their view originated in the time of the Reformation, when the persecution of Christians by the Roman Catholic Church was still fresh in the minds of Protestant Christians.

This interpretation is based on an interesting reading of the discussed passage. They take the view of the early church about the one who restrains the coming of the Antichrist, as point of departure. In the passage St. Paul refers to both a “that [it]” which (verse 6) and a “he” who (verse 7) restrains. The early church understood these as referring to the Roman Empire and the Roman Caesar – which would occupy the place of the Antichristian empire until its time comes and would then stand out of the way for it to appear (this reading is perfectly compatible with the Greek words used) [4].

These scholars apply this logic to the Antichrist. They argue that the same reading should be applied to the Antichrist, which would then refer not to a single person (just as no particular Caesar is referred to) but to the position they occupy (the papacy). They then apply this interpretation to all passages that refer to the future Antichrist. Since the papacy has been on the scene for a very long time, they take certain events as signifying the beginning of the period of the rule of the “Antichrist”, which would last for 1260 years (they take each solar day of the 3 ½ years referred to previously in our discussion of prophecies in the Books of Daniel and Revelation as referring to one solar year).

Although this view is intriguing, it is difficult to reconcile such an office, which is held by many persons (the papacy), with the words “man of sin” and “son of perdition”. We also read that he is the “lawless one” who will be revealed and whom Jesus Christ would destroy with his coming. The words use by St. Paul clearly refers to a single person. Also, the period during which he would persecute the saints, is described as lasting for “a time [1 year], times [2 years] and half a time [½ year]”, 1260 days or 42 months (Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5), which strongly suggest that 3 ½ prophetic years (of 360 days) are implied. One of the biggest problems of this view is that their calculations of the period have left them with red faces as the history of the Seventh-Day Adventists show.

The beast and the harlot

I previously discussed various themes that are closely related to that of the final Antichrist, namely the ten “kings” who would rule with him [3] as well as the final seven years [5]. I will not engage with that again. Space also do not permit me to discuss the themes mentioned above, namely the tribulation (persecution of the saints), the deception of the last days, the falling away and so forth. There is one other topic that is of importance in our understanding of the final Antichrist that is not discussed that often, namely his relation with the great “harlot” who is described in the Book of Revelation as a woman clothed in scarlet who rides on the beast (Rev. 17).

The harlot is presented as a beautiful woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls. She holds a golden cup in her hand and sits on the beast, who came from the bottomless pit and go to perdition (see “son of perdition” above). She is said to have committed fornication with the kings of the earth and is “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs” (Rev. 17:6). Somehow she represents a “mystery” and she is called Babylon, the Great.

Image result for the beast harlot revelation image

Who is this woman? We read that the seven heads of the beast that carries her is the seven mountains on which she sits (verse 9). These seven mountains are without doubt the seven hills on which the ancient city of Rome is located. This is why we also read that she “is the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). Rome was the great city who ruled over “all the earth” in the days when the Book of Revelation was written. The name given to her, namely Babylon, is also used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to Rome (1 Pet. 5:13). Somehow ancient Babylon, that great enemy of Israel, is now replaced with the new Babylon, Rome.

The prophecy in Revelation is about the judgment of the harlot and we find a whole song written in advance to commemorate her fall (Rev. 18). How will she fall? She will fall when the ten kings who rule with the beast in the time of the Second Coming, will burn her: “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (verse 16). This means that the prophecy is not about the fall of Rome in the time when the Germanic leader Odoacer conquered her in 476 AD, but refers to a future event.

Insofar as this is to be considered as a prophecy about the end times, the only entity that suits the description of the harlot is the Roman Catholic Church which does not only have its seat in Rome, which had not only brought many states in an alliance with her, but which had also spilled the blood of many Christians whom she has persecuted throughout the ages. The killing of Christians was officially sanctioned since the time when the first Waldensians were burned as heretics in 1211 – their persecution persisted throughout the ages and nearly led to their total extinction. In 1545 thousands were massacred and whole villages were destroyed [6]. The followers of John Wycliffe (1320-1384) and Jan Hus (1372-1415), who was burned at the stake for heresy, were also severely persecuted.

The relation between the beast and harlot reflects that between political power and the Roman Catholic Church. This is reminiscent of the Holy Roman Empire that existed from 800 to 1806 AD (although not continuously). Since Charles the Great was crowned as the “new Constantine” in Rome in 800 AD, those Caesars ruled over this empire as a continuation of the old Roman Empire [7]. One may read the prophecy as saying that the Holy Roman Empire would be restored in the last days and that the Antichrist would take the place of the Caesars when he appears [8].

At this point in time, the Roman Catholic Church is actively involved in efforts to build an ever more unified European Union – presumably with the purpose to reestablish the Holy Roman Empire. The church played an important role in blocking the proposed constitution for the EU in 2005 since it did not have any reference to God. Some of the major political players, such as the first president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the current head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, are Jesuits. Pope Francis is also playing a very visible role in this regard and he, for example, gave a speech to the European Parliament in November 2014.

Who will be the final Antichrist?

The final question to consider is: who will be the Antichrist? Although some Christians make a habit of pointing to certain political leaders as candidates for the Antichrist, the above analysis implies that he would take the role that was previously held by the Caesars (he may be the final ruler who come to the throne once the Caesars are restored). The only candidates for such a position would be from the ancient line of Hapsburg-Lorraine. There are, however, some prophecies that imply that the Antichrist would get that position by stealth which means that he may be from another family.

There has recently been a family line who presents themselves as the ones to whom such a future position would rightfully belong. This is the House of Plantard de St. Clair [9]. The interesting thing about this family is that their aims show remarkable agreement with the prophecies discussed above. On the one hand there are strong indications that the secret order that works towards the restoration of this family to the throne, the Priory of Sion [10], plays an important role behind the scenes in constructing the EU as a United States of Europe [11]. Their goal seems to be to eventually get a pope of their choice elected who would recognize the claim of this family to the throne of such a restored Holy Roman Empire. On the other hand, they hate the Roman Catholic Church for certain wrongs done to them in the past [12]. One can think that they would eventually turn on it and try to destroy it.

This family has a particular anti-Christian image as supporters of the old pagan, hermetic and esoteric traditions. The strange thing is that they claim to be descended from the family of Jesus Christ (or even from himself). Although there are good reason to think that they are an old European family, this last claim should be regarded as an elaborate hoax to fraudulently promote the claims of the family. Their conflict with the Roman Catholic Church (or rather certain groups in that church) has become the dominant theme in books such as the Da Vinci Code (2003).


In this essay I discuss the most important views about a final Antichrist. Although there had been many antichrists in the past and we may take rulers such as Antiochus IV and Nero as such, there are good reasons to think that a final Antichristian figure who will appear in the period before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is referred to in Biblical prophecy. The purpose of this writing is not to give a detailed discussion of that period (see [3] and [5]) but merely to argue that such a person will rise in accordance with prophecy.

In the view presented here, the Antichrist will not be a Muslin leader [8]. Rather, he will be the final ruler over a restored (Holy) Roman Empire who takes the place of the Caesars who went before. This means that Christians should not take any political leader that they do not like as a possible candidate for the final Antichrist. When the time comes, Christians would recognize him through the prophecies. In this regard there are various other aspects of his reign that I have not discussed here, that give a more comprehensive picture of that time [13]. As Christians we are not in the dark as to what that time would look like – but it is important that we use good hermeneutics when studying the Scriptures.

[2] Some scholars think that the author had the wrong impression that the Median and Persian Empire (i.e. the Achaemenid Empire) was two subsequent empires but this view is refuted by the text itself (Dan. 5:28; 8:20).
[4] There is a contemporary view that the church and Holy Spirit are referred to, i.e. that they withhold the coming of the Antichrist. The problem with this view is that the church is never referred to as "that/it" in the Bible - she is always referred to as "she". So, to what does the "that/it" refers?
[5] The final seven years: the different views
[6] In 2015 the pope asked the Waldensian Christians for forgiveness for the persecution.
[7] I previously argued [3] that the Holy Roman Empire is in fact referred to in another prophecy about the end times, namely the one in Daniel 2, where the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and the explanation given by the prophet are recounted. In this case the king is said to have seen a statue made of various metals: its head was of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet as well as its ten toes of iron and partly of clay. He saw how a rock crushed the statue and broke it in pieces.
This prophecy corresponds on every point with that in Daniel 7, which I discussed above: the various metals correspond with the different beasts. Although the iron legs are described in the same terms as the terrifying beast with ten horns, in this case more details are given, namely that the two legs (the two parts of the old Roman Empire) would find a continuation in the two feet of iron mixed with clay (the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire) which would eventually evolve into the kingdom of ten toes (corresponding with the ten horns). The final Antichrist would appear once these are on the scene.
[8] Some interpreters think that the final Antichrist would be a Muslim leader. We can only reconcile this with Bible prophecy if the ten “kings” who rule with him refer to ten Muslim countries (or something like that). I discussed this view in [3] where I show that it has various problems which make that scenario very unlikely.
[9] Pierre Plantard
[11] The authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln provide a good discussion about this topic in their book The Messianic Legacy.
[12] The Plantards claim to be the direct male descendants of the Merovingians who ruled in western Europe before the Carolingians (descendants of Charles the Great). According to them the Roman Catholic Church negated on a promise to recognize them as the rightful kings of the Franks when they shifted their support to the Carolingians. They hate the church for that and work actively for its destruction.

Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref.

The author has written a few books on eschatology including Op pad na Armageddon, 31 bepeinsings oor Openbaring en ander Bybelprofesieë (1995) asook Die Arabiese Opstande, Hoe raak dit die vervulling van Bybelprofesieë oor die eindtyd (2011, Griffel). He has a Masters in Philosophy (University of Cape Town) as well as a PhD in physics (University of Natal). He writes and lectures on issues of religion, philosophy, science and eschatology.

If readers find the essay important for current debate, they are welcome to share it or forward it to others.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Power of God

What the church needs today is the power of God. How can that power be unleashed?

We live in challenging times. As Christians we are concerned about many of the changes in society which often have an impact on our own families. There are so many alternative narratives to which people are exposed – many are being sucked into other paradigms of thinking. The materialism of the Western world has given way to godlessness. More and more people in the Western world do not believe in God. Although we as Christians may point to many things beyond our control which drive this process, we should also ask what we can do in a time like this.

What can we as Christians do? So often Christians think in terms of their own efforts. What they can do or try to do. Rarely does one hear that Christians speak about what God can do. Yes, they believe that God would help them and that they are doing things in His name. The problem is, however, that all the human efforts in the church are often merely human efforts. Although God's name is constantly mentioned and many things are being done in His Name, the results are meager and without real impact. In fact, it often seems that all are merely organizational stuff, not so dissimilar from any other social club. There is no deep desire that God should come in his power and do what only he can do.

I believe that we as Christians have lost our vision of God. We are working and praying. We try our very best. But in all of this, we are merely concerned with what we think that we should do. In the Book of Acts we read that Jesus warned the disciples that they should not even try to do anything in his name if they are not empowered through his Holy Spirit. He said that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes over them and that they would then be able to reach the ends of the world with the gospel. Against all odds and in the face of great institutionalized opposition and persecution from within the great Roman Empire and its powerful emperors, the church spread all over the known world in a relatively short period.

When we read through the Book of Acts we see that God used the church as a mighty instrument. The power of God was manifested through the church. God used both simple people like the fishermen-apostles and learned people like St. Paul in a powerful way to establish his church all over the world. The single most important characteristic of the early church was the manifestation of the power of God in their midst. And this is our problem: the most important feature of the present day church is its powerlessness. In our day there are a vast variety of churches in the Western world, some of which are more driven and enthusiastic than others in their efforts – but we do not see the power of God in action. We do not see that the God changes society. We do not see that the bastions of power are in any significant way challenged by the power of God working through the church.

If Jesus forbade the apostles in the early church from proceeding with their mission without his power, is the same not true today? If they had to fully surrender to God so that he could use them in his enterprises irrespective of the cost involved, is that not also true today? If they had to die to all their own ambitions and desires – even insofar as their efforts in the kingdom of God are concerned – is that not true for today? If St.Paul had to come to the place where Christ and him alone was his heart's desire – is not that also what God expects from us today?

God cannot use us if we are not willing to die – to fully surrender to his will and become mere instruments in his hand. Our single biggest problem is that as church leaders we have great ambition for our own ministries and think that we are very important to God – whereas we ourselves and our self-centeredness are in fact the greatest problem. We stand in God's way to reveal Himself in powerful ways in our day and age.

The church must return to the basics. The church must become aware of their own need of God. The church must rediscover Christ and the power of his Spirit. We would only see God working again in power through his church if we stop playing religion and start humbling ourselves before God. The church has to fully surrender to God – and allow him to use us as He pleases. This will only happen if individuals – Christians who are deeply concerned about the dispositions of their own hearts – humble themselves and fully surrender to God to do with them as He pleases. Are we really willing to do that? Are we really willing to die to ourselves?

That dear saintly man of God, George Muller, once wrote: "There was a day when I died; utterly died to George Muller, to his opinions, preferences, tastes and will, died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends. Since then I have studied to show myself approved only to God". That is the basic need of the church. This is the one thing that Christians do not talk about. This is the one thing that we try to ignore. But this is the ONE THING that God requires. If we are not willing to fully surrender to God, He cannot use us as he wishes. As such we cannot be instruments of his power.

If we want to see the power of God in action, we have to humble ourselves – both as leaders and as those who serve in all sorts of ministries. The church has to surrender to God if she wants to see his power in action. The question is: how bad must things get before this will happen. May God help us to stop talking and take him serious when he said that he cannot use us if we are not filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref.

See also
Wrong choices
Meeting God
God hoor

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Science and metaphysics: in search of Russell's teapot

Presenting a new argument for the existence of God

In the modernist era science was often contrasted with metaphysics. Nowadays philosophers accept the inevitable: the metaphysics of science. But how does the metaphysics of science stand in relation to the metaphysics of worldviews? And how does the metaphysical views of Christians and atheists fare under the scrutiny of scientific discovery over the last two hundred years? It is a remarkable fact that the Christian worldview is historically much better confirmed than the atheistic one. This is in fact the raw nerve of atheism!! This is part three of the series Science and God.

Since the time when humans first wrote things down, they had metaphysical beliefs about the world. They held views about our cosmos that go far beyond the possibilities of our five senses. As such they believed that humans have a soul (spirit), that other spirits or gods exist in a spiritual realm beyond our material world and that there are life for humans beyond our earthly existence. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition people furthermore believe in one creator God who gave his moral law and that humans have the ability (free choice) to live in accordance with that law [1].

Since the time of the Enlightenment many people have rejected these metaphysical views. Atheists and agnostics think that these views are the remnants of a pre-scientific worldview. They reject the idea that spirits or God exist (some developed new rationally inclined views, for example, about what the idea of “God” entails, but that is beyond the scope of this essay). They believe that science and only science should guide our thinking. In this regard they often confuse science with scientism – thinking that our human existence should be viewed only in terms of empirically demonstrated facts. As such they often do not appreciate the fact that this is also a mere metaphysical view about our human existence which makes claims that go far beyond the reach of science.

The million dollar question is: which metaphysical view is correct? Both camps argue that they are right. As such a more sensible question is: How can we determine which view is correct? The problem in this regard is that the things that Christians and atheists argue about lay beyond our sensible world. Although this might seem to be a dead end, it is not. A possible solution is to consider these worldviews in their historical context as theories which have over time been confirmed or denied by scientific research.

In this essay I cast the disagreement between Christians and atheists in terms of metaphysical worldviews that can be treated as theories and ask: which one has over the course of the last two hundred years shown itself to be correct insofar as we have been able to confirm or deny its presuppositions when measured against scientific progress? I use the work of the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who has contrasted these metaphysical views in the context of some of his so-called antinomies, that is, conflicts of logical possibilities. In these antinomies opposing rational positions are effectively brought into conflict with each other. I show that although the Christian worldview has not originated in science, it has by far been more successful than the atheistic view.

The metaphysics of science

The conversation between Christians and atheists is often cast in terms of knowledge claims. In this regard atheists often present the Christian view as not built on any real knowledge. They argue that the Christian presuppositions about our cosmos go beyond that which is scientifically known and postulates things that can never be known. In this regard atheists often speak about the “god-in-the-gap” perspective: in the context of that which is unknown, one can postulate anything. The atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) famously wrote that the claims of the Christian religion are in effect unfalsifiable claims similar to saying that a tiny, undetectable teapot exists between Earth and Mars. In his view the burden of proof lies with those making such claims to show that they are true.

Bertrand Russell
Russell lived in the modernist period (from the Enlightenment to the first part of the twentieth century) when most scientists believed that the nature of our world is in the realm of scientific proof. Although it is surely true that we can “objectively” assert certain things about the empirically accessible part of our world (see part 2 - the link is at the bottom of this essay), we know today that there are large parts of the cosmos for which this is just not possible (scientists nowadays think that more than 93 % of our world may be “dark” to our instruments). Even the well-known theories of general relativity and quantum physics describe events and entities that are not empirically accessible. The “Big Bang” is not so accessible; quantum entities (particles) are also outside direct empirical access – they are mathematically described as existing in a complex (abstract) space which is definitely not our space!! In Quantum Field Theory they are even described as being outside proper space-time. Only when we measure them do they appear in our space-time.

In this world the idea of “proof” evaporates. That which Russell set out to do in this regard is today generally regarded as a total flop (i.e. his "logical atomism" which engendered the discredited "logical positivism"). Instead we find that various “interpretations” of especially quantum physics theory have been developed – all of which view the reality of our world very different (for example, the Copenhagen interpretation, Bohm's interpretation, Von Neumann's observer interpretation and the many-worlds interpretation). Today we speak in philosophy of science of the metaphysics of quantum physics. That is, there are various metaphysical views as to how the world really is beyond our empirical access. In the place of “proof” we are now engaged with “interpretations” due to the simple fact that we as humans are severely constrained in our experiential and experimental access of the world (see part 2).

This problem has been foreseen long ago by Kant. A large part of his philosophy is concerned with the constrained nature of our human sensibility and understanding which in turn restrict our ability to acquire “objective” knowledge. Once we proceed in our thinking and theoretical (mathematical) modelling beyond these boundaries, we cannot obtain proof of anything. We may have good reason to think that something is such or such but one cannot prove it. Even in the case of our best scientific theories, nothing is proven!

Although we may have indirect evidence which confirms the “correctness” of our theories, this can never prove that the world is like that. In the “Big Bang” theory, for example, we have indirect evidence that confirms this theory: the expanding universe (red shift of light) and the absorption line features in the background radiation which agree with star formation. Although this is empirically confirmed, the true nature of this event may be very different from what we think – in the same way that Newton's theory was empirically confirmed but has been surpassed by Einstein's theory [2].

Scientists describe the Big Bang mathematically as a singularity – which merely means that we do not know what really happened. Empirical evidence supports the theory that our material space-time world had a beginning in time. Although there are various speculative mathematical theories about how the Big Bang happened, about all of these confirm that our material space-time world came into being after the Big Bang. Insofar as we engage with the question about what "really" happened at the beginning, this is beyond empirical access. We may have all sorts of speculative ideas about the origin of the cosmos – Christians believe that God created the world – but we can never prove any of that.

This is the bottom line. The time when philosophers thought that only those things that can be proven should be allowed into serious discussion is long gone. We know that the largest part of our world is not empirically accessible and we can always only have theories about that. Now, this is the important point: we can test our best theories to determine if they are empirically confirmed. Although the metaphysics of worldviews goes beyond the metaphysics of science, we can do exactly the same. The metaphysical worldviews of Christians and atheists can be constructed as rational models which may be confirmed or rejected in the progress of science. This is in fact the scientific method and there is no other “objective” way to decide between such theories [3]. We can now delineate this approach in more detail.

The metaphysics of worldviews

In this essay I am primarily concerned with the Christian worldview (insofar as religion is concerned). The most important aspect of Immanuel Kant's work in this regard, is that he developed an integrated rational position which is in accordance with the Christian worldview. In opposition to this stood the atheistic worldview which originated in Enlightenment thought. Both these metaphysical views are rationally consistent perspectives and none can as a whole be proven to be true for the simple reason that they are concerned with at least some entities that lay (or do not lay) beyond our experience and experiments. This does not mean that aspects of these metaphysical worldviews cannot over the course of time become accessible to scientific research. In fact, certain aspects did come within scientific range.

Where did the Christian worldview originate? Christians believe that it originated with God's revelation in Scripture. As such they believe that their view is not built upon mere ideas that were taken out of thin air. Rather, it is in accordance with God's revelation of Himself through his Word and his Son to mankind. Although aspects of this worldview is not exclusive to Christians (like the belief in the spirit realm), we focus only on the Christian view in this essay.

Where did the atheistic view originate? The basic point of departure for that view was that there is no God (a-theist). This means that atheists oppose the worldview through which a creator God, souls/spirits, moral law (free choice) etc. become possible. Since all of these stand outside the material cosmos studied by science and cannot on logical grounds in a systematic and consistent manner be included in the atheistic view (without leaving at least some space for the idea of God), they were traditionally rejected by atheists. The atheistic view effectively originated from a scientism view which regards empirical science as the basic norm in constructing any metaphysical view of our world.

Immanuel Kant presented the basic aspects of these opposing views in terms of opposing logical possibilities. In the fourth antinomy discussed in his famous Critique of Pure Reason he sets the possibility of a necessary being (i.e. God) who brings forth contingent existences against the opposing view which rejects that. In the third antinomy in the same work he sets the possibility of an intelligible cause (a cause that we can merely conceive of intellectually) that produce phenomenal effects against the opposing view which only allow for deterministic causes. The first position is consistent with a creator God who created our material world which came into being at the beginning of our cosmic history. The second position rejects the idea of such a God and thinks that everything always existed in the context of mechanistic causality.

Kant's third antinomy was also important for another reason. It is not merely consistent with a first beginning of our universe; it also makes free choice possible. Without such absolute spontaneity – that is, when only deterministic causes exist – there cannot be any free choice. This means that God's requirement that humans follow the moral law only makes sense if humans have free choice – that is, if such spontaneity exists in the cosmos. The traditional atheistic view rejected the possibility of free choice since through that the possibility of the moral law given by God as requirement for human living is established.

The problem for Kant's view was that such spontaneity is not logically possible in a mechanistic (that is, material) world. A world that consists only of matter that is connected mechanistically through deterministic causality can in no possible way supports absolute spontaneity. The only solution for Kant was to postulate the existence of another realm which is not in space and time and therefore not sensibly accessible in experience and experiment. Since this realm is not sensibly accessible, we as humans can only think about the existence of such a realm – which is why Kant called it the “noumenal realm”, derived from the Greek word for mind (“nous”). The logical possibility of absolute spontaneity and human choice only arises when we postulate the existence of such a realm.

This realm also makes it possible that non-extended wholes-and-parts (situated in this noumenal or supersensible realm as it is also called) may have a spontaneous potentiality to produce extended parts and aggregated wholes in the context of nature. This means that everything in nature is not necessarily produced through mechanistic causality! The first view excludes "creation" insofar as it is a random process; the second view is consistent with a creator God who included an unfolding design in the cosmos when he created it [4]. Kant presents these two opposing possibilities as part of his philosophy of science in the seventh antinomy in the Critique of the Power of Judgement.

The interesting thing about the noumenal realm is that it was already introduced in philosophical conversation by the Greek philosopher Plato. Kant's contribution was to ascribe “freedom” to this realm. For human freedom (choice) to be possible, such a realm should not only exist; a part of humans should also be situated in that realm. Kant calls that the soul. If humans have souls – that is, noumenal selves – then they may be able to choose between good and evil in accordance with God's moral laws. In this manner, the possibility of a creator God, of human freedom, of the soul and of the “noumenal realm” (realm of the soul/spirit) are introduced as part of a consistent rational conception of the world. This is consistent with the Christian worldview and Kant effectively contrasted it with the prevailing atheistic view of that time which postulated exactly the opposite.

Over the next century this Kantian metaphysics was rejected by philosophers and scientists alike. In the modernist period atheists strongly believed that there is no God, that our material universe had no beginning, that absolute spontaneity does not exist, that humans have the mere illusion that they have free choice, that no supersensible realm exists and that there can therefore be no part of humans belonging to that realm (souls/spirits). The whole march of freedom on the political sphere which started with the French Revolution was seemingly merely one great collective illusion!! (That is if we take the atheists really serious).

Scientific progress

We all know that the world has changed a lot since the time of Kant. We can now go back to our million dollar question: which worldview has been consistently confirmed through science as correct insofar as that is possible to do that? Was that the Christian worldview or the atheistic one? One need not be a scientist or philosopher to see what has happened over the course of the last two centuries. Most of the things that Kant postulated have been accepted as part of our scientific worldview!! And most of those things that atheists believed in were rejected by science – although I must admit that there are some who are still trying (struggling) to keep the pure deterministic worldview alive!

The first thing regarding the Christian worldview in which Kant was right insofar as it is widely accepted by the scientific community today, is that our material world had a beginning. The scientific model which confirms that is the Big Bang model. Although there was originally an enormous amount of resistance from atheists within the scientific community against this theory due to its obvious metaphysical implications (which seems to be largely forgotten nowadays!), science has accepted it as part of its own. 

The second thing in which Kant was right, is that absolute spontaneity has been empirically confirmed in science where we see its most dramatic confirmation is in the form of atomic decay - which atom will decay, or when, is completely indeterminate. Niels Bohr used the empirical evidence for quantum spontaneity to formulate his quantum postulate. This does not mean that some (atheistic) quantum theorists have not tried (and are still struggling) to present consistent interpretations of quantum theory that are merely deterministic. The problem is that, as Michael Redhead has shown, when the Aspect experiment confirmed the violation of the Bell inequality, it at the same time proved that all forms of determinism had broken down [5]. I think one can safely accept that most scientists today believe that absolute spontaneity is a fact of our universe.

The third thing in which Kant was correct is that there is another non-material part of our universe which exists within the context of our world - that is, Kant's "noumenal" or "supersensible" realm. Although Kant thought that this realm may never become empirically accessible, the decoupling of space and time in quantum mechanics has allowed scientists to at least indirectly confirm the existence of such a realm which is nowadays called the quantum realm (see part 1). Not only is the quantum realm indeed outside our space-time as Kant postulated, it also behaves in a manner that is totally different from our classical world as described by all mechanistic theories (like general relativity). And it is exactly in the context of this realm that spontaneity is observed - exactly as Kant proposed. 

What we find is that the basic features of the Kantian rational position that agrees with the Christian worldview have been accepted in science. On all these points the Christian worldview may be regarded as correct whereas the atheistic view held by the pioneers of that position is generally rejected. I would even go further than this. I would suggest that even the one great showpiece of atheism, namely the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution which is a purely mechanistic theory, is under threat in this regard. Some leaders in the new academic discipline of quantum biology have recently proposed that even genetic mutation may be due to non-mechanistic factors [6]. The incorporation of quantum mechanics in biology immediately implies a role for spontaneity and the kind of design that Kant postulated [4]

This is not the only remaining atheistic pillar of faith that is challenged by contemporary science. In the theoretical reconstructions regarding "dark" matter we find that scientists propose that such matter is not confined to the high end of the energy spectrum - they now accept that there might be dark entities (like atoms etc.) that occupy even our human bodies [7]. This means that humans may have a dark "body" that corresponds with their fleshly body. In this regard it seems to me that even the existence of the Kantian soul which exists as a noumenal self may in time be scientifically confirmed!

A new argument for the existence of God

How did atheists react to the rejection of their traditional position? Some merely adapted and took the scientific position as their own - even though it does not fit consistently into one comprehensive rational atheistic position. Others have adopted theoretical positions that are consistent with the atheistic view - for example, certain speculative theoretical interpretations about how the Big Bang happened which exclude the possibility of a creator God. These atheists are indeed able to save their position - but their solution cannot be confirmed or denied (i.e. that this was what happened) since it is beyond empirical reach! 

Now, Christians also cannot prove that God created the cosmos for the same reason. As such it is of no use to argue about things that lay beyond empirical confirmation. We should rather stay within the confines of the scientific method - we should test the metaphysical positions as theories against empirical evidence in the context of the progress of science. When we consider the Christian and atheistic positions in historical context, it is clear that the currently accepted scientific position that the material space-time universe had a beginning in time, is in conflict with the original atheistic position in this regard. Such is the clear evidence that the cosmos includes aspects where determinism breaks down and that the quantum realm is a supersensible realm. If atheists are honest about their worldview within a historical context, they would at least admit that science has been much more in line with the Christian position than the atheistic one!

Atheists often say that they are mere atheists in the sense of not believing in God. As such they then adopt the ever-changing scientism position - often saying that their position is not a metaphysical position at all!! They are merely taking the science-position!! The problem is - as I have already mentioned - that insofar as this approach allows them to make claims that go far beyond the domain of science this is just another metaphysical position. This metaphysical position, however, has certain disadvantages when compared with a fully-developed rationally-coherent atheistic position that can be tested over time. This position is per definition unfalsifiable!! It can never be presented as a true metaphysical position that can be subjected to scientific scrutiny - it merely changes it colors with the progress of science. And there are always all sorts of "teapot-in-the-gap" theories available to support their "position". Russell's heirs does not seem to share his concerns in this regard.

Some atheists and agnostics may be described as "soft" in the sense that they are inclined to take that position on other grounds. In some manner the popular narratives that are propagated by the mass media which often involve a strong anti-Christian bias appeal to them. These may include the false but popular claims that the Bible is an untrustworthy source of information. I discuss such positions elsewhere for those readers who are open to carefully consider them [8]. 
Although God's existence cannot be proven, I present a theoretical model (the Kantian model) which takes God's existence as point of departure. This model is well-delineated with particular predictions and as such it is falsifiable. In modernist times it was believed to be false - but since then three of its basic predictions which have all been considered highly improbably (even impossible) at the time, have been confirmed, namely that our space-time universe had a beginning, the occurrence of absolute spontaneity in quantum physics and the existence of a supersensible realm (the quantum realm). Two other predictions may be confirmed over the next few decades (an unfolding design in the cosmos and the existence of the human soul). On no single point have this metaphysical position been shown to be wrong!

We can compare this theoretical (metaphysics) model with the Big Bang model. Although the Big Bang model is a mathematical model and the Kantian metaphysical model a mere rational model, both make clear testable predictions. In the same manner that the singularity of the Big Bang is forever outside empirical reach, God is forever outside such reach. In the same way that scientists accept the empirical evidence for the (unprovable) Big Bang as good reason to think that it happened, we may accept the empirical evidence for God's existence. I can see no substantial difference between the two approaches.

In the final instance it is in fact amazing that the Christian worldview was arrived at not via science but through divine revelation! This means that insofar as metaphysical truth is concerned – that is, which concerns the totality of our human existence – divine revelation is a better guide than science when tested with the only “objective” scientific measure available to us as humans, namely the scientific method.  


We are long past the point where philosophers think in terms of "proof" when it comes to metaphysical issues. Only those who are uninformed would today take such positions. Our world is just too complex for that. What we have instead are various metaphysical positions which may be tested in the framework of the progress of science to see whether they have withstood the test of time. I am afraid that we must concur that the atheistic position has been a total failure in this regard. When we take it as a theory that is submitted to empirical testing, it has been spectacularly unsuccessful. 

So, why are atheists unmoved by this? One reason is that their position has been constantly shifting - just like a chameleon. The new generation is not aware that the current scientific position is much more in line with the Christian worldview - and I predict that this trend of confirming the Christian position will continue in future - than the atheistic one from two hundred years ago. Since such historical considerations are about the only "objective" way in which we can test such metaphysical views, I recommend that atheists reconsider their "teapot-in-the-gap" approach of always calling upon unfalsifiable theories to counter the Christian position and accept that science has not been on their side in this conversation.

In contrast I presented a new argument for the existence of God which shows close agreement with the scientific approach through which the Big Bang is accepted. Not only is the Kantian model falsifiable, it has in fact been confirmed - insofar as it has become possible - against great odds in the progress of science. If one believe in the Big Bang, one should seriously consider believe in God too. 

[1] There are Christian viewpoints which do not accept the idea of free will. Our concern is not here which such theological issues.
[2] We may say that a theory is "empirically confirmed" insofar as we are able to confirm its predictions within the scope of empirical science. But that does not mean that we know what the world is "really" like! Aspects of the theory might be forever outside empirical reach. As such we may compliment "empirically confirmed" with "good reason to think". 
[3] The scientific method is “objective” insofar as it enables us to test whether theories are empirically confirmed in the framework of certain parameters.
[4] In plan to discuss this in more detail in this series
For a technical discussion see: Mc Loud, W. 2015. Introducing a Kantian Interpretation of Quantum Physics, in accordance with Kant's Philosophy of Science in the Critique of the Power of Judgment, reinterpreted and reworked with special attention to the supersensible realm. Masters thesis. UCT. Cape Town.
[5] Redhead, M. 1987. Incompleteness, Nonlocality, and Realism. A prolegomenon to the philosophy of quantum mechanics. Oxford: Clarendon.
[6] Al-Khalili, J & McFadden, J. 2014. Life on the Edge, The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. London: Bantam Press.
[7] See, for example,

Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref.
The author is a scientist-philosopher (PhD in Physics, MA in Philosophy) and has written a book on the Sumerian roots of the Bible (Abraham en sy God (Griffel, 2012)). He writes on issues of religion, philosophy, science and eschatology.

Readers are welcome to forward this essay to their atheist, agnostic and Christian friends