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Deist / Deism

Historically, a term referring to the doctrine of 'natural religion' emerging in England and France in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, according to which while reason (particularly the argument from design) assures us that there is a God, additional revelation, dogma, or supernatural commerce with the deity are all excluded. Supplication and prayer in particular are fruitless: God may only be thought of as an 'absentee landlord,' who lit the blue touchpaper of the Cosmos, and then retired.

Leading deists included Herbert, John Toland (1670-1722), whose Christianity not Mysterious (1696) was an influence on Berkley and Anthony Collins (1676-1729), as well as Shaftesbury and, arguably, Locke. The belief that remains is abstract to vanishing point, as witnessed in Diderot's remark that a deist is someone who hasn't lived long enough to become an atheist.

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Eschatological Terms

In Christian theology eschatology is the "study of the last things", which is to say the study of signs and prophecy indicating the return of Jesus Christ to this world. Eschatology is a pseudoscience (because it is not falsifiable), and adherents to various "end-time" positions use the Bible to determine under what circumstances Jesus Christ will return and establish his kingdom. Evangelical Christians differ in their eschatological viewpoints: some are "pre-millenial" others are "post-millenial;" "pre-millienialists" can either be "pre-tribulationists" or "post-tribulationists". Each of these eschatological positions has its corresponding political implications.
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The eschatological view that Jesus Christ will return to earth after believers "rule and reign" over society for a thousand-year period. "Reconstructionists" are post-millenial.

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The eschatological view that Christ's return begins the thousand-year reign. Pre-millenialists can be either pre-tribulation or post-tribulation.

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The belief that Christians will have to experience, to one degree or another, the seven year period of war, famine, and social chaos occurring before Christ's return. See tribulation.
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The belief that
born-again Christians will be rescued - by the rapture - from experiencing the hardships of the tribulation.

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The rapture is the event described in the Book of Revelation in which - according to born-again Christians - all saved believers will be "caught up in the air" by Jesus Christ right before the earth is destroyed in the battle of Armageddon. This is interpreted by many Christians to mean that they will be literally and instantiously moved from the earth to heaven "in the twinkling of an eye", which one must admit, is rather better than Captain Kirk ever managed to do, Scotty notwithstanding.

In a pamphlet circulated by Jerry Falwell, entitled Nuclear War and the Second Coming of Christ the Rapture is described in the following terms:

    You'll be riding along in an automobile. You'll be the driver perhaps. You're a Christian. There'll be several people in the automobile with you, maybe someone who is not a Christian. When the trumpet sounds you and the other born-again believers in that automobile will be instantly caught away - you will disappear, leaving behind only your clothes and physical things that cannot inherit eternal life. That unsaved person or persons in the automobile will suddenly be startled to find the car suddenly somewhere crashes... Other cars on the highway driven by believers will suddenly be out of control and stark pandemonium will occur on...every highway in the world where Christians are caught away from the drivers wheel. (in: "Does Reagan Expect a Nuclear Armageddon?" By Ronnie Dugger, Washington Post Outlook, April 8, 1984. The article was based on original research of Columbia University historian Larry Jones).

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The seven year period of time described in the Book of Revelation characterised by war, famine, and general social chaos. Born-again Christians differ as to whether believers will have to experience all, part, or none of the tribulation.

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Born Again Christian

One who has undergone a conversion experience in which they "surrender their life to Christ". The factors leading to conversion are unclear (there has been little recent research in the area) but as James suggests in "the varieties of religious experience" conversion appears to be more common amongst those undergoing puberty, and/or profound emotional crises. Convertees report "moral regeneration" in some instances which appears to be structured around the moral precepts of peer-Christians, [more later].
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According to the book of Revelation, the earth will end in a final "battle of Armageddon" between two superpowers (called Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39). Some "dispensationalists" (Christians who believe that time is divided into distinct "ages") believe that they will be raptured off the face of the earth before all unbelievers are destroyed. The advent of the age of nuclear weapons (1945) and the cold war (1947-1991) with the Soviet Union fueled eschatological speculation that an imminent nuclear war would be the fulfillment of the Armageddon prophecy.

Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it is unclear who would have the capability to wage unrestricted nuclear war against the United States (incidently wiping out humanity in the process) and therefore precipitate the second coming, thought suggested candidates have been China and Iraq, neither of which possess sufficient nuclear weapons or delivery systems to wage such a war.

There is some evidence that Ronald Reagan (40th US president) subscribed to eschatological theory, which is rather worrying given that the President of the United States has the power to make such a prophecy self-forfilling. See Ronnie and the end of the World.

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- from the latin "miror," I wonder at.

Augustine propounds a subjective definition of a miracle: it is "whatever is hard or appears unusual beyond the expectation or comprehension of the observer". It is only our habits of mind, therefore, that prevent us from seeing the entire cosmos as the miracle that it is, and that it would appear to be to someone who could see for the first time. In the medieval period the idea arose that a miracle is something special, "contra consuetum cursum nature" (contrary to the usual course of nature). The rise of the concept of the hard mechanical laws of nature in the 17th century set the stage for the definitive account of Hume in his famous essay "On Miracles" (1750): "A miracle may be accurately defined, a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent." Hume argues that it can never be reasonable to believe in such an event on the evidence of human testimony, at least when that testimony is being used in support of a system of religion. For a miracle needs to be quite outside the normal run of things, whereas "knavery and folly", the kind of thing that leads to false or misunderstood reportage, is a recognised and regular natural occurrence. So the chance of any report being due to knavery or folly is always greater than the chance of it being due to an event that is quite outside the normal run of things. Hence they provide the better explanation of the testimony.

It may also be remarked that any religion that posits a creator God faces a problem of consistency as regards miracles and the divine nature and will. If the creation of the universe was the expression of the deity in questions nature, then for the deity perform a miracle would be for the deity to go against its own nature as expressed in the laws of the universe. Alternatively, if the creation of the universe was the will of the deity, it would be contradictory for the deity to go against its own will.

This has implications for (at least) the Christian doctrine of the last judgement, and the condemnation of individuals to eternal punishment in hell, for it implies that God is not compelled by His nature or will to consign anyone to hell given that the enactment of miracles violate will or nature or both. This in turn implies that sending individuals to hell is an act of choice, and one that is, in no possible world, morally justifiable, and one which renders (the Christian) God, unworthy of worship, if He, in fact, exists.

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