Thursday, November 12, 2020

Apocalyptic? #13: 2020 Vision and Hearing (Rev. 1:7, 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22)


“every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; (1:7)

 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 
(2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22)



(Revelation 1:7, 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22  NIV)


Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 
As I write this blogpost, the 2020 U.S. Election voting has just taken place (one week ago, this past Tuesday) and the American electorate see and hear the election results in two entirely different ways.  The vast majority of mainstream media outlets have called the Presidential Election for Joe Biden.  Talk Radio, Real Clear Politics, and NewsMax--have not yet chosen to call the Presidential Election.  Seventy percent of those who voted for President Trump (roughly ½ of the country) believe that the election process was fraught with fraud.  Why do such large portions of the electorate “see” things so differently?  For one thing, each half of the population refuses to hear or see what the other half sees.  They choose which news media they will watch or listen to.

What does this election have to do with the Church?

It serves as what Kenneth Burke calls a “representative anecdote.”  One’s conclusions depend on how one “sees” things.  According to an exit poll conducted by CBS, 76% of the voters who identified themselves as White evangelical or white born-again Christian voted for Donald Trump.  That group represents 27% of the voters sampled.  73% of the voters who identified themselves as Protestant and other Christian, among whites, voted for Donald Trump.  That group represents 30% of the voters sampled.  56% of the voters who identified themselves as Catholics voted for Donald Trump.  That group represents 17% of the voters sampled.  On the other hand, 63% of the voters who identified themselves as having No Religion or Something Else voted for Joe Biden.  That group represents 18% of the voters sampled.  It would appear that the vast majority of Christians “saw” the issues in favor of Donald Trump.

Can so many Christians have been so wrong on the issues?  Could they not SEE?  Or was it the opposing voters who could not SEE?

One of Jesus’ favorite formulas, found in Matthew 11:15, Luke 8:8, and 14:35, is the cry: “He that has ears to hear, let him hear!”  John, in Revelation, records Jesus making the same cry to each of the Seven Churches.  But, what does this formula mean?  Hugo Odeberg, in his book The Fourth Gospel, notes that the verb HORAŌ/ὁράω/TO SEE in the Gospel of John “always refers to the spiritual sight, the spiritual perception” (40).  The parallel expression of the verb TO HEAR most likely indicates the same sort of spiritual hearing, the spiritual perception.  Hence:

John 1:18: “No man has SEEN God . . . the only begotten Son . . . has declared him.”

John 1:34: (John the Baptist’s statement) “I have SEEN and born witness that this [Jesus] is the Son of God.”

John 1:51: “You shall SEE the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man.”

John 3:11: “We speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have SEEN.”

John 4:45: “The Galileans received him, having SEEN all the things that he did in Jerusalem at the feast.”

John 6:2: “And a great multitude followed him because they SAW the signs which he did on them that were sick.”

John 8:38: “I speak the things which I have SEEN with my Father; and you also do the things which you have HEARD from your father [the devil].”

John 9:37-38: “You have both SEEN him and it is he who SPEAKS with you.  And he said, Lord, I believe.”

John 11:40: “Said I not to you that if you believe, you will SEE the glory of God?

John 14:9: “He that has SEEN me has SEEN the Father.”

John 15:24: “but now they have both SEEN and hated both me and my Father.”

John 16:16: “A little while and you behold me no more; and again a little while and you shall SEE me.

John 19:35: “And he that has SEEN has born witness, and his witness is true.”

John 19:37: “Scripture says, ‘They shall SEE him whom they pierced.’”

I am not suggesting that predestination is involved, but the kind of SEEING to which John’s Gospel refers is a “perfected” kind of sight (even better than 20-20 vision).  Indeed, some who have physical 20-20 vision cannot SEE at all in spiritual matters!  As Kenneth Burke says, "A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing--a focus upon object A involves a neglect of object B" (PC 49).  He considers this a type of psychosis.  I understand, as Burke suggests, that all seeing is partial, perspectival.  If I look at a soda can from only the side perspective, I see only a rectangle.  If I look at it only from a top or bottom perspective, I see only a circle.  If I look at it from an exterior perspective, I may believe it is solid.  If I look at it from an internal perspective, I see that it is hollow or filled with liquid.  No single perspective provides the full picture, that it is a hollow or liquid filled cylinder.  Every perspective is important.  This applies to the representative anecdote of the 2020 election.  (The perspectives of looking at the tabulated vote counts, recounts, Supreme Court interventions, ballot processing issues,” vote-counting software glitches, etc.)  This also applies to one’s knowledge of the world as it exists.  If one relies only on the perspective of sense data (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell), that one has personally experienced, one would not even know whether one even had great grandparents.  We learn that we had great grandparents from the testimony of our parents.  If a person says that s/he has accepted the “word” of others (which, of course, we do!), that person enters a new world of SEEING, tremendously larger than anything associated with the perspective of sense data that one has personally experienced.  Frankly, it must be said, we SEE what we want to SEE.  We HEAR what we want to HEAR.  We have what communication scholars call “selective perception.”

In my book Psychotic Entelechy:  The Dangers of Spiritual Gifts Theology, pages 11-12, I observe:

A proverb that runs throughout the gospels and Acts in the New Testament reflects the same observation:  "Though seeing they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand" (Matthew 13:13 NIV; Cf., also Mark 4:12 and 8:18, Luke 8:10, John 9:39, and Acts 8:26).  Matthew attributes the proverb to the Old Testament book of Isaiah (6:9-10):

" . . . In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:  'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them' . . . ." (Matthew 13:14-15 NIV)

Thus, the Bible combines the two-sense-perception forms of SEEING and HEARING—as I have combined in this post.  To the churches, Jesus is saying:  You need to have EARS that actually HEAR.  Not everyone in the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea actually had EARS to HEAR.  As an example, not everyone who HEARS or READS my commentary on Revelation will SEE or HEAR what I SEE and HEAR.  That, of course, does not mean that I am SEEING incorrectly; nor does it mean that I am SEEING correctly.  Therefore, I aim at SEEING Revelation from MANY perspectives.

In my book Revelation: The Human Drama, I state that I specifically view the book from four primary perspectives:

1.      Poetics

2.      Psychological

3.      Socio-Political

4.      Rhetorical

Furthermore, I specifically view the book from several other perspectives (that many other interpreters do not use):

1.      The critical studies approach of renown liberal biblical scholars,

2.      The conservative, bible-believing, perspective of Evangelical scholars,

3.      The Greek and Hebrew language analysis of the original text,

4.      Old Testament studies

5.      The Rabbinic Jewish background of the New Testament

6.      Jewish Historical approach

7.      Church Historical approach

8.      Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical approach

9.      Aristotle’s rhetorical approach

10.  Contemporary Historical approach

11.  Premillennialism

12.  Postmillennialism

13.  Amillennialism

14.  Preterist views

Many liberal scholars refuse to consider many of these perspectives, because they are committed to a perspective that rules out the possibility of divine inspiration or predictive prophecy.  Many evangelicals refuse to consider many of these perspectives because their individual religious creeds commit them to a particular view.

The goal and objective is to have EARS to HEAR and EYES to SEE.  By viewing Revelation from as many perspectives as possible, we have a better chance of SEEING and HEARING as Jesus would have us SEE and HEAR!

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