What’s this “bowl” thing I keep hearing about? (Plus: Thanks, non-heathens!)

So... how do I know if it's "super"?
So… how do I know if it’s “super”?

Wow–what a weekend! Counselings and baptisms and services and Bible studies and a new workshop yesterday. And then, this morning, I keep hearing about this “bowl” thing. What’s up with that?

OK, seriously, I know what it is: the Super Bowl. So, who won, anyway? The Texas Rangers? The Vancouver Canucks? The Ealing Trailfinders?

OK, I continue to jest. I just like to pretend to be more enlightened and erudite than others by claiming ignorance about the Super Bowl. It’s a thing I do. 🙂 Though we didn’t watch it ourselves (I think at that time I was watching my kids play a LEGO-based video game), the news is hard to avoid this morning that it was apparently a bit of a runaway game. James Taranto of the WSJ posted on Twitter last night, “Now I understand the expression ‘beating a dead horse.'” And, sure enough, I see that the final score wasn’t pretty.

Look! My Beautiful Wife found the Orange Bowl!
Look! My Beautiful Wife found the Orange Bowl!

Someone at services yesterday asked me if I had ever heard of a particular internet denizen’s feeling that watching football is inherently sinful, and I had. (If I recall, that fellow likes to claim Mr. Armstrong as an “authority” for his fatwa on the matter. Hopefully, he will one day, for his own sake, rediscover some of the truths Mr. Armstrong taught that he has cast aside for his own self-aggrandizement and treat them half as seriously.) I’ve heard other, similar arguments before. All of them seem to suffer the same mistakes, and none of them prove their intended point: that somehow watching a sport with tackling is inherently sinful and that, without sufficient justification, every verse in the Bible about violence must apply to it. Frankly, it’s the same sort of poor reasoning that anti-alcohol “Christians” use to attack using wine on Passover by applying all verses related to drunkenness to even sober-minded alcohol consumption. Like the “tackling is always violence” reasoning, such arguments represent poor logic and examples of failing to rightly divide the Word of Truth. I’ve written several posts that mention football, some prompted by a question from one of the widows in a congregation of mine and by a fun discussion we had in Spokesman Club sometime back. In the spirit of the season (ha ha), here are some links in the event anyone is interested:

In other news, many thanks to the many of you who took the time to tell me that you appreciated my recent post on “Christians and Heathen Prophecy”! That was very kind of you!

It was really my work on the 2012 goofiness that got me onto the topic. While most everyone I spoke with appreciated the 2012-related material, there were a few rare exceptions. For instance, one fellow took great displeasure at what I wrote about 2012 and frequently let Dr. Meredith and the evangelists (who have the patience of Job!) know his displeasure. (FWIW: His issue seemed to be not a matter of doctrine, but more of an anger that we published the conclusions of actual Maya scholars on the subject, when he had his own personal, pet theories he was going to publish. Thankfully, for the sake of our credibility, we stuck with reality. The fellow in question has sadly left the Church since then over other personal ideas, though I pray he will one day come to himself.) However, as my writings on 2012-ism continued to show up, I began to see more and more interesting things (for the record: always from folks outside of the Church). Once, for instance, one of our TW viewers wrote to the other presenters to explain to them that I was “a very great apostate” for using the television to slander Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, astrology, and what he called “the 2012 prophets.” He seemed to care very much about our program (enough to write the other presenters and warn them about me), yet here he was all caught up in trying to use these heathen sources to learn about the future–the very sort of thing we condemn fairly regularly on the program. I also had someone, surely very well-meaning and certainly respectful, send me an e-mail (actually, more than one, I think) explaining that he loved the Churches of God (he shopped around amongst them, apparently) but that I was wrong in my 2012 article when I said people should avoid astrology and such heathen sources. He actually tried to argue that God approves of astrological divination to some extent.

There were a few other incidents–again, always, I believe, with folks outside of LCG, though one DVD advertisement about the St. “Malarkey” prophecy may have been an exception–all of which began coming to my attention when I began writing about the 2012 hoopla. So I suppose I have 2012 to thank for it. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving! 🙂

By the way, in the event that anyone doesn’t see the distinction: Writing about the 2012 garbage and debunking it, pointing out the St. “Malarkey” pope “prophecy”, showing how the private Catholic writings of Hippolytus are twists of the truth, etc. are not sin. I can’t find a single passage that could reasonably understood to condemn such–in fact, prophets and preachers in the Bible do similar work in places. But to wallow in such heathen sources in order to divine new information about the future in the hopes that some of the demons may have provided dark insights is sin. The Bible is terribly clear on that, as the verses I referenced make plain. A innocent confusion between the two would certainly be understandable, but any who would allow their personal pride and addiction to the occult to cause them to equate the two are in a dark place, indeed. (Saying that I am simply condemning “referring to” such prophecies and then attacking that idea is a straw man argument and the sign of a desperate person who knows the Bible isn’t on his side.)

Some of you who thanked me also expressed the hope that someone they knew, here or there, who were caught up in such demonic folly might be directed to read the post and wake up. I have to say that I’m not sure you should get your hopes up. Pride was a big enough snare to take down the devil (1 Timothy 3:6). It seems to be working on those who are big fans of the devil’s writings, as well. Anyone who is devoted to “improving” God’s prophecies with demon-inspired writings, for instance, and comes out of it convinced that he is a Prophet and one of the Two Witnesses–concluding that the demons are writing about him, personally–is someone who will need a two-by-four much larger than a single blog post is likely to provide.

Yet, I don’t mean to be negative, and perhaps you would rightly tell me “shame on you” for saying that you shouldn’t get your hopes up. And, honestly, I do have hope. Not that a blog post of mine out here on the back forty and the back waters of the Internet would make “the difference,” necessarily, for someone so caught up in demonic iniquity. But I do have hope in God’s two-by-fours. 🙂 And I have hope in His love. He loves that fellow who was a fan of Edgar Cayce and Nostradamus. He loves the fellow who wrote me and felt that Christianity and astrological divination were not at odds. He loves the self-appointed prophet out there who is busy sinfully divining things from Catholic prophecies about the color of clothes he should wear as one of the Two Witnesses, what the devil’s plans are, etc. And His love is a big deal. Really, when you look at it, it is the big deal.

So, while I don’t have much hope that my blog post would make “the difference” for many who are deeply addicted to such things, I do have hope.

Anyway–I’ve gotten off track! 🙂 The whole point here at the end was to thank many of you for your positive comments and your kind encouragement. So, thanks!

A 2012 Non-pocalypse Post-mortem: Lessons I Learned

Note: As I mentioned earlier at the beginning of the year, this is the post I had been working on when the telecast came calling (along with the Charlotte weekend) in late December–about the time that my final commentary on the subject was posted (“After the Non-pocalypse” on tomorrowsworld.org). It has sat in my drafts folder like a poor, neglected child, so I thought I would wrap it up the final bits and post it. It concerns the lessons I learned while dealing with 2012-related matters for the Church, mostly about academic integrity, how easily that integrity can be lost or prostituted in the service of one’s own ideas, and how I want to be sure to never cross those lines in the future. A lot of shameful tactics were practiced by many of the various 2012-ologists I encountered over the past several years, and it was a real reminder to me how easily one can deceive himself into finding “evidence” to believe whatever he wants to believe. Jeremiah 17:9 is alive and well…

Well, December 21, 2012 went by with the whimper every rational person expected instead of the bang others feared/hoped for. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been profitable! It certainly has been for me.

I am really thankful that I’ve had the chance to serve by looking into the crazy matter of 2012ness and writing about it for the Church. It has been both fun and frustrating… “Fun” in that debunking stupid thinking is fun and preaching the truth is fun. Why talk about 2012-related goofiness at all? Because other people are talking about it and those people need to hear the truth like anyone else–and I enjoy every opportunity to turn someone from fables to the truth. Who wouldn’t? Yet, it has been frustrating, too. For one, the 2012-hysteria truly is junk, and it can be disheartening to see individuals so caught up in such stupidity. Also, it isn’t just the hippies and the drug users one has to wrestle against who perpetuate the nonsense, but even those who should truly know better. Some of the worst “scholarship” I have ever seen publicly displayed has been done in 2012-related work, by those who seem to be under the delusion that their methods are good, strong, and of high levels of academic integrity, when it is, instead, bad, weak, and an example of some truly shameful practices.

For one such as me, this can too easily tap into one of my weaknesses: the old “Someone’s wrong on the Internet” trap.

xkcd comic:
I totally feel this sometimes…

I’ve overcome this weakness to a great degree (though my wife would likely disagree…), and I’m thankful for God’s help in that. Having a public face of some sort has made me a desirable target for some (though not nearly to the degree that, say, Mr. Meredith, Mr. Ames, Dr. Winnail do, and admire their ability to show such Christian restraint!), and recognizing that you truly can waste an incredible amount of time countering all the sincerely-believed-yet-still-mind-bogglingly-stupid things someone might say about you is a helpful way to just get used to fact that there is and will always be falsehoods and stupidity on the Internet. Mr. Meredith told me his uncle, C. Paul Meredith, used to tell him that if respond to every attack the devil throws out at you then you will never have time to do God’s Work—an outcome that, of course, the devil would be quite pleased with. But while I have learned that to a good degree, there are things that still get to me, and when it comes to 2012-quackery, some of the shoddy “scholarship” I have seen has really pushed some of those buttons on occasion.

At the same time, dredging through countless 2012-related books for this stuff has provided a way to be exposed to a myriad of various forms of shoddy “scholarship” in a concentrated way, and in this I have learned some helpful things that I hope will make any future work I do that much more solid and well-grounded. In short, I hope I can avoid the mistakes in the many horrid examples I have seen. Here are some of those mistakes:

[EDIT: Actually, before you continue reading, I have to warn you that now that I am done making this post I see that my example listing gets pretty long! After all, shoddy scholarship is an awful lot easier to come up with than good scholarship, and 2012-ology was full of shoddy-though-(mostly)-sincere scholarship. And, since this is the last post I anticipate writing on the 2012 phenomenon, I apparently wanted it to be thorough. If you get bored half-way through and just scroll down to the end, don’t worry, I won’t blame you! – WGS]

•  The “Any Support Will Do” Mistake. For example, I’ve seen some try to claim that Bolon Yokte, the “god” referred to on Tortuguero Monument 6, which does refer to 2012 (though not in the way it is often assumed to, discussed below), is also depicted in the last page of the Dresden Codex, perhaps trying to establish some sort of connection between the Monument and the Codex. “Hey, fascinating!” I thought. “Maybe there is a connection I missed!” But when I followed the link provided to the “source” of this insight, it was nothing but a weird, rambling comment on someone’s blog (note: not even a post on the blog, just a comment) made by some conspiracy-orientated individual who clearly wasn’t concerned about good scholarship. The comment was rubbish, and the Bolon Yokte/Dresden Codex “connection” was an illusion.

(I saw something similar in a “connection” I saw a presumably Protestant, evangelical pastor tried to force on his blog between Bolon Yokte and Jesus Christ, perhaps trying (but failing) to add a 2012 context to the Chilam Balam, which has no real connection to the 2012-phenomenon, at all. The “connection” is not only nonsensical, but also the attempt to make it does nothing but illustrate a deep ignorance of how the Maya expressed themselves in their monuments, writings, and “prophecies” over the centuries—a different sort of mistake that I will mention later.)

However, when a person gets too sold on a bad idea they can become too eager for any support they can find—any “outside” confirmation that their idea is a good one, even if the “confirmation” comes from a thoroughly disreputable source. In the end, giving in to that temptation to reference such a source does nothing but hurt your credibility, and understandably so. (And, no, there is no credible “2012” connection between Bolon Yokte and the Dresden Codex. My apologies to any Bolon Yokte fans out there.)

An analogy might be this: Let’s say I really believe that NASA should go back to the moon—that we should send new manned missions and even build a base there—as a matter of national pride (motivating, unifying), national advancement (new science or a stepping stone to Mars), or even national security (doing so before other nations do)… All of which are not uncommon arguments. However, let’s say that most everyone else thinks it’s a crazy idea, a waste of money, etc. Well, if I really wanted to bolster the position, I might be tempted to say, “Many people think that going back to the moon is a good idea (http://linktosomeplace.html).” Those who don’t follow the link might be fooled. However, those who follow the link to see an example of these “Many people” would then find out that it is a link to the “The Moon is Made of Cheese” branch of the Flat Earth Society where someone made a serious comment on their forum that “We have to go to the moon again for a new harvest in this decade before we run out of Gouda or Munster!”… well, suffice it to say that those who followed the link would understandably wonder why I thought this opinion was noteworthy support for my idea….

[By the way: My apologies to the real Flat Earth Society for suggesting in my hypothetical example that some of their members might believe the Moon is made of cheese, as I know of no such individual in your organization. I hope you don’t mind, as I suspect that your members are of good humor…]

It’s a worthwhile lesson. I believe in some things that most mainstream scientists and historians certainly do not (e.g., that neo-Darwinian evolution is false, the identity of modern Israel, etc.). I am willing to differ from such academic authorities for a variety of reasons, including the fact that biblical revelation is real data which must be considered in order to establish the truth. (A consideration I will mention again, later.) And when making one’s case, it is nice to reference evidence on occasion that others of reasonable mind have drawn similar conclusions. However, it has the opposite effect when referencing discreditable sources, and, while I already knew this, my experience wading around in 2012-ology has helped emphasize this to me.

•  The “Hide My Position’s Inadequacies With Vagueness” Mistake.  I saw a good bit of this, too, in the 2012 stuff out there, though I’m happy to assume it was accidental. For instance, the Dresden Codex/Bolon Yokte non-connection was hinted by saying, “Some say…” when, in reality, virtually no one was saying that.  The same thing is sometimes done by newspaper reporters, who will say “some say that the Republicans/Democrats blah blah blah” when it really seems as though they are expressing their own opinion. Regrettably, though, as I saw it used at times in 2012-ology, it was a way to hide the inadequacies of the position by allowing the reader to think many more people held the position than actually do and by hiding the complete lack of relevance of those who do hold that position (think “The Moon is Made of Cheese” folks, above). Even if the use of a vague “some” is not intended to be misleading, the net effect is that it can be misleading, and I don’t want to be misleading even on accident. Truth is too important to handle it carelessly.

This mistake was evident, as well, in expressions like “Some scholars say…” In truth, when you look into it, the “some scholars” being referenced were sometimes simply the author, himself/herself! “After all, I’m a ‘scholar’ and I think these things, so I can claim, ‘Some scholars say this,’ because I do!” That is, truly, vagueness in the service of deception and bearing false witness. (Christ pointed out that God looks on the heart and the intent: a “technical” truth does not cover for a desire to mislead or exaggerate, even if it is subconscious.) Similarly, the “scholars” to which one might refer might be either (1) “scholars” in a completely different field (e.g., a fellow may have earned an MD in medicine or a PhD in dentistry or international affairs, but that doesn’t make his thoughts on the Maya any more relevant than your neighbor’s) or (2) dead scholars whose ideas have long been discredited. (E.g., Dr. Förstermann’s opinion about the last page of the Dresden Codex is a good example here; one might as well quote Samuel Birley Rowbotham on whether the earth is round or flat, or Erik Sandberg-Diment in the 80s on the viability of MS Windows and laptops—and, yes, I enjoyed finding that obscure reference, thank you for asking!) If I have a PhD in Sports Injury Rehabilitation and I believe that the earth is the center of the solar system, just as Ptolemy and Anaximander used to believe, am I justified in saying, “Some scholars believe that earth is the center of the solar system”?

No. No, I am not.

Now if I found some real, current scholars (other than yours truly, of course) who, based on modern research in the field, do think so, it might be justified. And if I found some scholars who used to think so (again, other than myself) and whose research hasn’t been completely discredited over the decades, I could say, “Some scholars used to believe…” But I can’t find, say, one guy, and think, “Well, I’m a scholar (in other topics) and he’s a scholar (even if he’s dead and his ideas are completely discredited), so that makes two! So I’ll write ‘Some scholars think…’” That’s bordering academic dishonesty. Better simply to say, “I believe such-and-such is so.” If I find someone who used to think so, as well, then I can say, “This view was once held by so-and-so.” But to make my position seem stronger than it is by a vague reference to “scholars”? Hard to justify. [For a related mistake, see the “Wow, I’m a Scholar on This Topic!” Mistake, below.]

May I not fall prey to that temptation. If I believe what I am writing will stand up to scrutiny, I should be brave enough to present a good picture of the facts and to avoid slight-of-hand.

•  The “They’re Ancient and Primitive So They MUST Be Right!” Mistake.  This was one of the single most irritating facets of working with the 2012 hype. Even though the Maya really did not predict virtually anything AT ALL concerning 2012, the simple impression that they did was enough to help sell the hoax to millions. As I have commented before, there seems to be a tendency among those of us in the developed world to look on ancient, indigenous peoples of the past as though they had some sort of “special wisdom” about all things that we simply don’t have today. And, to be sure, many of them did understand things we don’t; the passage of time is not enough to make a people wiser and closer to God and truth. But the instant “credibility” with which any old loopy idea can be adorned simply by associating it with an ancient people is ludicrous. “The Mayans thought the world would end in 2012? Oh, well, I guess it might be so!” Yet, do we ever hear, also, “The Mayans thought that child sacrifice was pretty awesome? Oh, well, I guess it might be so!” The ways of the Gentiles have always had a special sheen in the eyes of Israelites, it seems, and this thankfully-now-past 2012-phenomenon may have been fueled by that to a certain extent.

While I don’t see this as too much of a temptation for me, at the same time I do hate it when people assume that ancient peoples were somehow so primitive that they were virtually children compared to us “moderns” as opposed to being adult, thinking people more similar to us than we give them credit for. In that irritation, I suppose I could find a temptation to over-glamorize an ancient people. However, other than the false assertion that the ancient Maya had no sufficiently sophisticated writing system until the arrival of the Spanish with their Latin alphabet—which is silly to anyone who has bothered to look into the complexity of the Mayan syllabic glyphs and logograms—most of what I’ve seen written of the ancient Maya seems to over-glorify them.

Ancient peoples should not be put down as lesser humans than we are, yet they should not be seen as somehow superior, either. Though they did not, even if the Mayan’s had said something significant about 2012AD, what difference would it make in any way at all? No more than if the local Kiwanis Club said something about the year 3012AD.

•  The “I Think I Can Hide This with an Ellipsis (…)” Mistake.  This one is a tempting one, as well. Sometimes someone says something in some literature or in an article and the words seem to be just what you need to support your point. Yet, the context makes it clear that what they mean by what they say is not what you mean. So, how can one grab the words while hiding the difference? The strategic ellipsis, or “…”

There are, to be sure, legitimate uses for a well-placed “…” in a quotation. For instance, perhaps one wants to keep the quotation shorter and less relevant material could be removed without impacting the meaning of the statement. I could even see using a “…” to remove a part of the quotation that would distract the reader from the point at hand. That might take a judgment call, but one that needs to be made with integrity and proper purpose.

However, to use ellipses to essentially alter the meaning of text–that usage would be inappropriate and could border on (if not cross over into) bearing false witness.

And in 2012-ology, I have seen a good bit of that. I’ve seen scientists “quoted” out of magazine articles or newspaper columns as if they agree with 2012 End of Days/New Age scenarios through the use of strategic “…” placement. However, when one looks up the source of the quote and sees it in context, one finds that the scientist actually believes quite the opposite! The ellipses were placed, intentionally or not, in such a way as to change the meaning of his actual words or to make it seem he supported something he does not. Those examples were academically sloppy at best and academically dishonest at worst.

As I did before, let me create an analogous example. Let’s say I’m an atheist who believes that many of the writers of the Bible didn’t believe in God and I believe David was such a writer. Well, I could write that Psalm 53 says, “A contemplation of David… ‘There is no God.’” That would be, of course, dishonest, since the “…” hides something important: “A contemplation of David. ‘The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”’”

(For the record, I have seen this used in more than 2012-related work. I’ve seen some quote our literature, for instance, for their own purposes and use the “…” to make the quote seem more supportive of their own opinion than it truly is. In fact, I have seen entire Tomorrow’s World articles and commentaries plagiarized by individuals online while using a strategic “…” to remove a sentence or two they don’t agree with. The plagiarism is carnal and bad enough with or without the ellipses (simply citing the source, however well or poorly, is not enough to make something not plagiarism, by the way), but the strategic “…” is all the more worthy of disapprobation. Such practices are shameful, they blatantly violate at least one commandment if not two or more, and I do hope that those individuals repent of such behavior. Time will tell.)

I can see this mistake as one that is easy to make relatively innocently, but it is still a mistake, and I want to be careful to avoid it. Also, I want to avoid quoting someone to such an extent that either I risk plagiarizing them (again, listing them as the source is insufficient to prevent this) or I risk stealing internet traffic that is rightfully theirs as the originators of the content (and providing a link to their content is not enough if I quote them too heavily).

I think this would be a matter of loving my neighbor as myself—a commandment held in high esteem by the Lord (Mark 12:31) and, thus, by those who follow Him—and I would want my own words handled carefully by both those who agree with me and those who don’t.

•  The “Wow, I’m a Scholar on This Topic!” Mistake.  2012-ology was chock-full of self-appointed “scholars” who, in reality, were no more than hobbyists (or, in some cases, obsessive fanatics). “A little knowledge is dangerous,” as they say, and the abundance of 2012 “research” proved that to be true. Somehow, the fact that someone can piece together Chilam Balam quotes, references to Quetzalcoatl, Dresden Codex pictures, and various inscriptions in personally exciting ways does not make them a scholar. Rather, it simply makes them someone who can piece together Chilam Balam quotes, references to Quetzalcoatl, Dresden Codex pictures, and various inscriptions in personally exciting ways. Using original source materials does not make one a scholar or expert on how those source materials should be used.  Really, the ways I have seen disparate works, such as the Codex and the Chilam Balam, combined in complete ignorance (or, in some cases, in unjustified denial) of legitimate scholars’ work on those materials was disheartening. I believe the work I saw was innocent in the sense that it was sincere, but it was still shoddy and represented both poor academic thinking and a startling presumption of unearned expertise.

I tried to avoid this mistake in my 2012 writing, not allowing myself to believe I had become an expert on matters for which, in truth, I was simply a well-informed hobbyist. I hope I succeeded. And being a well-informed hobbyist was, indeed, more than enough to enable one to see through the wrong conclusions of the many who considered themselves to be “scholars.”

And all of this said, two additional things probably should be said, as well. One, I don’t have a problem with one who is “simply a well-informed hobbyist” standing his ground and disagreeing with established scholars. Sometimes there are reasonable grounds for doing so—a case I think Thomas Nagel makes in his anti-neo-Darwinist book, to which I referred earlier. We can’t fault some for doubting us if that’s the case, and we should be brave enough to admit the disagreement with established scholarship as opposed to pretending that we somehow represent the “mainstream” thought versus a radical or divergent view, but we don’t have to let others do our thinking for us, either. And, two, as Christians, we understand that the Bible is relevant, trustworthy information in addition to what scholars study on such issues. So, for instance, those who research history who ignore what the Bible has to say about it, in both its historical writings and its prophetic writings, are not including all relevant data, and I have no qualms with coming to different conclusions than they do. Of course, when it comes to Mayan’s supposed-beliefs about 2012, the Bible is silent: It does not say that they predicted an End of the World Event in 2012, nor does it say that they didn’t. Consequently, we have every reason in the world to defer to actual Mayan scholarship. (And, no, sifting Mayan writings for the stuff that fits our idea does not count as scholarship.)

•  The “Every Connection I Can Make is a Good Connection!” Mistake.  This can be a very tempting mistake, as well. In its most tempting form, it involves seeing “connections” that seem so reasonable to us that they simply “must” be true and then failing to do the “hard yards” to see of those connections really are justified. The example I alluded to parenthetically above about connecting Bolon Yokte on Monument 6 and Jesus Christ is a good example—the hobbyist might connect them, yet if one digs deeper one sees that such a connection is completely unjustified.

However, I saw worse. For instance, in trying to claim a connection between the Dresden Codex and 2012, I saw a claim made that the Venus Transit in 2012 establishes such a connection. Does it really? No, not in any way whatsoever, and the assertion is ridiculous on its face. Yes, the Dresden Codex apparently has astronomical Venus tables, so it is plausible that the transit that occurred in 2012 would be indicated in one of the many positions noted in the table (though I would like to see someone show that table entry to me—something I’ve never seen displayed). But this simply does not indicate that the Dresden Codex, let alone its decorative last page, is related to 2012-goofiness at all! It would be like saying that the last page of the Farmer’s Almanac is all about my birthday because, after all, my birthday is in the Almanac! Of course, so is yours, and your mother’s, your dog’s, your parakeet’s, Steven Spielberg’s, etc.

When we want to see a connection between two things desperately enough, we will see such “connections” even where they don’t exist, and they will seem reasonable to us (Jer. 17:9). Academic integrity, as well as simple honesty, will help to hold us back from banking on such “connections” if they are ultimately ungrounded—however tempting they may be. (Unless you’re Russell Crowe’s John Nash. Then…)

•  The “I Think I Can Interpret This However I’d Like” Mistake.  This happens in just about any endeavor which requires interpretation—which means virtually any endeavor in which humans are trying to understand anything. It certainly happens in Bible interpretation, and it also most certainly happened in 2012-tomfoolery.

In fact, hobbyists’ poorly interpreting Mayan writings through the filter of modern Christian apocalyptic thinking is one of the things that real Mayan scholars complained about most.  I saw it myself in many, many examples: Trying to treat the Chilam Balam as if it were fairly linear like the book of Revelation or some other sort of Christian “end of days” work, as if the cultural mindset and context behind its writing weren’t completely different; trying to tie together the Dresden Codex and the Chilam Balam in manners that violate basic research into the progression of Mayan culture through the centuries; trying to interpret Monument 6 at Tortuguero or the Comalcalco Brick apart from understanding the Mayan culture that would motivate and generate such carvings, inserting, instead, Christian or modern Western ideas completely foreign to the objects’ creators; et al.

When one bothers to look at the products of the Mayan culture through even a modicum of understanding of that culture, most of the horrible misinterpretations of those Mayan writings and carvings vanish like a vapor.

This is a mistake—interpreting things in the manner I like most—that I have made before, and I know I can be tempted to do.

And when it comes to the stack of 2012-related books I had to slog through which chose to interpret the Maya however they liked, that temptation claimed a lot of victims over the last decade. It’s a warning I appreciate: That even the best of minds can be so married to a subject that academic integrity slides in the service of, what someone once called, an “idea baby.” But trustworthy interpretive methodology should be adhered to, lest I become unmoored. And the examples 2012-ology has given me of unmoored individuals will serve as reminders in my memory banks for, hopefully, a long, long time.

I’ve learned a lot more, to be sure, but this list is getting big as it is! Given that this is the last 2012-related post I ever plan to write (though I assume we should never say “never”!), I wanted to be thorough. And I wanted to have a more positive slant than previous posts: Again, though it has been an irritating pursuit in one sense, it really has been really fun in another sense and ultimately very educational. Whether I did it well or not, I got the opportunity to use a popular “fad” to point people to God’s beautiful truth, and I got to learn many lessons, as well, about academic integrity and about making sure our stance in our writings is the most credible one to take (and, thankfully, in this case it clearly was).

And I should add that I will be forever grateful for being allowed to utter the phrases “jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs” and “self-transforming machine elves” on television. Really—a dream come true.

So, to that lone church member who first suggested to me, long ago, that I create a telecast about the 2012-hysteria: Thank you for that e-mail. I really do appreciate it, and I believe it has been a profitable effort for God’s Work—and a fun one, too.

Experts say no Maya expectation of special 2012 event again (again, again, again…)

What, I’m being put up on this blog again, already? Can’t a stone face catch a break? Where is my union rep?

While it’s almost a shame to post on this topic when the Feast is moments away from beginning, but until it’s all done I almost feel it’s a duty! Just saw an Associated Press article on Yahoo! News that I thought I would highlight for those looking for such things: “Experts: Mayas prophesized, but not end of world” (AP, 9/28/2012). (For the record, I believe they should have said “prophesied” in the title, as I don’t think “prophecize” is a word.)

Here’s the telling section of the article:

Only a couple of references to the 2012 date equivalency have been found carved in stone at Mayan sites, and neither refers to an apocalypse, experts say.

Such apocalyptic visions have been common for more than 1,000 years in Western, Christian thinking, and are not native to Mayan thought.

“This is thinking that, in truth, has nothing to do with Mayan culture,” said Alexander Voss, an anthropologist at the University of Quintana Roo, a state on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. “This thing about looking for end-times is not something that comes from Mayan culture.”

Indeed. Worth repeating: “This thing about looking for end-times is not something that comes from Mayan culture.”

(I should add that not only is there no stone carving with such claims about 2012, but also there is not written record, either. Those who say that the Dresden Codex or even the much, much later Chilam Balam refer to 2012 in such a prophetic manner misuse those texts, however innocent their intentions may be, out of simple ignorance or out of theory-bias.)

The idea of any sort of millennial/end times/golden age/etc. concept that modern Christians and religionists would be familiar with did not enter into Mayan understanding until long after the Classical period had passed–after the Spanish conquest and corruption from Catholicism. This is solid, historical fact with which no reputable modern scholar I know of disagrees. And even then the idea of change on 2012 was not a part of that picture, either! The 2012 hoopla really is a “gringo invention.”

Feel free to check out my other blog posts on the topic (a good list is in this post), but even better: Check out the articles and commentaries we’ve written on the Tomorrow’s World website and telecasts we’ve created (available hereor order the completely free, no-strings-attached, hour-long DVD we’ve put together on the subject, which will not only explain the origin of the 2012-hysteria but also point out real prophecy instead of New Age, 2012-related, mumbo jumbo (can be requested on this page).

Desktop Debris Potpourri!

Picture of a potpourri
Hmmmm… potpourri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Howdy! Finally back to the blog after my annual pre-teen camp-related self-imposed exile (additional exiles probably coming in connection with teen camp and the Feast), and it is good to type, again. Though, as usual, I have a lot on my brain and not much time to delve into it all, so I thought I would simply focus on getting something off of my chest.

Or, actually, my desktop. My computer’s desktop has been horribly cluttered for the better part of a year (or two) and I have finally cleaned it off. Over the course of doing so, though, I came across several links I had “saved” there in the hopes of perhaps blogging about them or keeping them for future reference (for which the desktop is not the ideal place). In order to ease my conscience at their passing, I thought it would be great to put up this Desktop Debris Potpourri! If the link looks interesting, feel free to click and read. If not, feel free to skip it. It just feels good to get these things off of my desktop…

Wow! I feel purged! Thanks for letting me get all that off my chest. The sky is clear again! My clean desktop is staring at me from my laptop screen, suggesting that a whole new world of wonder is out there waiting for me to explore! Thanks for your help. And, as always, if you go clicking around any of those: caveat navita stans.

[By the way: Pre-teen camp in Missouri was incredible! Really, the best one ever in my experience, and I am thankful to all of you who may have prayed for it. Thanks much!]

Top Ten Reasons the 2012 Hype is Hype

If this guy could talk, I'm sure he would say, "Read this Top Ten List."

I noticed yesterday that my blog pops up rather high in a Google search on 2012! I don’t know if that should leave me excited or depressed. 🙂

So, I thought to myself, “Self, if folks are going to find their way here, they might as well find the truth once they arrive.” [My thanks to the late Mr. Galbreath, my high school history teacher, for that “Self…” thing. I miss you, Mr. Galbreath!]

While I recommend viewing other posts for details, perhaps this one post can give a nice summary (which I will simulblog on the “2012 Prophecy Blog”)…

Top Ten Reasons the 2012 Hype is… well… Hype

  1. 2012 is barely mentioned at all in Mayan inscriptions. (One mention on Tortuguero Monument 6—minus doomsday, mind you—and one disputed possible mention on the backside of one tile… two out of about 15,000 artifacts.)
  2. 2012 is not clearly mentioned in the Chilam Balam. (Note: the “law of the katun” is not a reference to 2012, nor to the Long Count Calendar, nor is it a “doomsday” reference.)
  3. The “water scene” in the Dresden Codex is not definitively a flood (let alone a global flood), nor is it tied in any way at all—whatever it represents—to 2012 or to the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
  4. Actual scientists who have made the Mayan culture part of their life’s work have tried again and again to explain that the Maya did not predict the end of the world in 2012. (E.g., Dr. David Stuart, Dr. Stephen Houston, Dr. Anne Pyburn, Dr. Mark van Stone, Dr. John Hoopes, Dr. Susan Milbrath, Dr. Robert Sitler, Dr. Sandra Noble, Dr. Susan Gilespie, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, et al.)
  5. 2012-hysteria is chiefly the creation of modern New Agers and professional stoners (that is, enthusiasts of hallucinogenic drugs).
  6. Predictions of a mysterious Planet X or Nibiru being on a collision course for Earth in 2012 have no basis in astronomical fact.
  7. Comments that aliens—Zeta Reticulans, what have you—have communicated to us the significance of 2012 are based on communications from “aliens.” (‘Nuff said, I hope.)
  8. The supposed “Galactic Alignment” of December 2012 is false. We’ve been in such a supposed “alignment” for many years, with many years yet to go and with nothing special about 2012 in any way.
  9. The I Ching does not give us 2012 as an end of the world or “year of transformation” in any way at all and the “novelty theory” method used to say it does by Terrence McKenna is as close to “science” as astrology is (and was obtained by McKenna, by his own admission, through the use of hallucinogenic drugs).
  10. Virtually every means by which an “end of the world” prediction has been squeezed out of the year 2012—astrology, use of hallucinogenics, “spirit guides” and channeling, worship of ancient cultures, etc.—is soundly condemned by God’s Word.

The facts aren’t in dispute: All available evidence points to the conclusion that the Maya never said anything about the world ending on 2012. As Dr. David Stuart has said on his own website, speaking of Tortuguero Monument 6, “It has nothing to do with prophecy or the supposed, dread events that await us in AD 2012. About that the Maya are notably silent…or, truth be told, a bit boring.”

The Bible—the only credible source of knowledge about the future!—makes it clear that the “end of the world” cannot happen for—at the very least—the next 3½ years (actually more), given that the Great Tribulation (followed by the Day of the Lord) has not yet begun.

This is not to say that amazing things will not happen between now and then. In a world in which the greatest national powers in existence are teetering on the abyss of instability and conditions continue to ripen for the fulfillment of countless biblical prophecies, I would expect amazing things to happen!

But that only increases the irritation caused by 2012 nonsense. When it passes without fulfilling the expectations of its adherents or matching the proclamations of its promoters, it will be one more reason the populace provides for ignoring prophecy in general. And what a shame, when so much real prophetic fulfillment is afoot.

If you would like to know the real truth about 2012, please feel free to request your own copy of our free hour-long DVD, “2012: Mystery and Truth” (listed toward the bottom in “Media”). It really is free, with no strings attached. It’s just a little something we do. (Actually, something we have to do: Matthew 10:8.) There are a number of other free materials we have related to 2012, as well, including a stream of our half-hour television program that discussed the matter (“2012, Bible Prophecy and You!”), and some commentaries and articles you can find by searching “2012” on our website. Better yet—peruse the website and read some of our materials on biblical prophecy. What the Bible has to say about the years just ahead put the 2012 hoopla to shame. Consider starting here: “Fourteen Signs Announcing Christ’s Return”

(By the way—this is my personal blog, and though I am a presenter on the Tomorrow’s World telecast this is not an official Tomorrow’s World website. However, if I can do anything to get you to go there instead of hanging out here, I am happy to do it! The Tomorrow’s World website contains enough revelatory discussion of Bible prophecy to satisfy the sweetest of prophetic sweet tooths, all of it grounded in solid biblical understanding. Concerning the Tomorrow’s World website, I am happy to say in the spirit of the (political) season, “I’m Wallace Smith, and I approve that message.” 🙂 So, check it out!)

2012: Scholars debunk it again (and again and again and…)

Drawing of Tortuguero Monument 6, by scholar Sven Gronemeyer, on wayeb.com.
Great drawing, by Maya scholar Sven Gronemeyer, of the "2012" carving on Tortuguero Monument 6 which, like the Comalcalco brick, Dresden Codex, etc., fails to prove the Mayans thought 2012 would be the end of the world. (From wayeb.org.)

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History is holding their round table effort to beat back 2012ologists with actual facts and research, which they had previously announced in their discussions of the not-new-news Comalcalco Brick. Now, in the news today, one of the members of the scholarly panel has had his comments reported — coincidentally, it is the same Mayan scholar, Sven Gronemeyer , whose drawing of the Tortuguero monument I used in my post a couple of days ago (and again on the right).

Here’s the article from Yahoo!News:  “Expert: Mexico glyphs don’t predict apocalypse.”

Actually, all of this is old news.  Tortuguero Monument 6 does not predict an apocalypse or “end of the world” in 2012.  The Comalcalco Brick does not predict an apocalypse or “end of the world” in 2012.  The Dresden Codex does not predict an apocalypse or “end of the world” in 2012.  The Chilam Balam does not predict an apocalypse or “end of the world” in 2012.  And the collection of Mayan scholars — whose lives are invested in studying this ancient culture — say with a remarkably singular voice: The Maya did not predict an apocalypse or “end of the world” in 2012.

It all really is a modern phenomenon that did not originate in the religion or beliefs of the Maya.  (To which I should add: even if it did, so what? Read your Bible! 🙂 )

Here are some comments from the article (but do read the whole article if you’re interested — it’s brief):

At least that’s according to a German expert who says his decoding of a Mayan tablet with a reference to a 2012 date denotes a transition to a new era and not a possible end of the world as others have read it.

…”The date acquired a symbolic value because it is seen as a reflection of the day of creation,” Gronemeyer said. “It is the passage of a god and not necessarily a great leap for humanity.”

…Many experts doubt the second inscription [on the Comalcalco Brick] is a definite reference to the date cited as the possible end of the world, saying there is no future tense marking like there is in the Tortuguero tablet.

The institute has tried to dispel talk of a 2012 apocalypse, the subject of numerous postings and stories on the Internet. Its latest step was to arrange a special round table of Mayan experts this week at Palenque, which is where Gronemeyer made his comments.

As I’ve said before, I’ve never seen any credible evidence — any credible evidence, at all – that the Maya predicted some sort of world-ending apocalypse in 2012, not by flood, fire, famine, or even stale television programming. Now, I have seen people wrongly interpret Mayan writings and carvings based on Western religious ideas — ideas that would be foreign to Maya culture. And I’ve seen people try to tie together elements of Mayan culture which cannot be demonstrated in any credible way to work together and in a way that no Mayan scholar supports. And I have researched the origins of 2012ology and found it to be based on modern shamanism, astrology, worship of pagan cultures, and hallucinogenic drug use.  But, no, I’ve seen no evidence that the Maya ever thought about 2012 in the manner that false prophets and New Age gurus of today think about it.

I’m certainly willing to be wrong about this — especially since even if the Maya did say anything like their modern misinterpreters say they did — it would merely lead to the follow-up question (come on, say it with me now): “So what?”

Don’t pay money and buy a New Age, drug-inspired 2012 book from your local Barnes & Noble (it only encourages them to put more on their shelves!) 🙂  Instead, get our free materials, including an absolutely free DVD!  Just see the list of (FREE) resources at the end of this post here: “The Comalcalco Brick and the 2012 Non-pocalypse”  Learn more than the truth about 2012 — check out what the future really has in store… Reality puts 2012 goofiness to shame.

Rain on the Comalcalco parade

Drawing of Tortuguero Monument 6, by scholar Sven Gronemeyer, on wayeb.com.
Great drawing, by Maya scholar Sven Gronemeyer, of the "2012" carving on Tortuguero Monument 6 which, like the Comalcalco brick, fails to prove the Mayans thought 2012 would be the end of the world. (From wayeb.org.)

Wow — I see I have gotten a lot of hits over the last couple of days for folks searching for information on the Comalcalco brick. Welcome! I’m glad to be of service, as I have seen some false information lately on the matter: hopefully you read my previous post (here: The Comalcalco Brick and the 2012 Non-pocalypse) that explains the matter, but I can add to it here, as well as debunk a few comments I’ve seen.

For instance, does the Comalcalco tile-brick “confirm” anything about a Mayan belief in a “major event” to come December 2012? No, it does not — not in any way, shape, or form.

Does the brick even talk about December 2012? That is disputed, and, in fact, there is very good reason to believe it does not. (Even if it did, as I explained in the last post, that would make it only the second item in existence that even mention the date at all, out of approximately 15,000 items. If the Maya believed it is supposed to be a major event of cosmic proportion, then they oddly said virtually nothing about it. Western obsessives, on the other hand…)

Some additional articles have appeared online about the Comalcalco brick, such as this so-summarized-as-to-be-terribly-misleading-in-places ABC News item. And other articles with more balance have been grossly misquoted or selectively quoted.

But for those willing to looking at the whole fact of the matter (not just what New Agers want to be true), MSNBC’s article, “Mexico adds yet another brick to the 2012 Maya legend” gives the bad news…

“Some have proposed it as another reference to 2012, but I remain rather unconvinced,” David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a message to The Associated Press.

Stuart said the date inscribed on the brick “is a ‘Calendar Round,’ a combination of a day and month position that will repeat every 52 years.”

The brick date does coincide with the end of the 13th Baktun; Baktuns were roughly 394-year periods, and 13 was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas. The Mayan Long Count calendar begins in 3114 B.C., and the 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, 2012.

But the date on the brick could also correspond to similar dates in the past, Stuart said.

“There’s no reason it couldn’t be also a date in ancient times, describing some important historical event in the Classic period. In fact, the third glyph on the brick seems to read as the verb huli, ‘he/she/it arrives,'” Stuart wrote. “There’s no future tense marking (unlike the Tortuguero phrase), which in my mind points more to the Comalcalco date being more historical than prophetic.”

Dr. David Stuart has been one of the more vocal scholars out there debunking the conclusions of the non-scholars and New Age fanatics, and his last point should be taken seriously. Anyone who says that the Comalcalco tile “confirms” a belief that the Mayans saw the “end of the world” coming in 2012 are only seeing what they want to see.

The article later mentions that Mexico’s Institute of Anthropology and History, which is responsible for bring the Comalcalco tile-brick to public attention, agrees with the rest of the scholarly community (including Dr. David Stuart) — 2012-hysteria is not Mayan in origin but is rather Western:

The Institute of Anthropology and History has long said rumors of a world-ending or world-changing event in late December 2012 are a Westernized misinterpretation of Mayan calendars.

The institute repeated Thursday that “Western messianic thought has twisted the cosmovision of ancient civilizations like the Maya.”

The institute’s experts say the Maya saw time as a series of cycles that began and ended with regularity, but with nothing apocalyptic at the end of a given cycle.

Those who wish to claim that the Maya definitely predicted cosmic scale, “world-ending or world-changing event in late December 2012” simply have no evidence or worthwhile argument to stand on and have positioned themselves against the conclusions of the community of legitimate Maya scholarship. The “2012 phenomenon” really is essentially the creation of drug-using New Agers — and that’s really about as deep as it gets. The Comalcalco brick, it seems, offers little comfort to those looking to firm up non-existent support for their ideas.

So those of you arriving at this blog by searching for the Comalcalco tile or Comalcalco brick on Google, welcome, indeed! Before you leave the blog, I hope…

  • that you learn something (more on 2012 is available on the blog – you might start here or at the list of items in the previous post),
  • that you consider ordering a copy of our free, hour-long DVD (no gimmicks: it really is free) discussing the truth behind the 2012-hysteria, Mayan misconceptions, and, most importantly, Bible prophecy, available here,
  • that you poke around the blog,
  • and that you enjoy your stay!

Beginning of a couple of years of 2012 lunacy?

Copy of the Book of Chilam Balam of Ixil displ...
A portion of the Chilam Balam of Ixil. Nothing to see here, folks! Move along... (Image via Wikipedia)

Well, here we are exactly two Gregorian years (thanks BL!) away from the date that many think will be the end of the world in one way or another: December 21, 2012.

Seeing that we may be at the beginning of a couple of years’ worth of steadily increasing 2012-related lunacy, I thought I would take the opportunity today to highlight some major points for those feeling the seductive pull of the hysteria:

  • There is no solid evidence whatsoever that the Mayans said anything truly unusual about 2012.  Period.  End of story.  Those who call December 21, 2012 a “Mayan Apocalypse” or some other such foolishness are wither sincere-but-confused, zealous-but-self-deceived, or false-prophets-seeking-profit.For those who would like a much more detailed discussion about this fact, including “red herrings” such as the Dresden Codex, the Chilam Balam, or the monument at Tortuguero, see my post “What the Maya did & didn’t say about 2012.”
  • The Mayan Long Count Calendar does not truly “end” on December 21, 2012.  It is merely the end of a large unit in the cycle (the baktun).  Just like one of our months, years, centuries ends and rolls into a new one, so does theirs.  Actually, not only do their calendars employ much larger units of time (which, alone, would imply that they expected time to go on) but also many of their records show anticipation of events that happen long after December 21, 2012, as if civilization does not come to an end at that time (go figure).
  • Part of the reason (not the only reason, though) that 2012 is such an over-hyped phenomenon is our culture’s pathological desire to over glorify and romanticize primitive cultures, as if they had some sort of special insights we need–though we don’t seem to apply that sentiment to, for instance, the Mayans’ beliefs about sacrificing children in incredibly horrific ways (well, we don’t outside of abortion clinics, at least).  I discuss this pathology in my post “‘Avatar’ and, believe it or not, 2012.”
  • Most amusing (to me, at least) is the idea that the December 21, 2012 date is showing signs of being completely wrong, anyway.  The date is years, even possibly decades off.  The Mayan calendar’s synchronization with our own calendar is far from being certain, and, as a result, we really aren’t sure what date on our calendar actually represents the end of their baktun.  This was discussed with me in person by the scholar I spoke with in the “three bowls of chili” post I referenced earlier, but also in an article linked to here: “2012: Is this any way to run an apocalypse?”
  • Astronomically, there is nothing spectacular about 2012, contrary to the claims of many.  The “Galactic Alignment” many gush over is a myth (anything that could be truly called this is not really related to 2012); there is no special planetary alignment; the solstice stuff is misunderstood, misapplied, and misconstrued; etc.  I corresponded personally with a Milwaukee astronomer about these things to be sure and was assured that the only thing astronomically significant about December 21, 2012, was that many people are significantly confused about astronomy.
  • So what is driving the 2012 hysteria?  Well, mainly a lot of New Agers and drug users.  Really.  If you want prophetic insights from someone who gets their ideas by taking hallucinogens and speaking with “jewel-encrusted, self-dribbling basketballs” and “machine elves,” then be my guest.  Just don’t expect me to pay much attention to you.  I covered this in more detail in our free, hour-long DVD “2012: Mystery and Truth” as well as in the Tomorrow’s World television program “2012, Bible Prophecy and You!” and the magazine article “2012: Hollywood vs. Humanity.”
  • Finally, the ultimate point to be made is that God does not want us delving into the “prophecies” of pagans for insight about the future! He is the source of prophecy to which we should turn, and the only source to which we should turn. We should turn away from others and teach others to do so, as well!  True, Paul twice quotes from pagan writings in the New Testament, comprising two small quotes from one paragraph of Epimenides and one small quote apparently from Aratus.  And while one or both of these may or may not have truly been considered “prophets,” he is most emphatically not using any “prophetic” knowledge they had recorded. Rather, he uses their poetry not their prophecy!  He is merely using turns of phrase each had written.  In fact, in the only instance we have recorded of Paul speaking to a true, pagan prophet (in this case, a demon-inspired prophetess), his actions are clear: He commands the demon to come out of the girl, and her prophesying is brought to an end. Whether it is demon-inspired or delusion-inspired, like Paul we should have no use for such.I discuss the problem with looking to false or demonic sources of prophecy in the Tomorrow’s World telecast we aired this past week, “Prophets and Pretenders.” Hopefully you had a chance to see it — if not, click on through and see it online.  (I discuss it, as well, in the free DVD I mentioned.)God calls such activity, seeking prophetic and spiritual insight from such sources, prostitution (Leviticus 20:6).  It is not for those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ.


In the end, all of this 2012 stuff is, to use a technical term, hooey.  Those who spend money on it are wasting that money when there are free resources like our free 2012 DVD available on the Tomorrow’s World website.  Certainly something dramatic could happen in 2012 — in fact, as the end comes nearer, the odds of something “dramatic” happening continues to increase.  But it would not be because of anything the Mayans ever said, nor will it be due to any drug-assisted “visions.”  So, skip the bong and grab your Bible. 🙂