The Great Gloom – a theological perspective

With the hindsight of history – or, perhaps, of eternity – the Great Gloom that was imposed upon the world in 2020, and continues into 2023, is likely to be seen primarily as a failure of political leadership. Most of the world now is led by the kind of “false shepherds” condemned by the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament. In those days the agenda was idolatry and personal gain, and in one way or another the same is probably true now.

The term “Great Gloom” that I have coined represents the prevailing pessimism we see all around us, from the perennial optimist Daniel Hannan’s pessimistic New Year article to the ordinary lady in the church pew next to you who remarks how little there is to look forward to this year. The term encompasses both the anxieties of those who still believe the narratives that we are being besieged by deadly pandemics, roasting the planet through civilization, perpetrating rampant racism, suffering inexplicable economic problems and paying for Putin’s unprovoked war; and the black-pilled disillusion of the wise who see unchecked deception herding us into poverty and servitude.

Without needing to unpack the machinations of a US-based deep state apparatus, the political ineptness of powerful Western leaders including that of the US, and the various public-private conspiracies like the WEF, the Military-Industrial-Complex and its Pharmacological, Banking and Green brood-siblings, any dispassionate investigation shows ordinary people being led by the nose by leaders who lie to them, manipulate them, and fleece them.

I should add, though, that there is a general cosmic principle that peoples get the governments they deserve. When even many secularists recognise that the decline of Christianity has left a vacuum for demons to fill, how much more should Christians recognise that despising the word of God is how Adam got us into this mess in the first place. And that apostasy started with the masses.

Even so, it’s tempting to think that some plague affecting only elites (the Hemp-Lamppost virus?) would put many of the world’s problems right, or less homicidally that it’s high time for Christ to return and show how the rule of the nations should be done. I don’t disagree with that last thought, in principle, but over the New Year have had some intriguing insights on the matter from Scripture.

Having seasonally read through the various Christmas narratives in my morning devotions, our church’s reading-programme for the Book of Revelation now being over, I decided to plug on through the rest of Luke’s gospel. I was struck for the first time by how, in the wilderness temptation, Jesus dealt with Satan’s offer of world rule in exchange for worshipping him.

The devil’s claim to have authority over the appointment of kings was of course, like everything else he ever says, a lie, or at very best a misleading half-truth. Were he honest, he would have said, “If you are the Son of God, you’ll be familiar with Psalm 2, in which God himself plainly tells you that the rule of the nations is yours for the asking. And you’ll also be familiar with what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar when he failed to heed Daniel’s warning that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to who he wills.'”

But the question I asked myself, for the first time, was why Jesus, rejecting Satan’s spurious offer, didn’t simply cite Psalm 2 in prayer to his Father, and claim his rightful Kingdom? That’s not completely true, actually, since I knew that it is a theological commonplace – a wonderful one – that Jesus’s eternal reign could only come by way of the Cross. It’s not so much that even a 100% voting mandate from the peoples of the world would get him into office without a Satanic propaganda campaign, but that the whole problem with humanity is that we don’t want God to be God, or his Son to be king.

What I hadn’t quite twigged before is that even the death and resurrection of Jesus, which elevated him to God’s right hand and rulership over all things, including the kingdoms of earth, could not short-circuit whatever historical process God has ordained for his Son to show the kings of the earth how it should be done.

This brings us into an unfathomable issue of theodicy, because Jesus’s refusal to become the political world ruler even through his Father, upon his resurrection, has meant the advent of Herod Agrippa, Nero, Genghiz Khan, and every other national leader, enlightened or despotic, up to and including Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin, Rishi Sunak and allthe current bunch.

According to Jesus himself, all these, like Pontius Pilate, would have no power at all if it were not granted to them from on high. And the ascension of Jesus declared such power, now, to be in Jesus’s hands. And yet paradoxically one of the main messages of the Book of Revelation is the corruptness of empire, and its essential opposition to God.

I don’t think a detailed explanation is available to us. And why should it be? God is God, and we are not. But perhaps part of the explanation is that Satan told Jesus a half-truth in the wilderness. Perhaps Satan does have some degree of delegated authority, which he expresses through appointments like Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot or John Brennan. But if so, it is only under the Lord’s supervision, for the furtherance of the divine plan of salvation, which may well include disillusion with earthly rulers even to the point of a Great Gloom. We may see some kind of parallel to that in the way Satan’s malevolence was allowed to test Job, but within strict limits, so that the book of Job ends with attributing the evils that had fallen on him to Yahweh himself, yet without blame.

To put the current evils, and their perpetrators, within the providential control of God, may not mitigate the evils, or give us an easy view of God’s goodness. But it does place them firmly within his salvific purposes. And it is entirely consistent with Jesus’s words on Olivet that the coming evils “must” happen, as well as with the way that the unpleasant seals of the scroll of history, written by God himself and unsealed exclusively by the slain Lamb, clearly show the same mysterious necessity.

Therefore, whatever Satanic conspiracies tempt us to be caught up in the Great Gloom, we need to remember that Jesus was offered an instant fix by the devil himself in 27AD, and refused it in favour of the plan of God tending to the same end, but over a time course that seems inordinately slow (as some count slowness), and a history that to our eyes seems chaotic.

As we resist evil, and expose deception, and proclaim joyful truth to the gloomy, it pays us to keep at the front of our minds that Jesus knows how to rule. And as in worldly politics, bringing effective change for the better takes time and diplomacy.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in History, Politics and sociology, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Great Gloom – a theological perspective

  1. shopwindows says:

    In conversation Aseem Malhotra and Bret Weinstein finally wondered why Ben Goldacre has been silent.

    Personally I wondered what was going on when Carl Heneghan the director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine was supplemented by the separate appointment of Ben as the first Bennett Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford. one highly vocal on covid, the other not? Strange.

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      We’re watching the same videos! Yes, Goldacre definitely missing in action, and the Oxford thing smacks of some political agenda. Perhaps, like the silent civil liberties people, he’s found that science is only “bad” in certain ideological connections. Though his critique of big pharma certainly ought to have put him on the mRNA case.

  2. Robert Byers says:

    I see no gloom and see most people here expect to be happy and rich. richer then me.
    I agree the racism charges against mankind have always been false though peoples had problems with other peoples. I find here they are fed up with covid claims and silently its not ignored. Historians will work out the ignorance that attended this so called pandemic. More dumb then bad. In fact relative these days are not impressive for problems. Britain without christ will decline from its former first place. america still has christ and still is number one. We need people to think and speak and act. This blog is doing it. this blog is hope. i say if more knew about it in your country who would have thousands of consistent viewers and possibly thousands of consistent enemies. Its a small worl in the world of ideas.

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      “…most people here expect to be happy and rich.”

      I don’t know enough about Canada’s economy to know how true or false their expectation is, apart from the folly of damaging the fuel and agriculture industries. Europe’s economies (including ours) are certainly much worse.

      I’m surprised they expect to be happy given the appalling civil liberties infringements there, which far exceed our own, and they were bad enough.

      The point about the loss of Christianity is valid (though it’s worth noting that the US has rapidly been becoming more secular since the turn of the millennium, correlating with a rapid decline in its status).

      A visiting Ugandan missionary to Britain happened to be in church on Sunday, saying how he had lost a job here for saying something like, “What a pity X doesn’t know the Lord.” He said he’s also worked in supposedly oppressive China, where sharing the gospel at work was easy and productive. Go figure, as they say.

      • Robert Byers says:

        yes its oppresive times in the english civilization.However its up to us to fight the bad guys. lIke you do here and I do where I can.
        In Chine they would see no threat and have no hostility to Christianity as they see it as irrelevant. Our nations see it as relevant and are a enemy to it or rather the forceful peoples who run our nations. very small circles that only bump into public opinion but not public involvement in making the rules.
        in canada still money is plenty and vactions and they don’t care about anything else. indeed thats why the bad nerds get thier way. They just go toooo far and start getting moticed by more people. this is happening now.

        We must do a smarter job at being lawyers for right and good. We can beat the bad guys or j=James Bond movies were all lies.

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