Guess what happened on my vacation? I had a close encounter of a Rabbinical kind while hiking in the Northern Canadian Rockies. A member of our small hiking group (see The World Outdoors) turned out to be an almost rabidly anti-messianic Rabbi. Peter is a fulltime networker for a consortium of Reformed congregations around the country. For a messianic wannabe to be in close proximity with such a one for several days was something of a test for both of our composures. Let me hasten to say that this is nothing personal about Peter. A long-time friend of mine is a Methodist minister, who I imagine would have responded in a very similar fashion under similar circumstances. Nonetheless, I am still feeling the provocation of this encounter.
An acquaintance of Peter's studies messianic movements domestically. I inquired as to the attitude of this person toward such movements. Peter's response was that like any other rational person, he would be opposed to such movements as being irrational.
There are several presuppositions of modernism contained in this view. One is that a belief in God cannot be rationally supported. It must be a matter of faith alone, a faith that can only be supported subjectively or traditionally.
Another presupposition is that any messiah would have to fit into the historical mold of the prophet. The prophet hears the voice of God and reports it to her charismatically entrained following. Part of this charisma would necessarily include miraculous phenomena as evidence of supernatural involvement.
In short, modernism presupposes the oxymoronicity of rational theism. The postmodern theologians have been able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of many, that theism is no more irrational than any other existing belief system. The next step, that of proving the rational superiority of theism to any other belief system, would constitute an intellectual achievement of messianic proportions, would it not?
This final messianic step cannot occur in the context of our modern Cartesian dualism. You cannot embed reason in an irrational frame. The only alternative frame is a monistic immaterialism, i.e. idealism. Whoever can effectively initiate a global turning toward an idealist based rational theism should, by almost any account, fit the messianic profile. I certainly make no secret of my own aspirations in this regard. The best way to learn to recognize a potential messiah is in attempting to emulate such a one. A minimalist, rationalist, messianic event has the potential to appeal to both the secular and sectarian audience. And how else are we to avoid the clash of sects and civilizations?