Tuesday, 26 May 2015

What Endures?

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

As Envoy returns to Earth, its crew detect that interstellar travel from Earth is sharply declining. Captain Nansen, "...nominally a Reform Catholic..." (p. 58), remarks:

"'...the Church taught that someday time also will have a stop.'" (p. 428)

By speaking in the past tense, he seems to assume that, after so many millennia, the Church will no longer exist. This assumption turns out to be correct. The six surviving Envoy crew members include the last Jew, Christian and Muslim.

I was taught that the Catholic Church would last until the end of time. This was contradicted by sf stories in which mankind survives into the remote future when, although there are diverse sects, none of them are descended from any religions known to us. St Paul's teaching was not that the Church would survive through all those millennia but that Christ would return when he, Paul, had completed his mission to the Gentiles. When some converts had died and others then asked Paul why the return had been delayed, he replied that Christ would indeed return soon at which point dead believers would be raised and those who were still alive, possibly including himself and his correspondents, would meet with them in the air, thus writing the passage that generated the Rapture idea.

The idea that the Church as an institution would endure through many future millennia must have arisen after the first generation of Christians had died - although some then expected Christ's return at the end of the first millennium.

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