Our ‘Improbable Universe’

Our ‘Improbable Universe’

NASA

An interview with astrobiologist Guillermo Gonzalez
From the November 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

Astrobiologist Guillermo Gonzalez, who holds a Ph.D. in astronomy, is the co-founder of the “Galactic Habitable Zone” concept, which was featured on the October 2001 cover of Scientific American. His work has helped lead to the discovery of two planets. He is also the co-author of the 2004 book The Privileged Planet, which explains unique insights about life on our planet. Dr. Gonzalez has concluded, based on the scientific evidence, that life is designed. In our interview, Dr. Gonzalez explains his views, gives us a taste of the theories explained in his book, and highlights the opposition scientists face when proposing the idea of intelligent design.

Can you briefly explain the central idea of your book, The Privileged Planet?

The central thesis of the book is that recent scientific findings show that we not only live in a universe fine-tuned for life, but one fine-tuned for discovery as well. Those places in the universe that are most habitable are also the best places to observe the broader universe, and Earth is the best overall “scientific platform” we know of.

What do you think are one or two of the most profound or salient features of our planet that both allow life to exist and allow us to measure and understand our world and universe?

An obvious one is the fact that we can see the distant stars and galaxies. This would not be possible if we lived on a planet with a cloudy or hazy atmosphere. Our atmosphere is transparent in the optical region of the spectrum, partly because it is oxygen-rich. And a thick, oxygen-rich atmosphere is necessary for large, active creatures such as us.Another one is the phenomenon of total solar eclipses. Anyone who has watched a sunrise or sunset and the full moon rising or setting has noticed that these two bodies subtend about the same angular size on the sky. This “coincidence” gives us the best solar eclipses in the solar system. What’s more, the conditions that result in these wonderful eclipses are also the ones that make Earth a habitable planet. In other words, the best places for observing solar eclipses are also the ones most likely to have observers.

You explain how even some characteristics of Earth that we normally think of as hostile—like earthquakes, for example—actually benefit Earth’s habitability and discovery. Why is that?

Earthquakes, while they cause damage and death, are an indicator that we live on a geologically active planet. We need the geological activity so that certain life-essential elements, such as carbon, can be recycled through the biosphere. We could avoid most of the suffering caused by earthquakes if we really wanted to, since we know where most earthquakes occur, but we cannot predict when they occur. We learn about the Earth’s deep interior from earthquakes by making use of the waves they generate.Earth resides in what you call the “Galactic Habitable Zone.” Can you briefly explain what that is, and what problems we would face if we were not in that zone?The Galactic Habitable Zone (ghz) is that region in the Milky Way galaxy that is most favorable to the presence of habitable planetary systems. Its boundaries are defined by such things as the trend of stellar chemical composition with location, perturbations of Oort cloud comets, supernovas and gamma ray bursts. Overall, habitable planets are less likely to form in the outer region of the galaxy, and there are more dangers in the inner regions compared to our location.

What are the odds of all the “coincidences” you explain working out to support both life and discovery, and are there enough planets in the universe to make it possible for those odds to arise by chance?

The science of astrobiology is helping us to begin to answer the first part of your question (probability of a habitable planet), but very little work has been done on the second part. Given the multiple examples of fine-tuning required for discovery I give in my book, I can say it is a low probability to find ourselves living in the universe we do live in, but I’m just not ready to attach a specific probability to it yet.

Critics would counter that despite the odds, it is possible that the conditions arose by chance, if we are just one universe of many. Do you think this is a fair criticism? Is there evidence for the existence of multiple universes?

Yes and no. You can’t rule out the possible existence of other universes, but I would say this hypothesis is not the best explanation for the universe we observe ourselves to be living in. Not only are we living in an improbable universe when it comes to habitability, it is also the case that we are living in an improbable universe for discovery. What’s more, since we don’t need to discover the universe outside our planetary home in order to exist and survive, you can’t appeal to unseen multiple universes to explain the fine-tuning for discoverability.

Some might argue that natural selection is responsible for us appearing to be perfectly suited for our environment. But can natural selection account for our ability for discovery? Can it explain why the factors for life correlate with the factors for discovery? Why or why not?

Good question. Natural selection can only select for those aspects which help us to survive and produce more offspring. It cannot explain why we can see the distant stars and galaxies or observe total solar eclipses. Natural selection might account for sight, but not for our ability to do astronomy. It cannot explain the correlation between life and discovery.

Assuming our planet was designed for complex life, as you suggest, why do you think it was designed in such a way that would allow us to be able to observe and measure the cosmos? Or is that a philosophical question?

Answering this “why” question is philosophical. So, I can give a speculative philosophical answer. Perhaps we were meant to discover those aspects of our universe that point beyond itself to its designer. For example, you can learn some things about a carpenter by studying his furniture or a painter from his paintings or a musician from his music.

Have the many factors making complex life possible been understood for a long time? Or are many of them recent discoveries?

A few have been proposed over a century ago, such as a planet’s distance from its star. Most have been recognized for less than 20 years. For example, the importance of a large moon for stabilizing the rotational axis of a terrestrial planet was discovered in the early 1990s. More recently, gamma ray bursts have been demonstrated to be very dangerous explosions that can sterilize a planet even thousands of light years away.

Despite the fact that you have published over 70 articles, you have been sharply criticized for your research into intelligent design. Why do you think some are so hostile to the idea of intelligent design? Is it fundamentally anti-scientific?

Some people have bought into the mischaracterizations of intelligent design which are so commonplace on the Internet, the pop culture and even in science journals. There is no question that people who spread this misinformation feel threatened; it would be easy for them to look up the correct information [on] intelligent design. Instead, they would rather believe in any number of conspiracy theories about intelligent design, rather than face its profound implications.

What led you to believe that intelligent design is a good explanation for the origin of life?

Although I don’t study the origin of life, I was convinced of life’s design from several lines of evidence: the fine-tuning of the physical constants and planetary [factors necessary] for life and discovery, the information in dna, nanomachines in cells.

Based on your experience, it seems that some in the scientific establishment use their power to blacklist scientists who have not ruled out intelligent design. What do you find unscientific about the way these scholars interact with other scholars?

It has certainly been a learning experience. I have been surprised at the extent to which scientists’ views are determined by political ideology. This is not only true of the opposition to intelligent design, but it also applies to other scientific controversies, such as global warming and embryonic stem-cell research.

Some of your research is in astrobiology. What is astrobiology? Astrobiology seems almost a contradiction in terms. When we look out at the stars, it seems that we see nothing but a lack of life, no? Do you think there is life out there somewhere?

Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe. The discipline used to be called exobiology, which is the study of life beyond Earth. But, that meant that it was a discipline without a subject. With astrobiology, Earth life is an instance of life in the universe, but it remains true that Earth is the only inhabited place we know of. Based on what we know today, I am doubtful that life could have arisen naturalistically in the universe. Whether the universe was designed to have more than one planet with life is a question I don’t have an answer for.

Of the various things you study, what do you enjoy studying the most? Why?

I most enjoy studying stars with planets. This is a new field with many new discoveries waiting to be made. I feel privileged to be involved in this field from the start and making a number of important discoveries.

Guillermo Gonzalez’s book, The Privileged Planet, explains in detail many factors that not only make Earth habitable, but also make our world and universe discoverable at the same time. It’s an excellent read for anyone interested in learning more about our planet and our universe. It’s available at Amazon.com and elsewhere. In addition, a DVD is available by the same title, based on the book.

Is Germany’s Charlemagne About to Appear?

From the October 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

[CORRECTION: A reference in this article to a document by President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill to “destroy German militarism and Nazism” said it was signed after the Allies defeated Germany in World War ii. In fact, they signed that document in February 1945 at the Yalta Conference. The error has been corrected.]

As I write this article, Germany is just weeks from electing a new chancellor. That election and events to unfold from it are going to bring devastating consequences to this world. A dangerous political structure has been built in the European Union, and it’s about to get a lot worse. History thunders its strongest warning ever! It’s time that people understood that history.

But there is a lot more than history involved in understanding European politics.

What is happening in the European superstate is a mystery to most of the world. But that mystery is beginning to be removed.

Bernard Connolly wrote a bombshell book in 1995 titled The Rotten Heart of Europe. For years he served at the heart of the Exchange Rate Mechanism for the European Union. He headed the commission unit responsible for monitoring and servicing the system. He labels the European superstate as rotten. Since he had a vital job on the inside, his comments deserve our attention.

The Spirit of Charlemagne

“It is the battle for control of the European superstate,” Mr. Connolly wrote, “in which French technocrats confront German federalists, both sides claiming to fight under the banner of Charlemagne. The ‘collateral damage’ from this battle lies mainly in the future, but it could be ghastly” (emphasis mine throughout).

“It could be ghastly.” That is an understatement!

Who will get control of this great superstate? And just how ghastly is it going to be? The battle can be narrowed down to two nations—France and Germany. Do knowledgeable people really doubt who has already won this battle? The nation that controls the money will reign supreme. Of course, that has already proven to be Germany.

“Across the Rhine, successive German governments have, in their pursuit of a ‘European’ cloak for German ambitions, been prepared to accept an apparent cession of national monetary authority—as long as the new European monetary authority looks, sounds, smells and acts exactly as the German monetary authority now does” (ibid.).

The EU system has already been called a Trojan horse. Mr. Connolly says it is a “cloak for German ambitions.”

Just what are those ambitions? And why should every person on Earth be deeply concerned?

Otto von Habsburg was one of the key figures in creating the European Union. He had this to say about that union: “The [European] Community is living largely by the heritage of the Holy Roman Empire, though the great majority of the people who live by it don’t know by what heritage they live.”

Twenty-seven countries are members of the EU today. Most of them don’t know that they are “living largely by the heritage of the Holy Roman Empire.” It is a mystery to them.

According to Bible prophecy, the number of member nations or groups of nations will be reduced to 10 rulers. There are simply too many nations in the EU now for the Union to be ruled in the spirit of Charlemagne. Only after it has been severely reduced in member countries can the Holy Roman Empire function as it has in its extremely bloody past.

Mr. Habsburg also said, “We possess a European symbol which belongs to all nations of Europe equally; this is the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, which embodies the tradition of Charlemagne.”

Just what is “the tradition of Charlemagne”? It is far from what most people think it is—even Europeans!

Charles the Great

The Franks were the first barbaric tribe to embrace Catholicism, but it was for political gain, not religious reasons. Mostly of Germanic origin, the Franks used the Catholic Church to support their expansionist policies, while the church relied on Frankish rulers for protection. It was a union based on politics alone.

The Frankish kingdom reached the pinnacle of its power during the rule of Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Before Charlemagne’s emergence as world ruler, the political scene in Europe was greatly divided. Germany was sliced into many different tribes. Much of Italy was occupied by the Lombards. Byzantium was recognized as the successor to the eastern region of the old Roman Empire. Charlemagne, in conjunction with the papal throne, eventually changed all that—but not without much bloodshed.

Historians call his rule the First Reich—even though Charlemagne was the second ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Adolf Hitler’s rule became known as the Third Reich.

Charlemagne felt it his duty to defend the church. In 774, at the request of Pope Leo iii, he entered northern Italy and conquered the Lombard kingdom, uniting Italy for the first time in centuries. In 799, he again came to the aid of the pope, who was assaulted, brutally beaten, and thrown into prison by a band of conspirators. With the military backing of Charles and his Frankish troops, the pope was exonerated of all wrongdoing and reinstated to his ecclesiastic office.

The following year, in Rome, while Charlemagne was kneeling in prayer during a Christmas celebration inside old St. Peter’s Church, the pope placed a crown upon his head, pronouncing him “the 73rd emperor of the fourth world empire.”

At this point, we should note that throughout the Middle Ages, many scholars, theologians, even popes, knew the Roman Empire was the fourth world-ruling kingdom. Many of them even identified this fourth kingdom with the one Daniel spoke of in his prophecy (see Daniel 2:37-43). That’s why Europeans and Catholics kept trying to revive the empire! The Bible said there would only be four such empires. However, the fourth empire would have 10 resurrections, according to Bible prophecy. The last seven of those resurrections would be called Holy Roman Empires, because they were ruled by church and state.

As king of the Franks, Charlemagne was able to subjugate every single German tribe but one: the Saxons. The Saxons clung to their own faith and refused, even on pain of death, to submit to Roman Catholicism. Charlemagne determined to force his brand of Christianity on them with the sword. For years the Saxons obstinately resisted. At one point, out of sheer frustration, Charlemagne executed 4,500 Saxon prisoners. This barbarous act angered the Saxons even more.

It took 30 years for Charles to completely extinguish the “Saxon” problem, but not before multiple thousands had been executed for their religious beliefs. After more than 18 conquests against the Saxons, Charles finally prevailed. In the end, Saxons either subjected themselves to the rule of Charles, or their defiance ended in death.

The Holy Roman Empire has never been democratic. It could never be. Even Pope Pius xii said the church had twin enemies: the democracies and communism. He was pope at the peak of Communist power.

As emperor of the “Holy” Roman Empire, Charles felt it his duty to spread the Christian faith using whatever means necessary. The New Encyclopedia Britannica says, “The violent methods by which this missionary task was carried out had been unknown to the earlier Middle Ages, and the sanguinary [bloody] punishment meted out to those who broke canon law or continued to engage in pagan practices called forth criticism in Charles’ own circle” (“Charlemagne, Emperor”).

The violence Charlemagne used to enforce the Catholic religion on his subjects was simply unknown in earlier empires! He forced his brand of Christianity on everyone. His empire may have had distinct ties to the ancient Romans, but it was certainly not “holy”—even if there was a great church guiding it.

And yet, for centuries to come, the aim of succeeding emperors was to restore the traditions of Charlemagne in their quest to revive the Roman Empire!

Even today, Germany and a great church are working to restore the tradition of Charlemagne. They have almost completed the structure. Still, it is a mystery to most of the world’s inhabitants.

Let the world beware! That power structure is ready to burst on the world scene—again!

Charlemagne’s bloody conquests were the worst ever in the history of the previous empires. The conquests of the next Holy Roman Empire are going to be the worst suffering ever inflicted on human beings in the history of man! (Matthew 24:21-22; Daniel 12:1; Jeremiah 30:1-10).

It will all be done in the spirit of Charlemagne. Most people won’t awaken out of their stupor until it’s too late!

Charlemagne’s empire, one of the greatest ever to rule in Europe, did not even outlive his son and successor. After it dissolved, the peoples on the western side of his empire eventually became known as French. The German-speaking peoples between the Rhine and the Slavs in the east developed into Germany. The fact that he ruled over both peoples is why some dispute the national heritage of Charlemagne.

Hitler and the Crown Jewels

Look again at what Otto von Habsburg said about the crown jewels: “We possess a European symbol which belongs to all nations of Europe equally; this is the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, which embodies the tradition of Charlemagne.”

Adolf Hitler was the leader of the sixth Holy Roman Empire. He knew all about the crown of Charlemagne and the crown jewels.

Much of the world looks upon the Jews as God’s chosen people. In Vienna, Hitler came to believe that God had replaced the Jews with the Germans and the Holy Roman Empire. He believed the Germans were God’s chosen people. This is why the crown jewels of that empire meant so much to him.

In 1938, at a rally in Nuremberg, “Hitler had brought from Vienna, after 140 years, the insignia of the First Reich [Charlemagne]—the imperial crown, the orb of empire, the scepter and the imperial sword. At the presentation of these symbols of imperialism he solemnly vowed that they would remain in Nuremberg forever” (John Toland, Adolf Hitler).

That was a strong statement. He “solemnly vowed” that the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire were to “remain in Nuremberg forever.” This is like a death-defying commitment to the Holy Roman Empire and his god! He made a vow forever!

Hitler ruled the Third Reich. He knew the crown jewels would be a powerful symbol of Charlemagne’s First Reich.

Hitler came in the tradition of Charlemagne! He, like Charlemagne, savagely and brutally destroyed people as no empire before him!

The next leader of the Holy Roman Empire is going to commit the most monstrous crimes ever against humanity. It’s all going to be done in the tradition of Charlemagne! It’s time for this world to wake up to what is happening in Europe!

Many scoffed at what Margaret Thatcher said in 1995: “You have not anchored Germany to Europe; you have anchored Europe to a newly dominant, unified Germany. In the end, my friends, you’ll find it will not work.”

Mrs. Thatcher knew it would have a bad ending. She knew it “could be ghastly,” as Bernard Connolly said. It will be ghastlier than you can even imagine!

We have forgotten our own recent history. Hitler started World War ii. About 50 million people were killed.

At the conclusion of the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt signed a document to prevent Germany from ever coming in the tradition of Charlemagne again. They said, “It is our inflexible purpose to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to ensure Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world.”

Germany started both world wars. It has a history of starting wars. Churchill and Roosevelt understood Germany’s history of warfare. But America and Britain have forgotten that history today. That lapse of memory will be the costliest ever for both nations. (Request our free booklet Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.)

Germany is about to start World War iii—according to your Bible. It will be the deadliest war ever on Earth. Thankfully, the seventh and last head of the Holy Roman Empire will usher in the coming of the Messiah. No nation will ever again be ruled in the tradition of Charlemagne.

Youth and the Digital Drug

Youth and the Digital Drug

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Are we raising the dumbest generation?
From the November 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

Last year, a thought-provoking commentary on our digital age was published titled The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. Its author, Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein, stirred up quite a hornet’s nest with his thesis that today’s youth are dumber than any prior generation due to their being hooked on digital technology.

In the preface to his newly released paperback edition, Bauerlein states that the initial release of his book caused no small brouhaha. Despite some disagreement, he wrote, “A blank and broad question lay on the table. Do the digital diversions of the young cut kids off from history, civics, literature, fine art? Does mounting screen time dumb them down?” He thinks the answer is yes. The observable facts clearly support that conclusion.

The average American youth spends no more than eight minutes per day reading. This fact, Bauerlein suggests, “points to what may be the great social consequence of the digital advent. It turns on, precisely, the relationship of generations and the duties of elders. For, we all agree, one responsibility of adults in our society is to acquaint the rising generation to a civic and cultural inheritance. They have the experience and perspective that come with aging; the young do not. Teenagers live in the present and the immediate. What happened long ago and far away doesn’t impress them. They care about what occurred last week in the cafeteria, not what took place during the Depression. They heed the words of Facebook, not the Gettysburg Address. They focus on other kids in English class, not leaders in d.c.” (emphasis mine).

That the digital distractions hamper the transfer of quality knowledge to youth is a reality unique to our age.

If the adult members of a society refuse to—or are incapable of even beginning to—inculcate into the minds of following generations the best of the cultural heritage of their forebears, then that society is dooming itself to its own destruction.

Professor Bauerlein observes correctly that “Maturity follows a formula: The more kids contact one another, the less they heed the tutelage of adults. When peer consciousness grows too fixed and firm, the teacher’s voice counts for nothing outside the classroom. When youth identity envelopes them, parent talk at the dinner table only distracts them.”

Knowing that “the lure of school gossip, fear of ridicule, the urge to belong” are uppermost in the average youth’s mind, Bauerlein issues his most powerful challenge to adults. For youth “to grow up into mindful citizens and discerning consumers, then, adolescents must break the social circuit and think beyond the clique and the schoolyard. But they can’t do it themselves—peer pressure is too strong—and so adults must help draw them away. Mentors can provide instruction in bigger things: the op-ed page, actions of Congress, … what transpired in the Gulag, what the First Amendment says, the fate of Adam and Eve. … They steer young minds toward deeper wisdom and young tastes toward finer consumptions. The story of heroes and villains from history sets the eminences of senior year in bracing relief.”

There exists clear biblical revelation as to the ultimate destructive source of this great distraction—this digital drug—and the ultimate intended goal. The Apostle Paul speaks of those who live their lives “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

It is of this “prince of the power of the air” and his demented minions that the Bible speaks when it warns that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Through the digital drug, this malevolent spiritual force can exert an influence unique to our time. As Bauerlein portrays it, “Youths undergo an intense awareness of one another, a high-pressure social feeling. The stakes are high—is anything worse than exclusion?—and so they have to tune in, to manage that omnipresence. They don’t really enjoy it, for when they leave my class and flip open the cell they register concern, not glee. But if they don’t check in, they don’t know whether something big might have happened. Peer pressure long preceded the microchip, of course, but e-mail, cell phone and the rest have cranked it up to critical levels, fostering an all-peers-all-the-time network. Communication is horizontal, centered on a narrow age-bracket, while parents and teachers hover outside the loop baffled by the immersion.”

The good professor argues that “Late-teens and early-20-somethings stand at a delicate threshold that marks the most important intellectual growth of their life. They have passed the basic skills of elementary and middle school, and now they acquire the higher knowledge and understanding requisite to good citizenship and tasteful consumption. These are the years in which they read good books, discuss great ideas, judge past events, and form moral scruples. If it doesn’t happen in high school, in college, and in the home at this time, it probably never will.”

There is one book that many have proven to be the ultimate tool in raising responsible youth accountable for their own actions. It is the Bible. Never in its entire history since its original canonization has this Book of books been so easy for the open, unprejudiced mind to understand. For parents, that’s the Book that is the most essential tool to place in the hands of your children to ensure they avoid becoming part of “the dumbest generation.”

Request a free copy of our booklet The Proof of the Bible for an eye-opening account of the power that biblical revelation can have on helping you obtain true success for you and your family!

Another Defeat at the Door

Another Defeat at the Door

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And guess who’s knocking?
From the November 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

The Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan were America’s first targets after 9/11. Before 2001 was out, so was the Taliban. Hopes of building a solidly democratic, Western-friendly nation were high as Hamid Karzai was made interim leader.

Eight years on, those hopes are gone. Afghanistan has proven impossible to bring to heel.

In the last three years in particular, control has increasingly slipped back to these radical Muslim groups. The last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency saw a total of 282 American casualties there (compared to 197 the two years before, and 161 the four years before that). When President Bush left office, the International Council on Security and Development (icos) think tank showed that the Taliban had reestablished a “heavy” presence in over 72 percent of the country and “significant” presence (defined as one or more insurgent attacks per month) in 93 percent. On UN security maps, over half the country was considered “uncontrolled hostile environment”—which, only a few years prior, none of the country had been.

Not a good showing after seven years of war.

During the presidential campaign last year, Barack Obama and his left-wing supporters excoriated the Bush administration for getting “sidetracked” in Iraq, when Afghanistan, so said conventional wisdom on the left, was the real battlefront in the war against terrorism. “In 16 months we should be able to … bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda,” Mr. Obama said in the first presidential debate in October last year.

So—the first half of that 16 months has passed. Where are we? Despite the Defense Department committing an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan last spring, the war there has taken a deadly turn for the worse. New icos data shows that the Taliban’s presence has grown: It is now “heavy” in 80 percent of the country, “substantial” in at least 97 percent. In the first eight months of 2009 alone, the U.S. had suffered by far the most casualties of any year since the war began: 200 soldiers out of over 340 total coalition deaths.

Many are wondering if the U.S. should cut its losses and run. A 51 percent majority in America now views the Afghanistan conflict as a war that is not worth fighting.

Even some conservative commentators are now abandoning ship. On September 1, columnist George Will called on the Obama administration to scrap its Afghan policy, dramatically slash the number of troops and focus instead on “what can be done from offshore.”

Will has hardly been alone in pointing out the numerous flaws in the Afghan strategy. “U.S. rules of engagement restricting the use of air power and aggressive action against civilians have also opened new space for the insurgents,” Karen DeYoung wrote in the Washington Post (September 2). Rebuilding Afghanistan’s infrastructure has given the Taliban new targets to attack, she continued. And America’s inability to protect Afghan citizens is only fueling resentment against Western forces.

At present, DeYoung intoned, the Taliban is winning.

The Great Irony

President Obama’s handpicked commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, took charge of the Afghanistan war effort in June and submitted his confidential assessment of the overall war strategy to the Pentagon on August 30. According to a declassified version of the report produced by the Washington Post on September 20, McChrystal wrote, “Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating.” Unless the insurgent momentum is reversed over the next 12 months, McChrystal warned, the United States is in danger of losing the Afghan war.

“Time matters; we must act now to reverse the negative trends and demonstrate progress,” General McChrystal wrote, indicating that a massive troop surge would be necessary to earn victory in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, bound by his campaign rhetoric to concentrate on the “front lines” of the terror war, upon becoming president, Barack Obama—of all people—found himself in the uncomfortable position of trying to drum up homeland support for an increasingly unpopular war!

“This is a war of necessity,” Obama told a gathering of war veterans in August. “Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.”

What an ironic twist: the undisputed antiwar candidate of the 2008 election urging a war-weary electorate to get behind the war effort. It’s as if the United States is going through a frame-by-frame replay of Iraq in 2007, before the surge. Only this time, we have the most radically liberal administration in American history occupying the White House.

While the new U.S. government may still opt for a surge-like strategy to save face in Afghanistan, it appears that President Obama may now be reconsidering whether or not the “war of necessity” is, in fact, necessary. In response to McChrystal’s war assessment, the Wall Street Journal reported on September 22, the Pentagon instructed McChrystal to refrain from making a formal request for additional troops until the Obama administration completed its “review of the U.S.-led war effort.”

According to the Journal, “General McChrystal’s call for quick action appears to be increasingly at odds with comments from President Barack Obama, who has insisted in recent days that he won’t be rushed into approving more U.S. troops for the war” (emphasis mine throughout). Even as America’s generals have now embraced the president’s new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which he outlined earlier this year, Barack Obama is now seriously thinking about scrapping the new strategy.

The first question America should consider, President Obama told a reporter on September 20 when asked about the war effort in Afghanistan, is this: “Are we doing the right thing?”

The Inevitable Outcome

If you find it difficult to imagine any scenario in which this turns out to be good for coalition forces in Afghanistan, you are not alone. “We’ve got a general who’s been gagged,” columnist Ralph Peters lamented soon after McChrystal submitted his August review, “a president trapped by his campaign promises, a muddled mission, crippling restrictions on our troops, a resurgent enemy, a worthless Afghan government—and an awol establishment media that, after hammering the Bush administration, gives Obama a pass on American casualties” (September 3).

Meanwhile, Peters added, “Iraq—which genuinely matters—goes ignored.”

Yes, even as America squanders its hard-fought gains in Iraq, which the Trumpet has repeatedly forecasted would happen, it is simultaneously being backed into a corner—and by the very same enemy poised and ready to seize Iraq once U.S. forces retreat.

Earlier this year, Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the director of National Intelligence, was asked by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to comment about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. According to a transcript of the proceedings, which was declassified on July 30, Admiral Blair said, “Iran is covertly supplying arms to Afghan insurgents while publicly posing as supportive of the Afghan government. Shipments typically include small arms, mines, rocket propelled grenades (rpgs), rockets, mortars, and plastic explosives. Taliban commanders have publicly credited Iranian support for their successful operations against coalition forces.”

You can also add General McChrystal to the long list of government and military officials who lay blame for the Afghan mess on Iranian puppet masters. According to his August 30 report, the Iranian Quds Force is “training fighters for certain Taliban groups and providing other forms of military assistance to insurgents.”

Yes, of course—no matter the various battlefronts in this war against terrorism or the variety of names given to insurgent groups, it’s always the same old Iranian state sponsorwarring against the United States and Britain—and one that will soon be armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons.

Blair’s testimony and the McChrystal report will come as no surprise to our regular readers who know what we’ve been saying for eight years now: that the United States will not win the war against terrorism.

We say this because the same God who long ago prophesied of America’s astonishing rise to superpower status also predicted our swift and precipitous fall from power, as a result of our rampant sins and stubborn rebellion against God.

“And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass,” God warned in Leviticus 26:19, referring primarily to the American and British peoples of our day. The pride the United States and Britain once had in their awesome military power and might has been completely broken and smashed!

As the Bible prophesied and Herbert Armstrong said as far back as 1961, the United States and Britain have already won their last war.

The Pope’s War

Positioning the church to fulfill its part in a revived European empire.
From the October 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

It’s a most unholy marriage. The union of church and state on the European continent—the combination of spiritual influence and unifying power with military muscle and civil discipline—has been history’s most lethal.

Six resurrections of the “Holy” Roman Empire have come and gone through the ages. The Bible prophesies that a seventh is upon us.

Looking at present conditions in the historic seat of “holy” imperial power, many would scoff at the idea. Not only is modern Europe politically fractious, but it also seems incurably secular. The idea that it could give rise to another kingdom intoxicated by religion may seem, to some, highly unlikely.

But there is one powerful man who clearly will not accept that.

His name is Pope Benedict xvi. His 4½-year papacy has provided ample evidence of his zeal to reassert Roman Catholic relevance in the 21st century.

Inside the church, he continues his decades-long campaign to expel liberals and stack the deck with conservatives. In Europe, he is working to reestablish a Catholic continent. Among non-Catholic Christians, he seeks to draw worshippers under papal authority. In the world, he is leveling a strong attack against secularism and godlessness. And to Islam, he has unmistakably shown a resistance, a toughness, that promises to grow stronger.

What Pope Benedict has done, in fact, is position the Roman Catholic Church to fulfill its prophesied role in coming European and world events.

First Moves

After assuming office, Pope Benedict xvi began placing his hand-picked conservative troops in the top spots within the Catholic Curia (governing body). He eliminated two senior positions and chose a notoriously shy, controllable man for his old job, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He switched out the cardinal in charge of Vatican relations with the developing world, replaced the Vatican’s longstanding press officer with a Jesuit priest, and shuffled the Vatican City governate and foreign-policy offices. He replaced the Vatican secretary of state with his trusted former deputy in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a man who would help him clean house at the Curia and catholicize the masses.

“I, bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal church … send to you, age-old Europe, a cry full of love,” the pope said July 24, 2005, quoting his predecessor, John Paul ii. “Return to yourself. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Revive your roots. Revive those authentic values that made your history glorious and your presence beneficial among the other continents.”

In March 2006, Pope Benedict xvi chose to drop “patriarch of the West” from his list of official titles. Why? The Eastern Orthodox synod said the move implied that the Catholic Church still sought “universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over the entire church.” The pope retains the titles “vicar of Christ” and “supreme pontiff of the universal church.” He cast off the title “patriarch of the West” not because it gave him too much jurisdiction, but not enough.

Striking Out, Causes Offenses

By May 2006, after settling into his office, Ratzinger took the opportunity to lash out against European secularism—and Islam—in his book Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. In it, Benedict wrote that the only solution to Europe’s paralysis and the “advance of Islam” is Roman Catholicism.

In September that year, Pope Benedict traveled home to Bavaria for a six-day visit. There he discussed injecting “Christianity” (read Catholicism) into the European Constitution, and talked with German President Horst Kohler about the dangers of Islamic penetration into German society. But his most famous speech was a lecture at the University of Regensburg, where he quoted Catholic Byzantine Emperor Manuel ii Paleologus: “Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Benedict was drawing his line in the sand.

The pope also visited the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, where 1.5 million victims, mostly Jews, died during World War ii. In his carefully selected words, the self-styled “son of Germany” failed to even mention anti-Semitism or Nazis or Jews. A German pope. Speaking at Auschwitz.

The King-Breaker

On Feb. 19, 2007, the Vatican summoned Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and a contingent of senior Italian government officials. The topic: homosexual couples. On the 23rd, Catholic World News reported, “New Italian government would not require allies to support civil-union bill.” The article showed that Prodi had caved on the issue in order to gather enough support to return to office. The Vatican had shown Prodi, and the world, who rules Italy. The incident echoed of the Vatican’s past as Europe’s kingmaker, the unifying political power that forged the Holy Roman Empire.

Soon after, Benedict extended his reach into Italian politics issuing his command to faithful followers: Vote Catholic. He told Italian politicians March 13 they must not vote for laws that went against the church’s “non-negotiable values.”

Around the same time, the Times of London reported, “Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope are to be published this year. The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches. In a 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the pope” (Feb. 19, 2007).

March 24 that year was the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the agreement that led to establishing the European Union. Benedict took the occasion to warn that Europe is sliding into “apostasy.” He demanded that EU leaders recognize that they had failed to embrace their spiritual and cultural heritage, and expressed dismay that the Rome Declaration made no mention of the influence of “Christianity,” meaning Catholicism.

Agitating the Masses

In mid-May, the pope traveled to Brazil to open an assembly of the Latin American bishops’ conference—not by invitation, but by personal choice. There he challenged the bishops to galvanize a continent-wide crusade against competing non-Catholic religions (“sects,” he called them), such as North-American evangelicals. Latino bishops jumped on board, and began lobbying national governments for legislation to ban and obstruct non-Catholics’ operation in Latin America. The visit illuminated Benedict’s aims to re-energize Catholicism not only in Europe, but around the whole globe.

Later that month, Pope Benedict prodded Catholics: It’s time to evangelize. He spoke of the “urgent need to relaunch missionary activity to meet the many grave challenges of our time.” He also called missionary work “the church’s primary service to humanity today.” The message was clear: The church’s most important job is to convert the world.

To that end, the pope resurrected the Tridentine Mass, a Latin-language ceremony codified in 1570. In the 1960s, the church restricted the use of the ultra-conservative Tridentine prayer book, which is peppered with references that make Jews and non-Catholics bristle (asking God to “lift the veil from [their] eyes,” and that Jews “be delivered from their darkness” and converted to Catholicism). The more inclusive, modern mass the church adopted in its place was scorned by hard-core Catholics, one of whom was a younger Joseph Ratzinger. In July, Pope Benedict reversed that restriction, reconnecting the church to its medieval past. German rabbi Walter Homolka said, “This kind of signal has an extremely provocative effect on anti-Semitic groups. The Catholic Church does not have its anti-Semitic tendencies under control.”

That same month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith restated the doctrines of “Dominus Iesus,” a document Cardinal Ratzinger had signed in 2000 to proclaim that non-Catholics were “gravely deficient” and that Protestant churches are “not churches in the proper sense.” The restatement added that Orthodox churches suffer from a “wound” because they do not accept the pope’s authority, a wound “still more profound” in Protestants. The document, approved by Pope Benedict, said that denominations outside Roman Catholicism are defective or not full churches. “Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress … it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of ‘church’ could possibly be attributed to them,” it said.

Remarkably, this sequence of provocative moves seems to have helped rather than hurt the pope’s popularity. It’s been said that crowds came to see Pope John Paul ii, but they come to hear Benedict xvi. Over his pontificate, Benedict has consistently attracted larger audiences to witness his weekly homilies in St. Peter’s Square than did his predecessor.

“A New Generation of Christians”

In a homily in September 2007, the pope made it clear that Sunday worship is a “necessity” for all. “Without the Lord’s day we cannot live!” he declared. “Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul!” It was a strong call for Christians to revive Sunday-keeping as an all-important religious practice. The underlying message: Your life depends on worshipping on Sunday.

The Vatican went back to king-breaking in January 2008, when it forced Prodi to resign, bringing down the government of Italy. Prodi lost a vote of confidence in the Senate after the Catholic leader of Italy’s Udeur Christian Democrat Party withdrew the party’s support from the coalition government, taking away Prodi’s majority in the Senate. According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, this was directly the work of the Vatican. “Prodi’s government dared to challenge the ecclesiastical hierarchy for the second time and this time it has had its hands burned,” it wrote.

In March, the Vatican again meddled in national politics, launching a large campaign against Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, another supporter of homosexual “marriage,” abortion and easier divorce. The Vatican’s political campaign cut Zapatero’s lead drastically and nearly won the election single-handedly.

In April, Benedict came to America, inspiring a press frenzy reminiscent of John Paul ii’s funeral. In a society where God and the Bible are often ridiculed, the secular news media’s fawning praise for the pope was astounding. Tens of thousands filled stadiums and lined streets to hear or glimpse the white-clad “holy father.” While in America, the pope addressed the grotesque record of homosexual pedophilia in the priesthood of what he called “the church in America”—by blaming much of the scandalous behavior on America’s broken society. He accepted no responsibility for cleaning up the problem.

In September 2008, Pope Benedict spoke out to defend World War ii Pope Pius xii. Benedict praised him for being “courageous” in trying to save Jews: “Wherever possible he spared no effort in intervening in their favor either directly or through instructions given to other individuals or to institutions of the Catholic Church.” The historical record shows that this is pure fiction: Pius conspicuously ignored the Holocaust and failed to come to the Jews’ aid. Yet Benedict wants to make him a saint.

Benedict xvi again pushed in early September for “the birth of a new generation of Christians involved in society and politics.” He challenged Catholics who, “as far as the formation [of] new generations involved in society and politics is concerned, seem to be falling asleep.” That same month, the pope traveled to France, where he convinced President Nicolas Sarkozy that the country needs to rethink and redraw its church-state relations. The two leaders laid the groundwork for what could be the biggest change in France since the French Revolution—a move from a firmly secular society to one that accepts, as the pope said, “the irreplaceable role of religion.”

In November, it emerged that the Catholic Church wants Sunday observance enshrined in EU law. Specifically, the Vatican wanted a clause inserted in the Working Time Directive that would force every citizen in the European Union to rest on Sunday. Some members of the European Parliament tabled an amendment saying the minimum rest period “shall in principle include Sunday.” The Brussels-based Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community said the directive should state “the minimal weekly rest must include Sunday.”

In January of this year, the pope again hurled a challenge at the Jews. The Vatican has been demanding the handover of six sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel. Catholic media reports indicated that these negotiations were nearly finished, and idf Army Radio said President Shimon Peres was pressuring Interior Minister Eli Yishai to cave in to the Vatican. It said he may find a way to sign away the sites without Yishai’s approval if necessary. Biblical prophecy shows that soon, the Vatican will gain control over the territory it seeks within Israel.

Also in January, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, a fellow arch-conservative who rejects the modern Vatican ii changes and is a Holocaust-denier. The move attracted an outcry from Jews and from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who openly criticized the pope for his decision. We watch to see whether her outspokenness adversely affects her political career.

As the world economy came apart at the seams like a cheaply sewn liturgical vestment, the pope descended from on high to suggest his own solution: “a true world political authority.” On July 7, the pontiff released a 144-page encyclical, “Charity in Truth,” which took a swipe at the U.S.-style capitalism that many blame for the financial crisis. He called for regulation with “real teeth,” administered by a global political authority. Biblical prophecy shows this is exactly what will happen: That authority will be European, and the Vatican will have control.

The record is impressive: Pope Benedict xvi has been active, determined and aggressive in asserting Roman Catholic authority and positioning the church to play a larger role in the time ahead. He even seems to view his actions in their historical context—facilitating yet another revival of that ancient church-state union.

Looking to Benedict

In April 2008, during a regular weekly address in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict made a telling statement about European unity. He said that his namesake, St. Benedict, “exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture.” The pope praised St. Benedict for helping the Continent emerge from the “dark night of history” that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.

This pope identifies strongly with his namesake, whose monastic system galvanized Europe during Justinian’s revival of the Roman Empire. Clearly, he is trying to spark a similar revival today.

By alluding to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire in a.d. 476 and its revival under Justinian in a.d. 554 as the “dark night of history,” Benedict seems to be implying that modern Europe has endured a similar “dark night” from which it is now emerging under his influence.

The pope also said St. Benedict had sparked “a new cultural unity based on Christian faith” within Europe—which united an otherwise fractious European populace into a mighty empire. Ever since, the “cultural unity” created by Roman Catholicism has helped Europe to unify time and time again as the Holy Roman Empire.

The pope is working to sway Europe to embrace the religion of Rome today—to once again serve as the cultural glue enabling the restoration of that empire.

The Bible informs us that he is destined to succeed. It will happen just as Herbert W. Armstrong, based on the Bible’s prophecies, repeatedly said it would. “I have been proclaiming and writing, ever since 1935, that the final one of the seven eras of the Holy Roman Empire is coming in our generation—a ‘United States of Europe,’ combining 10 nations or groups of nations in Europe—with a union of church and state!” he wrote in the January 1979 edition of the Plain Truth. “The nations of Europe have been striving to become reunited. They desire a common currency, a single combined military force, a single united government. They have made a start in the Common Market. They are now working toward a common currency. Yet, on a purely political basis, they have been totally unable to unite.

“In only one way can this resurrected Holy Roman Empire be brought to fruition—by the ‘good offices’ of the Vatican, uniting church and state once again, with the Vatican astride and ruling (Revelation 17:1-5).”

The European Union is now the greatest united trading entity in the world. It is aggressively developing a combined military force. With its constitution nearing ratification, it could soon weld together politically as one supra-European continental government. Yet it still lacks that key element: the ability to totally unite. As Mr. Armstrong wrote in the Aug. 28, 1978, Good News magazine, European leaders “well know there is but one possibility of union in Europe—and that is through the Vatican. … [T]his political union will put the Catholic Church right back in the saddle as it was from 554 to 1814—with the power of police and military to enforce its decrees!”

Today we see Pope Benedict working feverishly to enable that spiritual “vital lifeblood” of European unity. The resulting wave of evangelism will sweep the Continent into Rome’s arms in a bonding of church and state.

It is all now so close to coming to pass. We are witnessing the beginning of the seventh and final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire.

Armstrong Auditorium

Armstrong Auditorium

Trumpet

From the October 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

Inside the Trumpet offices, staff members scrutinize world news as daily headlines continue to fulfill Bible prophecy. But they are also excitedly watching another inspiring development—right outside their windows. Less than 100 yards from the Trumpet administration building in Edmond, Oklahoma, stands a staggering sight. It amazes visitors as they enter the campus and stops staff members in their tracks as they walk out the office doors.

Armstrong Auditorium under construction, September 9. (Trumpet)

Armstrong Auditorium is taking shape.

Across the parking lot stands the building’s stately frontispiece stacked with 12 mighty, 48-foot pillars, behind which girders, ductwork, conduits, pipes, brick, glass, stone and concrete are transforming into an elegant concert hall, the crowning jewel of the campus.

The capitals of these 12 iconic columns, almost complete as this issue goes to press, support an overhanging roof that shelters a grand lobby, to be encased in five-story-high glass walls, the frames for which professional glaziers have already installed. Ironworkers and other laborers have completed the structure of the lobby and the hallways that flank the auditorium, and are now preparing the site for glass, sheetrock and carpet installers and the artisans who will insert the final elegant finishes for the building’s 44,775 square feet: Crema Marfil and Emperador marble from Spain, caramel onyx from Iran, and American cherry wood.

The shimmering jewels of the building are also being prepared for completion and transport to the lobby. Three diamond-shaped chandeliers, up to 12 feet wide and weighing 4,800 pounds, will hang from the ceiling, each trimmed with thousands of pieces of the finest crystal in the world: Swarovski Strass. Below, two 7-foot crystal candelabra, originally commissioned by the shah of Iran, will frame a caramel onyx wall, on which the building’s plaque will be affixed.

Past this dazzling display, through two sets of double doors, workmen are transforming the scene into the warm heart of Armstrong Auditorium. Here, architects and acoustical engineers have created what will be a rich concert experience with ideal volume-to-seat ratio and a reverberation time of two seconds. This ratio will exceed those of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and Vienna’s Musikverein, the three world standards used for acoustic quality.

Workers are now readying the floor, ceiling and walls of the theater for craftsmen who will install approximately 800 plush seats, royal purple carpeting, elegant lighting fixtures, acoustical enhancements, electrical wiring, plumbing and air conditioning for the seating area, the spacious stage, the orchestra pit, the dressing rooms, and the storage rooms created to house two concert grand pianos.

Offering performers their choice between two of the finest-grade pianos is standard among fine concert halls. The Philadelphia Church of God—which sponsors the Trumpet, Armstrong Auditorium and the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation—already owns one 1983 Model D concert grand Steinway piano, an artifact from the acclaimed Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California. The church will purchase its second Steinway on November 24, when two of its musicians will travel to Hamburg, Germany, to select the exact piano for delivery by the end of December.

December will mark the homestretch for the contractors, laborers, craftsmen, consultants, engineers, architects and other workers to see their work through to completion for Armstrong Auditorium’s dedication and inaugural concert. The inaugural 2010 season begins February 14, with the Band of Irish Guards and the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The King’s Singers will perform two days later. The season continues with the Canadian Brass, pianist André Watts, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and bass Samuel Ramey, and the Romeros Guitar Quartet. It will conclude with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah featuring a full professional orchestra and the Herbert W. Armstrong College Choral Union.

Gerald Flurry stands with the Swans in Flight sculpture purchased from the former Ambassador College Big Sandy campus. (Trumpet)

Greeting concertgoers as they stream through what will be a beautifully landscaped mall into Armstrong Auditorium will be another restored treasure from Ambassador College, Swans in Flight. Herbert W. Armstrong originally commissioned this striking 12-by-15-by-25-foot sculpture in 1968 from the great English sculptor Sir David Wynne. The pcg has purchased Swans in Flight from Ambassador’s campus in Big Sandy, Texas, and is currently refurbishing it in Norman, Oklahoma.

Why would the Trumpet and the Philadelphia Church of God invest such time and resources into this $18 million project? Because of this: As the Trumpet spreads God’s critical message of warning, it also spreads a message of hope.

Armstrong Auditorium embodies that hope. Guests to the campus’s crown jewel will enjoy rich environs where people try their best to live God’s happy, law-abiding, dynamic way of life. Visitors will come to Armstrong to share in the best of God’s creation: the human body and mind expressing the art, finesse, emotion, and zeal of life in a pure, uplifting way: fine music. Together, performers and listeners will have the opportunity not just to read about, but to celebrate the excitement, the humor, the contentment, the insight and the joy of seeing and striving to live God’s way.

This tiny, work-in-progress microcosm of sharing God’s creation and way of life is just the beginning. The Bible prophesies of a fabulous hope ahead of the conflicts and woes of today’s evil world. A better, a happier, a most wonderful world is coming! Armstrong Auditorium is a place to shout out that hope. Armstrong Auditorium will be just what its founder, Gerald Flurry, has called it: the first building of the wonderful World Tomorrow.