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I won’t spend a great deal of time responding to professor O’Donnell’s perceived deductions (in the last few entries to this series) about who we are and what we believe, because the rest of the book will make much of that clear to readers. However, in his assessment, there were a few critical postulations about our relationships to each other and to fundamentalism that could raise a few eyebrows in our direction if I didn’t stop for a moment to address them.
One of the first statements that O’Donnell considers fact is that the personalities making up The Milieu are “not formally affiliated,” and that we congregate through the “now defunct Raiders News Network.”[i] (It is for this reason, O’Donnell states, that the group was coined “The Milieu,” which etymologically traces its roots within this context to the 1877 French literal reference “middle place” [i.e., meeting in the middle].) I wouldn’t normally concern myself with correcting such a claim (nor will I spend much time on it here), but depending on how sensitive a reader might be to the subtle tone of condescension in O’Donnell’s assessment of The Milieu’s working relationship, it could be assumed that we are merely a group of amateurish squeaky wheels looking for grease over emails and broken websites and, as a conspiratorial minority, we gather in middle grounds to flatter each other. As far as the term “formal affiliation” might strictly represent the official fusion of two organizations, it is correct that there is no “legal” officiation that permanently or legally binds us all together. Yet some of the names O’Donnell listed in this group are actually my full-time employees, and as for many of the rest of them (such as the authors of this book who were listed in the Zygon paper as part of “Horn’s Milieu”), our ministries have been so intertwined over the years—between my Defender Publishing House printing their original works in print, to television and radio programming—it has resulted in the joining of mass forces many times (including legal contracts) toward a common goal not the least of which are the many successful annual conferences we’ve carried out that have sold out year after year and reached hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people worldwide. As far as the “now defunct Raiders News Network,” in all reality, the website I have maintained originated as Raiders News Update in the early 1990s. Since then, there was only a brief stint when the site was changed to Raiders News Network, and it was within two years returned to Raiders News Update, but it has never been “defunct” at any point from its genesis; on the contrary, the organization of Raiders News will be reaching its thirtieth anniversary soon, and the network has never been more successful in its ministry reach as it is right now through SkyWatch Television.
One flaw in O’Donnell’s logic early on is in his statement regarding The Milieu’s “dual tendency” to hold that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, and the “sometimes contrary” devotion to validate that infallibility through “historical and contemporary evidences.”[ii] In other words—as an attempt to simplify O’Donnell’s complicated and wordy summation—we: a) maintain that the God-inspired Word is incapable of error whilst we b) prove that inerrancy through materials that are not in the God-inspired Word. This accusation is naturally shocking, as it carries a whispered insinuation that The Milieu wouldn’t find the Bible sufficiently genuine without the crutch of historical, extrabiblical, and secular evidence. It sounds even murkier when compared to the “Scripture proves Scripture” ideology centered at the core of any proper exegetical and hermeneutical practice that Christian scholars (and those in The Milieu) prioritize, which relies on the fact that the Bible is so God-inspired that it doesn’t need validation outside of itself. On this, O’Donnell simply stated (as a fact, no less) that we are “sometimes contrary” in our stance on the Word’s infallibility, and then he allowed the buck to stop there without giving any examples or added details regarding when we have proven to be guilty of this. I realize the size of his article did not allow for lengthy explanations at every turn—and his treatment of this accusation is so fleeting that it suggests O’Donnell considers this an issue of marginal importance anyway—but to the followers of The Milieu, it’s a crucial matter: We either do, or we do not, wholly rely on the Bible in complete faith that it is inerrant and infallible in and of itself…and if we do not, a major stain appears on our reputation as teachers of God’s Word.
Despite the lack of evidence behind his charge, however, it forces an unnecessary confusion between personal faith and professional academics to claim that The Milieu is “contrary” in our choice to study and consider both biblical and extrabiblical materials. That’s quite a leap for a man as intelligent as O’Donnell to make…
There are two ways to approach this: 1) The Milieu is relying on extrabiblical evidence in order for our belief in scriptural inerrancy to be maintained; or 2) The Milieu is choosing not to ignore extrabiblical evidence or testimony that supports what we believe. The first assumes we can’t have solid faith without “historical and contemporary evidences,” while the second assumes we utilize the “historical and contemporary evidences” as tools to support the faith we firmly had in something already. O’Donnell really should know the difference, though he once again used steering terminology to make our approach to the “evidences” much more sinister than it really is, suggesting through his wordplay that by employing sources outside the Bible, we only “sometimes” uphold its self-evident infallibility.
When viewing this conundrum with such a narrow application as O’Donnell hinted toward, it does appear to be scandalous. However, consulting extrabiblical materials is a practice that countless apologetics ministries openly engage in and the Church has historically practiced. (Think about the leading Creation-based ministries we have today: They consider what science says, they consider what the Bible says, they consider what historical and archeological evidence proves, and they formulate a harmony of all contributing data until they arrive at what they believe to be facts regarding Creation versus evolution. None of their conclusions could have been deduced without professionally and academically “relying on historical and contemporary evidences,” but all the while they openly believed that the Bible was infallible without those resources. Nothing about this is “contrary,” not even “sometimes.” It’s simply making a choice to be thorough.)
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O’Donnell is approaching this without the years of experience in ministry that I and The Milieu have, and all that implies for our listening audiences. Whether or not I and The Milieu believe Scripture to be inerrant, infallible, and God-inspired without external evidence (and I assure you, we do), we cannot assume that our listeners or readers do. As ministers, it would be remiss to continuously write “the Bible says so” in articles and books without addressing the sources outside the Bible that our audiences have heard about, and those sources of which might be seen as contrary to the Bible if a theological breakdown doesn’t put it all in proper context. If an archeological dig were to occur a week from now that discovered ruins irrefutably identified as Solomon’s temple, it would not change the fact that I and The Milieu already believed the temple was built in the precise manner the Bible outlined—but these “historical…evidences” would make a world of difference to our audiences.
Let it be known once and for all that I don’t believe the Bible is empirically proven by extrabiblical sources. I believe the inerrant Bible is so filled with truth that I’m not surprised when sources outside of it argue for its authenticity to the degree that skeptic minds are sufficiently satisfied with the proof they need to believe as well.
While we’re on the subject of The Milieu’s “fundamentals,” it is important to consider a perceived black-and-white-only worldview. O’Donnell is definitely not the first to come along and suggest that The Milieu views every force throughout history as either “theistic and spiritual—and thus godly—[or] atheistic and material—and thus satanic.”[iii] (He goes on to say that modern secularism fits the “satanic” category, according to The Milieu.) Nor is he the first to suggest that this worldview achieves a term so lofty as to be declared “The milieu’s core beliefs” as he did.[iv] This is yet another moment in his article where O’Donnell portrays more than just a hint of subjective partiality in his complicated, bombastic style of rhetoric. He doesn’t come right out and openly proclaim that The Milieu are irrational extremists, but the all-encompassing way he boils down all our analyses and conclusions about the struggles of history (creatively reworded here as our “core beliefs”) into only what is “godly” or “satanic” skillfully shepherds his readers into believing we’re incapable of exercising balance and objectivity in our work. An underlying insinuation is that we are irrational thinkers—perhaps even impulsive—and every world issue we address (including transhumanistic science) will be coerced to fit one or the other of our cookie-cutter categories (“godly” or “satanic”), whether it’s a fair assessment or not, simply because we are incapable, O’Donnell implies, of comprehending any reality between pure good and pure evil. As far as O’Donnell’s rephrasing my own conclusion that transhumanism’s potential “hell scenario” is being “orchestrated by a spiritual hand,”[v] there is truth to that when my words are left within the confines of their original context. Without the context that I had placed around such conclusions, which O’Donnell omitted, it might be assumed that The Milieu believes all of transhumanism is a scheme of a sinister mastermind named “Satan,” and every man or woman dedicated to the field of modern science is either part of an enormous, diabolical plot to destroy us all, or they are greatly deceived and are serving the devil inadvertently.
Any follower of The Milieu’s work will immediately recognize that by cramming the vast scope of our conclusions about transhumanism into two such narrow-crevice judgments (only good or only evil), O’Donnell has effectively coerced us into an unfit cookie-cutter of his own. It does not require a person to read, watch, or listen to all the media The Milieu has ever participated in to conclude: Our worldviews naturally acknowledge the diversity of humankind within the field of science (the backgrounds, motives, and convictions that ultimately drive the transhumanistic agenda, many of which are honorable and good) as we all take this journey toward the future together. Likewise, we consistently acknowledge that, despite our concerns, countless developments from this “Western” and “secularized” world have improved the quality of our own lives, and I will admit this even for myself. We in The Milieu would have to cripple our own rationality in order to clump all our assessments of the world and its history into the mainstream “good” or “evil.”
It simply isn’t that simple.
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Dr. Thomas Horn and Jimmy Evans Explain The Greatest Threat Transhumanism Poses To Humanity On Daystar
As far as the summation O’Donnell provides for The Milieu’s view that Western secularism is its own ancient religion—a conspiracy of knowledge ultimately slated to recreate man in the “image of their god…Satan”[vi] (the Antichrist is a far better choice of words here, though O’Donnell keeps it generic): I could spend twenty pages at this point clarifying what we believe to be ancient, intelligent forces currently stationed as the sinister support beams upon which the “Promethean faith” (or “Religion of Man,” as some of my colleagues prefer) is built, but an explanation that promises to be as complicated as that is not a good fit here and now. Our convictions about that will be addressed elsewhere in this series, but suffice it to say that, as believers of the Word, we hold that the eschatological warnings within Scripture are true. Since we believe the disasters the Bible warns about will come to pass, we believe it’s our duty to warn people when an obvious threat reveals itself in connection with those disasters. The developments that transhumanism continues toward are ripe to the point of bursting with connections to eschatological disaster, and it doesn’t take a scholar to see it. If you believe the same Scripture as myself and The Milieu, then you will believe, as the Word states, that the Last Days hold extreme deception for most of humankind, and many will show loyalty to the Man of Sin—the Antichrist who appears on the scene working wonders and miracles.
But how will so many people fall prey to this if we’ve known about this coming false savior for two thousand years? What kind of lie will be so convincing that it leads an enormous fraction of the world’s population to eternal separation from God as warned about in the book of Revelation?
Perhaps—and this is just one theory—it’s the kind of deception that: a) starts slowly as a promise of a bright future in the science and medical industries, vowing that the future generations will be smarter, more efficient, healthier, and live longer (all endeavors born from spotlessly honorable motives); b) gains rapid speed after its genesis movement has been embraced, quickly becoming a nearly unstoppable force (which we’re facing now); c) eventually moves faster than the population of the world can understand or keep up with so that what began as improving the human condition becomes “playing God” and nobody can see the hubris for what it is; so that d) later, when the warnings come, they will be tossed out as mere “conspiracy” as humanity celebrates the new and “improved” race, just in time for the Man of Sin to appear and introduce the mark of the Beast as an ingenious medical/scientific/technological breakthrough.
I understand how O’Donnell came to his conclusion that a central concern for The Milieu is transhumanism poising itself to eventually become—or usher in—the “image of…Satan.” In many writings of our past, The Milieu have concluded that very possibility, and we still believe those scenarios to be a risk. However, taking that one rumination of ours as justification for saying our “core beliefs” always designate every force in history as either “theistic and spiritual—and thus godly—[or else] atheistic and material—and thus satanic” is an extremist move on his part that ironically lacks the balance and objectivity he elsewhere hopes to convey.
The road O’Donnell is traveling at this point—the destination he’s attempting to arrive at in his analysis of The Milieu—is the idea that we: 1) see every historical force (i.e., global politics, shifts in world cultures, international influences, emerging technology, scientific and medical discovery) as holding its share in this ancient, satanic, humanistic religion most of The Milieu refers to as the “Religion of Man”; and therefore, 2) absolutely any step toward human transcendence above what O’Donnell coins the “original, God-given state of being,” is, as he summarized, “becoming demonic” by our assessment.[vii]
To state that we believe some avenues of transhumanism are characterized by or associated to imminent disaster and the masterminding forces of a dark and ancient enemy in sheep’s clothing is not a stretch. Certainly, many of the scientific practices or goals we will address in this book—once taken too far and allowed to get out of hand (regardless of motive)—are blatantly catastrophic, and even bio-conservatives whose opinions on these matters have always been “professionally” secular in nature have been known in recent years to convert to more religious terminology (“heaven,” “hell,” “God,” “Satan,” “good versus evil,” etc.) when comparing the weight of these sciences against the “unknown” of humanity’s future.
However, it is grossly inaccurate to imply, as O’Donnell strongly has, that we associate any modern-day scientific or medical ingenuity to our own demonological concepts whenever a line is crossed between the human formed in a womb and the human that our current technology is able to enhance. For instance, I have no problem with a young mother choosing to enhance her baby boy’s hearing by having an auditory implant installed (reasonable utilization of contemporary prosthetics)—but that is not the same thing as altering the child’s humanity by fusing his DNA with a dolphin’s (one animal with incredible hearing abilities, including echolocation) in an attempt to “cure” his hearing disability at the genetic level. No one would argue that prosthetics (especially neuroprosthetics) and genetic engineering are both tied to this parent category of modern technoscience called “transhumanism,” yet The Milieu supports one of the options in this case and opposes the other: one treats his human condition, one changes his human condition, making him something that is no longer completely human.
And it is at this very juncture where anyone who believes each human has a soul, a unique spirit that exists beyond this earthly life—not just self-awareness, consciousness, and superior intelligence over the animal kingdom—must mix religious conviction with science. At the precise moment when a human is no longer wholly human, theology cannot be divorced from the verdict that governs mankind’s future. (O’Donnell astutely refers to this as “theological bioconservativism.”[viii]) Because, for all the wonders that can be attributed to science and technology, nothing can explain the soul of a human being or its destination between this life and the next; that is a matter of faith, and faith is a concern of religion (or, as some prefer, a relationship with a higher power). And—for all the academic density that can be attributed to O’Donnell’s intellectual thesis regarding The Milieu, he does not (and cannot) explain: 1) whether human beings have souls; 2) what happens to them after the host body is deceased; and, most important to this specific discussion, 3) what happens to the soul when the host is no longer the same human that nature (or God) produced. People in both O’Donnell’s position and mine can speculate day and night, sometimes attributing our beliefs to science and sometimes to religion, but it doesn’t change the fact that we don’t have a soul trapped in a jar in a laboratory where we can study it and give irrefutable facts that bring both sides together in agreement.
Not every scientific, medical, or robotic development in the making right now is one that can fall into O’Donnell’s “becoming demonic” synopsis as it pertains to the convictions of The Milieu. Yet, by omitting balance from his overview, he depicts only the extremist angle of our group and allows that extremism to bleed into our corporate character like a stamp of irrational, fundamental radicalism. After digesting “The Milieu” as O’Donnell depicted it, one might think we believe Band-Aids to be of the devil.
It’s clear by O’Donnell’s work as a whole that he appreciates balance and objectivity when it is science being challenged. However, it is equally clear by this work that O’Donnell doesn’t allow that same balance and objectivity to be a priority when religion is taking its turn at the lectern.
NEXT: What The Milieu Will Always Be
[i] Ibid., 643.
[iii] Ibid., 645.
[v] Ibid., 644.
[vi] Ibid., 645.
[vii] Ibid., 646.
[viii] Ibid., 649.