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If you’re reading this you can breathe a sigh of relief. It means the world didn’t end Aug. 22, as a number of conservative Web sites have speculated the last couple of weeks it might.

It started not with some doomsday wacko, but with respected Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis, who wrote in an Aug. 8 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal questioning if the doctrine of “mutual-assured destruction,” which kept the superpowers at bay during the Cold War, would be a deterrent to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Lewis, author of the 2004 book From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East, warned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad’s refusal to give an answer to the U.N. Security Council about nuclear development until Aug. 22 might have apocalyptic implications.

That’s because this year Aug. 22 corresponds with the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. That, Lewis said, is when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the Prophet Muhammad on a winged horse, first to “the farthest mosque,” and then to heaven and back.

Since “the farthest mosque” is usually identified with Jerusalem, Lewis said, “This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary the world.”

Conservative Web sites including NewsMax.com and WorldNetDaily dutifully reported the comments.

Joel Rosenberg, a one-time aide to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote in the National Review that many Americans might consider a scenario of Iran launching a military strike on Israel to bring about the end of the world far-fetched. But that’s precisely the type of attack he wrote about in his recent political thrillers, The Ezekiel Option and The Copper Scroll.

“One of my goals was to help people understand this brand of radical Islamic thinking and its implications for Western civilization,” Rosenberg said.

Baptist Press pointed out in an Aug. 16 “Culture Digest” item that “Ahmadinejad repeatedly has said he believes Israel should be obliterated, and he is a clear foe of the U.S. government, which he contends is against Islam and is the strongest threat to his Shi’ite goal of Middle East domination.”

Kairos Journal, with an editorial board that includes Southern Baptists Mark Coppenger, Greg Thornbury and Ben Mitchell, explored the “Messianic complex” of Iran’s president.

Baptist Press quoted an article on the Web site, which is available on-line by subscription, as saying: “Ahmadinejad belongs to the mainstream of Shi’a Islam, known as ‘Twelvers.’ They recognize a historical succession of Imams, connected by family ties, commencing with Muhammad and concluding with the 12th Imam.”

The Shi’ite tradition of the 12th Imam says that Allah has secretly kept the “hidden” Imam Mahdi alive since his disappearance in 874 C.E., and he will return during a time of great oppression and bloodshed to usher in an era of Islamic justice.

“President Ahmadinejad seems to think that the time is ripe for the 12th Imam’s reappearance and that, as president, he should play a role in opening the way for his return,” the journal said. “He is reported to have said in one of his cabinet sessions, ‘We have to turn Iran into a modern and divine country to be the model for all nations, and which will also serve as the basis for the return of the 12th Imam.'”

The Kairos authors said the Iranian president seems to believe “that the hand of God is guiding him to trigger a series of cataclysmic events which could precipitate the return of the 12th Imam. Only time will tell if this is his true conviction; but if he does hold such a view, his possession of nuclear weapons is a particularly scary prospect.”

Coppenger, the journal’s managing editor, is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) BaptistChurch and distinguished professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Thornbury, senior fellow for Kairos, is dean of the School of Christian Studies at UnionUniversity, where he teaches philosophy and theology. Mitchell is a professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at TrinityEvangelicalDivinitySchool a consultant to the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Southern Baptists endorsing Kairos Journal include Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Dockery, president of UnionUniversity in Jackson, Tenn.

Despite the doomsday predictions, Iran instead on Tuesday said it was ready for “serious negotiations” about its nuclear program but reportedly was unwilling to abandon uranium enrichment, a key condition for the United States.

The U.S. on Wednesday said Iran’s counterproposal to western incentives “falls short” of conditions set by the Security Council. The U.S. and other nations suspect Iran is interested in developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists their program is for developing atomic energy and not defense.

Meanwhile, the Rapture Index, a “prophetic speedometer” that measures predictors of a pre-tribulation rapture based on what its authors believe is prophesied in the Christian Bible, showed a net change of minus two points when it was last updated Aug. 21. The index stands at 158. That compares to an all-time high of 182 two weeks after the terrorist attacks in September 2001 and a low of 57 in December 1993.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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