October 17, 2011

Embracing Eschatology

J. R. Daniel Kirk posted recently on the importance of embracing the biblical vision of the future; his exhortation: Don't give up on eschatology. He writes:
With great confidence (and financial expenditure), May 21, 2011 is declared to be the day of Jesus’ return. Or the rapture. Or whatever.
But, of course, it wasn’t.
Neither was 1994 or 1982.
When the obsession with eschatology (ideas about “the end”) produces such crazy results, it’s tempting to leave eschatology aside altogether. Let the obsessed have their little obsession while the rest of us get on with the business of real life, and real faith.
But it would be a mistake to give up on eschatology altogether.
Kirk is addressing this post to many who have simply given up on eschatology because of being overwhelmed and exasperated by some of the unusual and unbiblical eschatological constructs out there. The post struck me because it resonates with my own experience. There was a time in my own theological journey when I, like many, simply avoided eschatology. There was too much; it was too confusing; too fearful.

I soon realized, though, that a pastor who avoids eschatology won't have much to say to the Church about our certain hope, and I finally gave myself to the study of the biblical vision of the future. What I discovered was deeply satisfying and mysteriously wonderful. I soon learned that God's plan for his world was not one of doom, gloom, and destruction but hope, joy, and redemption. Eschatology was not a fearful thing; it was the glorious reality of Christ's promise to come and restore all that has been tainted or damaged by sin. I fell in love with biblical eschatology, and it has even become a significant portion of my own research in New Testament. Kirk's post is much needed and right on target.

Read the rest here.
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Image: Tom Curtis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 comments:

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, theologically, what is eschatology?

Given that time continues to advance, does that mean the eschaton is shrinking? Is there something specifically biblical that restricts eschatology to the future (either in your opinion or anyone else's)?

Is it possible our view of eschatology needs to be re-grounded in the bible?

Matt O'Reilly said...

As I'm sure you know, eschatology is a word that generally describes ideas or concepts relating to the future.

That said, there are, of course, things that were future for the Bible that are now in the past in relation to us. And eschatology is certainly not limited to our future. I would say that the eschaton was inaugurated with the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost. I've never thought of the eschaton as shrinking. I myself don't think of it that way. I guess it depends on how one defines eschaton.

Eschatology should always be grounded in the Bible. That was the point of this post.

ἐκκλησία said...

You're right. If the eschaton was inaugurated with the resurrection of Christ then the futurist definition of "eschatology" tying it strictly to the future appears to be too restrictive.

From the perspective of Paul, who wrote much on the eschaton, it could not have been strictly future, given that Christ's death and resurrection took place before his conversion. Even so, if there was a point in time when the eschaton was largely in the future, it was when the bible was being written.

So if the eschaton is history pre-written, from the perspective of 'that generation' that wrote the bible, and since we are living through that history, we must be living within the eschaton now (until that moment, the final specks of sand fall from the hour-glass when Christ returns).

So would you agree that if we don't recognize fragments of history that have transpired from Christ's resurrection until now, within biblical eschatology, we must not understand the bible as well as we should?

Matt O'Reilly said...

I figured it was rather clear that I think some of the events in our past are part of biblical eschatology, the resurrection of Christ not least.

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt,

Sorry about that. What is often clear to others isn't always clear to me.

I appreciate your perspective.