A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Eschatological Analogies

Theology must be eschatologically oriented. Eschatology is the doctrine of last things (eschaton means "last" or "end" in Greek). It is principally concerned with the fulfillment of God's purpose for his creation.

In many Christian circles, particularly in the United States, people think of the study of the end times as a kind of eschatological weather forecasting, in which Christians try to line up the current "signs of the times" with biblical prophecy, as is literarily portrayed in The Left Behind book series. But this approach to eschatology seriously misinterprets the biblical text. To say that theology is eschatologically oriented is to state that God has a purpose for his people, human history, and for all of creation; and that God is leading history to its divinely desired goal.


There are two helpful ways to think about eschatology: as a trip and as a drama. When a family sets outs on a vacation to the beach, the sand and surf is their destination. For most families it would be terrible if car trouble kept them from getting to the end of their trip because the trip itself has a purpose, an end. If the family cannot get to the beach, then the purpose of the trip is not fulfilled.

So it is with Christian eschatology. God has always had plans for his creation, and God is working to remake this world in the way it was originally intended. God is leading somewhere. The Christian life is a journey. Very few individuals want to be on a journey that goes nowhere or travels in circles. Christians are on a journey, a trip with one another, and with Jesus. We are moving toward the destination God intends. In Jesus, God has a vast and cosmic purpose for the universe and human history. As Christians we are blessed to be part of that unfathomable voyage!

Think also of a drama. A play has several acts, the last one, of course, being the end when the curtain falls for the final time. Every story needs to be resolved. Most persons do not like a play or a movie that does not end but leaves the watchers hanging. This is why, at the end of a broadcast season, some television shows have a cliffhanger, only to be resolved the following autumn when the new broadcast season begins. The producers know that those who watch want to see how the story ends, so they will tune in several months later to watch the rest of the story.

The Christian story is a drama. It has several acts including creation, the call of Abraham, Moses and the Exodus, the monarchy of Israel, the prophets, and the final act that begins in the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus begins and centers the final act of the divine-human drama. How and when that last act will end remains to be seen (and neither should we be concerned with when and how it will end), but we must be assured that God is not into cliffhangers. He has an ending in mind that is so magnificent we can only feebly imagine what it might be like. It is a wonderful thought that the followers of Jesus participate in this great divine drama, and we have a role in the last act of the play!

Christian theology must be eschatologically oriented. It must proceed on the assumption that God is going to reconcile his creation to himself, and that such reconciliation will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Theology is the discussion of this continued divine drama, which means that theology is done in the context of hope.

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