Saturday, October 15, 2005

Eschatology Awry

Bono said in a recent interview that the way to dismantle an atomic bomb is with love. Upon hearing this comment my mind did a marathon through various topics until it landed upon the issue of eschatology.

If I understand the New Testament correctly, love seems to be the overarching principle. Love is the fulfillment of the law and the two greatest commandments are to "love the Lord your God...and to love your neighbor as your self." The first century messianic expectation of many of the Jews was that the messiah would be militaristic and would overthrow the rule of Rome, reestablishing Israel as the ruling kingdom. Amidst this setting Jesus arrives and creates a new paradigm for understanding the messianic mission. It is with Jesus that the principle of love is categorically viewed as the highest ethic. Love encompasses Jesus' mission.

The Jews expected militaristic conquest; Jesus did not provide that. What seems ironic to me is the popular eschatological view of Tim LaHaye which is characterized by militaristic action. Am I the only one who sees this as anti-thetical to the ethics of Jesus? I am not pressuming that Jesus was a die-hard pacifist (that would serve for an entirely different study in itself), rather I wonder if a LaHaye eschatology is shaped more by secular influences than biblical ones. It is no mystery that I view this type of eschatology with some contempt (although more on the grounds of faulty biblical interpretation). But the question still remains; upon what basis do we derive our eschatological views?

While there is no firm Tradition from whence to defend a certain view of the eschaton, there certainly are better interpretations based in the principles of biblical exegesis. I tend to see the Church as having a more central role in history. The Church is not merely a safehouse for those who will be "raptured" before the tribulation, rather the Church is infused with the mission of simultaneously spreading the Gospel and building disciples (I am one who does not even believe in the rapture of the Church based upon the biblical evidence). Perhaps Christ will not return until the Church has completed her mission. If that is the case we may want to spend less time preparing for the "rapture" and more time actively participating in the mission of the Church.

Jesus did not conquer the way we think of conquest. And if the book of Revelation is already primarily fulfilled maybe we should eliminate this obsession with the misleading eschatology of the Left Behind authors. The Church does not need any more Montanus', Joachim d' Fiore's, or Hal Lindsey's.