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.


Jonathan Yen said...

Hmm, interesting post. Though, I can't say much because I haven't read any of the Left Behind series.

Although, I do agree with you about the "rapture". The bibilical evidence for it is slim, and all depends on interpretation itself. I am also skeptical of it on my own study as well.

This happens with a lot of things (and this is a slight tangent I'm about to go on). People want things to be fed to them rather than discovering and thinking for themselves. Not just Christians, but humans in general. People are gullible to what they read. They see it as fact because it has been published. It's so hard to change a person's viewpoint when they are infused with the idea that the last author they read was 100% accurate in his/her writing. People go on other people's interpretations as the original facts rather than researching for themselves.

It can be quite frustrating at times...

I do the same thing of course, but I try to do research and uncover the facts myself before agreeing completely, no matter how much I want to agree, with anyone's writing.

Sniper said...

As college turns more and more pages in our minds and hearts, I too have started to doubt the "rapture" theology of my youth. The evidence is weak in Revelation. But there are still questions. Ben, how then she would interpret the passages of "one taken from the fields, the other left standing" (paraphrase)?????

Ben Robinson said...


Great question and actually one that I have wondered about myself. While the doctrine of the rapture is often imposed upon that section of Scripture there is no historical or biblical reason to do so. In other words, just as it is difficult to view words like "predestination" or "elect" in any categories that are not Calvinistic, so the way in which these verses are commonly interpreted prompts us to have tunnel vision and see nothing but the rapture.

Some scholars, notably Ben Witherington, have made the observation that as an ancient reading this passage the category which they would apply to it would be that of a judicial sense. To an ancient, one was taken away for trial or sentencing. Witherington believes that we may have this verse backwards. If we are to demand a rapture interpretation here we must assume that the one who is left in the fields would be the Christian. The one taken would be taken away to judgment. In reality we want to be left behind (sorry Tim LaHaye)! Yet there really is no need to develop any sort of rapture theology here because the verse is primarily talking about judgment and not the sudden rapture of God's Church.

Another question to raise is whether we will even leave this place. Does God's recreation necessitate our absence? Or, since Jesus is coming back and in many of his parables considering the parousia it would imply that a master returning to his house intends to stay there, Jesus is going to stay? Just interesting to chew on. I have no firm thoughts as of now.

Tony Myles said...

You're right... it's theologially hip to question the rapture and whether or not it's a sin to visit a Left Behind movie (my words and observations, not yours). I agree that the church doesn't need more of those people.

But it does need more people.

That I'm pretty sure of.

So maybe we need those people, too.

Or at least another Ben or Tony.

Anonymous said...

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions!


Your jaw will drop!

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