tag : bright yellow-green apples: a subjective apokalupsis

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Sunday, December 05, 2004

a subjective apokalupsis

Figure. 4.9. right here right then

“eschatology though? what on earth for? i don't personally like anything eschatological. it's not only boring, it's beyond us and almost entirely inconsequential. who really cares what will happen in the end? does it affect us now? should it? too much of the church focuses on our eternal reward and so on. really i don't care if we go to heaven or are just worm's meat. it has no bearing on me. i'll be dead. let's focus on life BEFORE death.” Ash

Maybe it’s just our different perspectives here, but I feel the need to speak up for eschatology - or at least what I‘ve understood it as. Here goes…What is eschatology, but the intersection of future hopes with present realisation? There is much in the Church would which be rightly condemned as the very empty speculative distraction Jesus warned against. It is also in him that I think we might be able to salvage an inspiring vision.

I’m very sympathetic to the analysis of Geza Vermes, who places so much of Jesus’ actions and life-mission in terms of a strongly urgent eschatology. Put simply, the impetuous presented is of a man who expected the world to be wrapped up very soon. But this near obsessive urgency, in the face of a view to things being fulfilled, is not the prime motivation for my respect for traditions of eschatology. It comes down to this phrase, in it’s two main forms:

The kingdom of God is at hand
The kingdom of God is within you

This intertwined duality of interpretation show that very balance we walk, the same traced out by Christ. The pictures we have, visions of our lives set in colourful narratives full of strange imagery are not an end to themselves, nor plain future prediction to make us secure of having tabs on history. Revelation, the books of the prophets, they’re highly charged narratives which catch us up in the mission of God that stretches out either way before and behind us - and which finds its pivot always on us in the here and now.

This is not empty speculation, or self-satisfied assurance of our rightness at the end. It's pure poetry that tells our hopes in unsettling and urgently present ways, through stories that look to a hopeful overview. It’s fire, earth, creatures, ice, wind, gathered masses, water that rushes through us and charges our lives to take a place in the narratives of liberation and restoration that are the gospel’s raison d’etre. Heaven and hell are useless, adrift in the world of philosophy - but they are real and pertinent if manifest through our lives. The raindrops that make up a cloud. This is apocolypse in the truest sense.


Blogger ash said...

i'm still not sure i think eschatology is at all consequential. how can it affect our lives? it is essentially a bitty hope of a possible outcome of life. it is a hope, yes, but a shallow and ultimately meaningless one. to me it does seem like empty speculation. if it drives you, then fine. but i don't see need for it.

3:32 PM  
Blogger andy goodliff said...

it sounds like you're trying to be provocative, but actually makes you sound like you don't know what you're talking about. why is it pointless having hope for the future? is God's kingdom not breaking in and ultimately going to come. (see Isaiah 65; Rev 21, Rom 8) for what eschatology looks like

8:48 PM  
Blogger ash said...

for once i'm not trying to be provocative, i am simply refusing to agree with you until you provide me with a clear set of reasons as to why eschatology is important. hope for the future is nice, yes, absolutely it is. but does it actually serve a purpose at the end of the day? or is it just escapeism on an eternal scale?

you are right, i do not know much about eschato0logy save that it deals with the end of the world, our death and all that. which is frankly of little interest to me, and thus i never bothered to explore it. which is why i asked you to expand upon the bits i did not even have a tiny clue about.

basically i do not see the point of talking about the end times. we have no way of knowing about it at all. except prophesies, and noone ever gets them right do they? look at what the jews thought Jesus would be like! hope is important, and is probably essential to us as people. but it is also dangerous to us, especially when it takes on the form of postponement and escapism as eschatology often seems to. "don't worry that your life is absolute hell, because one day you'll be in heaven." there are many levels on which that is a bad thing.

so i ask again, please provide me with a) your views on eschatology as something other than the end times, how it influences us now etc. and b) try to prove to me why i should care.

4:02 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

We’re not talking about philosophy, or horoscope-future prediction here. This is about the hopes that are inherent in the gospel. About their place in narratives of faith, and how such ultimate hopes break through into the here and now. When Jesus is said to have quoted Isaiah (see Luke 4. 16-21), we see this in practice – an ever present hope becoming precipitated in one time and place.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Ruthie said...

Don't worry Ash - I think they're just trying to use big words to make themselves sound clever :P

Eschatology, as an understanding of God's kingdom present in the here and now, revealed to us in Christ and highly associated with social justice and compassionate activity, the restoration of the broken, the welcoming of those previously excluded and the forgiveness of those who have done wrong, is wonderful, inspiring and challenging.

The realisation that God's kingdom is present, but not yet complete is an important one. To recognise the presence of God, and yet also have the hope and determination to work towards the coming of the kingdom can help us to fulfil Jesus manifesto of liberation, hope, freedom and healing...perhaps we too can say, "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in our lives."

Now, this is relevant to the hear and now, recognising the spirit at work amongst us and hoping and working towards the arrival of God's kingdom is really very important.

If this is what is meant by eschatology - wonderful, although I fear the word is mere Christianese for what the rest of the world calls hope and action :S

However, the idea that one day the world will be destroyed and we'll all go to heaven and sing the hallelujah course for all eternity is about as inspiring to me as a slap round the face with a cold kipper.

8:13 PM  
Blogger ash said...

ruthie: yeah. that all sounds suspiciously like simply taking on board the teachings of Christ and the Gospels, and seems to have nothing to do with what eschatology actually is. (unless people have decided to rename the gospel message as eschatology).

and your example of the kipper is fantastic and much better put than i could have done! good call!

i just don't see why i should care about destiny and the end of the world, and that is what the dictionary says eschatology is. and that's what i was taught it was. if there is more to it that is about the here and now it's a derivative surely?

i'm bored. i'm gonna go back to my life now.

9:27 PM  
Blogger andy goodliff said...

ok, I'm not interested in an eternal worship service in heaven - sounds boring - but eschatology and new creation, that does get me hopeful!
ok, first of all chuck dictionary definitions out the window - people who write dictionaries are not theologians or biblical scholars.
ok, eschatology, what are we talking about. we're talking about how the future drives the present, rather than the past. God created with a purpose and with an end in mind, we see what that purpose and end is like in Jesus. The truth of christianity is we know what the future looks like - ok not when or completely how - but we know what it looks like - i point again to isaiah 65:17-25; Rom 8:18-30; Rev 21 - its about new creation and not about being whisked off to heaven for judgment. God's new creation coming from the future into the present. Jesus brings new creation - the kingdom of God - to us, he realises it, but its fulness is coming, so Paul writes if there is anyone in Christ there is new creation (2 Cor 5:17). This is all eschatology, why because it's new creation and we still live in old creation. We live between the ages, where the old age is passing away and God's glorious future is breaking in.
Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, he's the only one been raised from the dead - it will happen to us in the future, but we know we will be raised, because God has raised Christ. (I've added more to konnected chat topic)

11:01 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ash -

I really think you might be a bit off course here - rather like myth, the dictionary & everyday English usage has distorted the real value. And there are parts of the Church which may give you a misleading impression about what it means to us. It really is more than the boring premillenialist tosh. Though Andy puts what I’m trying to say well, there’s a great book out there which relates much of it in our own cultural setting. Everyday Apocalypse by David Dark comes with a website that has lots of material told filtered through discussions of music, film, cartoons ect. Go and have a read if you get time.

11:26 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ruth Ann -

I reckon you and Andy have managed to put the case for me very well, thanks. It’s about time we started reclaiming these words, and trying to ensure that they aren’t simplistically distorted (actively or by neglect0 so much that people might get a negative impression. Talking of which, it's time I got onto unity over on your space...

11:32 PM  
Blogger ash said...

ah thanks all. this makes much more sense now.
it would seem, then, that eschatology is not just a specialised feild of theology concerned with a particular time period, but is more an underlying foundation to all theology concerned with Christ and the path we all follow... nice.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Ruthie said...

Thanks for the plug, but no-one else seems to be joining in except you :(

Ash, I fear you are right and I think its ok to find words like "eschatology" a turn off. I do ;)

12:08 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ash –

Ah, we’re getting somewhere at last. Now all I need to do is convince my JW friends that scriptural escatology is not fixed in application to one set of dates, and my work here is done ;)

Ruth Ann –

Ha, I’ve lost track of the number of posts I’ve made that don’t get answers, it’s par for the course of webloggs. Oh yeah, and we all have words that really don’t agree – I like this one, but at the moment have a specially strong aversion for “like”!

4:19 PM  
Blogger Ruthie said...

What are you like? ;)

5:22 PM  
Blogger ash said...

yeah i know! it's like totally like, ya know, like YEAH!.

4:55 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I would order you off for using such rampently offensive youfspeak, but I really like having any comments at all ;)

12:25 AM  

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