Monday, December 7, 2009

What May We Hope?

"In striking contrast to the dispensationalist Rapture scenario - which is preoccupied with the question 'What must we fear?' - the expectation of the Second Coming is really about the Christian response to the question, 'What may we hope?'"

Q. What is the Christian hope?
A. The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God's purpose for the world.

Q. What do we mean by the coming of Christ in glory?
A. By the coming of Christ in glory, we mean that Christ will come, not in weakness but in power, and will make all things new.

The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 861-862


Christopher said...

The difference is that we have what has been described of Maurice's own theology as a peculiar form of "realized eschatology." By that I mean that Jesus never leaves us even if the not yet or consummation is also still before us. It is what I have called in my dissertation a present presence eschatology or a liturgical eschatology or an eschatology of contemporeinity since there is not a proper theological term for it--yet.

Good Shepherd Weekly said...

I am not a dispensationalist and tend toward the covenantal side of the same time, what a hackneyed and, for lack of a better word, ignorant view of dispensationalism from Meinrad Scherer-Edmunds.

Most modern pre-trib dispensationalists (the most common kind) who are serious and know their own beliefs look forward with ecstatic joy and most certainly "in hope" at the anticipation of Christ's secret coming the "rapture" which, they believe, will rescue Christians from the travails of the Tribulation. And they look forward to his public second coming at the climax of the Tribulation when he will return and establish his Kingdom for 1000 yrs.

All Christians, dispensationalists and everyone else, recognize that the Hope of Christ's return is a Hope for believers and that it will not be such a great day for those who have, up to that point, refused to kiss the Son (Ps2).

Bryan Owen said...

Matt, you are correct to point out the nuances, and I can certainly agree on the importance of using terminology with care. Nevertheless, I think the author has in mind the sort of stuff I once targeted in an Advent 1 sermon in which I said:

In some recent popular literature ... Christ is no longer the Prince of Peace but a Dealer of Destruction. This literature depicts Christ returning to earth to unleash an orgy of violence. Leading a crusade against his enemies, Christ wades knee-deep through blood as corpses are heaped high, the unsaved are cast into the fires of hell, and the saved gleefully watch as the damned suffer eternal torture.

I can't say that I can look forward to that "without shame or fear" (BCP, p. 378).

Good Shepherd Weekly said...

Hi again,

I suppose that many parts of the Book of Revelation, chapter 20 in particular, might equally fit the bill you describe in your sermon.

Wouldn't you agree that, not only dispensationalists, but most who take the New Testament descriptions of Christ's return seriously would understand that the second coming will be both a time of triumph and victory for the Church and a time of terrible defeat and ruin for the enemies of Christ?

Bryan Owen said...

And hello to you again, too, Matt.

I agree with you that "the second coming will be both a time of triumph and victory for the Church and a time of terrible defeat and ruin for the enemies of Christ."

Affirming this truth is not necessarily the same thing as accepting the portrait of what that entails as provided by (among other sources) the Left Behind series.

I have found Barbara Rossing's perspective in The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation helpful. At one point, Rossing writes:

"As I have suggested, Revelation carefully redefines the word 'conquer' to make clear that the Lamb and his followers conquer only by their testimony and faithfulness - not by making war or killing. War is something done against God's people by evil beasts and by Rome, not something that God's saints or the Lamb practice in this book. Two verses of Revelation do indeed refer to Jesus as 'making war' - Revelation 2:16 and 19:11 - but the way he makes war is crucial. Jesus makes war not with a sword of battle but "by the sword of his mouth." The word is Jesus' only weapon - that is a reversal as unexpected as the substitution of a lamb for a lion. These reversals undercut violence by emphasizing Jesus' testimony and the word of God. ...

"Thus, the message of the book of Revelation becomes a reframing of the whole concept of victory, giving victory first to the Lamb and then to us. Nowhere in Revelation do God's people 'wage war.' What they do is 'conquer' or 'become victors' (the same word in Greek) - and they do that by the Lamb's own blood and by their courageous testimony, not through Armageddon or war. In contrast to Rome's theology that defined Victory as military conquest, Revelation develops a counter-theology of the non-violent victory (nike) of Jesus, God's slain Lamb, in which 'evil is overcome by suffering love,' not by superior power. ...

"There is 'wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb,' as the old gospel hymn reminds us - a power we need today more than ever. It is not the power of violence. Rather, the power that we find in Jesus' blood is 'Lamb power': It is the wonder-working power of God's vulnerable, nonviolent love to change the world" (pp. 121-122).

Good Shepherd Weekly said...

Hmmm...yes...the sword is the sword of his mouth.

I'm just not sure what a non-literal (and I think correct) interpretation of the text gets you in terms of "non-violence".

Either way, Hell tends not to be a fluffy nice place. Whether the Lord conquers through literal warfare or not, there is certainly a conflict, a war of sorts, and a victorious outcome for Christ and the Church and there is defeat and horrible everlasting destruction for his enemies. They are eternally condemned. That is not "good news" for them but it certainly stands to bring glory and honor to God by making his justice manifest.

I suppose I just fail to understand how dispensationalism in particular has become the target of your ire...the book of Revelation does not seem to hold out any hope at all for those who remain unrepentant enemies of the cross. They will be defeated and ruined and whether by literal or figurative violence, their end will be a horrific one.

Bryan Owen said...

It's not so much dispensationalism that bothers me, Matt, as end-time scenarios that turn our Lord into a blood-thirsty, Rambo-like killer. One does not have to subscribe to that caricature of our Lord to believe that hell is, indeed, a horrible place.