Friday, May 11, 2007

Evangelicals and Eschatology, Act Two

Act Two is Dr Michael Bird's paper: 'Evangelicals and Apocalyptic Eschatology'. There follows my short summary...
Albert Schweitzer countered liberal theology's view of a rationalistic, romantic, love and brotherhood Jesus with his own identification of Jesus as a Jewish, apocalyptic prophet (in Quest of the Historical Jesus). Schweitzer saw Jesus as expecting that the crucial hour had arrived for God's kingdom to come and when it didn't, he tried to force God's hand by precipitating his own death. He tried to roll the wheel of history forward - instead it rolled back and crushed him - Jesus was wrong, but gloriously wrong. A couple of things about Schweitzer:
  • Schweitzer’s ideology sought to destroy the liberal German Jesus but also to show the impossibility of maintaining Jesus’ eschatology in the modern world
  • Schweitzer's innovation was not the discovery of apocalyticism or eschatology but his making apocalypticism the centre around which all of Jesus’ teachings revolved
Evangelicals have seen Schweitzer's apocalyptic Jesus as a mixed blessing: pros - rebuttal of liberal theology, Jesus' eschatological expectation (Vos gave a positive review); cons - Jesus becomes a deluded apocalyptic visionary. We can follow Schweitzer in the pro's but not in the con's. But we need to deal with the question: did Jesus predict the end of the world within a lifetime?
The Son of Man sayings can be seen in terms of 'vindication' for the people of God. Hence Mark 13 can be interpreted as referring to the desctruction of the temple in 70CE (and no event s beyond that), as a judgement of Israel and vindication of Jesus and his followers. The apocalyptic language emphasises the significance of this event. However, the language allows (0r demands) application to a broader scenario. The events of 70CE (at Jerusalem - the centre of the cosmos) mark the beginning of God's judgements which will one day involve the nations of the world for the salvation of the elect. Did Jesus see beyond?
  • he spoke of a future resurrection;
  • the gospel must be preached to all nations (in M13);
  • according to Luke the 2nd coming is predicated on the ascension;
  • the clearest mention of a second coming from Jesus is in John 14 and 21;
  • Jesus is remembered as predicting a cataclysmic event that Paul believes is significant for believers (1Th4:15-17).
Meg Ramey presented a concurrent paper entitled 'Left Behind No More: Preterist Interpretation of Revelation in the 'Last Disciple' Series. But, I couldn't be in both places at once...