Category : Eschatology

(CLJ) Walker Percy, A Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World Asks: Has It Happened at Last?

In Percy’s novels, the heroes do not change the world, and they minimally change their lives and behaviors. What changes is their vision and their motivation. On the outside, Binx Bolling seems to alter very little from the beginning of The Moviegoer to the end: yet, he has opened himself up to the possibility that “God himself is present here.” He is attentive to the possibilities of God’s presence, and thus, not in despair. Barrett goes a step farther by answering his own question, moving from potential to acceptance. In his conversation with Father Weatherbee about marrying Allison, he wonders, “Is she a gift and therefore a sign of a giver? Could it be that the Lord is here, masquerading behind this simple silly holy face? Am I crazy to want both her and Him? No, not want, must have. And will have.”

What changes when we look for God in our daily activities or when we seek his face in those around us? Does it not make a great deal of difference to how you treat your child? For instance, if you see her as participating in God’s incarnation, a fellow pilgrim on the road to paradise, versus your property, your image, and thus your charge to form into a success story? And, when we consider the day before us not as an empty schedule to be filled, but God’s gracious and gratuitous gift of time, how then might we live differently?

With a true vision, we may offer back to the Giver our minutes in gratitude, thankful for what we have been given to love and enjoy. Just as I, in my quiet office alone behind bars of yellow tape, hear the cathedral bells ring, so too, if we all attend more to the bounty than to the deprivation, then, in this season of uncertainty and potential desperation, perhaps it will be possible, even here, to find God?

Read it all from March.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Roman Catholic

Saint Ephrem for his Feast Day–Keep watch: he is to come again

To prevent his disciples from asking the time of his coming, Christ said: “About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments.” He has kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savour: it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly.

Though the Lord has established the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfilment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. His final coming is like his first. As holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would reveal himself in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own day, because Christ has not made plain the day of his coming.

He has not made it plain for this reason especially, that no one may think that he whose power and dominion rule all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming; how could what he has himself decided be hidden from him? Therefore, he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day forward all generations and ages might think that he would come again in their own day.

Keep watch; when the body is asleep nature takes control of us, and what is done is not done by our will but by force, by the impulse of nature. When deep listlessness takes possession of the soul, for example, faint-heartedness or melancholy, the enemy overpowers it and makes it do what it does not will. The force of nature, the enemy of the soul, is in control.

When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity. As Scripture says: “Wake up, you just,” and “I have risen, and am still with you;” and again, “Do not lose heart. Therefore, having this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

–From a commentary on the Diatessaron (the single gospel harmony of the early Syriac church), by St Ephrem (ca. 306 – 373)

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

(New Atlantis) Stefan Beck–Do We Want Dystopia? On nightmare tech as the fulfillment of warped desire

Inasmuch as there are canonical texts of American education, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is one of them. But students may wonder why their teacher presents as “dystopian” a text that reads, in 2020, like an operating manual for the technocratic American Dream. The taming of reproduction and heredity by science; the banishment of boredom, discomfort, and sorrow by entertainment and pharmacology; the omnipresent availability of attachment-free sex; the defeat of death, sort of, by blissed-out euthanasia: Huxley foresaw not our fears but some of our deepest aspirations.

To read and teach Brave New World as dystopia is at best an oblivious atavism, at worst a piece of deluded self-flattery. As a character (not even an especially bright one) observes in Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles (1998), “Everyone says Brave New World is supposed to be a totalitarian nightmare, a vicious indictment of society, but that’s hypocritical bullshit.” The only thing Huxley got wrong, the character adds, is society’s acceptance of genetic caste stratification. In reality, we expect “advances in automation and robotics” to render such attine division of labor as obsolete as the sundial, the cotton gin, and the dot matrix printer.

It’s easy to look back at Huxley’s novel and attribute the radiant, meaningless future toward which it so fearfully looked as the realization of the dreams of scientists — including Huxley’s own brother, the eugenicist Julian Huxley — with their Promethean curiosity and procrustean “solutions.” But Huxley fretted about the machinations of industry as much as he did about scientists: Brave New World is peppered with the surnames of Henry Ford, Sir Alfred Mond, and Maurice Bokanowski. Huxley seemed convinced that when the last irregularity was removed from the human condition, and the last inconvenience stripped from the human experience, it would be scientists’ and industrialists’ hands wielding the plane. But where the scientists pursue knowledge for its own sake, or in service of the good as they see it, the tech titans pursue it the better to sell us what we want. How well the would-be Aldous Huxleys of our day understand that — and how much blame they place on us and our appetites — is the subject of this essay.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology

N.T. Wright on the Ascension and Second Coming of Jesus

Additionally, early Christians were not, as is commonly assumed, bound to a three-tier vision of the universe, i.e., heaven, hell, and earth.

[W]hen the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time.

So heaven and earth, understood in this way, are two dimensions of the same reality. They “interlock and intersect in a whole variety of ways even while they retain, for the moment at least, their separate identities and roles.” Combine this with the doctrine of the ascension and we do not have a Jesus who floats up into a heaven “up there” but disappears into a reality we cannot yet see. Because heaven and earth are not yet joined Jesus is physically absent from us. At the same time he is present with us through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments, linkages where the two realities meet in the present age.

Read it all.

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Frederick Buechner for Easter–‘It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth’

from there:

It is not a major production at all, and the minor attractions we have created around it—the bunnies and baskets and bonnets, the dyed eggs—have so little to do with what it’s all about that they neither add much nor subtract much. It’s not really even much of a story when you come right down to it, and that is of course the power of it. It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth. If the Gospel writers had wanted to tell it in a way to convince the world that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, they would presumably have done it with all the skill and fanfare they could muster. Here there is no skill, no fanfare. They seem to be telling it simply the way it was. The narrative is as fragmented, shadowy, incomplete as life itself. When it comes to just what happened, there can be no certainty. That something unimaginable happened, there can be no doubt.

The symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. You can’t depict or domesticate emptiness. You can’t make it into pageants and string it with lights. It doesn’t move people to give presents to each other or sing old songs. It ebbs and flows all around us, the Eastertide. Even the great choruses of Handel’s Messiah sound a little like a handful of crickets chirping under the moon.

He rose. A few saw him briefly and talked to him. If it is true, there is nothing left to say. If it is not true, there is nothing left to say. For believers and unbelievers both, life has never been the same again. For some, neither has death. What is left now is the emptiness. There are those who, like Magdalen, will never stop searching it till they find his face.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

(Psephizo) Richard Bauckham–Facing death with Easter hope

Optimism cannot deal with death, but God has dealt with it. The apostle Paul, because his whole approach to life was based on the belief that God had raised the dead Jesus to new life, was able to say: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor powers, not height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38). I should like to encourage anyone who has not thought seriously before about the Christian hope for life beyond death, and its foundation in the resurrection of Jesus, to do so now. I remember, many years ago, an acquaintance who was a believing Christian but could not believe that there was anything beyond death. I lent her John Baillie’s book And the Life Everlasting, which spoke to her difficulties, and she completely changed her mind. Not so long afterwards she died. She was able to go into the experience of dying with, not only an assurance of the love of God with her, but also the knowledge that God’s love does not let go of us when we die, but holds onto us and welcomes us into a new future in his presence.

In the present crisis, there will be many people who suffer the death of a loved one. There will also be many who, perhaps for the first time, face up to the prospect of their own death, whenever it may come. All of us would do well to ponder the extraordinary character of Easter hope, which goes far beyond our ordinary hopes. All of our ordinary hopes are defeated by death, but in the resurrection of Jesus God has defeated death and removed the pall that death casts over all of life.

Alleluiah!

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Health & Medicine

Albert Mohler–The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Reality of the Gospel

As the disciples preached in the earliest Christian sermons, “This Jesus God has raised up, of whom we are all witnesses . . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:32,36].

The Resurrection was not a dawning awareness of Christ’s continuing presence among the disciples, it was the literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. The Church is founded upon the resurrected Lord, who appeared among His disciples and was seen by hundreds of others.

The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrected Lord gave the Church a sacred commission to take the gospel throughout the world. As Paul made clear, the resurrection of Christ also comes as a comfort to the believer, for His defeat of death is a foretaste and promise of our own resurrection by His power. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].

So, as the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should look backward in thankfulness to that empty tomb and forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promises in us. For Resurrection Day is not merely a celebration”“it is truly preparation as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of our resurrection from the dead, and of Christ’s total victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very center of the Christian gospel. The empty tomb is full of power.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Evangelicals, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Charles Simeon on Easter–a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers

In this tomb, also, you may see, A pledge to us…Yes, verily, it is a pledge,

Of Christ’s power to raise us to a spiritual life -The resurrection of Christ is set forth in the Scriptures as a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers; and by the very same power too, that effected that. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul draws the parallel with a minuteness and accuracy that are truly astonishing. He prays for them, that they may know what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” And then he says, concerning them, “God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us usi together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus^” Here, I say, you see Christ dead, quickened, raised, and seated in glory; and his believing people quickened from their death in sins, and raised with him, and seated too with him in the highest heavens. The same thing is stated also, and the same parallel is drawn in the Epistle to the Romans ; where it is said, “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” But can this be effected in us ? I answer, Behold the tomb ! Who raised the Lord Jesus? He himself said, ” I have power to lay down my life, and power to take it up again….”

–Horae homileticae, Sermon 1414

Posted in Church History, Easter, Eschatology

John Piper for Easter–I Have Seen the Lord

Today that question, that debate—Did Jesus really rise from the dead historically, bodily?—is not as prominent or as intense because, at one level, people feel that it doesn’t matter to them, because different people believe in different things, and maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t; and if it did, or didn’t, and that helps you get along in life, fine; but it doesn’t make much difference to me. I may or may not call myself a Christian, and if the resurrection seems helpful to me, I may believe it; and if it doesn’t, then I won’t, and I don’t think any body should tell me that I have to.

Behind those two different kinds of unbelief–the kind from 40 years ago and the kind from the present day–is a different set of assumptions. For example, in my college days the assumption pretty much still held sway, though it was starting to give way with the rise of existentialism, that there are fixed, closed natural laws, that make the world understandable and scientifically manageable, and these laws do not allow the truth of the claim that someone has risen from the dead to live forever. That was a commonly held assumption: The modern world with its scientific understanding of natural laws does not allow for resurrections. So unbelief was often rooted in that kind of assumption.

But today, that’s not the most common working assumption. Today the assumption is not that there are natural laws outside of me forbidding the resurrection of Jesus, but there is a personal law inside of me that says: I don’t have to adapt my life to anything I don’t find helpful. Or you could state it another way: Truth for me is what I find acceptable and helpful.

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Karl Rahner for Easter–the Son of Man ‘cannot’ have risen alone

From here:

“The heart of the earth has accepted and received the Son of God; and it is from a womb so consecrated, this womb of the ‘hellish’ depths of human existence, that the saved creature rises up. Not just (not even temporarily) in the Son alone. It is not that he alone descended and so rose again as victor because death could not hold him captive. ‘Even now’ he is not the firstborn among the dead in the sense that he is even now the only human being to have found the complete fulfillment of his whole human reality. . . . the Son of Man ‘cannot’ have risen alone. What, we may ask, is really to be understood by his glorified bodily condition (if we take it seriously, and don’t spiritualize it into another way of talking about his eternal ‘communion with God’) right up to the ‘Last Day’, if meanwhile it should persist all by itself—something which is precisely unthinkable for the bodily condition (though glorified)? So when we find in Mt 27:52 s. that other bodies too, those of saints, rose up with him (indeed even ‘appeared’—as he himself did—to show that the end of the ages has already come upon us), this is merely positive evidence from Scripture for what we would have expected anyway, if definitive salvation has already been unshakably founded, death conquered, and a man, for whom it is never good to be alone, has entered upon the fulfillment of his whole being. Hence to try to set aside this testimony from Matthew as a ‘mythological’ intrusion, or to argue away its eschatological meaning with ingenious evasions—such as that it is merely a matter of a temporary resurrection or even of ‘phantom bodies’—would not be in accord with the authoritative voice of Scripture. It is a fact that by far the greater part of the Fathers and the theologians, right up to the present day, have firmly maintained the eschatological interpretation of the text as the only one possible from the exegetical point of view.”

Posted in Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Karl Barth for Easter-‘the proclamation of a war already won’

[Easter]…is the proclamation of a war already won. The war is at an end–even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation. The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves. Actually he is already mated. The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. It is in this interim space that we are living: the old is past, behold it has all become new. The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them anymore. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humourless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. A seriousness that would look back past this, like Lot’s wife, is not Christian seriousness. It may be burning behind ”“ and truly it is burning ”“ but we have to look, not at it, but at the other fact, that we are invited and summoned to take seriously the victory of God’s glory in this man Jesus and to be joyful in Him. Then we may live in thankfulness and not in fear.

–Karl Barth Dogmatics in Outline (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), p. 123

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Tom Wright–The Church must stop trivialising Easter

Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn’t have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: “I think he’s still with us in a spiritual sense” or “I think he’s gone to heaven”. All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve.

The historian must explain why Christianity got going in the first place, why it hailed Jesus as Messiah despite His execution (He hadn’t defeated the pagans, or rebuilt the Temple, or brought justice and peace to the world, all of which a Messiah should have done), and why the early Christian movement took the shape that it did. The only explanation that will fit the evidence is the one the early Christians insisted upon – He really had been raised from the dead. His body was not just reanimated. It was transformed, so that it was no longer subject to sickness and death.

Let’s be clear: the stories are not about someone coming back into the present mode of life. They are about someone going on into a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so. When St Paul speaks of a “spiritual” resurrection body, he doesn’t mean “non-material”, like a ghost. “Spiritual” is the sort of Greek word that tells you,not what something is made of, but what is animating it. The risen Jesus had a physical body animated by God’s life-giving Spirit. Yes, says St Paul, that same Spirit is at work in us, and will have the same effect – and in the whole world.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

At the Center

Without a doubt, at the center of the New Testament there stands the Cross, which receives its interpretation from the Resurrection.

The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which “destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand”, which “is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles”. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).

Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith.

–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that pierced died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

–John Updike (1932-2009)

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Poetry & Literature

Easter and the Coronavirus–An Interview with South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence by Joy Hunter

Bishop, for many of us this will be the first time in our lives we won’t be in church on Easter morning. No Easter lilies; No packed crowd singing “Welcome Happy Morning;” No flowering of the cross. No big Easter dinner with extended family. The feeling of malaise is giving way to something darker. How are we to approach Easter this year?

There’s some remarkable irony there. Just think about that first Easter morning when Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb on the first day of the week just as the sun was rising. They were not going in the way you and I go to the Easter morning service with a great deal of expectation and hope, waiting to say, “Alleluia, the Lord is risen,” and hear one another say, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” They were going with spices to anoint the buried body of Jesus. They were hardly in a mood of expectation, of joy, of hope. They were going there overwhelmed by life, overwhelmed with what they had lost, what they did not have, who they could not see, the one they could not hold.

If we go through all of the Easter stories, one after another it is of Jesus appearing to a relatively small group of people. Not in a religious setting. Not in a synagogue, not in a temple, but in a home. It may be that we need to rediscover the power of the resurrection to lift us in the midst of our gloom, in the midst of our daily lives. It’s not something we have to go to to experience him, but whenever we gather in his name, he can be among us. That’s one aspect we need to cultivate and, perhaps, rediscover.

To be honest, I will miss it too—Easter morning at church. I will miss singing, “Welcome happy morning.” “The Day of Resurrection,” all of those great Easter hymns. I think I can play them here at home. In fact, I think I will!

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture

‘Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man’

Holy Saturday is the day of God’s concealment, as one reads in an ancient homily: “What happened? Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and solitude. Great silence because the King sleeps … God died in the flesh and descended to make the kingdom of hell (‘gli inferi’) tremble” (“Homily on Holy Saturday,” PG 43, 439). In the Creed we confess that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried; he descended into hell (‘negli inferi’), and the third day he rose again from the dead.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man, in an existential manner, almost unconscious, as an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. At the end of the 18th century, Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead! And we have killed him!” This celebrated expression, if we consider it carefully, is taken almost word for word from the Christian tradition, we often repeat it in the Via Crucis, perhaps not fully realizing what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday: the darkness of this day questions all those who ask about life, it questions us believers in a special way. We too have something to do with this darkness.

And nevertheless, the death of the Son of God, of Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive; it is a font of consolation and hope. And this makes me think that the sacred Shroud acts as a “photographic” document, with a “positive” and a “negative.” And in effect, this is exactly how it is: The most obscure mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a hope without limits. Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.”

Read it all from Benedict XVI.

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

An In-between Moment

In this empty hallway, there’s nothing expected of us at this moment. The work is out of our hands, and all we can do is wait, breathe, look around. People sometimes feel like this when they’ve been up all night with someone who’s seriously ill or dying, or when they’ve been through a non-stop series of enormously demanding tasks. A sort of peace, but more a sort of ‘limbo’, an in-between moment. For now, nothing more to do; tired, empty, slightly numbed, we rest for a bit, knowing that what matters is now happening somewhere else.

–Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week

Joel Garver on the 20th century’s greatest Theologian of Holy Saturday

From here:

Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is probably one of his most intriguing contributions since he interprets it as moving beyond the active self-surrender of Good Friday into the absolute helplessness of sin and the abandonment and lostness of death.

In the Old Testament one of the greatest threats of God’s wrath was His threat of abandonment, to leave His people desolate, to be utterly rejected of God. It is this that Jesus experienced upon the Cross and in His descent into the lifeless passivity and God-forsakenness of the grave. By His free entrance into the helplessness of sin, Christ was reduced to what Balthasar calls a “cadaver-obedience” revealing and experience the full horror of sin. As Peter himself preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24; 32-33):

[Jesus] being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you, by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; who God raised up, having abolished the birth pangs of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it…This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He pour out this which you now see and hear.

We ought to pause and note the passivity that is expressed here. Christ experienced what God was doing through Him by His purpose and foreknowledge. Jesus was truly dead and fully encompassed within and held by the pains of death and needed God to abolish them. He was freed from death by God, not simply by God’s whim, but because for God it was impossible that death should hold Christ. Christ Himself receives the Holy Spirit from the Father in order that He might pour out that Spirit. Balthasar writes:

Jesus was truly dead, because he really became a man as we are, a son of Adam, and therefore, despite what one can sometimes read in certain theological works, he did not use the so-called “brief” time of his death for all manner of “activities” in the world beyond. In the same way that, upon earth, he was in solidarity with the living, so, in the tomb, he is in solidarity with the dead…Each human being lies in his own tomb. And with this condition Jesus is in complete solidarity.

According to Balthasar, this death was also the experience, for a time, of utter God-forsakenness—that is hell. Hell, then, is a Christological concept which is defined in terms of Christ’s experience on the Cross. This is also the assurance that we never need fear rejection by the Father if we are in Christ, since Christ has experienced hell in our place.

–S. Joel Garver on Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)

Posted in Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Holy Week

(Sightings) Evan Kuehn–Measuring the Apocalypse

The tension between eschatology and banality defines the current moment for many of us who are both reacquainting ourselves with home in a period of shelter-in-place orders, and facing the reality of being laid off, or of having access to our loved ones in prison or long-term care suddenly shut off. The big numbers of COVID-19 are almost a backdrop, even while they determine most of what we do (and don’t do).

This past week, the American psyche has also seen a shift of the object of our apocalyptic fears from the big numbers of COVID-19 mortality to the big numbers of a market economy in crisis. The President is calling for a “resurrection” of the economy on Easter Sunday. This combination of market panic and an aching desire for getting to the truth of the moment has even led one prominent Christian writer, well known for his critique of modern secularism’s supposed “culture of death,” to conclude with no sense of irony that “there is a demonic side to the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost,” and on this basis oppose public health measures that threaten our commercial wellbeing. How on earth did we get here?

We are flailing because we need the world to be meaningful, but the fact of a pandemic is not something from which we can easily extract meaning and truth. We are awash with data being updated from a global array of regional and local reporting centers in real time, and the smart visualization of this data often fools us into thinking that we are looking at the meaning of COVID-19. These numbers are one way of seeing the virus, and epidemiologists can interpret the data through computational models that give us a picture of what the pandemic means for human populations right now and in the immediate future. Likewise, economists can interpret the human toll of strained social systems as they are modeled from unemployment claims data. All of this is important for policy decisions, and meaningful in its own way, but the pandemic itself resists our attempts to make sense of it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, History

(WSJ) Robert Nicholson–A Coronavirus Great Awakening?

Could a plague of biblical proportions be America’s best hope for religious revival? As the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches, there is reason to think so.

Three-quarters of a century has dimmed the memory of that gruesome conflict and its terrible consequences: tens of millions killed, great cities bombed to rubble, Europe and Asia stricken by hunger and poverty. Those who survived the war had to grapple with the kinds of profound questions that only arise in the aftermath of calamity. Gazing at the ruins from his window at Cambridge University, British historian Herbert Butterfield chose to make sense of it by turning to the Hebrew Bible.

“The power of the Old Testament teaching on history—perhaps the point at which the ancient Jews were most original, breaking away from the religious thought of the other peoples around them—lay precisely in the region of truths which sprang from a reflection on catastrophe and cataclysm,” Butterfield wrote in “Christianity and History” (1949). “It is almost impossible properly to appreciate the higher developments in the historical reflection of the Old Testament except in another age which has experienced (or has found itself confronted with) colossal cataclysm.”

Americans, chastened by the horrors of war, turned to faith in search of truth and meaning….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

Martyn Davie–A Basic Christian Primer On Sex, Marriage And Family Life. Article 6 – Men, Women And Marriage In The World To Come.

In the New Testament we learn from Jesus that those who live in this new creation ‘neither marry nor are given in n marriage, but are like angels in heaven’ ( Matthew 22: 30). This teaching by Jesus does not mean that we shall stop being male and female. As we learn from the example of Jesus, our resurrected bodies will retain the same sex that they have now. This means that if we are male or female now we shall be male or female then.

What this teaching does mean is that in the world to come marriage as we know it, involving sexual intercourse and the procreation of children, will be no more. The number of people God wills to inherit his new creation will have been brought into existence and because there will be no more death their number will not diminish. Hence there will be no need for procreative sex, hence there will be no more need for one flesh unions and hence marriage as it exists now will be no more.

However, this does not mean that marriage as such will cease to be. On the contrary, the New Testament tells us that at the centre of the life of the new creation there will be the ‘marriage of the Lamb’ (Revelation 19:6-9, 21: 2 & 9), the marriage between God and humanity that will endure for eternity.

This eternal marriage is the transcendent reality which marriage in this world foreshadows. In the words of Peter Kreeft; ‘The earthly intimacy with the beloved is a tiny, distant, spark of the bonfire that is the heavenly intimacy with God.’

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Sightings) Russell Johnson–Film Resurrections and the Denial of Death

The interesting question isn’t why so many filmmakers rely on the resurrection trope, but what effect this has on viewers and what this trope says about American culture in the twenty-first century.

In the 1973 book The Denial of Death, anthropologist Ernest Becker argues that human beings across cultures find ways of rejecting the idea that death has the last word. Societies construct myths, develop cultural practices, and invest in collective pursuits to overcome the anxiety about the inevitability of death. Ancient Greek codes of honor, Chinese practices of ancestor-veneration, and the construction of pyramids and ziggurats in the ancient Near East and Mesoamerica are all, according to Becker, instances of the same human psychological impulse to use collective meaning-making to deny the meaninglessness of death.

On Becker’s theory, religious conceptions of reincarnation or the afterlife are not exceptions to a general acceptance of death. Rather, these religious beliefs are particularly clear, codified expressions of the near-universal human phenomenon of rejecting and repressing the finality of death. In the absence of religious convictions, human beings undertake “immortality projects” and construct socially shared “illusions” to meet their psychological needs. Ever since the decline of religion as the unifying structure of meaning in Western societies—Nietzsche’s famous “death of God”—film and other art forms have increasingly facilitated these shared illusions.

We don’t need to agree with Becker’s more sweeping claims to recognize that he’s right about the pervasiveness of the human tendency to deny the finality of death, whether consciously or not. Seen through this lens, the resurrection trope in popular film and television serves a social purpose. Even if many viewers of these films don’t actually believe that people come back to life, repeated exposure to resurrections and pseudo-resurrections functions as a sort of secular ritual of denying death.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Peter J. Leithart reviews Tom Wright’s new Book ‘History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology’

Christians confess a meta-paradox: This broken signpost is where God reveals himself, where heaven is present on earth. Here God suffers the ultimate injustice, his beauty effaced. Here the God who is love is crushed by brute force. Here Truth is drowned out by Pilate’s scoffing question and the shouts of the mob. Because Jesus rose from the dead, though, this broken signpost becomes the source of universal renewal: fresh springs of justice, new depths of beauty, a kind of powerless power, a freedom that isn’t limited by chains or imprisonment, a social body of mutual edification. New creation emerges out of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, as the ordinary lives of ordinary followers of Jesus become a “natural” revelation of the presence and power of God.

The church’s confession is contestable and contested, and Wright won’t permit a retreat into fideism. Once we refuse to foreclose the possibility of resurrection and new creation from the outset, we can treat Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, Pentecost, and the church’s history as “historical” phenomena, subject to historical investigation and confirmation. Jesus the rejected stone becomes the chief cornerstone of a renewed natural theology.

Wright’s wide-ranging book is primarily about the two topics of his title, history and eschatology. On both, his central arguments are convincing. “Natural theology” should attend to history, and since Jesus is a historical figure, it needs to attend to him. Wright is also correct that New Testament eschatology is about the renovation, not the removal, of creation. Jesus, Wright knows, shakes natural theologians, and every other sort of theologian, out of our slumbers. Once we admit the Gospels into the historical record and really grasp Jesus’s apocalyptic prophecies, we’ll see more than we’ve dreamt of, a strange world where the sky cracks, veils tear, and gravestones roll away.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) Preparing For The End Of The World, On A Budget

At first glance, this modest home nestled against a hillside in the mountains somewhere west of Colorado Springs appears to have all the amenities you’d expect in a quiet retreat. There’s even a two-story tower built right in. An otherwise peaceful place to catch the 360-degree view of winter’s splendor.

“[It’s a] really nice place to sit and vacation — enjoy. But, if necessary, it’s a guard post,” Drew Miller pointed out.

A Harvard Ph.D. and former military intelligence officer with 30 years of experience, Miller would know a good defensible spot when he sees it. Miller is a self-described “prepper,” someone who makes active preparations to survive the fall of human civilization. The nationwide prepper community is often painted as composed of conspiracy-crazed eccentrics, he said, thanks in large part to television shows such as the National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers.

It’s a reputation he soundly rejects.

“These are people who are smartly concerned, who want some insurance so that if the electric system goes down, a pandemic occurs, you know, they can survive,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Economy, Eschatology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture

The Latest Edition of the Parish Newsletter from Christ St Paul’s, Yonges Island, South Carolina

What is your response when you read this excerpt from John Eldridge’s book All Things New: Heaven, Earth and the Restoration of Everything You Love?

“One day soon you will step into a renewed earth, a young earth, sparkling like an orchard of cherry trees after a rain shower. Joy will be yours. How do we open our hearts to this after so much pain and disappointment? We have lost many things as we’ve passed through the battlefields of this war-torn world; our humanity has been stripped of such essential goodness.” (All Things New, Eldridge, p. 115)

Do you scoff with cynicism or cry out in wonder?

Read it again, stopping to consider your own thoughts of our future hope – The New Heaven and New Earth. We invited you to take advantage of one of the ways to further engage with this topic, to study, take in, and talk about something we don’t often talk about… what does eternity look like?

Or, pick up a copy of the book and “grab hold with both hands!”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Eschatology, Parish Ministry

(WSJ) Marina Gerner–Simon Wiesenthal’s story is example of how Jews can find hope in dark times

In an obituary, the British-Austrian journalist Hella Pick wrote that Wiesenthal always liked to be addressed as “Mr. Engineer.” But when he was asked why he didn’t return to architecture after the Holocaust, he said his belief in God and the afterlife prevented him. The millions who died in the camps, reunited in the afterlife, would ask their fellow Jews what they had done: “You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Still another will say, ‘I built houses,’ but I will say, ‘I didn’t forget you.’ ”

For those horrified by the recent attacks against Jewish communities, Wiesenthal’s story raises important questions: Who will stand up for their Jewish neighbors? How will legal justice be served? And how can we maintain spirituality amid persecution? There are many ways of being resilient, but forgetting is not an option.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Phys.org) Biologists identify pathways that extend lifespan by 500%

Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory, in collaboration with scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and Nanjing University in China, have identified synergistic cellular pathways for longevity that amplify lifespan fivefold in C. elegans, a nematode worm used as a model in aging research.

The increase in lifespan would be the equivalent of a human living for 400 or 500 years, according to one of the scientists.

The research draws on the discovery of two major pathways governing aging in C. elegans, which is a popular model in aging research because it shares many of its genes with humans and because its short lifespan of only three to four weeks allows scientists to quickly assess the effects of genetic and environmental interventions to extend healthy lifespan.

Because these pathways are “conserved,” meaning that they have been passed down to humans through evolution, they have been the subject of intensive research. A number of drugs that extend healthy lifespan by altering these pathways are now under development.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology

Kendall Harmon–What Kind of Love Came Down at Christmas?

Christina Rossetti’s words pierce my heart at Christmas, year after year:

“Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.”
It is worth pausing and pondering the answer to the question: how deep and how broad was that love?

To move with me toward an answer, journey to a small chapel in Cartmell Fell, a little known holy place in the North of England. If you know where to look when you arrive there–the stone is half hidden in the chancel–you can find a 1771 inscription with elegant lettering:

“Underneath this stone a mouldering Virgin lies,
Who was the pleasure once of Human Eyes.
Her Blaze of Charms Virtue once approved
The Gay admired her, much the parents loved.
Transitory life! Death untimely came.
Adieu, farewell, lonely leave my name.”

The words describe Betty Poole; she was a little girl who died at age three.

Christina Rossetti also wrote:

“In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone”¦”

It is only when the bleakness of this world and its iron hardness is fully felt, that the miracle of melting which began at Christmas can penetrate and shock us into appropriate awe. God’s love enveloped the whole moaning, stony, sin-sick world. It is broad enough to embrace it all, in this world and the next.

I imagine being with Betty Poole in Heaven and hearing her say with a smile, “God’s love was bigger than I thought!”

–The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of South Carolina and convenor of this blog

Posted in * By Kendall, Christmas, Christology, Eschatology, Theology

Kendall Harmon’s Teaching on Hell at the 2019 Renew Conference

Listen to it all (and note the handout link if desired).

Posted in * By Kendall, Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Evangelicals, Sermons & Teachings, Theology

All of the Talks from the ReNew 2019 Conference are now available

Take the time to enjoy them all and note that several have links to handouts that accompanied the talks.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized