Category : Eschatology

(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

(PD) Nathaniel Blake–Outrage Mobs Might Be More Forgiving If They Believed in Hell

Belief in Hell might seem like the opposite of forgiveness. However, divine forgiveness is contingent on the possibility of divine punishment. Temporally, belief in divine retribution may also encourage human forgiveness, as believers recollect that they, too, need mercy. At the very least, they may overlook some wrongs on the basis that God will sort them out.

The prospect of Hell may allow for a moving-on even in cases of radical evil of the sort that Arendt deems unforgivable. Civil peace often demands leniency for horrific crimes. It is sometimes necessary that witnesses and informants be granted immunity for their crimes, that traitors and terrorists be offered amnesty, or that treaties be made with tyrants. In such cases, where reasons of state preclude justice in this life, belief that there will be an accounting after death may help restore and preserve peace, even without forgiveness. Belief in divine justice liberates humanity from the responsibility of administering perfect justice—an impossible effort that, because of human finitude and sin, itself produces injustice.

Recognizing the social utility of religious beliefs is not enough to preserve them. Still, such reflection aids in diagnosing the ills of a culture that abandons them. Declining belief in divine judgment may encourage some to indulge themselves, comforted by the belief that there will be no punishment. However, others will attempt to take the place of the absent divine judge.

Those who believe that the only justice to be had is that which they administer in this life will be neither proportionate nor merciful. And those who do not believe in Hell may attempt to create it themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, Philosophy, Politics in General

(1st Things) Hans Boersma–Advent Arrow

The Fathers see evidence in Isaiah 49:2: “The Lord … made me like a chosen arrow, and in his quiver he sheltered me.” Theodoret directly identifies Christ as God’s arrow when he comments on the meaning of the Bride’s profession of love, “I have been wounded by love” (Song 2:5). He too appeals to Isaiah 49: “For [Christ] is after all the chosen arrow (Isa. 49:2) that wounds the souls it strikes.”

The patristic logic is impeccable: If Christ is the Groom who wounds our heart, then with impatient desire we search the Scriptures for how he does this. That’s exactly what the Fathers do by turning to biblical texts such as Psalm 45:5 and Isaiah 49:2. The broader canonical witness tells us how it is that the Groom wounds his Bride’s heart. Archery is his means—preachers’ words give the Logos entry in the human heart.

Patristic scholars talk about “intertextuality” or “verbal association” to explain what’s happening here. I won’t object. But really, we should call this kind of exegesis advent reading. It is a form of interpretation that longs for Christ to come and that looks beyond the empirical. Only an interpretation animated by desire can spot the arrow.

Scripture demands an Advent posture. The most important things are not the ones we see. The unseen word arrow is arguably the key to grasping what the Bride means when she exclaims, “I am wounded with love.” That, at least, is the consensus patrum.

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Church History, Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

(1st things) Michael McClymond–The Heresy of Universalism–The Opiate of the Theologians

One of the most shocking passages in all of Christian literature has to be the section of City of God where Augustine speaks of the resurrected human flesh that suffers the fires of hell but is not consumed by them—an infernal rendition of Moses’s bush that burns without burning up. The horror of this passage has often deflected readers from other, more important themes in City of God. It is easy to miss that ­Augustine’s afterlife is of a piece with the earthly life. Human disharmony and duality did not arrive on the planet because a capricious God showed up at the end of the world and arbitrarily decided to cleave a harmonious earthly community in two. Duality began the moment that Cain raised his hand to murder his brother Abel. And so it has been ever since. In City of God, Augustine recounts the conflicts between the descendants of Cain and those of Seth, between ­Israel and the Gentiles, and between the Church and its ­persecutors—summed up in a single, overriding contrast between “the city of man” and “the city of God.”

If someone were to ask me why I embrace a particularistic view of salvation and a dualistic eschatology rather than a religion of solidarity, my answer must be not only “Because this is what the Bible teaches” and “Because church teaching confirms it,” but also “Because I have eyes to see.” I don’t need to hypothesize a world in which human pride and stubbornness cause people to turn away from God’s gracious offer of mercy in Jesus Christ. This is the world I live in. This is what I see happening every day. This is what I read in the news. It is also what I am told by the Church: Jesus was crucified. Perfect love appeared in history—and observe what man did in response. In contrast to the particularist, the universalist must hypothesize a state of affairs in which, as Rob Bell says, “everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy . . . of God’s presence.” This imagining not just of a heaven, but of men and a world that no one has ever seen, leads me to a definite conclusion. Universalism is hopefulness run amok, the opiate of the theologians.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

(Seattle Times) Recompose, the human-composting alternative to burial and cremation, finds a home in Seattle’s Sodo area

One evening last week, around 75 people gathered in a vast Sodo warehouse for an event that may have been the first of its kind in human history: a housewarming party for a funeral home where bodies would not be burned or buried, but laid in individual vessels to become clean, usable compost.

It was an eclectic group (doctors, architects, funeral directors, state legislators, lawyers, investors), but they had come together to celebrate the first site for Recompose, the fledgling Seattle company that hopes to change the way people think about what happens after we die.

“You all have one thing in common,” Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of Recompose, told the crowd beneath the mammoth, curved wood ceiling. “You are all members of the death-care revolution.”

But for some at the party, it took a little time to get there.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology

Kendall Harmon’s All Saints Day 2019 Sermon–Do we share God’s Vision for the Church (Revelation 7:9-17)?

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

(EJ) ‘Back to earth’: Edmonton church groups exploring growing interest of green burials

[John] Matthews is also chair of the north-side Christ Church Polar Lake Cemetery, one of only a few in Edmonton currently offering plots for the green practice. He said his church was approached about two years ago by a resident interested in having a green burial, or what Matthews calls a “traditional burial,” and so they decided to provide the option.

Four speakers took to the podium during the seminar at St. Stephen the Martyr/St. Faith Anglican Church on Alberta Avenue to explore some of the spiritual considerations and challenges with natural burials. It’s about opening the door for conversation and not being scared to talk about the inevitable, Matthews said.

“The whole idea is to get death out of the closet and to confront it directly,” he said. “The more you put it aside … that’s going to prolong the grieving process or impede it really to its proper completion.”

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecology, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

John Stott on Jesus being glorified IN his saints on the last great day, from 2 Thessalonians 2:10

That is to say, not only will the Lord Jesus be ‘revealed’ objectively in his own splendour (7), so that we see it, but his splendour will be revealed in us, his redeemed people, so that we will be transformed by it and will become vehicles by which it is displayed. The exact purport of this depends on how we understand the repeated preposition *en*, which NIV translates first *in his holy people* and secondly *among all* believers. *En* could also be translated ‘by’ or ‘through’. So how will the coming Lord Jesus be glorified in relation to his people? Not ‘among’ them, as if they will be the theatre or stadium in which he appears; nor ‘by’ them, as if they will be the spectators, the audience who watch and worship; nor ‘through’ or ‘by means of’ them, as if they will be mirrors which reflect his image and glory; but rather ‘in’ them, as if they will be a filament, which itself glows with light and heat when electric current passes through it.

The distinction between these models is important. A theatre is not changed by the play which is performed in it. An audience is not necessarily moved by the drama enacted before it. A mirror is certainly not affected by images it reflects. But a filament is changed. For when the current is switched on, it becomes incandescent. So when Jesus is revealed in his glory, he will be glorified in his people. We will not only see, but share, his glory. We will be more than a filament which glows temporarily, only to become dark and cold again when the current is switched off. We will be radically and permanently changed being transformed into his likeness. And in our transformation his glory will be seen in us, for we will glow for ever with the glory of Christ, as indeed he glowed with the glory of the Father (E.g. Jn.14:13).

Take the Transfiguration as an illustration. On that occasion Jesus was glorified in his physical body. His face shone like the sun, while his skin and clothing glistened and became as white as light. In other words, his body became a vehicle for his glory. So will it be with his spiritual body, the church. The body of Christ will be transfigured by the glory of Christ, not temporarily as at the Transfiguration, but eternally.

–John R W Stott, The Message of 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994 Academic edition of the 1991 original), pp. 149-150, quoted in part by yours truly in the morning sermon for All Saints Day

Posted in Eschatology, Evangelicals, Theology: Scripture

Food for Thought on a Sunday–Jonathan Edwards on the Suffering of Christ in Gethsemane

The agony was caused by a vivid, bright, full, immediate view of the wrath of God. The Father, as it were, set the cup down before him…he now had a near view of that furnace into which he was about to be cast. He stood and viewed its raging flames and the glowing of its heat, that he might know where he was going and what he was about to suffer.

Christ was going to be cast into a dreadful furnace of wrath, and it was not proper that he should plunge himself into it blindfold, as not knowing how dreadful the furnace was. Therefore, that he might not do so, God first brought him and set him at the mouth of the furnace, that he might look in, and stand and view its fierce and raging flames, and might see where he was going, and might voluntarily enter into it and bear it for sinners, as knowing what it was. This view Christ had in his agony…Then he acted as knowing what he did; then his taking that cup, and bearing such dreadful sufferings, was properly his own act by an explicit choice; and so his love to sinners was the more wonderful, as also his obedience to God in it.

If just the taste and glimpse of these sufferings were enough to throw the eternal Son of God into shock, and to nearly kill him in the anticipation of them, what was the actual, full experience of those sufferings on the cross really like?

–From his remarkable sermon Christ’s Agony and quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon (my emphasis)

Posted in Christology, Church History, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(EF) Mark Arnold–Some thoughts on disability, sin, God and ‘Heaven’

Jesus bore the scars of his crucifixion on his post-resurrection body. Interestingly, although he bore those marks, he was still able to amble along the road to Emmaus the same day as his resurrection; a seven-mile walk just three days after his body was hung on the cross… (Luke 24:13-35).

Is it possible that the evidence of disability is retained, but any associated negative consequence of disability and/or pain is removed? Is that what Revelation 24:4 refers to when it talks about “There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain”?

Maybe Heaven itself will be a far more accessible and inclusive place too, a place free of the ableism of our current Earth? A few days later Thomas was able to put his hand into the wound in Jesus side, “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” See John 20:24-29, esp. v27.

Again, this passage suggests that the evidence of disability remains in the resurrected body, but perhaps not any negative consequences or pain.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PD) Things Worth Dying For: The Nature of a Life Worth Living

Family, friends, honor, and integrity: These are natural loves. Throughout history, men and women have been willing to die for these loves. As Christians, though, we claim to be animated—first and foremost—by a supernatural love: love for God as our Creator and Jesus Christ as his Son. St. Polycarp, for all his caution and prudence, eventually did choose martyrdom rather than repudiate his Christian faith.

The issue at hand is this: Are we really willing to do the same; and if so, how must we live in a way that proves it? These aren’t theoretical questions. They’re brutally real. Right now Christians in many countries around the world are facing the choice of Jesus Christ or death. Last year the German novelist Martin Mosebach published an account of the 21 migrant workers in Libya who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists and executed for their faith. Twenty were Coptic Christians from Egypt. One was another African who refused to separate himself from his brothers in the faith.

The murder of those 21 Christians is captured on video. It’s hard to watch—not just because the act is barbaric, but also because, in our hearts, we fear that, faced with the same choice, we might betray our faith in order to save our lives. Put frankly, the martyrs, both ancient and modern, frighten us as much as they inspire us. And maybe this reaction makes perfect sense. Maybe it’s a version of the biblical principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of martyrdom is the beginning of an honest appraisal of our spiritual mediocrity.

So I think we should consider this fear for a moment, rather than repressing it, as we so often do.

The Christian men beheaded on the Libyan beach are not really so remote from us. The worry we naturally feel, that we might fail a similar test, is a concrete and urgent version of the anxiety we rightly feel when we think about coming before the judgment of God. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know that we’re likely to fail that test too. After all, we’re barely able to live up to the basic demands of the Ten Commandments. Many of us have trouble following even the minimal norms of a Catholic life: regular confession and Mass attendance, kindness to others, and a few minutes of daily prayer. If those very simple things are struggles, how can we possibly have the spiritual strength to face martyrdom? Or the judgment of a just God?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Catholic Herald) Heretic of the week: John Nelson Darby

Darby also originated a brand of eschatology call Dispensationalism, which holds that true Christians shall be raptured before the events leading up to the Second Coming and Last Judgment. He preached his Gospel throughout Britain, the United States, Canada, and even Australia and New Zealand.

While Darby’s views on ecclesiology gained few followers in America, his Dispensationalism has been a big hit among Evangelicals ever since, among other things injecting the whole idea of “the Rapture” into American pop culture and spawning the Left Behind series of novels and films. Alas, before he died the movement broke into two sections – one of which he chose and remained in until he died.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

(Commonweal) An Interview with David Tracy–In Praise of Fragments

DT: Yes, I don’t think you can understand the New Testament, and therefore Christianity, without its strong apocalyptic tradition. And not just apocalyptic texts like Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians, Matthew 24, almost the whole of Mark, and especially the tremendum et fascinans power of the Book of Revelation. The whole Christian Bible ends with that plaintive cry, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Without its apocalyptic dimension, properly deliteralized of course, Christianity would settle down into a religion that has lost its sense of the not yet, and the existential sense that the Second Coming, like our own death, could happen at any time.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, Theology

(TGC) David Bentley Hart’s Lonely, Last Stand for Christian Universalism

These passages suggest the need and appropriateness of evaluating eschatological teachings in terms of their practical effects. And it’s exceedingly hard to see how the biblical call to self-denial, godly living, and toilsome evangelism can flourish on the basis of a universalist theology. Who would need to work at being alert or prepared if final salvation for all were already known in advance? Earlier Christian universalists—including Origen himself—acknowledged the problem and suggested that universalism should be kept secret from the masses and disseminated among only a few mature believers. Hart doesn’t seem to admit there is any problem.

So even if universalism were biblically supported (as it is not), and even if sound theological or philosophical arguments made it believable (as they do not), then universalism could still not become the official, public teaching of the Christian church without undermining the church’s own moral, spiritual, and missional foundation. The one clear-cut historical case we have of a large-scale embrace of this doctrine—the Universalist Church, that was once the sixth-largest denomination in the United States—illustrates the point. This denomination declined in size and theologically devolved into a unitarian denial of Jesus’s divinity, and then merged with another declining religious body to become the UU—the Unitarian-Universalist Association, which eventually removed the word “God” from its doctrinal basis, so as not to offend the sincere agnostics who might want to belong. Those proposing universalist doctrine for the church today should be forewarned by this history. Imagine a farmer who seeks to rid his field of pests, and so sprays a chemical—reputedly a powerful and effective pesticide. Within weeks, the crops themselves are shriveling up. That’s universalism: in the name of updating and improving the church’s teaching, it kills the church itself along with its teaching.

Belief in universal salvation will, in all likelihood, remain in the future, as in the past, a private conviction nurtured among a deracinated intellectual elite, situated more on the fringes than in the center of the church’s life. The faithful en masse will not embrace this teaching. Jesus’s sheep know his voice, and a stranger’s voice they will not follow (John 10:5, 27). Universalism in the future, as in the past, will show itself as the self-negating, faith-undermining, church-neutering doctrine that it is. This theological species is heading toward extinction.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Eschatology

(LQ) Henry Freedland–Hell Breaks Loose: Searching for hope in a blazing world.

Around the turn of the eighth century, a sickly Anglo-Saxon monk known as Dryhthelm died in the early hours of a Northumbrian evening. Through the night his household mourned his passing. Then at dawn, as the sun returned, so did Dryhthelm, who sat up in bed with a start. All fled the undead man but his wife; she stayed, trembling in fright. “Do not fear,” he said. “I have been permitted to live among humankind once more,” and he told her what he had seen.

The journey in fleeting death had taken Dryhthelm down to a valley without end, one side of which was “terrifying with raging flames,” the other “equally intolerable owing to fierce hail and cold blasts of snow gusting and blowing away everything in sight.” Everywhere were “poor souls” who attempted to escape the intense heat by leaping into the cold and then, finding no respite, launched themselves back into the high flames to burn again. Surveying the “torture of this alternating misery,” Dryhthelm took the bilateral terror to be hell; he knew of its promised torment, its eternally unhappy agony. But his guide corrected the assumption: “Do not believe this, for this is not the hell you are thinking of.”

Dryhthelm was shaken—how could things be worse? Still farther he was led, to where the landscape grew gloomier, the covering sky even more eaten by darkness, where flames came spurting from a pit with a vile stench. He stood, “unsure what I should do or which way to turn,” unable to differentiate between the “wretched wailing” of souls and a “raucous laughter, as though some illiterate rabble was hurling insults at enemies they had captured.” Here it was at last: the infernal gloom, the precipice of damnation, the cries of suffering wretches, all the sorrowful punishments wielded by mindless, remorseless, contemptible hordes. Finally, the mouth of hell.

Dryhthelm’s story was recorded by his contemporary the Venerable Bede in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It is among the harrowing selections of the 2018 anthology The Penguin Book of Hell. Historian Scott G. Bruce, who collected the texts, gently proposes in his introduction that “the political calamities of the modern world have increased the currency of the concept of hell as a metaphor for torment and suffering.” From the “sulfurous and dark” mountain envisioned by the medieval Irish knight Tundale to the Nazi death camp Treblinka—about which the Russian writer Vasily Grossman commented that “not even Dante, in his hell, saw scenes like this”—the book traffics heavily in such horrid currency.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, History, Poetry & Literature

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon at Saint Helen’s, Bishopsgate: Wrestling with the biblical doctrine of hell

Listen to it all. Please note there are audio and video options and it can be downloaded. Be forewarned–it is NOT light bedtime listening–KSH.

Posted in * By Kendall, Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings

Yours truly speaking to the Renew Conference in Leeds Yesterday Afternoon

Posted in * By Kendall, Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Parish Ministry, Photos/Photography, Theology

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ‘Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way; it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope–hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian–I’m speaking for the Christian now–the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Evangelicals, History, Terrorism

Saturday Afternoon Food for Thought from CS Lewis

Posted in Eschatology, Theology: Scripture