The Beginning of Rethinking the End

Early depiction of IguanodonSome of my earliest memories are of reading books about dinosaurs. Perhaps it is because, to a child, dinosaurs are “other-worldly” creatures that invoke a considerable measure of awe and fascination. They cannot be seen in zoos or found in the wild, for all that is left of these creatures are their fossilized remains. So when a child sees pictures of dino-bones and the artist’s accompanying illustrations of what it may have looked like in real life (to varying degrees of accuracy), dinosaurs take on an entirely new dimension. What I find interesting is that when one compares artistic renditions of dinosaurs throughout the last 150 years, beginning with Benjamin Waterhouse Watkins’ 19th-century illustration in which the bipedal Iguanodon’s thumb spike ended up on the snout of a quadruped Iguanodon, our modern depictions of dinosaurs don’t even come close. Gone are the illustrations of “Ford Model T” dinosaurs – those sprawling, sluggish, tail-dragging reptiles with which we grew up. Instead, continued study over the last 50 years has refined our perception of how these mysterious creatures lived and breathed, resulting in a contrast so stark that the fast warm-blooded, feather-laden, therapods of today’s dinosaur-loving generation look like Lamborghinis by comparison.

As new Christians, armed with only the Bible from which to draw our mind-pictures, certain eschatological passages regarding the so-called “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ – upon a cursory glance – can invoke a similar reaction to that which those original dino-artists experienced. Our tendency as modern, 21st-century readers, informed by a woodenly literal hermeneutic, is to ignore the original “environment” in which those bones scriptures were originally buried written. That cursory glance, without the aid of deeper study and respect for certain literary genres, can produce “other-worldly” End Times scenarios and expectations that invoke just as much (if not more) awe and fascination as dinosaur bones do for children. The result of this is, I think, a vastly different picture of how and Christ’s Second Coming was originally understood and experienced. For most, it will take a significant amount of patient study – both biblical and extra-biblical – in order to shed the old paradigm in exchange for a new one. Ironically, it is our scientific mindset, bereft of any ancient Near Eastern paradigms or sensitivities to the concept of “audience relevance,” that has produced within the Christian community an eschatology that fails to recognize how, when, and why Christ returned. (No, my use of the past tense is not a mistake.) What may be even more shocking is that this scientific mindset existed within the Church from the very beginning, producing eschatological error almost from the outset.

It is because of similar (if not identical) errors that a overwhelming majority of today’s Evangelicals fails to claim explicit biblical promises meant for the here and now. Instead, we wait. And wait. And wait for those promises to be fulfilled. If the eschatology I began embracing nearly a decade ago is the correct one, then the catastrophic events that those in my worship community believe will precede the receipt of those aforementioned biblical promises will never come to pass. And we will continue to wait. To be sure, many find themselves heartsick as they approach the end of their mortal lives, having failed to witness the Day that they believed – with every fiber of their being – would surely come to pass before they tasted death (see Proverbs 13:12a). Without radical reformation of the current eschatological paradigm in which Evangelicalism finds itself, the Evangelical portion of the Body of Christ will always fail to live up to its full potential.

Just as I hope that my journey in “rethinking the αlpha” will help bring my fellow Christians to terms with evolution and propel them into a healthy respect for man’s scientific endeavors and a deeper love for the Creator, it is my sincere hope that my journey in “rethinking the Ωmega” will help bring my brothers and sisters in Christ to terms with the past and pave the way to a more prosperous future, both materially and spiritually.

2 Comments

Filed under eschatology, futurism, preterism

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cliff-Martin/1394612813 Cliff Martin

    You have provided us with an apt dinosaur metaphor of how people looking at the similar data can draw such diverse interpretations. In good science, we recognize the need for a healthy sort of tentativeness which expects to be refined, and brought into alignment with truth.

    Among readers of the Bible there exists similar diverse interpretations among those looking at the same data. But alas … the tentativeness is too often completely absent! Thank you for the reminder that, as we let the bones speak for themselves, so too we must learn to let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

  • Brian Byars

    I am very happy to have discovered your blog. We are on the same path, I believe. Having been brought up in Fundamentalism, I have in the past few years realized that so much of Genesis and Revelation have been wrongly interpreted for lack of context. I currently belong to a non-denominational congregation, but like to refer to myself as pre-denominational. It is so sad when fundamentalists and evangelicals insist that if you do not agree with their own misconceptions of theology that you must not believe the Bible. They are blind to their own heterodoxy.