Monday, July 16, 2007

The End of History

The end of history has been the end-goal for the Christian Church almost since its inception. I say 'almost' because neither Jesus nor any of the apostles believed in it in the way we do. All that rich, eschatological language is metaphoric for very this-worldly events. I can't say more about that here, but there is plenty of good scholarly work about apocalyptic language and how the proper meaning of it has often been left behind.

When the Bible speaks of the "new age" or the "new heavens and new earth" it isn't imagining a place where there is no time. Being time-bound is part of our creatureliness, to transcend time (which doesn't make much sense anyway) would mean to no longer be human, but instead to be God (who has never been bound by time). Ah, here's the rub! Athanasius said it best in his On the Incarnation of the Word of God: "God became man, so that man might become God." Under the influence of pagan thought, as the Church steadily came under once the apostles were out of the way, the Church gradually lost touch of what the New Creation was to be about and why it is important that we are, and remain, human. Nowadays this translates to popular preachers and laity hoping for the end of existence as we know it--becoming disembodied souls who are eternal. In other words, to be as God.

However, being time-bound is a good part of being a creature. Our finiteness allows us to develop and mature, to become more conformed to the image of the Son of God. We need the ability to look back upon the past and not know all the details of the future. Otherwise, we are not human. The point of the incarnation, the resurrection, the ascension, and the parousia is to make us more, not less, human. What, then, does the Bible look forward to when this age fully ends and the next one finally supercedes it?

Not the end of history, the end of time, but the end of death. The structure of time is not corrupted by the Rebellion, but rather the direction that it takes. Instead of time being a blessing to mankind, time in which to laugh, love, build, plant, and harvest; it is instead a curse, a looking forward to its end in our individual lives. Instead of growth, there is decay. Is this time's fault? No, it is the curse of death. Death is the ultimate dehumanizer. When we die, we effectively become sub-human. That is why there is so much emphasis on resurrection in Scripture. Not the transcending of time or finitude, but instead transcending the ultimate limit of death, so that our humanness can flourish and God's good created world can finally prosper.

--To Anna and Paul--

1 comment:

Baus said...

Roy Clouser has an excellent essay entitled "Is God Eternal?" concerning God's relation to temporal reality.
doc file: IGE.doc

Revelation 10:6 says:
"oti cronos ouketi estai"
[that time no-more should-be]

If according to biblical eschatology the consummation involves a glorification...

Christ is creational pre-fall Man in his incarnation, but he becomes an advanced Eschaton-Man in his resurrection (and exaltation).
In Christ's glorification (which will be applied to the cosmos in the consummation) He does not restore "creational" status to redeemed humanity... rather, He transforms them to "eschatological" status.

The glorification of the temporal order in the consummated Eschaton will transform present temporal reality in such a way that what is now "time" will be no more. What it will be has not yet been revealed. Cf. 1 John 3:2