Monday, October 11, 2010

Reasons to teach eschatology

'Eschatology' is just everything to do with the end - whether it's personal eschatology (what happens to me in the end?) or cosmic eschatology (where is the universe headed?) - and I think we downplay it more than we should.  Here are a few reasons why I think it is important that eschatology play more of a role in our teaching.

1.  If we don't teach people eschatology, someone else will.  I suspect that one of the reasons we don't talk about the end very much is because we don't want to be one of those loons who is always banging on about the end of the world.  However, to counteract an overemphasis by largely neglecting the subject is unlikely to work! I've met several people who have been won over to dispensationalist views just because nobody else ever gave them a framework within which they could think these issues through, or a way of interpreting Revelation that seemed to take the book seriously.  If we don't want people to pick up bad eschatology, we need to teach them good stuff.

2.  If we don't teach eschatology, people will be disappointed with the Christian life.  One corollary of our neglect of eschatology is that Christians don't understand hope, and don't understand that the best bits of the Christian life - sinlessness, seeing Jesus, freedom from suffering - are all in the future.  That means that we expect more out of this life than we are really promised, and that leads to disappointment.  Proper eschatology keeps us oriented to the future, with a hope and expectation that will not be disappointed.

3.  If we don't teach eschatology, people don't understand how to relate to the world.  What is a Christian approach to ecology?  How should I think about culture?  How much emphasis should we place on poverty relief and development (and which of those should be prioritised)?  All of these questions need a healthy eschatology to get a good answer.

I'm sure there are more...


  1. here's my 2 cents:
    1) everyone has an eschatology
    2) The cross is the end of the world as we know it (cf Peter Bolt, ch.3)
    3) the end of the world has come early

  2. Yes, all massively important.
    1... is key because we often think we're teaching into a vacuum, but we never are. We're always contradicting what people already believe, even if their beliefs are implicit and unspoken.

    2... is something I've been thinking a lot about in relation to 2 Cor 5 ("one died for all, therefore all died") which I think teaches me that the cross changes something about the whole world and everyone in it. For Paul, that's a motive to evangelism.

    3... is very NT Wright, and massively important for understanding why the gospel is such a big deal beyond my personal salvation.

    You should blog more, Chris, I love reading it.

  3. 1. yep, and to be honest, eschatology is well exciting. it's the drama we live in & live for.
    2. yep - now what's that something?! seems very easy to load one's own agenda into that vehicle but once you've heard two or three different loads in the same vehicle, you begin to wonder what paul was driving at...personally, I think it's something about the end times of the OT & the rebuilding of the temple (hence the 2 quotes in 1 Cor 1 from jer 9 & isa 29/1 kings)...but just a thought. Michael jensen's stuff on ethics & expectations seems to me to be right on the money on this - for what it's worth, I'm watching various spaces...
    3. yep - not least for christian discipleship: what is it to be human now? FWIW, I wonder what you make of this brief discussion

    re blog: very kind of you to say, I'd love to but im afraid I've had lots of other projects on the go, and have certainly filed away a fair few half baked thoughts along the way but I like to keep the blog for fairly well cooked thoughts - maybe I'll have time to put them back in the oven & finish them off at some point in december, but it's not looking likely till then!!

  4. I'm still working on what the 'something' is! In 2 Cor 5, I get the impression that Paul is saying that judicial death has actually fallen on all humanity in Christ; resurrection, though, is only through faith in the gospel. But I'm still working it out.

    Whatever has changed, a recurring theme seems to be that it is first and foremost invisible, and only secondarily and indirectly visible. So, flesh/mere humanity seems to me to be the sum of space/time existence as a visible human being. Paul thinks there is more than this going on with believers, to be perceived only by faith. Again, still working out what this means...