Participatory Eschatology

Participatory eschatology… I like this phrase… it’s theologically loaded, and requires further reflection…

While conventional eschatologies have inspired resignation (God’s in control; whatever is predestined will occur), fear (the world is falling apart, so we’d better circle the wagons and protect ourselves), apathy (the world is getting better, so let’s relax and party on), and aggression (God’s agenda is our agenda, so we have a mandate to impose our agenda on others, using any means necessary), this new participatory eschatology inspires the opposite. It inspires, instead of resignation, a passion to do good, whatever the suffering, sacrifice and delay, because of a confidence that God will win in the end. It inspires courage, rather than fear, because God’s Spirit is at work in the world and what God begins God will surely bring to completion. It inspires urgency, rather than apathy, because we are protagonists in the story, not mere pawns in a divine chess game or observers of a show whose outcome is already determined. And it inspires humility, not arrogance, because we are aware of our ability to miss the point, lose our way and play on the wrong side. This eschatology of participation produces an ethic of anticipation: we seek to have our present way of life shaped by our vision of God’s desired future. ~ Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity

And we’re not talking about the kind of future envisioned by the dispensationalists, arising from a literal interpretation of the book of Revelation, popularized through the ‘left behind’ series and conservative American evangelicalism. We’re talking about a future envisioned by many of the Old Testament prophets and Israel in exile, announced by Jesus in his gospel of the Kingdom, brought to fruition in his death and resurrection, lived out by Paul and the other apostles between the now and the not yet, to be consummated in the bodily resurrection, as well as the future new heavens and new earth.

The New Testament writers were not anticipating the ‘end of the world’ and the destruction of the space-time universe. They were anticipating ‘the end of the world as we know it’, and the beginning of a new spiritual-historical age or era. ~ Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity


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