Friday, September 16, 2016

Is God "Primarily Angry"? (5) - Eschatology

This is the 5th in a series of posts centered around the question of "Is God primarily angry?".

The 4 previous posts are here:
Is God "Primarily Angry" (1)
Is God "Primarily Angry" (2) - Defining Our Terms
Is God "Primarily Angry" (3) - Trinity
Is God "Primarily Angry" (4) - Cross


Throughout this series of posts, I've argued that those of us who do struggle with the idea of an angry God do so largely because of what we're told about God, not in spite of what we're told.

Some might think that the above distinction is just a matter of semantics....told vs. not told.  What we are told, after all, is necessarily an absence of something else being told.  I hope that this post will help to clarify what I mean.

This post (the 5th in a "series" that has been dragging on for far too long) is about eschatology, or the completion, purpose, and end of things.  It's a wide ranging and controversial topic.  I've been trying to to find a way to take a ton of thoughts and condense it into a post of reasonable length but just haven't been able to do it.

But suffice it to say, like the cross (atonement theology), eschatology is often ground zero for "angry God theology".  It's the fertile soil, maybe THE MOST fertile soil in which it grows and flourishes.  And I'd simply like to demonstrate an example of that in this post.

First though, one must recognize that eschatological thinking can't be dismissed outright as an irrelevant endeavor whose most zealous participants are a weird and freaky circus of dispensationalist hermits mining sacred texts for a road map of the future.  That is not eschatology.

Where is creation going?  What is the destiny of creation?  When the veil is pulled back, what do we see?  To the degree that we dare speak of the unknowable, what do we say?

These are eschatological questions.

As David Bentley Hart says,
"In the end of all things is their beginning, and only from the perspective of the end can one know what they are, why they have been made, and who the God is who has called them forth from nothingness."
Who is this God who creates, who brings forth something from nothing?  Eschatology is inseparable from this question, and this question transcends time.  To put it simply, eschatology matters for the now.  It creates a vision of the sort of world that is possible, the sort of world that lasts and triumphs because it's in harmony with the life of the One who created it.


The Biblical book of Revelation is often one of THE primary sources for this eschatological conversation.  And so we come to it - the content of a recent sermon at Lifespring:
"I want to demystify something right now.  The book of Revelation is not some weird thing that you should stay away from.  It is a book of victory.  It is the summation of all of the rest of the Bible.  It is the stamp that closes it and says "this is done".  It is done."
Pause here.

Importantly, this says nothing about HOW to interpret the book of Revelation.  That is NOT the point here.  But note the build up and significance being created.  It is a "book of victory".  So what is the nature of this victory?  It is the "summation of all of the rest of the Bible" and "the stamp that closes it".  So how does it end??

And so the sermon continues.
"It is done.  It's a book of know......well, put it this way.  It's either a book of victory if you're on God's side or it's the worst book ever written if you're not."
In the audio version of the sermon you can actually here the "chuckle chuckle" of the congregation.  Perhaps it's an uncomfortable chuckle.  Perhaps not.  In any case, it's a knowing chuckle.  A chuckle of familiarity.

The exact details may differ, but we all know what's being said here, right?

"The worst book ever written".  That is presented as "the summation of all of the rest of the Bible" and "the stamp that closes it".  Never mind that we recently sang "Mercy, mercy, as endless as the sea".  We didn't mean it.

And so concludes the tragic and dualistic story of creation, the end to which we are inevitably hurdling.  That is the revelation of the God who has called us forth from nothingness.

Think this doesn't have an impact on how a person sees God?  Sees themselves?  It might create an evangelical "urgency", sure.  But an urgency derived from what?

I want to be clear that I'm not trying to pick on my church.  I just want to note the depth to which an angry God permeates our thinking and is intertwined with a great many things that we say about God.

Can we really have this sort of an eschatological vision and say with a straight face that God isn't "primarily angry"? 

No, ultimately this vision requires an angry God.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

David Bentley Hart’s Inconsistent Triad (2): Comparing DBH to Tom Talbott

In my previous post, I identified an inconsistent triad in the essay  “God,Creation, and Evil: The Moral Meaning of creatio ex nihilo”...