Thursday, July 14, 2005

The War of The Worldviews

I've been doing some reading lately on worldviews. It seems to me that all worldviews are in their essence eschatological. This is true even of those people who have no faith to speak of. They believe that nothing happens at the end (and after) and consequently, the best of them tend to focus their energies on improving the quality of life on earth while others sink into nihilism. At the opposite end of the spectrum , is the group commonly referred to as the "Left Behind" crowd. This subset of Christians buys into an eschatology commonly known as premillennialism. Admittedly this is a gross oversimplification, but this is basically the belief that at some point all of the good Christians will be "raptured", or rather they will disappear from this "evil world" in order to be with Jesus in Heaven. After this takes place, there will be a period of "tribulation" in which things will get really, really bad on earth. According to this view, people sort of get a second chance to "come to Jesus" but it will be much harder and cost them much more from an earthly standpoint. During this tribulation period, the Antichrist (who is apparently one guy even though scripture points out that there are many antichrists). After the period of Tribulation is over Jesus comes back and sets up an earthly (political) kingdom, which exists for 1000 years, after which the earth is presumably destroyed and all the good people go to Heaven. The interesting thing is that this view was officially pronounced a heresy by Augustine and the early church fathers and only really came back in vogue with the publication of the Schofield Bible with its notes by John Nelson Darby. It is possibly now the most widely held eschatological view held by American evangelical Christians. There are several other millennial views, such as postmillennialism [the idea that Jesus will hold off his second coming until Christians have set up the Kingdom of God (presumably politically), and then, as with premillennialism, the earth will be destroyed and the souls of the Christians will go to Heaven.] Churches of Christ have traditionally held to Amillennial beliefs, which hold that most of the prophesies are figurative and we are in the (figurative) millennium now, which began with the establishment of the church (which in this view IS the Kingdom of God).

The problem with all of the popular views is that they basically buy into a dualism which views creation (everything physical) as evil (or at least not good) and only the "soul" and "spiritual things" as truly good. This is actually closer to Platonic (Plato's) thought, Buddhism, and classic gnosticism (while most christians reject the gnostic's story they still seem to buy several of their conculsions such as this dualism) than anything Biblical, much less Christian. As Rob Bell says, most Christians act as if their Bible begins in Genesis 3 (where things start going bad), but my Bible has 2 chapter before that full of God declaring Creation to be "good". If you look at what the Bible actually says(particularly in the prophets and then often quoted or referenced by Jesus), it repeatedly refers to this dream that God has for the world. The bible repeatedly points to a time when there will be "new heavens and a new earth" (in the original language "new" refers to qualitatively new i.e. renewed or renovated). Jesus prays that God's Kingdom would come, then defines what He means by restating the same idea as "your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." Romans 8:18-25 indicates that creation itself is groaning in anticipation of what God is going to do with the "sons of God" because creation itself has the same promise. Revelation 21 and 22 pictures a very different consummation of time where God comes down and makes his home with men (pay careful attention to the directional indicators in this passage). Jesus and Paul both continually refer to something they call the restoration or renewal of all things.

Worldviews that are informed by a "creation/matter is bad and only the soul/spirit is good (in general) care very little for this world instead turning their attention to only "spiritual" matters lsince none of this matters and will all be burned up(in stark contrast to 1 Cor. 3:10-15). However, the worldview informed by "The Restoration of All Things" eschatology believes that we are partnering with God in His dream for creation. We believe that God hasn't given up on this project, only to pull some good people out and scrap it (some victory that would be). We believe that what we contribute to God's project or dream will last forever (as will we). We believe that with God we are moving the world closer to what He dreams for it to be until, one day, Jesus returns to finally bring the dream completely into reality. We believe that everything matters. We believe that God made whole people,(not just souls) who will one day be resurrected as the firstfruits of Jesus' resurrection showed. The lenses we view the world through show it to be drenched with God. Fallen? Yes. Flawed? Surely. But drenched with the God who refuses to give up on his dream...who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves (or even Him for that matter.) Our lenses show the world to be a project that is going somewhere (and not a cosmic garbage can). What a difference a worldview makes! I may or may not have convinced anyone with this little rant. I can anticipate lots of "but what about..." questions. There are resources available that articulate this much better than I can. Still I will ask you to imagine a world where Christians held this worldview. Would it be different? Could it change the world? Could it draw the world? What if that was the idea all along?
AE
P.S. CLICK HERE for a passage dealing with the question of 2 Peter 3 from "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" by Michael Wittmer (pages 201-203, begin at the subheading "The End Is Near?")


16 comments:

Phil said...

I think that this is extremely interesting thinking and a heckuva lot more hopeful than the "Left Behind" thinking.

I especially like not viewing the world as a "cosmic garbage can."

Keith Brenton said...

Recently blogged on matters eschatological myself - and can't agree more that our worldview in this regard affects everything else in it.

Too often our view of "last things" is focused on only one or two scriptures or aspects of it, rather than the panoply; the wholeness of the prophecy.

I'm pretty sure I don't have it all put together in the right order yet, but I know that II Peter 3 isn't the whole story ... and in view of what Paul says (and with whom Peter agrees - v.15-16), it may be telling the same story a different way; that "everything" will be destroyed, but not necessarily every work.

Does that imply we need to concentrate on building up others instead of things? That at the renewal of all things the "things" themselves will be of little importance?

Good food for thought, and well-garnished, Adam!

Adam said...

Keith,
Thanks for the comments, my friend. It seems to me that Peter (in 2 Pet. 3) is actually painting a verbal picture akin to the refining or annealing process. In my view, you are quite on point when you talk about works not necc. being destroyed (indeed, the works that contribute to Gods project go on forever, while the selfish ones that don't are burned away). We sing songs like "Refiner's Fire" all the time in reference our own personal hearts (quite rightly). However the Bible seems to extend this metaphor even farther to include all of creation. The idea is that all that has been twisted by the fall and by satan will be burned away leaving only that which is of God and how God originally intended it to be. That is what the fire in 2 Pet. seems to me to be refering to. Some translation are unfortunatly (and I think unintentionally) misleading by inserting the word "destroy(ed)". This is a byproduct of translating word for word instead of translating the thought or word picture. Thanks for your thoughts.
AE

Fajita said...

This post will be destroyed when the antichrist comes.

Great words. When everything is valuable, then everything is worthy of love. Everything God made is valuable, therefore...

c said...

Nicely done. It seems so many things we do have eschatological implications, such as our sacramental theology that shapes us for the missio dei.

The image of co-creators or caretakers is powerful and helps with this worldview. I especially enjoy how creation (at the beginning) is seen as "good." Not 'good' in a Greek sense where everything was perfect, but more of Hebrew slant to the word. Thus 'good' breaks from our Platonic view of static and unbending perfection to a more vibrant and dynamic idea to creation. So all of creation is "in process" of growing to its intended purpose, its eschatological telos.

Anna said...

I can't believe you caught us forking you!!=-P But we got ice cream and cleaned up your yard so its all good.

theswordsman- Bill Jaimez said...

howdy, I have been reading your blog for some time, I found your comments interesting. I used to be dispensational but have since been leaning partial preterist. I would like to know more about this eschatolgical view, and would like to know the difference between it and the mormon view. If you could point out some refrences that would be helpful.

Adam said...

Bill,
Thanks for your comments. I'm not totally sure what the mormon view is (just never really studied it). I know the Jehovah's Witnesses also talk about the "New Earth". Of course, just because a group that I disagree with espouses a common idea with me doesn't discount the idea's validity. As far as references go, I listed several scripture references in my post and in another comment I posted earlier in reply to Keith. I highly reccomend that you pick up a copy of "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" by Michael Wittmer. I have links to this book both in the post and in my book store. You also might check half.com and see if you can get it cheaper. It is published by Zondervan, so you may be able to find it in your local Christian bookstore. (usually, you can read the first chapter as an excerpt on Amazon.com) Check it out and let me know what you think.
AE

Metz said...

I've been teaching our teen class on Sunday nights from the Book of Revelation. It seems to me that dispensational thinking has made the apocalypse much too sophisticated. To read Revelation the way that dispensationalists do is to rape the message of Revelation from its artistery and beauty. I like to view it more like a piece of artwork rather than a complicated text book. Our teens have really been getting into the text by drawing the picture and, instead of explaining away all the details, looking at them, appreciating them, and letting them speak to them in a language higher than words.

Check out Reclaiming a Heritage by Richard Hughes. He suggests that Barton W. Stone's writings were at their heart apocalyptic and that the heart of the Restoration Movement was an apocalytic orientation that urged its members to live in the future. Somewhere about 1960, Churches of Christ became convinced that the restoration process was over (largely allowing Alexander Campbell to speak louder than Stone according to Hughes), and apocalypic thinking was replaced by a mentality of protect the status quo. Apocalyptic thinking was lost, and it is good to see some of us are learning again to appreciate it. Here's a good quote to summarize Stone's apocalypic leanings from Hughe's, "He therefore sought to live his life as if the final triumph of the kingdom of God were a reality in this present world. This perspective lent Stone's faith a profoundly countercultural dimension." (128). I think I agree with you Adam that our eschatological direction ultimately affects all aspects of our life. If we live as though God has already won (something dispensationalists fail to see or at least emphasize) our churches would look much different than they do.

bigsip said...

I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you're saying. Are you referring to the Earth (this physical world we inhabit) as a place that will become the perfect home Jesus left here to prepare for us? If so, is Hell somewhere else or will it be physical, too? I am afraid apples and oranges may be mixed, here. If you juxtapose Matt 24: 37-42 with 1 Thess 4: 16- 5: 10 you begin to see not only a picture of a spiritual Heaven, but also the spiritual warfare we as soldiers of Christ carry on every day. Take this conjoined with Revelation and you see the picture of how we do battle. "Laying up our treasures in Heaven" also points to the fact that Heaven is a place separate from the world "where moth and rust destroy". I think we can look to the end of things physical and look forward to our spiritual, eternal home without losing the focus on the present. Good thoughts as far as hoping and praying for humanity, though. I think we are here to help make things better, but only God can make things perfect.

bigsip said...

Hi again! I have been studying a little more on this and took a look at Luke 20: 34-38. Jesus gives examples of how we'll be in the afterlife in this passage. We'll be "like the angels". Angels took on the form of humans many times in scripture, but had no physical limitations. They were spiritual beings who were created ex nihilo by a spiritual God. If we'll be "like" them, then we, too will be spiritual beings wholly without physical limitations. NOTE: I hope y'all know I'm saying all of these things out of a love and appreciation for you and your search and study of scripture. I enjoy comparing what we all learn and studying to show ourselves approved as workmen. We'll all get to Heaven (whatever and where ever that may be) by searching for and finding the Truth.

Adam said...

Josh,
Hey man. I'm not avoiding you. I'm in Texas/Mexico. The thing that really changed my mind on this was looking at the Jewish roots of these ideas and how Plato's ideas and gnostic concepts influenced the church's thinking. Paul goes to great lengths to get across the concept that we will be resurrected (a phenomenon which Jesus' resurrection was a "firstfruits" of). Scripture has to harmonize (as opposed to certain passages cancelling out others), and must be viewed in the context of the entire narrative. I agree with you that in a sense, we must just be on God's side to wind up in the "good place" (whatever that may be). On the other hand, what if, while heaven is a fact, it isn't the point? It seems to me that we make heaven sound more like nirvana that what the Bible describes.
AE

bigsip said...

Thanks for replying, Adam. I know you're busy. Hope the trip goes well. I understand what you are saying. It's evident in the OT that the afterlife is seen differently than we see it now. You even have the Sadducees mentioned in the NT and their non-belief in the resurrection. But, when Jesus came and was sacrificed and raised, the whole dynamic changed. I don't think gnosticism or Platonic philosophy plays much of a part in the areas of Jesus life or purpose. He made it clear that His Kingdom was "not of this World" John 18:36 (and echoed by the Hebrew writer in chapter 8: 1-6). Combine this concept with the concepts mentioned in my previous posts and the picture of Heaven becomes clearer. I agree that we are here for a purpose. However, I believe that purpose is to get to Heaven and bring as many people along as possible. We do that by "serving God and keeping his commandments" as Solomon said. Heaven is also mentioned many places in the OT as a place. I believe the Word, viewed in a holistic way, supports the idea that Heaven is a fully spiritual realm where the physical is done away with for something better. This world is passing away as John writes in 1 John 2: 15-21. The antichrist (commonly referred to as the spirit of the antichrist) is simply anyone who stands against Christ or preaches contrary to His teachings. Man, I guess I could go on and on, but my point is that Jesus died and was risen to a new life; an eternal, spiritual life. We have gone through a spiritual metamorphosis through baptism, the baptism of fire that we must deal with every day as Christians fighting for our souls and others' souls, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which I believe I undergo everytime I delve into God's perfect Word. The culmination will be on that day when Jesus appears in the air, the dead in Christ rise, and those who are still living are caught-up in the air to live in Heaven forever. The point is to go and preach and love and tell people that there will be something better, newer, and more perfect than this world. The harder we try to use social and political action to utopianize this flawed world, the worse it will become. God has already made that which is perfect and we can't beat that. But, we can try our hardest to help people realize that it is there and that faith (the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen) makes us know it is real, just like God is real. I'm afraid that keeping the focus here instead of "setting our minds on things above" will only bring a focus on ourselves and our desires rather than the true, beautiful faith and seeking life that God desires. I know I've written a lot, sorry. I love the Lord, His Word, and people (both Christian and non-Christian). I hope you all understand that my disagreemeent is out of love and a desire to explain what I see laid out in God's Word. I am interested in your view and all of the supporting scripture that would point to it. The scriptures I've seen so far appear to speak directly about the end of all things physical. The baptism by fire (annealing process) is something we constantly endure as Christians. Hope the trip goes well and many are saved! Take care and blog more. I enjoy discussing the Word and it's depth and beauty.

Adam said...

Josh,
Hey man. I appreciate your heart on this. I have laid out my case and you have laid out yours. I actually used to argue your case with much the same reasoning. What I've written so far is my case now. I have pointed to several other resources that you may look up if you'd like to research it more from my perspective (or at least people who are coming from roughly the same place). You and I are just looking at this through different lenses and may be at an impass. Thanks for your input. I look forward you further comments and discussion from you.
AE

Adam said...

Josh,
I just realized that perhaps I should clarify something. I believe that the "dead in Christ" will go to Heaven when they die. As Dallas Willard says "What else would God do with his friends?" When we talk about resurrection, I am talking about what N.T. Wright refers to as "life after life after death."
I believe (based on scripture) that one day, as Jesus prayed for, God's Kingdom will come and His Will will be done on earth as in Heaven," or as the hymn says "Earth and Heaven (will) be one."
AE

bigsip said...

Yeah, I think we see it differently. I also believe that people go to Heaven when they die. It makes sense that they would. My belief in a spiritual realm apart from this universe comes from everything I see pointing toward it. I have read several of the same philosophies you cited above before. Dualism and the belief in a spiritual-only Heaven are not mutually bound, though. I also think that God's will being done on Earth applies more to the present than the future. Earth and Heaven being one is not unidirectional, either, I think. Perhaps the concept has more to do with us being a part of Heaven than Heaven being a part of us. That gives me hope beyond anything. In fact, it makes me very sad to think of Heaven otherwise. My vision of Heaven (and the vision I believe the Bible shows) is a place where nothing physical binds us or limits us. "No one has seen the Father" as Jesus says. Why is that? It's becuase of our physical inability to handle it. However, if we are spirit, we won't only see the Father, but the son and the Holy Spirit in glory. More than that, we will be one with them. We'll be attached directly to the source of infinite knowledge, wisdom, love, power...everything! It's awesome to think of and I believe with all my heart that Heaven is a place beyond what we can hope for or imagine, so it HAS to be greater than my vision of what it will be. It's impossible for it to be any less. Anyway, I just enjoy the dialog...I don't think our eschatological views (as I have seen them) are going to save or condemn us. We both believe in Heaven and Hell and serving God and saving souls. We both believe that if we stick with God, our lives will be richer, fuller, and eternal. In any case, I suppose we should just agree to disagree. I beleieve that Christians must respect each other's search for truth and continue to "work out their own salvation with fear and trembling". Will we ever know all the answers? LOL! Yeah, right! But, it's the search through the Word that leads us into all Truth...and when we are eventually an integral part of that Truth in God with Him forever, we'll know, and I think we'll all be more surprised about the things we thought we knew than we thought we would. Won't that be great?!