Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Apocalyptic theology lives! a report from the diaspora"

An interesting new post from Fleming Rutledge's Generous Orthodoxy blog:
After spending a week at Princeton Seminary, talking one-in-one with students and meeting with two advanced seminars in the theology of preaching, I am amazed and grateful that the work I have been doing for so many years is not a solitary project being carried out in a corner, but is breaking out across the scholarly landscape. When I was at Duke last spring, I met a few young students who were intensely interested in apocalyptic theology, and I have been corresponding with a few more, but here at Princeton it is even more obvious that there is a real movement afoot. Students are reading not only the "fathers and grandfathers" (see my apocalyptic "family tree" on this website) but are beginning to do their own work. Two PhD students at Princeton left today for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion/ Society of Biblical Literature; they are both giving papers closely related to apocalyptic theology. At that meeting, virtually all the 3rd-generation apocalyptic theologians, or those who are more or less closely related to them, will be present to encourage (and critique) this fourth generation. Why is this important? Well, for those who believe that a dimension of the New Testament that had long been in eclipse is actually its center, it is exhilarating. Apocalyptic theology offers a way of preaching and teaching the gospel that brings us back to the earliest apostolic message and yet puts us in touch at the same time with what God is doing in the world. It frees us from the burden of "if-then" and lets us live "because-therefore" ("If I am sufficiently well-behaved, spiritual, active for justice [or whatever], God can 'realize his dream' of the Kingdom" vs. "Because God has already done everything in Jesus Christ, I am already on my way to do the good works he has prepared for me to walk in" (Ephesians 2:10 as interpreted in the Book of Common Prayer). Properly understood, the gospel liberates us for action, not because we believe that the coming Kingdom depends on our doing the right thing, but because we live according to the promise that God is already working through his servants to do the right thing, namely to bring his Kingdom to pass in his coming new creation. This is only a hint. There is much more! A search of this website will show several more entries explaining apocalyptic theology.

I did do the search she recommends here, and found this post from April of this year:  How apocalyptic theology changed me, which I'm reading now.   This second post starts out this way:
This is an interesting topic for me because it requires me to describe the way that an introduction to the apocalyptic interpretation of the New Testament required a thorough overhaul of my previous point of view—although it must be said that I had a semiconscious leaning toward it all along, having been a lover of God and the Bible all my life.

First I will list (again) three distinguishing factors in apocalyptic which I believe are sine qua non. (Others might make a different list. I have posted longer lists on my website, which can be found with a search for “apocalyptic.” In my forthcoming book on the crucifixion there will be a much longer discussion.) I will then move into a direct response to your questions.

The three are:
  1. The divine agency
  2. The active presence of an Enemy, or Powers, hostile to God
  3. The incarnation, life, cross, and resurrection of Christ understood as a novum, discontinuous with what has gone before

Very interesting so far.  I love point #1, to which the key is this sentence:  "When we read Scripture with “apocalyptic” eyes, however, we become aware that God is not an object of a search but an acting Subject."  

More about this second post later, once I've finished it.  I'm thinking quite a bit lately about some various and disparate ideas:  the 613 Mitzvot, Judaism in general, "the way we live now," philosophical vs. political systems, and a number of other things (including an attempt to understand and think about Utilitarianism!).   

Somehow they all seem to be related; not quite sure how that works yet.....


Caelius said...

I will be interested to see how your thoughts work together. I had an interesting discussion today that touched on views of the end of the Book of Revelation. We were disputing whether the final parts of it reflect the culmination of history (we finally will progress to the point that the powers are destroyed) or that it describes "a bailout from history." My guess is that Fleming Rutledge takes the second position. And while I'm not sure I agree with apocalypticism being as central as she puts it, I think we have neglected the possibilities of Biblical descriptions of "tribulation" being descriptions of historical crisis (and personal crisis), rather than speaking only about one end to history.

bls said...

I learned not long ago - you probably already know this - that krisis in Greek (I think that's κρίσις) translates as "judgement" - or "divine judgement."

I think I read this in one of Robert Farrar Capon's books, maybe. But it's interesting to think of this when considering the way we think of the word (and condition of) "crisis," I think; it sure does affirm the last idea you present there....

Caelius said...

I honestly had no idea about the Biblical usage of κρίσις. I had heard the word had come into English through the Hippocratic medical literature: "the crisis" is the turning point in the disease that determines whether the patient will leave or die. I think you'll find that usage in novels as late as the early 20th century. But the Biblical usage is as striking as you suggest.

Caelius said...

"Live or die."