Archives For Eschatology

crackers-and-grape-juice-beer-camp-editionWe never tire of working for you at Crackers & Grape Juice, and before you complain about the audio quality in #60 just remember we do this for you gratis in our spare time.

We’ve got two episodes that dropped early this week.

For Episode #60, the C&GJ posse got together to argue about Advent and my assertion that we’d be better off focusing on the second coming not during Advent but as part of the Ascension.

For Episode #61, Morgan spoke with Ana Yelsi Sanchez and Alicia Crosby about their experience as women of color at the Standing Rock protest.

Just a reminder:

The Cracker & Grape Juice team will be part of Home-brewed Christianity’s Theology Beer Camp this January in L.A..

battle-of-the-podcasts
Want to join us?
All you need to do is head over to theologybeercamp.com, click the button to buy tickets, and use the discount code below to receive $100 off:
BLITZEN4JESUS
But this discount will only be good through Christmas!

Be on the lookout for future episodes with Father James Martin and Mandy Smith.

You can download the episode and subscribe to future ones in the iTunes store here

We’re breaking the 1K individual downloaders per episode mark. 

Help us reach more people: 

Give us 4 Stars and a good review there in the iTunes store. 

It’s not hard and it makes all the difference. 

It’ll make it more likely more strangers and pilgrims will happen upon our meager podcast. ‘Like’ our Facebook Page too. You can find it here.

Oh, wait, you can find everything and ‘like’ everything via our new website: www.crackersandgrapejuice.com

If you’re getting this by email, here’s the permanent link to the episode.

HBC_Covers_EndTimes_FINAL_2.25.16Teer and I recently had the privilege of interviewing Jeff Pugh on his new book The Home-brewed Christianity Guide to the End Times: Theology After You’ve Been Left Behind

I first “met” Jeff through his book Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times. If you’ve been duped into reading that crap Eric Metaxas book on Bonhoeffer then here’s an alternative.

Jeff is an ordained United Methodist Elder in Virginia and teaches Religious Studies at Elon College. If I have anything to say about it, he’s going to be a Crackers and Grape Juice Regular as we seek to develop an East Coast flavor for Tripp Fuller’s Home-brewed Christianity family.

Everyone knows someone who subscribes to what Jeff likes to call “batshit crazy” theology about the eschaton. Take a listen so you can learn to understand your sister-in-law, co-worker, or neighbor.

You can download the episode and subscribe to future ones in the iTunes store here.

We’re up to 15K listeners now.

We’ve got more listeners per episode than the average UMC has on Sunday am.

In fact, if podcasts were churches, we’d be the pastors of one of the largest United Methodist Churches in the world.

Even better, we do this s#$% gratis, in our own free time just because we think ordinary people in and out of the church need conversations about God, faith, and life without stained-glass language.

So PLEASE…

Give us 4 Stars and a good review there in the iTunes store. It’s not hard and it makes all the difference. 

It’ll make it more likely more strangers and pilgrims will happen upon our meager podcast. ‘Like’ our Facebook Page too. You can find it here.

Again, special props to my friend Clay Mottley for letting us use his music gratis. Check out his new album.

If you’re receiving this by email, here’s the link to the podcast: http://www.spreaker.com/user/crackersandgrapejuice/episode-28-leaving-left-behind-behind

 

image001This past Sunday for our Leaving Left Behind Behind series we thought through the ‘rapture,’ the (un)biblical notion when the Risen Christ comes again believers will ‘meet him in the air’ and then…go somewhere else.

The problem with the rapture isn’t only that it’s a willful misreading of 1 Thessalonians 4 on which the idea is purportedly based, the problem is with its understanding of the someplace else to which we’ll be raptured.

The bigger problem with the rapture is heaven.

Our everyday notions of heaven do not come close to the hope the bible gives us.

Heaven it should be said straight away is not a place.

Heaven merely names God’s presence in its fullness.

So heaven isn’t a place because God isn’t a place.

When it comes to heaven there’s no ‘there’ there to which we can be raptured.

So the Christian hope is not of heaven as a destination of souls; it’s for the consummated reign of God. The God who made us to desire God and God’s Kingdom ultimately gets what God wants.

The Christian hope is for the creation declared ‘good’ to be renewed (Rev 21). This New Creation is finally what the Garden of Eden could not be: a place where God and God’s creatures dwell together. It’s as if what God wants is for us to join him in the life of the Trinity but there’s not enough room- New Creation is the space required for God’s desire.

     The Christian hope then is not for the rescue of the few worthy souls left after Armageddon.

It’s not escape from a swiftly sinking planet.

It’s the fulfillment of God’s original creative intent.

It’s the completion of Cross and Empty Tomb: the reconciliation of all things.

For ‘Heaven’ as in God’s fullness to come once and for all to Earth.

All things; so that, what was done at Eden is forever undone.

Communion with God is restored. Communion with one another is restored. Communion with creation is restored.

For this reason, all the imagery scripture uses to speak of heaven is profoundly communal: a new heaven and earth, a new Jerusalem, a marriage feast, a choir of countless people from every language.

Again, the Risen Jesus is our grammatical rule when speaking of eternal life. Whatever eternal life is it’s like what we find in the Easter Jesus. His bodily self is somehow restored. His life in the goodness of creation is renewed. His communion with the Father is consummated. His broken relationships (with Peter and the disciples) is reconciled.

As John Polkinghorne says, the old creation contained sacraments in it (ie, signs pointing to God). The New Creation is a sacrament. As Paul says, God will be ‘all in all.’

     As Robert Jenson says, ‘the End is music.’

To summarize:

Heaven = God’s presence in its fullness

Therefore in the immortal and slightly redacted words of Belinda Carlisle: Heaven is not now but will one day, on the Last Day, be a place on Earth.

Which makes this bit from comedian Louis CK all the more prescient:

Warning, his language makes me sound like Rev Dimmesdale.

image001I continued our Leaving Left Behind Behind series this weekend by talking about the rapture. Since the rapture is a topic over which many Christians disagree I thought a faux debate would be appropriate so this sermon follows our Au Contraire Mon Frere format.

I had friends of a theological bent send us eschatological assertions. We spun a carnival wheel and whatever number we landed on we took a pro/con position on the statement.

Facing off against for au contraire was Marco Santangelo, the chief librarian at the George Washington Presidential Library and Princeton Seminary grad. My lemming, Teer Hardy, MC’d the event.

If you like what you hear here, check out Pub Theology this Thursday night at Forge Brew Works when Marco will be our special guest for ‘How Do We Live in American When We have a King?’

You can listen to the rapture edition of Au Contraire below or on the sidebar to the right.

You can download it in iTunes or through the free mobile app.

 

image001We’re continuing our Leaving Left Behind Behind series this Sunday by talking about the rapture.

One of the dangerous delusions suffered by biblical literalists is the fantasy that their reading of scripture is one shared by the historic Church.

In case you’ve been spared the straight-to-video, Kirk Cameron Left Behind films, the rapture is the belief that prior to the last judgment the saved will be taken up in to heaven by Christ, leaving all the other unlucky bastards behind to deal with the mess that the PO’d returning Messiah will dole out.

Unknown-1Kirk Cameron’s not the only reason the Left Behind movies are terrible. As far biblical doctrines go, the rapture is thin, ridiculous and contrary to the larger biblical narrative.  The rapture might make for good pulp fiction but it’s antithetical to the greatest story ever told. After all, scripture begins with God declaring his creation ‘very good.’ It continues with God promising to Abraham to make it so again. Israel, Christ and Church are all links in the scriptural chain the ends, in Revelation, where it all began: in a Garden. New Creation.

Escape from creation doesn’t fit the story.

Worse, the rapture is a belief premised exclusively upon an almost willful misreading of a solitary text:

For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever.” 

– 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17

The allusion St Paul makes here is to the arrival of a victorious, conquering military leader. Those who wished to celebrate the victory would rush out beyond the city to greet the coming hero. Think: Palm Sunday.

This would not have been unsubtle allusion to the Thessalonians who in Paul’s lifetime had experienced such entrances (invasions) by Pompey and Augustus.

The rapture mistakenly supposes that the coming Jesus has some other destination in mind.

Another leg of the journey.  A connecting flight.

But the ‘cloud’ imagery is a clear echo of Daniel’s vision in which the Son of Man comes on the clouds when God has given him dominion- not of heaven- but the Earth. Christ returns not to whisk souls away to heaven but to rule the New Creation.

On earth as it is in heaven.

As Brian Zahnd points out to read this text as a rapture of believers to heaven is like waiting at the airport terminal for a returning soldier- waiting with your own bags packed as though as soon the solider arrives home you will all be hopping on another plane for another destination.

UnknownNot only is the rapture of biblical literalists a willful misreading of the text, it’s an unhistoric reading of the text. Credited to John Nelson Darby, the rapture dates only to the mid-19th century.

It’s a modern belief.

Guess what else dates to the same approximate time period?

Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Contrary to popular belief, Christians did not initially have a problem with evolution. Few Christians in the historic tradition ever held to a literal reading of the creation story. That God would use evolutionary means for the process to which Genesis gives poetic expression wasn’t a hard pill to swallow.

Natural selection was a different animal. The notion that violence and suffering was woven into the very fabric of existence seemed to contradict the most basic conception of God as Love. No longer was it axiomatic for believers to see the world as a sacrament to God’s loving glory.

‘Creation’ thus became ‘nature.’

Nature that was, Darwin had pointed out, red in claw and tooth.

No longer charged with God’s grace, the world came to be seen in the 19th century as a closed-system of purely mechanical, material processes.

It was in this new zeitgeist that Darby’s rapture theology took off in American Protestantism. Around the same time God had been vacated from the earth, Protestants started looking for the day when they would be evacuated for heaven. The core biblical theme that God through Christ will redeem this world gets lost when you no longer see this world as ‘creation.’

So not only is the rapture unbiblical and unhistoric, it turns out that the rapture is also a ‘liberal’ belief.

Rapture theology accepts the basic assumption of liberal modernism:

God is fundamentally absent from the present world.

Of course, by ‘creation’ the ancient Christians never meant the processes behind the world’s beginnings. Rather Creator is our answer to the question ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?’ A question no species’ origin can ever answer.

The rapture may be bulls$% as theology, but it does point out one needful lesson: the bible’s primary plot of creation-redemption-new creation falls apart once you stop seeing the world around you- even the reddened claws and teeth- as charged with the glory of God.

IMG_1411One of the happy accidents of this blog is that I know have ‘friends’ whom I’ve never met save this space here.

One of the downsides of making such friends- the same downside that comes with working for or belonging to any congregation- is that I find myself mourning with or for such friends.

A friend of this blog recently lost her young son in a car accident. Her brother is a real-life, flesh-and-blood friend of mine, whose faith I admire- though his character is such he’d insist it should be the other way ’round.

Her brother, my friend, ‘Ben’s Uncle,’ wrote this reflection about his nephew’s funeral service. It’s a beautiful (made me weep) testimony to grace and our ultimate hope.

Mike had the grace to share it with me and the trust to let me share it with you. If you do me any favors in the back end of ’13, let it be this:

Read…

Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written.  But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.”  And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.  2 Chronicles 30:18-20

The Gathering Place in the church was bright—lots of windows.  There was a beautiful arrangement of flowers prominently displayed, sent from out of town, and bearing the condolences of family in a distant location.  The mood was subdued—not somber—just subdued.  The immediate family had gathered, and then the friends began to arrive—two groups of friends.  The friends of the family tended to be older—though not exclusively so.  Many had known Ben as he was growing up.

Many were members of the church where Ben’s parents were long-time members.  Some were members at the church where Ben’s grandparents were members and where Ben had participated in youth activities.  The other group—Ben’s friends—seemed youngish to me.  But then most people seem youngish to me these days.

My sense was that they were vaguely ill at ease, worried about being out of place in an unfamiliar environment, wondering, perhaps, how the Ben they knew fit in with these family friends who were right at home in church.  As you would expect, the two groups tended to cluster with their own in the large, open room: the respectable, pillar-of-the-community folks in small groups; and small groups of 21st century James Dean types, both men and women.  They were all well dressed for this memorial service for someone they all knew and loved.  But peeking out from under the sleeves or above the necklines of the young friends was a moving gallery of art.  And some of the ink wasn’t peeking; it was right out there, expansive, striking even.

I have to admit that I find tattoos off-putting.  A long-engrained prejudice.  I tried hard not to judge but could hardly help it.  As I was standing in the receiving line, a young woman held out her hand to me, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the extensive tattoo on her upper arm and shoulder.  But as she said her name—Elise—my eyes snapped to hers.  I knew the name, but not the person.

Just a few days earlier, Elise had gone to the place where her friend, Ben had been killed.  She went looking—looking for a license plate that she hoped had survived the crash.  She knew that little piece of metal had special meaning for Ben—and for Ben’s grandfather.  After a long search, and as she was about to give up, she looked down at her feet, and there it was.  She took it away with her, framed it, and gave it to Ben’s grandfather.  The awkwardness of the moment, there in the line, faded.  We hugged each other, and she moved down the line.

We spent an hour and a half in the Gathering Place, but it was that few seconds with Elise that I was thinking of when the doors of the sanctuary opened up, and the family went in to take our seats.  Those few seconds are prominent in my thinking now, weeks later.  The sanctuary was packed—about evenly split between the two groups.

We sat and listened to a wonderful service—beautiful music, readings from scripture, words of comfort and assurance from the pastors.  All the while, the two groups sat behind us—each person, no doubt, with their own thoughts of Ben.  With their own thoughts of what it meant to be in that place—a place of worship.

Looking back now, I marvel at these two groups, mingled in the pews.  The “good” people and the “maybe not so good” people.  The establishment people, easy to spot in their manicured neatness.  And the renegades, a little rough around the edges and sporting a bunch of body art.  But every one of them was there to remember Ben.

And Elise has become something of an emblem of that day for me.

I don’t know her.

I don’t know what kind of life she lives.

I do know that I judged her when I saw her in that receiving line—once in the negative, and seconds later, very differently.

What a heart!  What a sense of kindness and love!

I very nearly didn’t see that.  It was hidden to my eyes, hidden behind some ink.

And if her goodness was hidden to me, surely everyone in that room—including me—was concealed by some form of camouflage.

But we serve a God who sees through it all—the first time.  A God who knows full well who he created us to be.  And a God who has promised to finish the good work he started in us.  My prayer is that every time we open our eyes, we will see people though his eyes.

That’s our best hope.

For Ben, who was at home with everyone in those pews….

“Because I don’t have to be the old man inside of me;
His day is long dead and gone….” 
Redeemed

If you’re one of those millions out there convinced that if Barack Obama/Mitt Romney gets elected in November all is lost, your way of life is jeopardized, and the future is surely dim then you have what we call a…

 THEOLOGICAL PROBLEM

Need an explanation?

Here’s a great post by Peter Enns:

Before we get going here, let’s be clear on what

I.am.saying.

and what

I.am.not.saying.

This is not a cynical, “I’m above it all,” anti-political rant.

I am not telling you both candidates are the same.

I am not telling you not to vote.

I am not telling you to stop arguing about politics and coming to strong convictions. Have at it.

I am saying that if you get so worked up about it that you become really angry, or you actually “fear for our country,” or are thinking of moving to Greenland or freezing yourself if “that guy” gets elected, you may need to step back and think about what’s happening inside of you.

You can and should be genuinely concerned about health care, our economy, and many other issues–there are issues of justice and compassion.

But, listen for the rhetoric in others and in yourself.

If you fear for your way of life, that if the wrong person gets elected all is lost and you simply don’t have any hope for your future or the future of your children, you have accepted what we like to call in the industry a “rival eschatology.”

I’ve just lost half of you, but hang with me.

All political regimes are utopian. Communist, socialist, fascist, monarchic, and democratic. All of them. They all make promises to be the ones who will deliver the goods. They all promise that, without them, you are lost. They all claim to have “arrived,” to represent the culmination of the human drama, to be the true light, a city on a hill, that which bring you and all humanity true peace and security.

That is what “eschatology” means. It doesn’t mean “end of the world” in some video game apocalyptic scenario.

Eschatology means: “We have brought you to where things are as they should be. You are at the place where you can now–finally–have reason to hope. Trust in us. Fear not.” Eschatology means the pinacle of true humanity, where wrongs are righted, all is at peace, and the human drame comes to its fullest expression.

They all say that.

When we fear, or rage, or are depressed about politics, it means we have invested something of our deep selves into an “eschatology”–into a promise that all will be well, provided you come with us.

Christians can’t go there, because Christianity is an eschatology.

And I’m not talking about going to heaven or escaping the world we live in. Many Christians on both sides of the aisle work hard in the world of politics to bring about justice and with deep conviction (even if Christians disagree strongly on how that should be done). This is good and right.

But Christians should not adopt the rival eschatology that this or any political system or politician is of such fundamental importance that the thought of an election turning sour or the wrong laws being passed mean that all hope is lost.

There is a huge difference between saying, “That person would make a horrible president for the following reasons,” and “If he is elected, I just don’t know what I will do, where I will go–how we can carry on.”

The Christian never says the latter, because, regardless of where things play out politically, we know that no political system can actually deliver the goods, try as they might.

This is what the first Christians were taught about the Roman Empire, which promised its citizens peace, grace, justice, protection from enemies–all of which was called “salvation” (that’s the word that was used at the time). The Gospel offered an “alternate eschatology,” where the goods were delivered, not though the power of the state but through suffering and enthronement of King Jesus.

Hence, the rhetoric of the book of Revelation, the paradox of the slain lamb of God (Jesus) exalted above every earthly power. Hence, St. Paul’s claim that our “citizenship is in heaven”–not “up there somewhere” but the kingdom of God come to earth in the crucified and risen messiah, which is never caught up in political systems, but stands ready to work with them or deeply critique them depending on what is happening at the moment.

This entire line of thought goes back to the Old Testament prophets. They preached, harassed, and annoyed Israel’s leaders not to fear the nations around them, nor to trust that the any of them will make things right and give Israel lasting peace. They were much more critical of  Israel’s own leaders when they set up a “rival eschatology,” by promising to deliver the goods through military strength or savvy political alliances rather than following God’s path. The prophets said, “hope is elsewhere.”

If you are watching political ads, speeches, debates, and you find yourself growing fearful, angry, or depressed (the latter two are often rooted in deep fear), remember that your true trust is elsewhere.

Remember your eschatology.

Here’s the post

I’m sitting at the pool near the diving well. I’ve got a book on my lap and my laptop open in the front of me. I look like I’m working probably but really I’m watching my boys. I like to watch when they don’t think I’m watching. They’re freer and less self-conscious then.

They’re doing silly dives. Alexander is encouraging Gabriel not to be afraid. Gabriel is belly laughing at himself. The pool, as its late August, is quiet and slow. It is, it would take little effort to prove to you, a perfect moment. It’s moments like these, ordinary graced moments that convince me that anyone not convinced by God is willfully blind. Any God worth believing in, I think, has to be a God who can make the mundane- not just the holy- redemptive.

In Christian theology, ‘eschatology’ means literally ‘to talk about the end things.’ If you’re a fan of the Left Behind series (I’m not) you’re familiar with eschatology. Its where theologians group our beliefs about heaven, hell, eternity and what future we have in God.

One very important aspect of eschatology is that with Jesus inaugurating the Kingdom in his earthly ministry, there are pockets of our heavenly future available to us in the present. Indeed this is what we say in the Great Thanksgiving when we celebrate the eucharist- that our feasting is foretaste of our future at God’s wedding banquet.

But I don’t think such moments are only available to us at the communion table or even at church. After all if God really took flesh in Jesus then, on some level, all of the created world is charged with grace, all of it participates in some way in God and any moment, like this one now here at the pool, can be connected as surely as ligament to whatever future God has in store.