Apocalyptic theology lives! a report from the diaspora

Friday, November 22, 2013

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.” Here is an example (slightly caricatured) of “if-then”: “If we develop our spirituality, make our ‘journey’ with sufficient discipline, work for peace and justice, welcome all people [and so forth], then God can ‘realize his dream’ of the Kingdom.” And here is “because-therefore”: “Because God has already done everything in Jesus Christ, therefore we are already on our way to do all the good works he has prepared for us to walk in” (Ephesians 2:10, beautifully 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.

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