Posts Tagged ‘eschatology’

Darwin, Jesus, Nietzsche, and the Pope

August 1st, 2009 No comments

What does not kill me makes me stronger.  ~ Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.  ~ Nietzsche, The Antichrist

Nietzsche.   I can’t believe it took me so long to put my finger on what’s been bugging me but that’s it.   As someone who came to church with evolution already installed, I’m particularly interested in how Darwin and evolution get discussed in that context.  Before I go any further let me admit that I’m open to being totally wrong, I’m open to the fact that Genesis absolutely can be read in a way that precludes the evolutionary process completely.   I also admit that pre-Fall animal pain and suffering is a problem for theists.   On the other hand, post-Fall animal pain and suffering is also a problem for theists who bother to examine it closely.   When addressed fully, that’s a huge topic that I’m not yet comfortable tackling here.  This post, then, is about one aspect of the church meets evolution relationship, and basically it comes down to telos, or ultimate aim. Read more…

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

July 28th, 2009 No comments

“The nations raged,
but your wrath has come,
and the time for judging the dead,
for rewarding your servants, the prophets
and saints and all who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”” (Rev 11:18 NRSVS)

… “and for destroying those who destroy the earth” …

Read more…

Evolution, Design, Killing, and Christianity

June 12th, 2009 No comments

My pastor recently did a multi-week series on the topic of the interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1.  His purpose was not to tell us how we should think but only to show that there are different faithful interpretations; broadly speaking they are metaphorical, 6 literal 24 hr. days, and something called the day age interpretation.  Shortly thereafter we had a guest speaker, the author of the book “Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Inspires Faith“.   Again, none of this was in order to standardize belief for our congregation but to allow room for discussion on a topic that is usually polarizing to the point of paralysis.

All supremely good and brave stuff.

Here’s my take.  My educational background is equal parts anthropology and psychology.  I’m all about evolution.  That’s not a problem.  My problem is highlighted by two of the comments/questions that were posed during the question and answer time after the author spoke.  They were something along these lines:

  1. “I heard that cooking meat is what made us have bigger brains and that’s essentially what made us the humans we are today.”  – maybe not the exact words but something about eating cooked meat makes us human.
  2. “We’re different from animals because animals don’t fear death, they will lay down and bare their throats to the blade.”  – that one’s more close to the actual wording, it was so disturbing it’s easier to remember.

Read more…

Left Behind with God the Garbage Man

April 18th, 2009 No comments

In her article, “Murder in the Theme Park: Evangelical Animals and the End of the World”1, Kristin Dombek lays out a critique of the intersection of apocalyptic thought and secular humanism as it gives birth to popular Christian entertainment like the Left Behind fiction series and the Holy Land Experience theme park.  Great Read.  A few selected excerpts …

In current mainstream Western culture, of course, the ritual sacrifice of animals is taboo (and, in an inversion of the sacrificial logic of “primitive” cultures, considered violent), while killing animals for eating is commonplace (and not considered violent); in performance, though, the two look uncomfortably similar.

The Left Behind series has only one scene depicting animal sacrifice, and the depiction is damning.  The Antichrist’s performance of the abomination of desolation, staged in book nine of the series, Desecration (laHaye and Jenkins 2002), involves slaughtering a “gigantic” pig in a parody of Jesus’ triumphal entry … he attempts to butcher the pig, but fails.  “Pity!” he exclaims; “I wanted roast pork!” thus conflating the sacrifice with slaughter for the sake of eating (163).  Like the sacrifice in general, the novel represents this conflation as an abomination.

In the end, it is our dependence on our difference from nonhuman animals that allows us to think apocalyptically without figuring our own extinction as a real possibility.  But it is a difference we earn by identifying with some animals we love, as if the violence they survive is not our own.

And so it is that by reading closely these Christian texts and performances, we come full circle to the same enemy that conservative Christians have positioned themselves against during the 20th century and now the 21st: humanism.  The impulse for such positioning came in part from a recognition of the bankruptcy of a vision that left humans alone in a world in which all else was simply not human, and therefore not meaningful.  Rightly, fundamentalists wanted us to realize that we are no gods of this world.  But the Left Behind series – as the clear fulfillment of this tradition -posits the most deeply humanist vision of all: the utopic feast, after God reaches down and cleans up all that humans have done.  This final image shows us just how secular conservative Christianity can be: for Christians to enjoy all the consumer pleasures that secular humanism has allowed citizens of capitalism, but escape responsibility for the violence upon which global capitalism depends, God must be demoted to garbage man.

I would add “butcher” to that.  Part of her discussion is how, in the series, the kingdom is represented as a place where animals literally volunteer to be butchered.  Talk about a guilty conscience.  The authors of the Left Behind vision of the kingdom unveil the heart of the matter specifically by their fantasy portrayal of being able to kill without guilt.  That’s what they think the kingdom is about?  Being able to kill without guilt?  Our biggest claim to fame is the fact that we have a conscience in the first place and yet the most popular bit of Christian fiction ever portrays the kingdom as the time when “we” will finally get to kill animals without being burdened by a guilty conscience – because animals will want us to kill them.  Does that sound familiar?  That’s the “she wanted it” defense played out in pop theology against the other creatures who share the breath of God.

… the utopian butchering depicted in the series’ final pages is easy, relatively clean, and divinely ordained.  … In the millennial kingdom, then, no longer do humans have to hunt, for all animals are docile and turn themselves over for killing whenever humans need food.  Now that the Beast is gone, humans will no longer need to be martyrs; the only skin to be cut, the only bodies slaughtered and on display, will be those of nonhuman animals.

The tone is unmistakeable … that which the authors of this book (this theology) want to “consume” will finally quit complaining, quit struggling, be docile and just give themselves over to the authors appetites.  Do Christian women see this?  Can we acknowledge all the victims of Stepford Theology (animals and certainly men too) or do we care only in so much as it suits a particular slice of feminist agenda?

1. originally published in TDR: The Drama Review 51:1 (T193) Spring 2007 © 2007

It’s not about sissy

February 8th, 2009 No comments

So along with the idea that manhood is about predation goes the idea that the only alternative to predation is sissy.  False choice.  

Contact sports are violent.  That’s ok because it’s between willing participants.  If two people (men or women) want to get into a ring and beat each other senseless, I say have at it.  If that’s what two willing adults want to do then go for it.  Football, mixed martial arts fighting, it’s all good.  In fact I’d rather watch Ultimate Fighting than boxing any day.  Those guys don’t mess around.  No thickly padded gloves, just mano a mano.  But that’s not predation.  It’s fair because they both know what they’re getting into, they both have the choice to be there or not, they both want to be there … it’s no coincidence to see this is the same line that demarcates the difference between rape and consensual sex.

Humanity bringing order to chaos is not the same thing as humanity mirroring predation.  Predation is part of the chaos.   Let’s stick with the sports metaphor.   We know deep down what qualifies as unfair advantage.  Boxing divides men into different size/weight categories.  It wouldn’t be sport if a Heavyweight went into the ring with a Featherweight.  In a real way that would be predation.  There would be no honor in that kind of victory.   Follow that through to powerful nations and weaker nations, the strong taking unfair advantage of the weak is predation, the strong helping the weak is bringing order to chaos.  Keep going to what makes us different than other animate life – we alone have the power to bring order to chaos; we are made in the image of God.  Using our strength to prey on their weakness is predation and it’s the exact same kind of wrong as all the other examples.  

Christ showed us what real strength is about.   The power of God revealed in the foolish weakness of the cross.  

Sex and food are good in their proper place … and predation isn’t the proper expression of either.  I’m not making that up.  It looks to me like God did.    I believe if we take one more step away from monotheism with man-the-predator at the center we will find ourselves closer to the real Christ on the cross and one step away from the long heritage of mistaking the creature for the Creator.

The New Creation

January 9th, 2009 No comments

On earth as it is in heaven … (emphasis mine).  

from the New Bible Dictionary, 3rd. ed. (Il: Intervarsity Press, 1996), s.v. “Eschatology: The New Creation”

The final goal of God’s purposes for the world includes, negatively, the destruction of all God’s enemies: Satan, sin and death, and the elimination of all forms of suffering (Rev. 20:10, 14–15; 7:16f.; [339] 21:4; Is. 25:8; 27:1; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 15:26, 54). Positively, God’s rule will finally prevail entirely (Zc. 14:9; 1 Cor. 15:24–28; Rev. 11:15), so that in Christ all things will be united (Eph. 1:10) and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28, AV).

With the final achievement of human salvation there will come also the liberation of the whole material creation from its share in the curse of sin (Rom. 8:19–23). The Christian hope is not for redemption from the world, but for the redemption of the world. Out of judgment (Heb. 12:26; 2 Pet. 3:10) will emerge a recreated universe (Rev. 21:1; cf. Is. 65:17; 66:22; Mt. 19:28), ‘a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet. 3:13).

from New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. s.v. “(Earth, H824): New Creation”.

New creation. The natural climax of such an eschatological, missiological vision is that, when the nations of humanity are transformed into redeemed worshipers of Yahweh, then the earth itself will be transformed, mainly by the lifting of the deleterious effects of the curse. Accordingly, pictures of the new age of Yahweh’s unhindered reign and the people’s perfect obedience include the transformation of the earth and nature by the removal of all that harms or frustrates (Isa 11:1–9; 65:20–25). Ultimately this leads to the vision of a transformation of the whole created order. In Isa 65:17 Yahweh declares, “Behold, I will create (aérwø;b, lit., am creating) new heavens and a new earth,” which is not only a significant echo of the opening verse of Genesis, but interesting in its use of the participle rather than the imperfect. The new creation is not merely a future event, but something God is engaged in bringing about now (cf. Isa 66:22, making). The NT reflects the same hope (Rom 8:19–22; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev 21:1, 5).