Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Christian Eschatology is a Serious Façade

Posted by NT Wrong on April 22, 2008

One of the weird things about Christian eschatology, at least in its traditional forms, is that it wants to affirm two opposite things at once. On the one hand, God is engaged in a serious battle with the forces of evil. But on the other hand, God is ultimately in control and absolutely beyond threat.

“Christianity involves the paradox of a life-and-death struggle of which the ultimate issue is never for one moment in doubt.”

– H. E. W. Turner, The Patristic Doctrine of Redemption: A Study of the Development of Doctrine during the First Five Centuries (London: Mowbray, 1952), 61.

The Christian narrative of salvation always steers between outright dualism and mere façade. And not very well.

6 Responses to “Christian Eschatology is a Serious Façade”

  1. Ricky said

    And your point is? God is in control. The forces of evil attack and resist God’s work. Therefore there is an on-going battle. Very simple and not dualistic.

  2. ntwrong said

    I think H. E. W. Turner made the point quite simply and yet very well.

    On the one hand, early Christianity adopts apocalyptic imagery, themes and narrative that present a serious battle between God and evil, and involves God’s military forces, including especially his commander-in-chief, Jesus.

    On the other hand, God was always going to win.

    Now, for the early Christians who accepted dualism (certain Gnostics, etc), the idea of a ‘battle’ has some cohesion and gravity. But for other Christians, the whole dramatic account of ’salvation history’ involving the battling forces of good and evil in an inevitable progress towards victory does appear to be a bit of hollow yet melodramatic hoo-harr. It’s a farce.

    The façade lies in a monotheistic religion dabbling in the excitement of dualism, but not wholly embracing it.

  3. Alan J. Eddy said

    I don’t think you got it right Ricky. There is a heavenly battle rageing and it continues from salvation history to the present day and beyond. If you don’t think there is a battle for souls going on just watch the 6PM news. Society is going to hell.
    There is a moral decay that is killing mankind. Sure God will win the ultimate battle but at the expense of countless souls that will be lost, but not because of God but the antithesis, those who live their lives in opposition to Him.

  4. Ricky said

    As far as I know Alan, I didn’t say otherwise in my comment.


    Is the world going to hell? Europe has experienced an unprededented 70 years of PEACE. And people live crammed together in cities of millions with relative peace (try that with apes or chimps).

    I think the world might go to hell via a lot of factors having nothing to do with how “bad” people are acting, factors like environmental ignorance, or via a disease knocking out the world’s work forces and hence knocking out the petroleum producing factories and food producing farms, and energy generating facilities as well.

    As for Christian eschatology, will Jesus return, ever?

    And was Paul a crazy cult leader? Look at his teachings and eschatology:

    crazy first-century cult-like leader. Wait… hear me out…

    1) Why does Paul say in 1 Cor. that “many of you have become ill and some have fallen asleep [died]” as a result of not celebrating the Lord’s Supper properly? Does anyone blame “many illnesses” plus “some deaths” in churches today on such things as not celebrating the Lord’s Supper properly? How many Christians today believe that God continues to curse Christians with disease and/or death for not celebrating the Lord’s Supper properly? Was Paul wrong about this or not? It sounds kinda like a teaching a crazy cult leader might espouse, doesn’t it?

    2)Why does Paul suggest casting people out of the church and declaring them cursed, anathema (shunning outside the church was also probably de riguer in such cases), that they may be “turned over to Satan” and “their flesh destroyed.” What kind of teaching is that? Curses, anathemas, shunning, turned over to Satan to have their flesh destroyed [praying for the worst to happen to people so that they will come crawling back to your cult like a beaten stray dog]? Again, those kinds of reactions can be seen in cults and cult leaders who seek to inculcate obedience via fear. It also reads like those who leave on their own might not be so bad off, because well, it was their choice, but if you’ve got someone in the church who wants to stay and you tell THEM to LEAVE, then you can exert control with the magical “anathema” words and “turning them over to Satan.” This is so cultish.

    3)Why does Paul say this about woman, sex, and marriage:

    It is good for a man not to touch a woman [sexually?]… For I would that all men were even as I myself [celibate?]… I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I [remain celibate?]… But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn [what a positive statement about marriage, why isn’t it cited more at Christian weddings?]… I say, that it is good for a man so to be… Are you loosed from a wife? seek not a wife… The time is short: it remains that they that have wives be as though they had none… He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit… that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
    – 1 Corinthians 7:1,7,8-9,26-27,29,32-35

    Sounds close to things I’ve heard cult leaders teach. But this next example really opens one’s eyes, talk about reving up the old cult-engines.

    4) Words of Paul: …The rulers of this age… are passing away [“will not last much longer” – Today’s English Version] … Do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts… The time has been shortened so that from now on both those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away [“This world, as it is now, will not last much longer” – Today’s English Version]… These things were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come… Proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes… For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming… We [Paul and the first century believers being addressed] shall not all sleep… At the last trumpet… the dead will be raised… and we shall be changed. Maranatha [=”Come Lord”] [1 Cor 2:6; 4:5; 7:29-31; 10:11; 11:26; 15:22-23; 51-52; 16:22]

    Yet they ALL SLEPT, regardless of Paul’s letter promising them that “We shall not all sleep.”

    And today we call that first century cult, “Christianity.”

    (Edward T. Babinski, editor of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists)


    In this world of problems and woe, ignorance and confusion, is this the only world where anyone can be “saved?” Is it also the only place where you risk it all, risk eternity? I guess that makes our lives sound more exciting. Think about it, this world and this one life is the only time when you’re truly in any danger throughout all eternity. It’s the one time when infinite opportunities open up. This one puny little lifetime a few decades long is the absolute peak of excitement according to conservative dogmatic Christianity. So after we peak here and now, dancing a jig between eternal heaven and eternal hell, what can compare? What indeed. We can’t die again and we can’t ever go to hell. So isn’t everything else relatively anti-climactic like an eternal drag on an eternal cigarette after all the action in bed is over? [Edward T. Babinski]

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