Thursday, December 03, 2009

Advent and Eschatology

The texts of Advent seem to confuse many. Rather than mirror the schmaltzy version of Christmas in the malls and on television, the season of Advent gives us tales of the end. Prophetic texts that speak of God's restoration of creation, or of the rich and powerful getting their just desserts. We hear John the Baptist cry, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" Or we hear Mary's song where the hungry are filled with good things, the rich sent away empty, the lowly lifted up and the mighty cast down. Tales of God's undying promise that all the brokenness of the world will be taken away.

Today I began to read an essay by Wolfhart Pannenberg, "The Task of Christian Eschatology" and his opening rang so true for me. Pannenberg wrote:
Contemporary Christian doctrine has to live up to an inevitable conflict, not with human reason, but with the secularist culture. The truth of Christian doctrine cannot be maintained where Christian proclamation gives priority to the secular mentality. It has to challenge that mentality and its prejudices. Of course, Christian doctrine is related to the predicament of human life in our world. Since secularism produces meaninglessness, the human person suffers from the lack of meaning. There is a need, then, for the Christian message, perhaps more urgently so than in other periods of human history. But the message can reach its adressess if the prejudices of secularism against Christianity can be overcome.
This applies especially to the Christian eschatological hope for a life beyond death. This hope is sharply opposed to the emphatic wordliness of our secular culture. It is under suspicion of escapism, as if it would cheat people out of the fulfillment of their liveson this earth. Gratitude for this life is an essential part of the Christian belief in the creation of this world by God. But the secular mentality exaggerates what we may expect from this finite and moral life. People expect sex to yield a degree of satisfaction and happiness that it cannot grant without love and fidelity. Political order is expected to produce perfect justice and lasting peace without violence or oppression. But our century has seen totalitarian regimes established precisely in the name of these ideas.

No comments: