Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wishful thinking?

"'The Last Judgement' is not a terror. In the truth of Christ it is the most wonderful thing that can be proclaimed to men and women. It is a source of endlessly consoling joy to know, not just that the murderers will finally fail to triumph over their victims, but that they cannot in eternity even remain the murderers of their victims. The eschatological doctrine of the restoration of all things has these two sides: God's Judgement, which puts things to rights, and God's kingdom, which awakens to new life."

J├╝rgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004 paperback edition), p.255.

I wish I could believe the above statement. It really is attractive. But despite reading Moltmann and Barth over the last two or three weeks, I cannot shake off my doubts about the lack of real grounding for such hopes of universal salvation. What's more, the practical implications of universalism are rarely if ever discussed. Am I missing a trick here, or is universalism just as open to the charge of fatalism as double predestination?

One of my professors here at PTS suggests that the church should teach neither particular redemption nor universalism. Rather, it should admit the tension within the biblical witness, and simply testify to the grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. My problem with this idea is that the church (and all sections of the church), as far as I understand church history, has always taught one or the other of these two positions. To announce that we just don't know would be a novel development in confession, if not in theology as such. (Theologians do theology. I'm not sure if churches really do theology. If anything, they just formulate creeds and confessions.)

Safe to write, I think, that if Moltmann and Barth are correct then my "call" to Christian ministry is further in doubt. I'd rather tell people about such a gospel while making as much money as possible. Of course, I'd make the money so that I could give it away to the poor and needy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just picked up your Barth post through the Exiled blog. I also wore a beard while at PTS in addition to smoking a pipe and entertaining a whole bunch of wishful thinking. BTW: you just may get rich in the ministry (at least in the USA) simply by wearing that funny hat on top that stringy red hair (w/ or without the beard)! Enjoy, ron