AMERICAN SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST LATTER RAIN
AND CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY—IN THE LIGHT OF THEIR ESCHATOLOGIES
Eschatology has traditionally been defined as “the doctrine of the last things,” and has dealt with what happens at the “end” of all things—the second coming, last judgment, etc. As a result it usually occupied a final chapter in the scheme of theology and was regarded as having little or no relevance for any other part. Modern thinking on eschatology has decisively altered all this and has brought it to the centre of the stage while in no way denying its significance for the final end. Indeed it has rightly argued that it is only as it is seen and interpreted in this way that its true significance for the final end can be properly affirmed. To be sure there are many and varied emphases but there has been and is a striking unanimity in underlining the centrality and importance of the doctrine. Indeed, some modern writers have put it so much in the centre that its traditional place at the “end” has for them virtually disappeared. (John Thompson, Christ in Perspective: Christological Perspectives in the Theology of Karl Barth (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978), p. 126.)
As Thompson points out there are changes in the current theology of today that relate not only to the value of “the Last Things” but to the question of what properly composes eschatology. Therefore before we can attempt to identify the relation between American Adventist Latter Rain eschatology and contemporary eschatological formulations, we will survey briefly the current state of eschatology. We will do this in three steps; first we will survey the current popular teaching regarding the significance or meaning of Pentecost. Secondly, we will attempt to summarize briefly the eschatological positions represented in the teachings of Julius Moltmann (Particularly in his Theology of Hope.) and Karl Barth. These two professors are selected as being representative of the current eschatology in formal theology. The third step will be to (1) summarize the thrust of the Adventist writers we have reviewed, (2) to summarize the thrust of the current popular teaching, and (3) to identify the relation that exists between the two.
Pentecost and Its Aftermath—The Current Equation
To determine the popular teaching regarding Pentecost as an event that is relevant to us, we will survey chronologically a group of books written for popular sale. (Regarding the selection of these books see page 10.)
The first book we will consider is written by J. Rodney Williams. Entitled The Era of the Spirit ((Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1971). Note: These books will be considered chronologically.) it has an introduction that starts us on our study. Dr. Williams writes that
This book is written about an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church. . . . The reader will not find herein calm and dispassionate words. This is first of all glad and vigorous testimony with the intention thereby of communicating as fully as possible the wonder of what is taking place. . . . So throughout, as the testimony of faith and experience becomes in turn a search after understanding, there is passion and zeal. It could scarcely be otherwise, for this is not the accounting of ideas but of life itself. (Ibid., p. 5.)
Again Dr. Williams writes that
What the book intends . . . is to express for the great many people what has been happening to them. Thus it represents no special group, no particular place, but intends to be in some sense the voice of many scattered throughout the Church who have shared the same reality in the Spirit. (Ibid.)
Once more we quote from Dr. Williams, from the first sentences of the first page of the book.
It is indeed an exciting time to be alive in the Church! For there is taking place in our day a dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit for renewal. This is happening here and there in many Protestant denominations and in Roman Catholicism. What is occurring can only be described as the resurgence within forms and structures of Christendom of the vitality of the early Christian community. It is an extraordinary renewal through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
When it happens we find ourselves almost overwhelmed at the marvel of it all. It is hard still to believe that life can be so pervaded by the reality of the Spirit. (Ibid., p. 9.)
The reason for these long quotation is because they set a tone which we will hear almost without dissidence through our survey. The following analysis shows the emphases:
- The current experience of an unusual nature that is occurring within church groups is the work of the Holy Spirit.
- To experience the current happening causes one to give “glad and vigorous testimony” before there is a search for understanding.
- While this experience is not limited to any special group or particular place, it is “reality in the Spirit.”
- This work of the Holy Spirit is a movement of the Holy Spirit for renewal.
- The present experience is a resurgence of the vitality of the early Christian community.
- When this work of the Holy Spirit is experienced in the recipient finds himself almost overwhelmed at the marvel of it all.
Our last points do not come from the quotations about, through they are of course from the same author.
- The ancient Scriptures “come to life as fellow witnesses to God’s present action. . . .” (Ibid., pp. 9, 16.)
- The present movings of the Holy Spirit toward renewal include tongues, spiritual enlightenment, healings, deliverance, prophecy, etc. (Ibid., pp. 21-38.)
- The purpose of these gifts is for inner peace, healing of the sick, and power for evangelism.
- This experience is Acts 1 and 2 all over again. (Ibid., p. 18. Note: For Dr. Williams the repetition includes more than a speaking in an unknown tongue, as we have seen. However for Willard Cantelon, who also identifies the present experience of non-denominational pentecostalism as a fulfillment of Acts 2, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is mainly limited to speaking in tongues. See The Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Speaking with God in the Unknown Tongue (Plainfield, New Jersey: Logas International, 1971).)
Willard Cantelon, author of The Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Speaking with God in the Unknown Tongue, adds another dimension to our findings when he states that “the purpose of God in providing the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is to empower men to carry on His work. . . .”
He argues that on the basis of Acts 2 we must conclude that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for all, because “God saved us to serve, and God expects fruit from every life.” (The pages of this book are not numbered. See the section entitled “Purpose.”)
Simon Tigwell, O. P., ((London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1972).) writes the next book that contributes to our attempt to present the current equation relating to the Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 to the present day.
He writes that it is “the duty of the pastor and theologian to attempt to ‘test everything and hold fast what is good’ . . . .” (Ibid., p. 10.) The reason for this, our author says, is because “The Spirit is saying many things to the churches today. It is at times hard to discern his voice amid all the other voices—indeed in the other voices.” (Williams also sees this plurality, apparently, but he stops short of recommending any testing. See op. cit., pp. 22, 23.)
He points to what this test is but fails to make clear how it is to be applied, when he stays that “In so far as these (“These” refers to “the rise of ‘shared prayer’” and the Pentecostal Movement (p. 10). We will only review comments relating to the Pentecostal Movement.) are genuine moves of the Spirit, we may expect them . . . to conform to the old prophetic word already quoted: ‘See, I am making the last things like the first’.” (Ibid., pp. 11, 12.) But he also states that “the aim is not simply to call in the ‘old’ to justify the ‘new’ (or vice versa) . . . My purpose is rather that ‘old’ and ‘new’ should shed light on each other.” (Ibid., p. 10. This author also writes, “I have no desire to devalue the experience referred to by the Pentecostals. But, if we are fully to appreciate its significance, both for our theology and for our spiritual development, I think we must subject it to a thorough and patient scrutiny in the light of the whole teaching of scripture and the tradition of the church.” p. 40.)
This author identifies the purpose for which the original Pentecost outpouring was given as being its purpose today—“that we as they may know the hope of our calling, and rejoice with unspeakable and holy joy, and speak with boldness the world of God.” (Tugwell, p. 10. Note: This author simply comments here that the old and the new should shed light on each other, p. 11.)
He states that Pentecostalism today is “a very variegated phenomenon” with its center being ‘the insistence that all Christians can and should claim ‘the promise of the father’ in what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” (Ibid., p. 35.)
He describes the entering into baptism of the Holy Spirit as being an experience where people who are already believers in Christ ‘call down upon themselves or, more generally, upon each other, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, ‘just as it was in the beginning’ at Pentecost.” (Ibid.)
Our author describes the “usual procedure” as being “for someone who has already had the experience to lay hands on those who is seeking it, and to pray for him.” (Ibid., pp. 35, 36.) He then states that it is believed that this process will result “by God’s gift, in a sudden or gradual unfolding of the person’s life in Christ into a charismatic manifestations. . . .” (Ibid., p. 36.)
These manifestations are progressive—beginning with tongues and being followed “in due course” by prophecy, interpretation, healing, or “some such supernatural endowment or ministry.” (Ibid.)
Dr. Tugwell says that the results claimed by Pentecostals include, an amazingly invigorated and renewed Christian life, by some who were about to give up their profession, and experience of new freedom in prayer, witnessing, and “action,” a new joy in the Lord, a new love for God and man, close fellowship with other Christians who have shared in the Pentecostal experience, etc. (Ibid. See below i.e., Orme, ibid., pp. 108-09.)
For many Catholic Pentecostals, Dr. Tugwell notes, “Pentecostalism is not a theology, but an experience.” However, he adds, “the experiential vitality of Pentecostalism . . . carries with it a theology. . . .” (Ibid., p. 37. Note: Walter Hollenweger makes this point too in his forward to New Heaven? New Earth? An Encounter with Pentecostalism. (Simon Tugwell, Peter Hocken, et al. [London: Dartone, Longman, and Todd, 1976], p. 10). See also Hocken, ibid., p. 34. For a “discussion of distinctive” features of Pentecostalism and theological significances that can be assigned to their existence see ibid., pp. 19-40.) This theology is that which must be examined carefully, “in the light of sound exegesis of scripture, and theological learning.” (Ibid.)
The “doctrine” of the “Baptism in the Spirit” is described as being the belief that after conversion and water baptism there remains a second blessing. This blessing, Dr. Tugwell writes, is usually associated with the laying on of hands, an experience in which one receives the ‘fullness’ of the Holy Spirit and ‘his personal indwelling.’ This means that one experiences for himself what the first disciples experienced at Pentecost. (Ibid., p. 40.)
However, our author adds, that the experience of laying on of hands is of necessity—in most Pentecostal groups—evidenced by some manifestation, generally tongues. (Ibid., pp. 40, 84.)
The results of this experience are that
Thereafter a person should increasingly realize in his life that he has been ‘endued with power from on high,” power to witness for Christ, he will know that he is ‘led by the Spirit,” he will expect to receive and, when necessary, to perform miracles, especially healing. (Ibid. At this point Dr. Tugwell begins his study and evaluation. For his conclusions see pp. 85-93. For a non-Catholic evaluation of Catholic Pentecostals see Walter Hollenweger, Pentecost Between Black and White (Belfast: Christian Journals Limited, 1974).)
The Layman’s Commentary on the Holy Spirit (John Rea, et als. (Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1974).) which appeared in 1974 has an interesting contribution to make when it agues that the ‘tongues’ gift that was bestowed on the disciples at Pentecost was the gift of “foreign languages that were readily understood by people. . . .” (Ibid., p. 58.)
What they heard was not incoherent, unintelligible utterance, but men and women praising the Lord in languages (The editors also state that “It is evident from the experience of the Day of Pentecost, however, that speaking in tongues is not only a rational discourse in an unknown language but may be accompanied by a holy joy, a kind of divine inebriation” (p. 54). However this idea does not receive direct amplification.) which communicated “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). (Ibid., p. 54. See also p. 43; these were “real languages” and “not gibberish.” See also p. 88.)
It also gives a brief treatment to the “various important steps in receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” which are identified as “repent,” “expect,” “ask,” “drink,” and “yield.”
James W. Johns also makes a contribution to our understanding of the “current equation” when he writes in Filled with New Wine: The Charismatic Renewal of the Church ((New York: Harper and Row, 1974).) that “there are few reports in the New Testament of great apostolic ministry, many mighty deeds, or inspired preaching until after Pentecost.” (Ibid., p. 23.) He then describes the first Pentecostal experience and concludes that “What was true of the first Pentecostal experience is true of that experience today.” (Ibid.) “The day of Pentecost is the prototype of all Pentecostal experience.” (Ibid., p. 78.)
In this vein our author makes points such as the following:
- Most people come into the charismatic experience through speaking in tongues. (Ibid., p. 21.)
- The charismatic movement need not lead to sectarianism, (Ibid., p. 43.) though it “will inevitably lead to the formation of Christian community.” (Ibid., p. 128.) “Simply producing charismatically renewed individuals will probably not make a significant change in the church.” (Ibid., p. 127.)
- The charismatic experience comes to individuals in response to a prayer for receiving the exercise of spiritual gifts even if they are uninstructed and unprepared for the experience—and there is no follow up—with the result sometimes being emotionally unbalancing. (Ibid., p. 39. Note: Some of these people are presented as having gone off and gotten into trouble. Ibid. See also pp. 139, 140.)
- A charismatic Christian community is “where people meet to love and serve each other and to be shaped together into a single body.” (Ibid.)
- The ultimate goal is to have the whole church renewed—“radically open to the call of the Spirit.” (Ibid., p. 101. Note: For this author’s description of a typical charismatic community meeting see ibid., pp. 7-12.)
The last point we will use from this author is a theological statement which tells us that the New Testament law makes demands upon us, which tells us that the New Testament law makes demands upon us, that the Gospel frees us from, only to prepare us for, “a far more terrible obligation, that of being responsive to the Spirit.” (Ibid., p. 103.)
Peter Hocken suggests that there is a “Pentecostal use of the body” (“The Significance and Potential of Pentecostalism,” in New Heaven? New Earth?, p. 30.) and that the form taken by sectarian ritual is likely to be “in conscious protest against the patterns of ritual in the established Churches.” (Ibid.) He says that this last characteristic “can be verified in some Pentecostal Churches.” (Ibid.) One of the results of these, and other identifiable causes, is that among some pentecostal assemblies “long neglected rites and practices mentioned in the Bible” are resurrected. (Ibid.)
This author says that the “particular genius of the Pentecostals lie in achieving forms of worship combining undoubted leadership with real scope for congregational initiative, both individual and corporate,” (Ibid., p. 31.) though the individual participation is definitely controlled by an “over-all structure.” (Ibid.)
Again we are told that the private inner life of the members is not sufficient evidence of their having an “experience of the Spirit.” A true experience is to be accompanied by “signs visible to others.” This is true for both the laity and the ministry. (Ibid., p. 32.)
The last point that we will draw from this author is the Pentecostal movement heralds the Second Coming of Jesus. (Ibid., p. 36.)
In an essay which gave its title to the book in which it appears, John Orme Mills tells us that the charismatic manifestations of tongues, healing, exorcism, and prophecy, are often interpreted among Pentecostals as signs that they are “living in the ‘last times’.” This means to them that the Scriptures are being fulfilled; these things are “the ‘latter rain’ spoken of by Joel and James, portending the coming of the Lord in glory at the world’s end.” (Ibid., p. 73. Emphasis added. See also p. 101.)
Dr. Mills lists another characteristic of pentecostalism is general by quoting another author who writes that “the Pentecostalist needs a concrete faith attested by material signs in the form of some vital change.” (Ibid., p. 104.)
In a book titled, Pope Paul and the Spirit ((Notre Dane, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1978).) Edward O’Conner writes about the Pope’s relationship to the charismatic renewal. This presentation is usually in the form of comments and quotations with dates. The following is illustrative.
In explaining how the original Pentecost is relived by the church of today, he says:
It is as if our customary invocation, “Come, Holy Spirit,” were not by the reality of his response and his presence, infusing into us some slight yet living experience of his beatifying coming (May 17, 1970; cf. Sept. 9, 1970). (O’Conner, p. 8.)
Regarding the effects of Pentecost relived, “On Pentecost of 1975 (at the Mass attended by the participants in the International charismatic . . . Conference), he laid particular stress on the experiential aspect of the Spirit’s action:
. . . we today would like, not only to possess the Holy Spirit at once, but to experience the tangible and wonderful effects of his marvelous presence within us; for we know that the Spirit is light, strength, charism, infusion of spiritual vitality, the capacity of going beyond the limits of our natural activity . . . (May 18, 1975). (Ibid.)
Dr. O’Conner also gives the following list of “effects of the Spirit” according to the Pope. These include, “animating, energizing, and sanctifying the church,” plus “light, strength, consolation, charisms, songs, peace, joy, pledge and prelude of beatitude, fire in the heart, words on the lips, prophecy in the glance; the eagerness, taste and certainty of the truth, the teaching voice (of the church), the wave of love flowing through hearts, the pressure and urge to action, and the voice of prayer that rises out of the church’s inner depths.” (Ibid., p. 9.) (Nov. 29, 1972).
This voice may include tongues, for as Dr. O’Conner has pointed out,
Even though Paul is no glossalalic, a finer representation of the sense of the gift of tongues could hardly be found than the following:
“We must pray, and pray earnestly. This, we think, should be a consequence of the Holy Year, which has done so much . . . to unseal the silent, closed lips of modern man and to restore to his capacity of expression the babble, the conversation, the invocation, the song of his renewed relationship with God,” (Mar. 17, 1976). (Ibid., p. 12.)
There is to be both the continuing work of the Holy Spirit from the time of Acts 2 on, and a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Regarding the Pentecost of Acts 2 the question is asked,
Did this event take place only then? Is it over and done with, like all the other events of human history? No! . . . in every sacramental act, in every humble prayer, the “good Spirit” is present and operative (May 21, 1972, I). (Ibid., p. 10.)
Pope Paul does not speak of the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives merely as a timeless truth that needs to be repeated in every age. He is convinced that our age has a particular need of the Spirit. When the Second Synod of Bishops met in Rome in October 1969, he said:
“This is one of the moments when we realized that human reason . . . is not sufficient. . . . Devine help is needed. . . . We have to ask for a transcendent intervention, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Oct. 15, 1969).” (Ibid., pp. 12, 13.)
“Not that Pentecost has ever ceased to be an actuality throughout the entire history of the church; but the needs and dangers of the present age are so great, the horizons of mankind are so vast, as it finds itself drawn toward global coexistence, but powerless to achieve it, that there is no salvation for it except in a new outpouring of the gift of God. May the Creator Spirit come, therefore, to renew the face of the earth!” (Ibid. p. 13) (May 9, 1975).
This new outpouring of the Holy Spirit is to be obtained from Mary. (Ibid., p. 108. See also text of pope’s speech, cited, ibid., p. 241.)
The necessary preparation is described as “a phase of similar preparation” as “that of the apostles with Mary in the upper room.” (OR, Oct. 27-28, 1969. See ibid., pp. 224-26 for text.)
The last book we will review is Billy Graham’s The Holy Spirit; Activating God’s Power in Your Life. ((St. James Place, London: Collins, 1979 [Waco, Texas: Word Books, Inc., 1978]). Note: We found three other books that fit chronologically into our survey, but which do not add to our findings. They are: William Morrice, We Joy in the Lord (London: SPCK, 1977); John C. Haughey, ed., Theological Reflections on the Charismatic Renewal: Proceedings of the Chicago Conference, October 1-2, 1976 (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Books, 1978); Leslie Newbegin, The Open Secret (London: SPCK, 1978).) He makes the following points that contribute to our study-survey.
- Pentecost “marked a crucial turning point in the history of God’s dealings with the human race.” (Graham, ibid., p. 30.)
- “Since Pentecost the Holy Spirit is the link between the first and second advents of Jesus. He applies the work of Jesus Christ to men in this age. . . .” (Ibid., p. 32.)
- Pentecost will not be repeated.
- As “we approach the end of the age” there will be a “dramatic recurrence of signs and wonders. . . .” (Ibid., p. 166.)
- Tongues—both foreign languages and unknown tongues—can be a gift of the Spirit. (Ibid., p. 178. See also pp. 169, 171, 172.)
- There are three sources for what are called tongues:
- The Holy Spirit;
- Psychological influence;
- Satanic influence. (Ibid., p. 168.)
- Speaking in tongues and baptism with the Holy Spirit has brought Protestants and Roman Catholics closer together in some parts of the world. (Ibid., 169.)
- Tongues is a gift of the Spirit, not a fruit of the Spirit and is not for everyone. (Ibid., p. 173.)
- Tongues as a gift is not necessarily a sign of the baptism by the Holy Spirit. (Ibid., p. 173. See also p. 177.)
- Baptism with the Holy Spirit was initiated at Pentecost and takes place in the life of the believer at the moment of conversion. (Ibid., p. 62.)
- The “filling” with the Holy Spirit is in addition to the baptism with the Holy Spirit. (Ibid., p. 63.)
- All believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit, even if they are not filled or controlled by the Spirit. (Ibid., p. 63.)
- The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs only once; “’One baptism, but many fillings’.” (Ibid., p. 64. See also p. 71.)
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not to be sought. (Ibid., p. 71; cf. p. 72.)
- The purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to bring the new Christian into the body of Christ. (Ibid., p. 71.)
As we have surveyed the literature we found people being offered, to ascertain the ‘current equation;—the Acts 2 Pentecost means what for today—we have found a variety of opinions expressed. The following are representative of the trends:
- The current charismatic movement is the work of the Holy Spirit.
- The current experience is the resurgence within the forms and structures of Christendom of the vitality of the early Christian community.
- To experience it is to find life.
- Belief in the experience precedes understanding.
- This experience is given by the Holy Spirit for renewal.
- The tongues experience cuts across all boundaries—geographical and ideological.
- The purpose of the ‘gifts’ associated with the charismatic movements is for inner peace, healing, and evangelism.
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit is something to be sought for.
- The pentecostal experience carries with it a theology.
- To be baptized by the Holy Spirit is to receive a ‘sign’ as evidence.
- The charismatic experience need not lead to sectarianism.
- The Pentecostal movement heralds the second coming of Jesus.
- Among Roman Catholics there is an official trend that appears to be preparing for official acceptance of charismatica as a genuine movement—under the Pope’s regulatory definition.
- There are many dissenters who want to place qualifications on the above emphases, but they too accept the charismatic movement as being inspired by the Holy Spirit.
- No tests of genuineness are applied to the charismatic experience in present existence, though some tests are pointed at.
In these presentations no clear eschatology in a developed form is presented, though the events of Acts 2 are seen by all the writers reviewed as being pivotal in the history of the church, and as very significant for people today—though no uniformity of opinion as to what that significance is exists, nor as to what its exact function is, is there a consensus of teaching.
Contemporary Eschatology—The Broader Perspective
The Thought of Jurgen Moltmann: a Brief Survey
As we turn in our study to formal theological eschatology our primary concern will be to assess the eschatological concepts of Drs. Moltmann and Barth. We will begin with Dr. Moltmann and his theology of hope. His work, the Theology of Hope carries the subtitle “On the Ground and Implications of a Christian Eschatology.”
Clark Williamson (Clark M. Williamson, “Encounter” 30 (fall, 1979): 398, 399.) has pointed out that while the book takes “as its topic the subject of eschatology . . . it is not so much a book on eschatology as it is an eschatological treatment of theology itself.” (Ibid., 398.) Whereas we are in agreement with this evaluation, we will begin our study of the eschatological thought of Dr. Moltmann with a look at the theology her presents.
The theology of Dr. Moltmann—a brief survey. In order to summarize briefly the theology of Dr. Moltmann that is reflected in his thoughts on hope we will attempt to classify his remarks around traditional theological terminology. We recognize that with his strong intertie with the philosophy of Block, not all his thought can be presented under such headings, but the elements that are central to the summary of his concept of eschatology, we hope become clear with such a restructuring. (For this idea and many of the analyses here presented I am such indebted to David P. Scaer’s article “Theology of Hope,” in Tensions in Contemporary Theology, edited by Stanley N. Gundry, and Alan F. Johnson (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1976), pp. 197-234.)
- The Church. The chief task of the church is to be involved in the workings of the society where the church exists. The object of the church’s work, that which it is to seek to change is the governmental structures rather than individuals.
Such an object means that the church is not qualitatively different than the world. Its purpose is to help man realize a full humanity, to free the world from inhumanity.
The Church is to confront “society directly and not through the medium of the converted individual.” (Scaer, op. cit., p. 215.)
Moltmann says that
By undermining and demolishing all barriers—whether of religion, race, education, or class—the community of Christians proves that it is the community of Christ. This could indeed become the new identifying mark of the church in our world, that it is composed, not of equal and likeminded men, but of dissimilar men, indeed of former enemies. . . . The way toward this goal of new humane community involving all nations and languages is, however, a revolutionary way. (Moltmann, “God in Revolution,” in Religion, Revolution and the Future, p. 141, quoted in Scaer, pp. 215, 216.)
- Conversion and Sanctification. In such a scheme the object of conversion is governmental structures, not individuals. Sanctification is identified with change; its “indispensible mark.” (Scaer, ibid., p. 204.)
- God. Martin E. Marty (Martin E. Marty, “Critic,” 26 (Feb.-Mar. 1968): 70.) has said,
Ask Moltmann “What do you mean by God?” and he answers something like “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of promise to the Old Testament and the God of hope in the New Testament.” What is he like? And answer could be: “We do not know—yet.” (Ibid., p. 70.)
Scaer says that for Moltmann to define God is to place a limitation on Him, “to deny His future and to circumscribe His freedom.” (Scaer, op. cit., p. 204.) The concept of a God who controls and shapes the destiny of nations and men is absent.
- Man. Man’s attitude and orientation to life is to reflect not what has been or what is, but that which will be. Man is here a creature of promise, oriented to the future.
- God and Man. Questions about God and man are not yet to be answered because the not-yet future brings a re-interpretation to everything which goes before it. According to Scaer, in Moltmann’s thought, “God and man exist in a condition of perfect freedom without any restrictions;” (Ibid., p. 212.) except that of man’s seeking final meaning now.
- Reality. Reality is always incomplete because there is to be added to the present the past and the future. (See ibid., pp. 210,214.)
- Image of God. Scaer writes, “Hopelessness must be overcome so that man can realize the image of God within himself.” (Scaer, ibid., p. 214.) He also says that “This image is . . . the capability of transcending the present life into the future and having a foretaste of the eschatological life.” (Ibid.)
There is no doctrine of a restoration of man to a quality that he used to have and lost; “instead man looks forward to a participation in a better future whose outlines cannot now be drawn.” (Ibid.)
- Sin. Hope is the proper attitude to be taken toward life. Moltmann says that hope “embraces both the object hoped for and also the hope inspired by it.” (The Theology of Hope, p. 16.) Therefore hopelessness is the basic element in understanding sin. Hopelessness here can take two forms: praesumptio and desperatio. Praesumptio is attitude of a man who “attempts to usher the future and its benefits into the present without waiting for God to act.” (Scaer, p. 214.) Desperatio is making a premature judgment that God is not going to do anything in the future. (Ibid.)
- Incarnation. The incarnation does not mean that God took human nature and became a man but it means God participated in the rejection and humiliation associated with Jesus’ death.
Incarnation means that God suffers in mankind’s suffering as it seeks to remove inhumanity.
Therefore the incarnation is not a movement from one world to another, for there is here no transcendental sphere, but it is to be understood as the appearance in human history of something new which offers a promise to mankind of what it will become. As such it can be seen as a ground of hope.
- Resurrection of Jesus. Scaer notes that for Moltmann the resurrection of Christ is not important because it is a part of past history, but because it makes history possible. (Ibid., p. 213.) It is the beginning of the general resurrection.
Moltmann also says it is part of the future projected back into time.
In light of the ‘not yet’ full understanding of reality –a gift to be brought with the arrival of the future, the question of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus must be left unanswered in the present; for “such a factual historical question demands a once-and-for-all static answer of yes or no.” (Ibid.)
- Reconciliation. Reconciliation means that the new element in history which is portrayed under incarnation has “opened for mankind messianic possibilities.” (Ibid., p. 215.) “Reconciliation is a historical process taking place across cultural boundaries, including those of religion.” (Ibid., p. 216.) It is a historical act that occurs between men.
- Salvation. Salvation is here a purely historical and universal act—for it is incomplete until all governmental structures have become tutors of a full humanity to all people. This salvation is realized apart from any individual commitment to God. It is a part of this life and not a future one.
“The church is instrumental in attaining this salvation by siding with the World’s oppressed.” (Ibid.)
Salvation is a movement toward economic equalization and occurs when all peoples having equal, are reconciled to one another. The redeemed are the reconciled.
- The Trinity. For Moltmann God’s essence is simply His history; with the cross being the originating point. (Ibid., p. 218.) The Father abandons, the Son is abandoned, and from the cross the Spirit proceeds as the Spirit of Abandonment to raise up abandoned men. For Moltmann the story of God is the story of the history of men.
In this thought context Jesus’ deity is called His dignity, because Jesus was the bearer of God’s future into history. When the future arrives Jesus’ function of bearing God’s future will have ceased.
- The World and Ethics. For Moltmann the world has no fixed norms, and fixed structures are to be replaced by functional forms. God is not presented as having laid down authoritative forms to be maintained, but rather man, with the freedom the future promises to develop forms which can be utilized in realizing the future. The future provides the ethical norm.
Actions are to be judged in the light of the future—or by what they accomplished toward bringing about reconciliation. If an act brings about reconciliatory results, then it is justified.
- The future. Martin Marty writes that “no one can account for the future until it occurs.” (Marty, op. cit., p. 70.)
Scaer says that for Moltmann
The future is uncertain as to what will be, but it is that which is free and uncertain that is that by which pas certainty and present values have to be re-examined and re-established. All plateaus of certainty are to be abandoned for an endless change of challenges which never take final shape. Present life is to be defined syntactically by a series of questions whose answers always become new questions. (Scaer, p. 204.)
E. W. H. Vick adds that the overarching category of the future in Moltmann’s thought is a philosophy of time. (E. W. H. Vick, Andrews University Seminary Studies, p. 90.) He also writes that
In certain cases talk of the future may be a device for speaking about the present, a modified form of existentialism, whose interest is still in the present manner of existence. (Ibid.)
This analysis of Moltmann’s ‘future’ appears to be quite correct, for Moltmann writes that
by future (advent) we do not mean a far-away condition, but a power which already qualifies the present—through promise possibilities. (Jurgen Moltmann, Religion, Revolution, and the Future, trans. By Douglas Meeks (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969), p. 209.)
Here the future takes priority over the present, and the meaning of current events has its source in that which is the ‘to come’. (Cf. Calvin O. Schrag, The Journal of Religious Thought 26/1 (1969):84.)
Moltmann’s ‘future’ will be realized with the engagement of Christians in the affairs of the world in such a way as to realize a full humanity for all.
- Revelation. Revelation for Moltmann is “not some God speaking in the past that is now dead. Essentially revelation also belongs to the future. . . .” (Marty, p. 70.)
It is “an openness to the precariousness which the future enables and demands.” (Vick, p. 88.) Revelation is to be found as God is known in the midst of life. (Cf. Ibid., p. 89.)
Eschatology in Dr. Moltmann’s Theology of Hope—some evaluation. As we have seen “The Theology of Hope . . . comprises an effort to establish and eschatological foundation for Christian theology.” (Schrag, op. cit., p. 83.)
The aim of this book is “to show how theology can set out from hope and begin to consider its theme in an eschatological light.” (Moltmann, cited by Williamson, op. cit., p. 398)
This means that eschatology “no longer means simply the doctrine of the Four Last things, but it is rather a perspective from which the whole of theology can be viewed.” (A. Raymond George, Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (Aug. 1970):358)
In such a definition eschatology can be said to express the attitude of expectancy that underlies all of faith. (Cf. Gerald W McCulloh, The Journal of Religion 49 (Jan. 1969):95)
Therefore when Moltmann writes this Theology he is examining the place of eschatology in the theological enterprise and finds it is involved in the basic Christian experience of receiving God’s promises and in “the witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (Ibid.) rather than in a prediction of that which constitutes the future.
Eschatology here is the proper context for realizing an understanding of “the reality of God, the significance of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the mission of the church, and the nature of ethical commitment.” (Schrag, op, cit., p. 89.)
E. W. H. Vick has said that for Moltmann an eschatology can be “produced” only when the crucial questions of historical reality are appropriately addressed, (See Vick, op. cit., p. 89.) for Moltmann brings with his eschatological approach a new interpretation of history; the almost, but ‘not-yet’, which awaits final formulation and categorization until the arrival of the future.
The questions regarding the meaning of human history are asked from the viewpoint of promise, the God ahead, and the future. (Cf. Schrag, p. 84.)
“The history which is at issue is no longer the universal history of successive world events but rather that which happens between promise and fulfillment.” (Ibid.)
For Moltmann Christian eschatology looks from the promise toward the revolutionizing and transformation of the present governmental structures, by revolutionary means, to the fulfillment of the promise—which when it is realized for all people will mean reconciliation has been accomplished, and the future has invaded the present. (See McCulloh, op. cit., p. 95; Moltmann, Religion, p. 141.)
Eschatology is here not one doctrine among others but it is rather the attitude that expects the fulfillment of the promises doctrines contain; “it pervades the whole and is characteristic of all Christian proclamation.” (Williamson, op. cit., p. 398.)
Moltmann says that eschatology “must formulate its statements of hope in contradiction to our present experience of suffering, evil and death.” Christian eschatology has to do not with the future as such, primarily, but with Jesus Christ and His future. (Ibid., p. 399.)
From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present. (Moltmann, Theology, p. 16.)
Martin E. Marty summarizes Moltmann’s thrust when he writes that “God is essentially ‘future’; the Christian message is fundamentally promise. Eschatology is not the last word but the first word for such a faith.” (Marty, op. cit., p. 70.)
This means that the future continually brings new creative possibilities which in turn become new realities. When these new realities are seen as the result of a response of hope to a promise, the new present events are found to be meaningful in the light of the eschatology which proclaimed the hope which spawned them. Scaer notes this evolution from object to hope when he says that Moltmann gives eschatological value to present events. (Scaer, op. cit., p. 218.)
This means that for Moltmann eschatology is not a doctrine or group of beliefs, but an attitude, an orientation to life, which one can experience if one chooses to live a revolutionary life declared to be centered on hope.
Evaluation and Reaction. Fuller has pointed out that Moltmann speaks of Christians as “those who have a hope,” referring to 1 Thessalonians 4:13. (Moltmann, Religion, p. 136.) Moltmann goes on to describe Christians as those who, acting as revolutionaries, “seized the nerve-center of the political religions and the religious politics of their time.” (Ibid., p. 137.) Fuller then comments that “the hope that motivated them was above, not ahead, in an event, not a process, in a Savior, not a full humanity.” (Fuller, op. cit., p. 228.)
It would seem Fuller also points out, that if as Moltmann says, “the church and Christians should recognize in the movement of changing social relationships a spirit which is of the Spirit of Christ,” (Moltmann, Religion, p. 104.) that it is of the highest importance that it be demonstrated that that which is occurring in today’s world is of the same kind as that which Jesus “began and continued to do just after his resurrection.” (Fuller, op. cit., p. 228.)
Moltmann not only needs to demonstrate the connection between what Jesus began to do and the concerns of today’s changing social relationships, but there is a need of a criteria by which one can measure which aspects and areas of life one in a seek to change. For while it is true that he says that “It is absurd to surrender already achieved fragments and institutions of freedom for the sake of gaining new freedom in the future,” (Moltmann, Religion, p. 31. Quoted in Fuller, op. cit., p. 229.) he also writes that “’creative discipleship’ cannot consist in adaption to, or preservation of, the existing social and judicial orders.” (Moltmann, Theology, p. 334. See Fuller, op. cit., p. 229.)
Martin E. Marty points out that Moltmann should address himself more explicitly to the problem of how he can make so much of the “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is in vain” motif from 1 Corinthians while he says so little about the “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Marty then notes that Moltmann tends to “bracket” questions about biblical views such as the teaching of an afterlife, because they “seem to contradict his view of completely open futures in the face of the God of hope.” (Marty, loc. cit., p. 70. So also Fuller, loc. cit., p. 228 and George, loc. cit., p. 358.)
A. Raymond George notes another imbalance when he points out that in the final chapter, ‘Exodus Church ,’ Moltmann sets forth the role which modern society expects the church to play only to conclude that the church’s true role is to resist an institutional stabilizing of things. George also points out that while the kind of activism that Moltmann advocates is already the modus vivendi for many Christians, one must still ask if this continual change that prevents institutionalization is the right emphasis in theology; and should it be the only emphasis? “Despite the stress on the resurrection, the emphasis is on the ‘not yet’, and we do not fully hear the note that God has visited and redeemed his people;” (George, loc. cit., p. 358.) an emphasis that Moltmann should not have missed with his God of the exodus motif.
“It is not clear,” Fuller writes, “that hope is the same in Moltmann and Paul.” (Fuller, loc. cit., p. 228.) For the New Testament writers, hope is based in a future apocalyptic event grounded in a past historical occurrence and promise. “The importance of hope is not so overriding (sic) in the New Testament as it is in Moltmann.” (Ibid., p. 226.) For the New Testament authors’ hope is always controlled by love, tempered with wisdom, and secured from faith. If hope merely grows out of a “necessary negation of the negative,” it “may in fact merely identify itself with ‘change’.”
Fuller continues that there is no question about hope being important in the New Testament, but that 1 Corinthians 13 “would suggest for it a humbler role.”
God is not found by looking to the future, but He is found in daily life as the Gospel enters it. The Lord’s supper, it is true anticipates a future, but it also is grounded in a historical act; “its larger significance is as a memorial.” The New Testament writers’ relationship to the world is more characterized by love than hope. (Ibid.)
Calvin Schrag notes that “. . . it is difficult to comprehend how the future as the horizon of hope and salvation could remain relevant to our concrete historical presence. . . .” (Schrag loc. cit., p. 85.) This is the result of Moltmann’s defining Christian history “from the vantage point of future fulfillment . . .” for it is unclear what can now be said about the “concrete content of this future fulfillment.” (Ibid., p. 84.) For hope to be active it must have a base and a goal. Scaer has pointed out that, foreign to Christianity is the concept that hope is the basis of itself. (Scaer, p. 207.)
Vick and Fuller point out that while Moltmann emphasizes the resurrection of Christ “his views with regard to both the resurrection and Jesus are clearly not traditional.” (Fuller, p. 228.) Vick notes that
For Moltmann, what actually happened between the cross and burial and the Easter appearance is hidden in the hiddenness of God, the NT writers not professing to know the secret. (Vick, p. 89.)
Fuller adds that Moltmann is not only not clear with what he means by resurrection, but that he apparently “is not certain with regard to this matter.” Fuller quotes Moltmann from Religion to explain this analysis:
The tradition of the empty tomb is secondary. . . . Under the aspect of the Easter event, only Jesus, the crucified, and the Easter faith of the disciples are tangible . . . “something” happened between the dead Jesus and the disciples which generated the faith of the disciples. What this “something” really was escapes historical verification, since there are no historical analogies. (Fuller, p. 226.)
Summary and conclusion. For the Theology of Hope it is important that Jesus lived and was concerned about the poor of society, and it is important that His death was not the end, but beyond these facts there is little that seems to matter. Jesus’ identity does not matter. “Christian tradition is then not to be understood as a handing on of something that has to be preserved, but as an event which summons the dead and godless to life.” (Moltmann, Theology, p. 302; quoted in Fuller, p. 227.)
The future is infinite, with the meaning of life to be found there. Reality is by definition incomplete, until the arrival of the future in the present. Hope is its own base, and man is to follow after the God who is ahead not knowing where he is going or toward what he is building.
Such a translation of the story of Scripture is at variance with Scripture.
In Christianity hope is anchored in faith. The future redemption is anchored not only in a promise but in a deed. The past actions of God are that by which the future is given direction and content. The base of Christian hope is the already accomplished, not a limitless future. The identity of Jesus is the intelligent spectrum that gives stability to the emotion of faith.
The weakness of Moltmann’s approach to hope is that the indefiniteness of today’s meaning as one awaits the re-interpretation of the inbreaking future, destroys the stabilizing influence of the meaningful decision making that is a part of the traditional Christian heritage. A future that calls people to meet it with more than hope—with a faith and certainty that are based in the already realized, makes each day not only a part of meaning but a contributor to the meaning each individual life generates as it responds to the promised future that calls daily action of a particular type.
Living the present in the light of the future presented in Scripture, with its need for daily now preparation, is to be distinguished from being in the present with a hope founded on hope for the future and its revelation.
The tools of hope for Moltmann include violence; the tools of hope for traditional Christianity include faith in the past, faith in the promise, faith in God, and hope for the future whose structures can now be seen.
Karl Barth and Eschatology—a Brief Review
Adrio Konig (There are several sources we will draw on for this section, but I am particularly following the study of this topic that appears in the following works by Adrio Konig: “The Eschatology of Karl Barth” in Systematic Theology III, Guide 5, pp. 144-63; ibid., Guide 4, pp. 13-39; Pretoria: Unisa Publication, University of South Africa, 1975. For Konig’s full treatment of those issues see Adrio Konig, Jesus Christus die Eschatos; die Fundering en Struktuur van die Eschatologie as teleologiese Christologie (Pretoria: N. G. Kerk-Boekhandel, 1970); especially pp. 30-63.) has pointed out that it is not correct to speak of “Barth’s Eschatology.’ The reasons for this being of course that Barth never wrote volume 5 of the Church Dogmatics, and because the eschatological materials he did produce, which are considerable, (Norman Gulley, in the Eschatology of Karl Barth, Ph.D. thesis, Edinburg University, 1970, says that in the pages of Karl Barth’s works “at least a 1 in 5 average new or repeated references on eschatology throughout the Dogmatics” (p. 565). For a table showing the general distribution of Barth’s eschatological discussion see also Gulley, p. 565.) do not reflect a continuous scheme. Rather Barth’s eschatological comments show a definite development. This development can be distinguished as passing through “four stages:” (Konig, 5. p. 144.)
- The first edition of the Romerbrief (1919).
- The second and subsequent editions (1922).
- The Church Dogmatics, II, I-IV, 1.
- The Church Dogmatics, IV, 3. (It is in C.D., IV, 3 that Barth’s eschatological thought reaches its final form. Cf. Gulley, loc. cit.)
- The first edition of the commentary on Romans.
Konic says that in this first edition Barth’s theological thought is in a preliminary stage. That he introduces few new insights, rather moving along with the thought of Ragaz.
Barth here emphasizes the future as that which is not yet a reality. He speaks of it as the glory which is still to come.
Konig also says that the eschatological statements of this work did not make a contribution to “the earthquake” which the rest of his commentary made in the theological world. He also points out that when Barth later looked back over the eschatological statements of his earlier works, he “did not even refer to his 1919 position.” (Konig, 4, p. 14.)
- The second edition of the Romans Commentary.
In this edition Barth alters the eschatological scheme of the first edition changing the analytical sub-headings in Romans 8 from the ‘past’ (vs. 1-11), ‘present’ (vs. 12-27), ‘future’ (vs. 28-39), to decision, truth, and love. He also omitted his horizontal references to the “future of God” from this chapter (the first edition contained four such references in parallel), and from his discussion of the eschatological character of the Gospel. In the second edition the works of God and the events of life happen simultaneously rather than consequentively.
In 1922, eschatology was not primarily something to do with what awaits us in the future. Rather it concerns eternity in its critical relationship with time. If there is still talk of the end here, it is the end that has already dawned in Christ, God, who in Christ as already come near to us. (Ibid., p. 16.)
- The Church Dogmatics, II , I-IV, 1.)
In C.D. II, 1 the most important change from the 1922 eschatology occurs, according to Konig. Here Barth deals with time—the relation of time and eternity. Barth says that the difference between time and eternity is not that in eternity there is no distinction between movement and goal, because in eternity there is movement, direction and course, but that there is no rivalry or conflict between these distinctions. This change allows Barth to have God in a “genuine relationship” with the future—something he couldn’t’ do in 1922. (Ibid., p. 16.)
In C.D. III, 2 Barth changes again and no longer is eternity set over against time, but rather Christ’s time is set over against our time. Barth also speaks of the temporality of eternity in such a way that a real future emerges. This development allows for the future to be an eschatological category.
Again in C.D. III, 2 Barth deals with the past, present, and the future of Jesus Christ. The future of Jesus is as important as His past and His present. The New Testament knows of no gradual progression of the world to its goal, therefore the coming of Christ is necessary and not redundant. Barth declares that without the expectation of Christ’s coming in glory, one abandons the ground “on which the Christian church can honestly call itself Christian. Everything stands and falls with the hope and expectation of the man Jesus.”
Also in C.D. III, 2 and IV, 1 Barth writes of what he calls two phases of Christ’s coming in glory: His resurrection and His return. Christ’s coming in glory begins, Barth says, with His resurrection, though the interim temporarily interrupts. But as soon as the goal of the interim has been realized, “the same event will proceed with his return.” (Ibid., 5, 145. Cf. C.D., III, 2, 485ff., quoted ibid.)
Thus far Barth speaks of the first and second parousia with the interim (“Intervall”) between them. (See C.D.., IV, 1, p. 735. Quoted ibid.)
- The Church Dogmatics IV, 3.
The scheme of two phases of Christ’s coming in glory is changed here in C.D. IV, 3. Here Barth presents, under the title “The Promise of the Spirit” (C.D., IV, 3, par. 69, section 4, pp. 274-367; quoted Konig, ibid.) the idea that the coming and presence of the Holy Spirit is also a form of the parousia of Jesus Christ. This is the final form of Barth’s eschatological scheme.
Barth now sees the parousia, or return of Christ, as one event that consummates itself in three forms: Jesus Christ has already come in his resurrection, He is now with us in the Holy Spirit, and he shall come again in his final advent. (Konig, ibid.)
These three forms are presented not as three separate comings but three forms of the parousia that are linked together in such a way one parousia takes place in each of them while each participates in the other—whether in anticipation or in recapitulation. Each form becomes visible in the other forms when they occur. Jesus coming in judgment, we are told, is but the fulfillment of the work He began in His resurrection and continued in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Cf. C.D., IV, 3, p. 293; quoted in Konig, ibid., p. 146.)
It is clear in this light, that it is not only Christ’s “last return” that Barth regards as the consummation, since he also calls the resurrection of Christ the great consummation, and refers to the Church (as the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit) as the “eschatological fact par excellence.” (C.D., IV, 3, p. 321; quoted in Kong, ibid.)
This is Barth’s final eschatological scheme—one return happening in three forms distributed through time; “in the past (the resurrection), the present (the outpouring and presence of the Holy Spirit) and the future (the last return).” (Kong, ibid. For a general presentation of Barth’s tree coming scheme much like Konigs see Thompson, op. cit., pp. 126-28.)
The eschatological significance of each of the three forms, when studied, helps to make clear, by adding more detail, Barth’s final pattern. However the three forms are not to be seen, as we have noted, as three independent acts. Thompson says that each form of the eschaton, for Barth,
Participates in the unity and totality of the one event, is itself fulfillment, yet has also its own distinguishing characteristics in the different relationships which Christ himself has ordained. (Thompson, ibid., p. 133.)
Nevertheless we will study them separately, as Konig, does, for clarity.
The resurrection of Jesus and His return in glory are for us two events, but for Christ, we are told, they are one. This oneness is in the sense that His resurrection “is the anticipation of his return, and his return is the consummation and fulfillment of his resurrection.” (Konig, ibid.)
Yet, as Konig points out, there is a difference between the eschatological meaning of His resurrection and of His return, for in His resurrection His ‘return’ was only to a selected few, while His return in glory is a universal occurrence—every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7). This means that His resurrection and His coming in glory have the relationship of beginning-consummation; (Konig, ibid., p. 147.) but they are events to be seen as having equal value, Barth says. (Cf. C.D., IV, 3; quoted in Konig, ibid.) Konig points out that as early as C.D. III, 2 Barth was already writing that in the return in glory “Nothing which will be has not already taken place on Easter day.” (Barth, C.D., III, 2, p. 489; quoted in Konig, ibid.)
Barth never completely breaks the scheme of beginning consummation when he describes the relationship of resurrection to return. Shortly after emphasizing the identity, he speaks of Jesus as his presence in its concluding form, over against the resurrection as his return in its commencement. (Kong, ibid., p. 147; cf. Barth, C.D., IV, 3, pp. 290f., quoted Konig, ibid.)
The eschatological significance of the resurrection is seen when Christ’s resurrection is viewed in relation to His death, for Barth. Because for Barth Christ’s death and burial is “our end, our death, our burial.” (Konig, ibid.) In the cross God is said to crucify the unfaithful covenant partner; He crucifies in order to raise. He takes from us our limited future to give us an eternal and glorious future. The burial is for our unfaithfulness; the resurrection is to faithfulness as covenant partners.
“The resurrection of Jesus is therefore God’s YES to all men. . . . “ (Konig, ibid. It is statements like this that raise the question of whether for Barth eschatological salvation is not for all people—is not Barth for faith a teacher of universalism? Konig says no, because Brath denies being a universalist, but Thomas Blincoe has pointed out that while Barth denies that he teaches universalism, he in fact does. See Thomas Blincoe, The Nature and Role of the Covenant in Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Creation with Special Attention to its Implications for the Doctrine of Universalism. Ph.D. Thesis, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA, 1971.
It is a noetic act that makes known to all the world that the cross has already altered radically and finally the situation between God and the world.
The new relationship in which man and his world stand toward God is revealed in his resurrection as a total renewal. No longer is it a mere possibility. It is now a reality; it has already begun. Man is already justified and sanctified; his sins are already forgiven and destroyed. He is already a child of God, heir and participant in eternal life. (Konig, ibid., p. 148.)
This new relation brought about by the cross is not only a total renewal but it is universal and final. It is universal in that it is not for the apostles only—their privilege was to responsibility, the “Risen One appeared to the disciples in order to give them the mission command.” (Ibid.) It is final in that it is valid for “the beginning, the continuation and the end of the world.” (Ibid.) The gift the final consummation brings, for Barth, will not be different from that which is already given to us by the resurrection of Jesus. It will only be the gift given grown larger—the “fruit of the seed of life that has been implanted by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The future guaranteed to the world in reconciliation has become present in a concrete, real way in the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore the resurrection of Jesus is, to Barth, already the last hour of the World’s earlier form and the first hour of its new form.” (Ibid., pp. 148, 149.)
The eschatological meaning of the resurrection of Jesus then, for Barth, is that
All that can yet happen can be but a confirmation, repetition and expansion of the ends already achieved in the resurrection of Jesus.
In fact, the resurrection of Jesus ‘was already the great consummatum est’. (Ibid., pp. 149, 150.)
The eschatological significance of the interim as described by Barth is a natural development of his multiple-form coming in Glory of Christ understanding, and the ‘fact’ of life—that many people view life from a perspective that is not apparently different from what it might have been if Jesus had neither died or resurrected. As Konig would say,
How is it possible that the goal which God already reached with the world, the future salvation of the world which has already dawned with the resurrection of Jesus, still seems to this day to be confined to Jesus, with world history apparently proceeding as if nothing had happened? (Ibid., p. 150.)
Barth’s answer is given in multiple forms; (Cf. Ibid.) the final answer appears to be given as phases of a work of God:
- It is so because God wills it so.
- God wills it so because the delayed full realization of salvation given a fuller revelation of that which has been accomplished.
- As the fuller revelation is being given we are to accompany Christ in the works and sufferings He still goes through.
- In the time that divides the first and third forms of the parousia “He wishes to give us the opportunity to be more than spectators of the harvest, and to take part in the gathering in.” (Ibid., p. 151.)
Barth’s answer then to the question about the ‘hiddenness’ of the accomplished salvation is that its meaning—the meaning of the interim, or time of the Spirit—is to be found in the opportunity it gives men to share in the work Christ is still doing. “He wishes to be called on and proclaimed by the church in the world. (Ibid.)
To fail to follow Christ as He travels through the interim, is for Brath, to not meet one’s opportunity to really be Christ’s covenant partners, and to not fulfill the original plan of creation. Therefore, to Barth, the interim is a revelation of God’s condescension to men and of His faithfulness to men as His covenant partners. (Cf. ibid., pp. 151, 152.) This is the eschatological significance of the interim.
The eschatological significance of the return in glory is that that which the disciples saw—they beheld his glory—will become a universal event, all will behold the glory of Christ. Christ Himself, the One the church awaits will be seen. “The return is the full revelation of the glory of God in Christ and of the goal that God has set before us. . . .” It is also “direct” and “without contradiction”—every knee will bow and every tongue confess Him; while Christ’s return in glory is also “finally conclusive”—there will not be a fourth form of the parousia.” (cf. ibid., pp. 153-55. Konig reminds us that Barth never finished Vol. V of the Church Dogmatics, which was to deal with the eschatology and therefore what exactly was his view of the relationship between the second and third forms of the parousia must “remain fluid,” because Barth never treated the third form of the parousia in an independent work. The remarks he does make regarding the third form of the parousia are in connection with his study of Christian hope mainly. “This means that we know little of how Barth really understood the return of Christ.” Konig, ibid., p. 153.)
The judgment, eternal life, resurrection from the dead, etc., are for Barth mere predicates or appendages; accompanying phenomena, of His appearing. (Cf. Barth, C.D., III, 2, p. 490, and C.D., IV, 3, pp. 934-40; cited in Konig, ibid., p. 153.)
Summary and Conclusion
For Dr. Barth a particular understanding of the content of the parousia determines the structure of his scheme of eschatology; and while his thinking shifts and develops as he writes, he does always have Jesus Christ as the living One in whom our future hope is grounded. But while his ideas of ‘future’ change, (Cf. Konig, ibid., pp. 157-58, and 155.) the relation of the eternal and time change, and while he is said to be more balanced than Bultmann or Moltmann, (Cf. Gulley, op. cit., pp. vii, and 527.) yet he never developed the here-there, new-old, tension which Biblical eschatology is characterized by. (Cf., ibid., pp. 504, vii.)
For Barth, eschatology begins with the resurrection of Jesus, is exclusively noetic in character, (Barth, C.D., III, 2. P. 436f.; cited Konig, ibid., p. 161, see also Gulley, op. cit., p. v.) and is based in Christology. (Cf. Gulley, ibid., p. 527, and Thompson, ibid., p. 127.) Eternal life means a depth of fellowship with God which will only be opened up to us in the future. However we can now know that this eternal life will be active and will reflect the character of service because God remains eternally King, (Konig, ibid., p. 155.) but we can never be sure who will be His servants because the threatened judgment may not be executed. But, if this should be so, it would
Indeed be a revelation of God’s unexpected grace on which we certainly may not reckon, but for which we may but hope. . . . (Cf. Barth, C.D., IV, 3, pp. 477-78; cited Konig, ibid., p. 156.) God owes man neither patience nor salvation. . . . On the other hand we have no right to regard as forbidden the possibility that that which is highly unexpected might nevertheless become reality, through the no-execution of the threat and the eventual salvation of all men. Thus while we may not teach the apokatastasis, we may well hope and pray for it. (Konig, ibid., pp. 156-57.)
American Seventh-day Adventist Eschatology—Help or Hindrance?
The Anglican writer Geoffrey J. Paxton writes of the Adventist church that “there are those within the church and on the edge of the church that have pledged themselves to keep agitating until corporate repentance is a reality and the gospel of justification by faith alone comes from the lips of Adventists in ‘latter rain’ power.“ (The Shaking of Adventism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977, p. 34.) He also states that “If Adventism has a distinctive contribution, there is little doubt that it lies in the area of eschatology.” (Ibid., p. 147.)
If we can take the liberty of putting these two statements together, though they are separated in his book by more than 100 pages, Mr. Paxton is saying that from his anglican perspective the Seventh-day Adventist latter rain concept and its eschatology can make a contribution to contemporary Reformation theology. His reason for this evaluation, he says, is because “the Reformation stopped short of a full-blown eschatological perspective consistent with its dogmatic center.” (Ibid. Note: Mr. Paxton also refers to other Adventist eschatological formulations such as the shaking, the loud cry, laodicianism, etc.)
The question we are interested in is, is Mr. Paxton’s assertion true? To find an answer we will summarize and compare the findings of our research thus far.
In our study we have seen Ellen White set forth a “full-blown” eschatological scheme. Not only did we find her writing an eschatology that is fully developed but she presents an eschatology whose symbols portray a reality that is to confront people before the granting of eternal life by God. The reality that the symbols portray is defined clearly enough that all who read may know that according to Ellen White’s works men are not only to be confronted by God before He grants the final awards, but that their award to be received in the future is to be given on the basis of the deeds they do daily during life. For Ellen White the future demands a preparation that can only be made daily, and the standard by which the ‘daily’ is to be conducted is the teaching of Scripture as it reads; the question men are to use to evaluate their daily progress in the preparation is does this act and its motive harmonize with the command to show one’s love to God and his fellowmen by keeping the commandments of Jesus. Mrs. White’s basic hypothesis here is to beholding one becomes changed; one becomes like what one looks at, thinks of, and does. For Mrs. White the greatest disaster that could come to the world would be for all men to have equal; inequality for Mrs. White, is God’s method of giving men the opportunity to reveal by their deeds—deeds to be the basis of the final reward given—the love of God they have allowed to become part of them, their likeness to Christ, and their acceptance of the teaching that each man is his brother’s keeper.
This means that for Ellen White the function of the latter rain eschatology is, in part, to control the daily deeds of men; to keep before men the teaching that everyone must one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ. She is very close to George Eldon Ladd’s concept here when he writes that
. . . Jesus’ eschatological teaching, like the prophets’, is fundamentally ethical in its character and purpose. He . . . speaks of the future because of its impact upon the present. (George Eldon Ladd, The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (London: S.P.C.K., 1966), p. 323.
The method of the latter rain eschatology is one which results in the preparation of man by the bestowal of the grace of God so that he can successfully meet the future when it breaks in in the coming of Christ and judgment.
As man responds in obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit he progresses, under the combined influence of the teaching of Scripture, the providences of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit until the final bestowal of grace brings moral perfection to his soul.
Eschatology here in the works of Ellen White is a description of the future in symbols and signs which are seen as portraying a reality that when studied reveals that which is the required preparation if one is to meet the inbreaking future—the return of Christ in judgment and its preparatory events—successfully.
Salvation occurs here progressively as men surrender their will to the will of Christ and become living examples of what He is; and reaches its final and ultimate goal after the work of the Holy Spirit is completed, men are tested, and Christ returns to judge men according to the works done—either in harmony with Him and His expressed will, or in opposition to His expressed will—and the ultimate decision is pronounced—“come ye blessed”, or, “Depart.”
In the works of the other Seventh-day Adventists reviewed we saw many expositions discussing the latter rain and its associated precepts; none of these added to the eschatology of Ellen White though not all of these presentations were in harmony with what the other authors of articles in the Review wrote. Here we found that not all the Seventh-day Adventists we reviewed think alike, though they hold in common a certain heritage—an appreciation for their history as occurring under God’s guidance, and appreciation for the uniqueness of that history as being the result of people responding to the guidance of God given through Ellen White, and the certain perspective of the Scriptures that sees the Bible as an accurate, though not exhaustive record of God’s dealings with men as they have occurred in the past as they will occur in the future. In the Seventh-day Adventist thought context the Bible is under the Holy Spirit the living word of God to men today; to the Adventist writers reviewed as well as to Ellen White. Here too, salvation is fully realized when Christ returns and men receive their rewards.
Eschatology here, as in the works of Ellen White, is a symbolic portrayal of the future whose features can be sufficiently understood to enable men to make the preparation the revelation of the future points out as necessary if eternal loss is to be avoided.
In the current equation, or the Pentecost eschatology we found in our survey of popular contemporary pentecost literature, there is no clear or developed eschatology, though the writers reviewed did see a significance of the Pentecost record to today’s life that should not be overlooked—and which to some of the writers reviewed was the description of the contemporary experience that is often described as Pentecost repeated. It was also said that this experience points forward to the second coming of Christ though no development of this idea was presented.
In our survey of the thought of Jurgen Moltmann we found him portraying the Christian’s life as being based in hope—a hope which is its own base and which looks to an inbreaking future as that which brings meaning and reveals the meaning of life now. This future is a future whose structures can not now be seen—though it is that toward which life is to be aimed, and toward which man is to work by eliminating inhumanity. The aim of work by the church is no conversion of people or a quality of people, but the changing of governmental structures. The goal to be realized is a new humane community involving all nations and languages. The way is the way of change by revolution.
Mans’ attitude toward daily life is to reflect not what has been or what is, but the fact he is a creature of promise oriented toward the future. Such a revelation means that the image of God is in man; the ability to transcend the present life into the future, having a foretaste of the eschatological life to be experienced fully when the future breaks in.
In such men hopelessness is absent for they neither attempt to usher in the future and its benefits without waiting for God to act nor do they prematurely decide that God is not going to do anything in the future.
Here salvation occurs when all men having equal of material goods and opportunities are reconciled to one another. The redeemed are the reconciled. The future provides the ethical norm and actions are judged by what they accomplish toward bringing about the future.
For Moltmann, the future will be realized when Christians have engaged in the affairs of the world in such a way that a full humanity is realized for all.
Eschatology is here an attitude of expectancy that underlies all of faith—it is a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ rather than a prediction of what constitutes the future; it is a perspective from which the whole of theology can be viewed.
In Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics we found that while it is not correct to speak of Barth’s eschatology, for it develops through stages as he writes, that his eschatological thinking does present an intelligible final stage.
In this final stage Barth sees Christ’s parousia as real and significant; an event that occurs under three forms, each one partaking of the other two forms—either as recapitulation or as anticipation. The return in glory—the third and final form—brings to all men what the resurrection of Christ revealed to the disciples.
The glorious return of Christ is associated with judgment in Scripture, Barth notes, but he says that while people may not pray that the final judgment that brings destruction to some people will not occur, it will be in the unexpected mercy of God such as omission is possible; therefore we may hope for that which we do not dare pray for.
Salvation for Barth is clearly an act of God regarding the future of His created beings, though what that act is Barth did not set forth clearly. Salvation here is also an accomplished fact in Christ, and means one’s sins are not only forgiving but destroyed. Man is not only justified but sanctified. The whole world stands in a new relation to Christ. The interim is the time of the mission command; the time of men accompanying Christ in fulfillment of the original purpose of God in creation. Here salvation is not an individual event; the individual is not saved individually but in the context of the reconciliation of the whole of created reality. (cf. Konig, ibid., p. 156.)
The resurrection of Jesus realized all that would be. The coming in the Spirit and in Glory are recapitulatory acts that bring greater maturity to the accomplished and realized salvation but nothing additional is added.
This means that for Barth the future does control the present in that it will come and will bring greater maturity to the already, but the future does not control the present as something to be prepared for, or toward which one must realize a development or change.
Eschatology for Barth denotes the last time. In eschatology man has “to do with the manifestation and effective presence of Jesus Christ. . . .” (Cf. Barth’s discussion in C.D., IV, 3, p. 195.) Eschatology for Barth, like salvation, is not a call to preparation by individuals, nor does the proclamation of the gospel call men individually to a particular life style. Eschatology for Barth is rather a making known (Noetic) of what has been realized by Christ as the purpose of God. It is not a revelation that calls individuals to obedience. (This summary is not true of Barth’s earlier works. Note the following form a manuscript published in Gulley, ibid., p. 94. “Eschatological does not mean a truth of the kind that must first become truth or which must first concern us as truth. Eschatological means other-worldly and therefore not this worldly, not yet valid and meaningful for us, preserved in God far from the reality of our existence and reserved for some future aeon. Eschatology is not negation but affirmation. But all the same it is a most definite and characteristic affirmation, or let us say: within the word of God and His truth, it is the most definite vital point of this truth which characterizes it peculiarly as an act, as a way, as guidance, and therefore characterizes also our relation to it peculiarly as obedience. Eschatological thus means above all: ‘Final’, therefore closing, definitive, unsurpassable. . . . But now this ‘final’ is only one side of the concept ‘eschatological’. The other consists of the fact that eschatological truth is truth as future in the present, as truth that lies before us in the same way as we have the truth of our creaturliness behind us, as truth that comes towards us—not merely facing us, as we must say of the Word of God as the word of reconciliation, but actually coming toward us.” Ethik, p. 328, 1928 Muster MS unpublished in 1970. Translated for Gulley’s thesis by Miss E. R. Binns. (Cf. Gulley, p. viii.) For German text see Gulley, p. 94, n. 375.)
From these brief summations of our findings it is clear that the meaning of eschatology, its function in salvation, as well as the meaning of salvation itself, are concepts that are viewed differently by the writers we have studied, and by those writers’ critics. The question that confronts us here in our research is does the salvific-eschatology of Seventh-day Adventists, when viewed in the light of the contemporary search for meaning in the traditional categories, contribute by its existence, and acceptance by some laymen and scholars, a stumbling block to present and future research and development in understanding, a corrective to directions now being taken, or is it possible to be seen as a sentinel calling of the future that is not only sure to come, but one which must be prepared for?
Konig has pointed out that there is
the danger of a false hope that rests in Barth’s point of view. The biblical command to pray for all men and make disciples of all nations is imbued with a far more realistic warning of eternal loss than would appear from Barth’s references in this connection to the greatness and unexpectedness of God’s mercy. No one wishes to doubt the greatness of God’s mercy. But it is a very real danger that this great grace can fulfill a different function in a specific point of theology than in the Bible. More concretely stated: Jesus Christ is indeed the Redeemer of the world. In him God is indeed reconciled the world to Himself. But this truth functions in a very particular way in the Bible, and in such a way that the concrete warnings against eternal loss never shelter behind God’s reconciliation in Christ. (Kong, ibid., 4, p. 39.)
Gulley writes that while the on-going parousia emphasizes the acting God who ever comes to men in an ever renewed encounter to reveal Himself, the God who appoints the man Christ Jesus to be the one Mediator, and the work Christ does by virtue of this appointment is “all but unmentioned” (Gulley, ibid., p. 504.) by Barth.
While we agree with Konig’s evaluation that Barth’s theological development was a development (or even a change) towards the biblical message” (Konig, ibid.) we must also regret with him that fact that Barth never wrote the fifth volume of his Church Dogmatics, for, as Konig points out, it is reasonable to believe that in the writing the eschatological message would have changed or developed towards the biblical message” as his other works did. (Ibid.)
With Moltmann’s theology of hope the case is different, for, while “With his idea of a definitionless future, Moltmann cannot present a clear, explicit picture of mankind’s future,” (Scaer, ibid., p. 213.) yet man is now to prepare the future even if he does not hear here to call to prepare for the future. However Moltmann does describe the way to the future, and thereby gives a general understanding of what that future will be composed of; he writes,
By undermining the demolishing all barriers—whether of religion, race, education, or class—the community of Christians proves that it is the community of Christ. This could indeed become the new identifying mark of the church in our world, that it is composed, not of equal and like-minded men, but of dissimilar men, indeed of former enemies. . . . The way toward this goal of new humane community involving all nations and languages is, however, a revolutionary way. (Moltmann, “God in Revolution,” in Religion Revolution and the Future (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969), p. 141, quoted in Scaer, ibid., pp. 215-25.)
If one asks Dr. Moltmann what he means by “a revolutionary way” he answers that
It is fully clear that the transformation of the conditions of power will only come through the use of power and the assumption of authority. . . . Unless every possible means is put to use, the revolutionary future is not worth committing oneself to. . . . (Moltmann, ibid., p. 143.) The atomic powers must be forced into guerrilla warfare; the poker players of power must be compelled into the chess game of reason. (Ibid., p. 145.)
For Moltmann, eschatology is a viewpoint, a perspective from which the whole of theology can be viewed. Salvation is here achieved by man. This means that “God’s being is historical and that he exists in history. The ‘story of God’ then is the story of the history of man.” (Moltmann, “The ‘Crucified God’: God and the Trinity Today,” in New Questions on God, ed. Johannes B. Metz (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972), p. 35; quoted in Scaer, ibid., p. 218. For evidence that this is a proper criticism see Moltmann, ibid., pp. 36-37.)
This means that the Christian faith will have to integrate hope in an eschatological future and love which realizes solidarity with the oppressed. In other words, the future of the new being which brings history to a close is allied with the dialectic of the negatives in the historical present. The transcendence of the future of a “wholly other” begins dialectically in establishing those who, in a settled present and in static societies, are “the others.” Precisely this combination is, for the Christian faith, the “power of transformation.” So the power of God, who transcends history, is experience by Christians in the midst of history. (Moltmann, Religion, p. 199. For a definition of transcendent see p. 178.)
In summary, for Moltmann eschatology is a way of looking at life; salvation is reconciliation of all men and an equal distribution of all things and opportunities. The function of eschatology is that it is the viewpoint from which one ushers in the future by revolution.
As we have noted, George Eldon Ladd says that Jesus’ eschatological teaching, like the prophets’, is fundamentally ethical in its character and purpose—they speak of the future because of its impact upon the present. (See above, pp. 46-47.)
Bernard Ramm writes that
Eschatology is, historically speaking, the doctrine of the last or final or concluding events that end time and commence eternity. In the past sixty years a number of different emphases concerning eschatology have emerged. (Bernard Ramm, A Handbook of Contemporary Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), p. 43.)
Klaus Koch, writing of the renewed interest in apocalyptic that was occurring in the early 1970s pointed to a question of importance when he said that
we will have to enquire whether it is really historical apocalyptic which is looming up so suddenly at the centre of theological thinking. There is a widespread suspicion that, basically, certain contemporary ideas are being projected back and fathered upon the apocalyptic writers. . . . (Klaus Koch, The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic (Naperville, IL: Alec R. Allenson, Inc., 1970, p. 15.)
To this researcher the emphasis that sees the need for an approach to the future that is full of hope is a necessary emphasis; the perspective that underlies the proclamation of God as One who is every coming to us is also necessary. But any treatment of eschatology that does not present a future that calls men to meet it, that does not present that future with enough clarity that the call to preparation brings unity among the hearers, is unfaithful to the traditional function and purpose of eschatology.
For eschatology to be true to its nature, as we understand it, it should be formulated in such a way as to cause people to make preparation for the future. It should also present hope for and in the coming God.
To this researcher, because Christ worked for the sick and not the well eschatology should point to the making of the sick who will to be well into whole people and the world into the home for these people that will itself be free from sickness and less-than-wholeness.
Therefore it seems that eschatology must present a God with justice—without justice He could not be trusted; a God with mercy—for without mercy man can have no hope; and the God who loves enough to act—for love that does not act is dead. And as God is eschatologically presented, these qualities would seem to need to be blended—giving continuity and constancy to God’s acts and aims.