Apocalyptic theology

Fleming Rutledge, always worth a read, posted an essay on a school of Theology she’s calling “The Union School of Apocalyptic Theology”. Chief among the members of this school is Karl Barth (who’s one of my own primary theological influences). She lists a number of other as well including Paul Minear and Brevard Childs who were both Yale faculty (where I attended seminary). I had the honor of taking a couple of classes on Old Testament theology with Professor Childs and heard some Prof Minear’s lectures as well. Perhaps that is why I have such a preference for Barthian thought.

Rutledge explains Apocalyptic Theology thusly:

“‘Most simply stated, ‘apocalypse’ is shorthand for Jesus Christ. In the New Testament… all apocalyptic reflection and hope comes to this, that God has acted critically, decisively, and finally for Israel, all the peoples of the earth, and the entire cosmos, in the life, death, resurrection, and coming again of Jesus, in such a way that God’s purpose for Israel, all humanity, and all creation is critically, decisively, and finally disclosed and effected in he history of Jesus Christ.'[1]

Some central affirmations of apocalyptic theology (F. Rutledge)

  • Divine agency is central— ‘God is up to something in the world’ (Paul Lehmann).
  • Sin and Death are Powers who have invaded the world and established their dominion.
  • The human condition is genuinely tragic because humanly speaking, there is no escape from bondage to the Powers.
  • The earthly human world is subject to incursion from the divine world—‘cosmic breaking and entering’ (Martyn)—in Jesus Christ, the end of the ages has come upon us (I Corinthians 10:11).
  • The divine apocalypse is less a disclosure than it is an invasion (‘O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down’—Isaiah).
  • Justification (dikaiosune) is understood less as individual salvation, more as rectification constituting a new world.
  • Jesus Christ waged apocalyptic warfare (see R. E. Brown on Gethsemane).
  • The apocalypse of Jesus Christ means the end of conventional warfare, because the line between good and evil runs through each person (as attested by Vaclav Havel, A. Solzhenitsyn, Primo Levi and many others).
  • Apocalyptic metaphor is God’s poetry (Martyn), telling us the truth about our condition and our hope.
  • The New Creation dawns even now, in the Church’s participation in the Cross and Resurrection.
  • Cruciform Christian witness is anchored by secure confidence in God’s triumph at the ultimate End, the Last Day when God puts an end to Sin, Death, and the devil, establishing the Kingdom of God in its eternal, victorious completeness.”

Read the full article here.

It’s certainly worth a read. I’ll need to think through some of the ideas she derives from this list, but I very much agree with her point that the Cross is the Sign of that signifies the turn of the Ages.

The idea that the revelation of Jesus Christ is historical, discrete and ongoing seems obvious to me, but it is something I’ve had to argue in support of with other Christians.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...