Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Well, my internet fast has been an unmitigated disaster. However, I have managed to get one day ahead of my original schedule on the essay front and have a little time to spare to give an update on my news. I will be busy with essays until Tuesday and then I have to prepare for a talk on Titus at Staffordshire Christian Union. This is my second time speaking there, so I must have done OK first time. Some of my essays are quite annoying, particularly those for Eschatology. The course as a whole has disappointed me so far. The first 12 of the 18 modules (I don't know what the later ones are going to be) are as follows: (1) Introduction; (2) Introduction to core text book: The Nature of Hell; (3) Death and the Intermediate State; (4) Final Judgment; (5) Heaven and Rewards; (6 & 7) Hell: Conditional Immortality; (8) Hell: Some key exegetical issues; (9 & 10) Hell: Some theological objections; (11) Universalism; (12) Pluralism and Inclusivism. Every mark for this course is riding on two essays (both 2,000 words): (1) Contrast and evaluate critically (a) Christian universalism/inclusivism, (b) evangelical inclusivism and (c) Calvinistic inclusivism. (2) Analyse and appraise critically the four Conditionalist theological arguments used to reject traditional teaching concerning the nature of hell. I don't know if it is the doctrine or the experience of this course that is supposed to convince us of the truth of hell, because if hell is a place of utter frustration I am having a taste of it at the moment. It seems as if the course is approaching the whole subject backwards. Everything is so individualistic and centred on going to heaven when you die. It would be nice were we to begin by grounding eschatology in the biblical narrative. We could try to attune our ears to the biblical metaphors and chart their development throughout the Scriptures. Perhaps we could explore the role of the Spirit in redemptive history. We could probe the significance of the future invading our past in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ and the importance of Pentecost. We could explore the sacramental nature of time. What does it mean that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever? How do past, present and future relate in the time of the Spirit — are they abolished, do they have some form of interpenetrating unity, etc.? Maybe this would provide an avenue into the discussion of hell: what is time like in hell? What would the barrenness of time look like? What happens when past, present and future are alienated from each other? I would love to spend a couple of weeks grappling with 1 Corinthians 15, for example. What is the relationship between resurrection and forgiveness? How does Adamic Christology inform our view of the work of Christ? What is the relationship between Christology and Pnuematology? etc. Maybe we could even examine the manner in which the Church and the sacraments function in our eschatology. How an eschatology can ignore the Eucharist, I simply don't know. [Which reminds me, I have a long post on the relationship between Eucharist and eschatology to post when I have finished my posts on Baptism. I would prefer not to post anything more on Sacramental Blog until I have completed them.] I don't know why such a course should be so focused on hell. The more that I look through the Bible the more I am struck by the fact that hell is not as prominent as we might expect. I believe in hell, but I am increasingly convinced that the form that this doctrine takes in many quarters is that of a doctrine that has slipped its biblical moorings and taken on a life of its own. It would be great to see some more nuanced conservative treatments of the subject in years to come. Treatments, for example, that don't read hell into every warning of judgment that Jesus made. Maybe hell could be more grounded in scriptural motifs such as exile, or God's jealousy (e.g. Song 8:6). I'm just glad that I read widely and can learn my eschatology elsewhere. Many evangelicals simply cannot see an awful lot further than people going to heaven and hell when they die and the millennium question. They also, IMHO, all too frequently do violence to the context of the gospel and fail to see that AD70 lies behind many (albeit not all) of the texts that people see hell in. [/gripe] Other goings on... At the moment a lot of things are happening as we prepare for the second celebration of Jonathan and Monika's wedding, for all of their friends and relatives on this side of the Atlantic. Things will be extremely busy in the run-up to Saturday and I will have to forfeit the use of my room for a few days. I will be acting as the best man in this celebration. In the next few weeks Richard is going to be moving in to stay in our house again. Mark, who moved out to stay with Jonathan a month or two ago, has now moved back. My ankle, which was injured about two and a half months back, still hasn't properly recovered and I am not able to run on it. This morning I was finally contacted about the appointment for physiotherapy that I arranged when I first damaged it. Unfortunately, I could not manage the time that they gave me, so I am back on the waiting list. Stink. Within the next few weeks my granny is going to be moving up into our area, right across the road, in fact. From her room she will be able to see into our front room; she couldn't be closer. The move has gone amazingly well so far. Her house was purchased within a few days of its being put on the market for the full asking price. A real answer to prayer. This afternoon I listened to Graham Ward trying to make Radical Orthodoxy intelligible to mere mortals. I’m not sure that it went very well, although he is probably not the one to blame. Catherine Pickstock was more successful in these talks that I have linked to before. I will, God-willing, finally get around to posting a series on N.T. Wright and imputation some time in the not-too-distant future. This time I have decided that it is probably best to finish writing the whole of the series before I post any of it. I have essentially finished my presentation of Wright’s position and now have to bring it into dialogue with Reformed positions. At present the series is about 15,000+ words long. I will probably add another 5,000 or so words before I finish it. Maybe then I can also get around to posting some material on the subject of forgiveness that I have been writing up.