Thursday, October 19, 2006

christians and the future of the world: agree or disagree?

The last couple of days I've been reading Brian McLaren's book The Last Word and the Word After That. On page 152 he shares this quote which he received from Dallas Willard and Keith Matthews:

To believe in God is to believe in the salvation of the world. The paradox of our time is that those who believe in God do not believe in the salvation of the world, and those who believe in the future of the world do not believe in God.

Christians believe in "the end of the world," they expect the final catastrophe, the punishment of others.

Atheists in their turn... refuse to believe in God because Christians believe in him and take no interest in the world...

Which is the more culpable ignorance?

...I often say to myself that, in our religion, God must feel very much alone: for is there anyone besides God who believes in the salvation of the world? God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble him enough, who love the world enough so that he could send them into the world to save it.

- Louis Evely, In the Christian Spirit (Image, 1975)


Nick Draper said...

I think it's a passionate way of saying something that is indeed true in some circles. Too often we as a Christian collective read passages meant to give hope to the hopeless, and become convinced that the right thing to do is to have no regard for this world, other than getting souls off the sinking ship. I believe that "eternal life" has meaning for this world as well as the next. (Maybe someone versed in NT Greek can explain the eternal/full life translation issue? I've got a foggy at best grasp of it.)

So yes, I agree with the sentiment of the statement; I just think it was a little too sweeping in order to make itself powerful.

Keith Taylor said...

Christians believe in "the end of the world," they expect the final catastrophe, the punishment of others.


I disagree with this comment that he quoted. This is a generalization about Christians that just is not true.

First of all, I do not believe the world will end. That has been taught to me in Christian teaching and in the UMC since I was a boy. Since I was a child I have sang "Glory Be to the Father" in UMC Church every Sunday that I attended. The words are:

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning,
is now,
and ever shall be,
world without end.

I do believe that Christ will return to reign on earth following the Great Tribulation. I believe he will reign as King from Jerusalem, just as the Bible says. It will be a new age, but he will return to Earth. It will be the same Earth that you and I inhabit today. It will be remade, like new before the fall and the curse of Adam, but it will be the same earth. That is why we sing, "world without end". I don't expect a catastrophe, to the contrary, I look forward to the day that the Rightful King will come and make everything as it was in the Garden of Eden before the curse was unleashed.

I also believe in the Salvation of the world. Not in the since that Universalists believe, but in the since that salvation is available to all who choose to accept Christ's attonement for our sins. But, I am also aware and believe the Bible that says that many (roughly 3 of 4 according to Christ, himself) will reject that salvation and be judged. I do not expect the punishment of others, but the Bible says it will happen. There are days that I say to mayself, "Lord, I wish you would hurry up and return", but then I stop and think and I then say, "NO Lord, not yet, one of my best friends is not saved. Not yet Lord, there are billions on the globe that still are lost infadels."

I reject the idea that as a Christian, I believe in "the end of the world," they expect the final catastrophe, the punishment of others.

God Forbid.

Anonymous said...

I think we have some semantic issues.

Maybe this secular quote from an 80's song by R.E.M. will illuminate and somewhat agree with Keith Taylor.

The Second Coming of Christ - "It's the End of the World As We
Know It".

Yep, that's what I believe. That and the final battle of good vs. evil won by Jesus with a single word like a sword coming from His mouth.

No more evil, Satan and his minions, and physical death will cease. All this and unbelievers and unrepentant sinners will be cast in "the lake of fire".
But 'cha know what. Per the emergent crowd that's too dogmatic and they try to marginalize my orthodoxy in their conversation.

That's ok. The only conversation I want to hear is God saying, "Well done, my good and faithful servant".


The Gloria Patri is a doxology not a theological statement or article of faith. In fact several sources say the language is obsolete and the last part mistranslated.

"The ending of the Gloria Patri, "world without end," is what would now be translated as "forever and ever." In Hebrew, the words would be le'olam va'ed, which literally means "from this world to the next." In Latin, the words are in saecula saeculorum, meaning (I believe), the same thing. While it is perfectly OK to interpret this as "for ever and ever," I like to remind myself of the deeper meaning here: that "forever" necessarily invokes the image of the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation, where all will be perfect and God Himself will rule us and be our Light.

Anglican View Point

The common Liturgy of the Hours doxology, as approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. Alleluia.

While we are waiting for the Lord to come we should as Christians seek "Scriptual Holiness" as a means to be more like Christ. I have not really seen any emergent writings on holiness. (I'd be interested if anyone knew of any such articles / books)

One meaning Holiness means to be "separted or set aside for for the Lord's purpose". The whole concept of a Christian being in the world but not being of this world. Agreed, Christians are at odds with "be ye separate".

I may disgree with the Amish of Lancaster County, PA on their view of biblical separation. But I and most of the Christians and non-Christian got an object lesson in biblical forgiveness in a extreme radical Christlike way. I am humbled by their authentic Christian witness to the world.

As a fundamentalist, I believe the prophecies of Revelation will come to pass literally.

"It's the end of the world as we know it.. and I feel fine" -- For I have assurance of salvation in faith in Jesus Christ.

Your brother in Christ,
John Flores
Frisco, Texas

Keith Taylor said...

Thanks John,

We are actually in 100% agreeement. I too believe in a literal interpretation of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

I reckon my point is that I take offense to folks who imply that I am sitting around waiting on the world (or age) to come to an end and for sinners to be thrown into hell. They are wrong. That is not what live my Christian life for and I am also a fundamentalist. I rebuke them before God and his Holy Angles if that is what they were to say my faith is all about.

Bill Byars said...

I guess I should state that my claim to fame is my ignorance. I don't know where the first statement of the quote comes from. I am unaware that believing in God is to believe in the salvation of the world if the "world" is to be described as all people (and then I must say all people of all times).

I personally believe in a real future Tribulation, and I cannot for the life of me develop a scenario where there would be a Tribulation except for a world similar to Sodom and Gomorrah or the pre-flood world. Surely it is a world in judgment.

In my possible ignorance, I've always thought that the Tribulation was coming because the Church was failing, or simply not capable.

And while I completely disagree that "Christianity" can be characterized as simply looking to the future and not being concerned about those around them, I think I've been involved in too many prayer meetings to buy into that theory completely.

The quote we are discussing is really just chock full of things that would take us off into all kinds of discussion. Since it is so easy for you to skip over my babbling, I'll list a few:

1. As alluded to above, I don't agree that the "world" that Christ came to save was every person of all times and it is logically either that or some subset of the world. Even though God has discussed the concept of the salvation of the world with us, He has never abdicated His right to reject some. If he rejects any at all, then "world" as in "everyone" is not possible.

2. The idea that athiests exist because of the behavior of God's children is rather marsish. I belive an athiest can be an athiest for a lot of reasons, and I suppose the stated reason could be one of those reasons, but it couldn't possible be the only reason, and there is no way to measure such a thing, so the statement seems to be mostly bluster about us not acting the way Willard and his associate want us to.

3. To me saying that God may feel alone is very similar to saying that the martyrs that are giving up their lives as we read and write are off doing something other than making a stand for Christ.

So basically I disagree with virtually every phrase of this quote. I often disagree with everything that Dallas Willard says, but I don't know the other two so I don't know if they are in the habit of speaking like this.

Talk like this leaves me confused about whether I understand the author's context and perspective. Possibly they have spent too much time on campuses or hanging around with the Visible Church without trying to discern where in there exists the True Church. Possibly they focus too much on a rich neighborhood and its week-end believers. Possibly they are bitter and depressed because believers don't act in a way that they believe pleases and honors God. And there is a lot of truth in that, but good grief to make such all-incompassing, dogmatic and negative remarks! To basically judge the Church as a whole! What boldness! Or maybe what gall.

I've seen too many crying over an unsaved spouse or co-worker, friend, homeless person, or prisoner. I've too many struggle over what it means to be Christlike.

Maybe we do struggle against complacency, just as some of us struggle over Eternal Security, but that doesn't mean that we never see victories on the side of God-pleasing life.

And in my mind, if they just mean to say that there is a problem, they should just say so. And if they are trying to re-write our Eschatology because they are afraid of what a faith in an end-times means, then I would suggest they find a different solution to the problem that they perceive.

Just a couple thoughts....I don't really have an opinion on the matter...

Blessings to all the World,

- Bill