I met with my thesis advisor this morning. I'm going to bring three subjects together to critique the modern church: virtue ethics, eschatology, and ecclesiology. I've been reading Moltmann's Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit, and his whole perspective is dependent upon an eschatological orientation in the Church. And it's not just Moltmann; it's there in Yoder, McClendon, Kung, and others. Where am I going with this?
Well, the dispensationalists have done the Church a grave disservice by making eschatology so "small." The end times now refers to rapture, tribulation, anti-Christ, millenium and all that hoodoo-voodoo crap that sells well to people who wear Tommy Hellfighter tee shirts and listen to Michael W. Smith. The eschaton, rather than being the decisive in-breaking of Christ into the world to fulfill redemption, now becomes this drawn out struggle between Israel and the forces of the anti-Christ. Stop me when you're ready for your shot of liquor.
I would love to see the Church regain an eschatological focus that is more biblical, more hopeful, and more universal. The phrase in the title is one I came up with during my meeting this morning. I was telling my advisor that eschatology is handled in one of two ways: the way discussed above in many Pentecostal and Baptist churches or it's ignored completely, as in most "community" churches (mainstream, evangelical, suburban, moderately affluent, white, etc.). Rather than allow a vision of the end to shape us—we will live in a "peaceable kingdom" then, so what do we need to do to prepare for that now—we focus on day to day issues: finances, parenting, marriage, sin management, all of which are important but aren't good preparation for how we will live then and should begin living now. That was my point: if this is who we shall be, then an eschatological focus teaches us that this is who we must be...now, today, in the present...not later, when Jesus returns.