Friday, July 15, 2011

pondering a best and beautiful ending

I feel like I should add a few thoughts of my own but I simply don't have any... I adore Richard Beck and am so thankful he wrote this brief, clear, truly beautiful explanation of his point of view. Because it's mine as well.

Just in case you don't bother to click and read, here are the last few paragraphs:

To state my contention clearly: The apocalyptic visions of judgment found in the New Testament are not intended to be descriptions of the end of the story. They are, simply, visions of judgment. The mistake has been to assume that this vision of judgment is a vision of the end. The result is the introduction of a radical asymmetry into the Biblical story. An asymmetry that, theologically and aesthetically, has and continues to cause a great deal of head scratching (e.g., Why would a loving God create a world where the vast majority are doomed to perdition?).

The reason this asymmetry is introduced into the story is, in my view, due to the fact that many readers of the New Testament lose touch with the prophetic imagination, the way the prophets described the end of the story, the events after Yahweh’s judgments. In the narrative arch of the prophetic imagination judgment and the ending of the story are distinct. They are not synonymous. After the harshest and most hellish of God’s punishments and judgments, the hesed of God is always in Israel’s future. In the prophetic imagination love wins.

In short, what I’m suggesting is that the visions of the “lake of fire” and of “God being all in all” do not have to be read against each other, where the moral asymmetry of judgment is read (as it generally is) as trumping the symmetry of the eschatological culmination on display in the Christological hymns. If we allow the narrative aesthetics of the prophets to guide our readings we find that we have two different pictures oftwo different parts of the story. Judgment followed by God reconciling “all things,” where “every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

So what is the best ending to the Christian story? Opinions will vary. And perhaps some, following Stanley Hauerwas, will wonder if best is even a theological category. So let me nominate something a bit different: the most beautiful ending, the end of the story sung about in the Christological hymns of Colossians and Philippians. If only because poets know a thing or two about beauty.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

the conversation continued with beautiful respect for one another and I found that incredibly refreshing:

see here

and here