Monday, August 09, 2010

Is Eschatology Still on Our Agenda?

The last couple of blog posts have been considering "What Mean these Stones?" - the Charismatic heritage that means so much to so many. One of the key hallmarks of the 1970's was the positive eschatology that swept the world. The sermons from the Bible Weeks and the prophecies and indeed the worship songs all spoke of a glorious church that was advancing the gospel. A couple of my favourite worship songs that I remember hearing thundering out from the cowsheds of the Bible Weeks was;

"For I'm building a people of power
And I'm making a people of praise
That will move through this land by My Spirit
And will glorify My precious name".

"Jesus has sat down at God's right hand, He is reigning now on David's throne,
God has placed all things beneath His feet - His enemies shall be His footstool ...
Sound the trumpets, good news to the poor, captives will go free, the blind will see,
The kingdom of this world will soon become, the kingdom of our God!".

Well a sure way to check the validity of any theology is if it gets roundly criticized and condemned by "cautious evangelicals" and indeed - positive eschatology did indeed. I found an insightful piece by the ironically-named "Discernment Ministries" (I always wince when I see a ministries devoted or named as such). They write;

"However, in 1971 a watershed event took place that was to unite all camps of the budding Restoration Movement, and helped it to adopt officially its neo-latter rain doctrine. Arthur Wallis, fired by his endtimes vision which was becoming ever more radical, called a national leaders’ meeting in 1971 to discuss eschatology. He wanted to do away with the “doom-and-gloom” theology theology of pre-millennialism. He believed what was needed was a united leadership to oversee the coming of the kingdom, and the restoration of the glorious endtime church".

It's interesting that Arthur Wallis is credited with the advent of positive eschatology (at least in the UK). Every charismatic leader (such as Terry Virgo and Bryn Jones) credit Arthur Wallis's books such as "In the Day of Thy Power". The "Discernment Ministries" article goes on to talk about Ern Baxter's contribution to this positive eschatology - which of course makes my ears prick up;

"Baxter was invited to speak, along with Bryn Jones, at the Capel Bible Week in 1974, and later went on to achieve an almost godlike status amongst the Restoration fellowships. He could do no wrong ... Ern Baxter’s teaching was, like that of Arthur Wallis, derisive of pre-millennialism, and contained the concepts of the Pattern Son and the Corporate Christ as well as the role of the Church in bringing in the Kingdom. Baxter had, by the mid-70’s, become part of the influential Fort Lauderdale Five".

I think I would disagree with the statement; "He could do no wrong". But that's an aside. What also led me to think about this post was that I am reading the infamous "Left Behind" novels in my spare time. I'm enjoying the drama but the depressive theology is wearing me down.

Oh that there were a series of novels from the victorious eschatological view point!

What's my point? I heard a video recording of Dave Holden speaking at the Brighton Leadership Conference 2000 (the one where they cancelled Stoneleigh Bible Week) and he said something very insightful;

"Your eschatology will shape your ecclesiology".

Or in other words - what you think about the end times will shape your church life, what you sing, what you preach and above all - how you reach out to the lost. Have we forgotten about thinking about the end times? I don't mean heaven and the 2nd Coming. I mean how history is going to wrap up. One more victorious 70's song I used to love singing at church;

"The Lord has given
a land of good things,
I will press in and make them mine.
I’ll know His power,
I’ll know His glory,
And in His kingdom I will shine.

With the high praises
of God in our mouth
And a two-edged sword
in our hand,
We’ll march right
on to the victory side,
Right into Canaan’s land".

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