Monday, 10 November 2008
Taking the Sting Out of Apocalyptic (and the Meaning From Christianity)
Taking my previous post a little further, it would seem to me that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to extract the message from apocalyptic and retain the important stuff embedded in it. I would like to suggest that whether we like it or not, we have to remain in contact with the apocalyptic form in which we have received the Christian faith. Indeed, the relationship betwen Jesus and apocalyptic is not just receptacle to content, but is, in places, so close to make the distinction void.
The urgent preparation of apocalyptic is a case in point. I mentioned in the previous post that those who rid themselves of the second coming of Christ seem less urgent than the texts assume. Indeed, without the second coming we start to ask what exactly we are meant to be ready for. And that's when some people say death. True enough, but on its own hardly the gospel. Apocalyptic is a cosmic vision of God's completion of history, and is not an individualistic cry for immortality. We might struggle with the sun falling out of the sky type apocalyptic, but it is easy to see that the vision is cosmic in stretch. Preparing for one's own death, laudable as it is, and even necessary, is not the comprehensive vision of the end we see in the resurrection of Jesus.
So, in the same way we are not meant to read off some kind of 'wisdom' from the story of Jesus, such that we no longer need the original story, some kind of spiritual insight is not to be drawn out of apocalyptic such that we no longer need keep in contact with the original texts and their apocalypticism.
[The picture is the grotto of John of Patmos.]