Prospective: Issue 1, Introduction

Today begins a weekly series of blog posts entitled “Prospective,” where we’ll examine what our Lord says about the future. In writing and preaching over the years I’ve shied away from prophecy, and this moment seems like a good time to correct that omission.
Yes, now’s a good time: in the presence of a lot of seeming chaos, we could benefit from a heightened appreciation of the truth that history is going somewhere. Christianity isn’t mainly an ethical code or any type of “way”; it’s an account of God gradually setting up His kingdom in history. Or to say that another way, Christianity is a record of past events and things to come. Things are moving along.
Interpreting biblical prophecy is daunting for many reasons, starting with the fact that it seems impossible to assemble all the data from the different texts and then come away with any coherent narrative. A major part of the battle is lifting out “eschatology” (the big word of this post) from prophecy generally. Eschatology is the study of the last days of the age; while prophecy (in its temporal use) refers to days that are future to the one speaking the prophecy, whether or not they fall at the end of the era, the eschaton.
Of course, another challenge of studying prophecy is that you’ll be joined by, or even seem to be joining, a colorful and doubtful cast of characters. Preppers, dystopian story-tellers, conspiracy theorists, and others more or less of the unhinged – all are known for their particular interest in prophecy, especially the end-times variety. Sure, some of these unhinged types have to be included in the Christian family by their confession in the Crucified, but do I really want to be associated with those wild-cousins?
And I’ve come to the place in my thinking to reply, ‘why not?’ As time goes on, I’ve found new force in the Psalm 119 formula: I’m a companion of all those [as eccentric as they may be] who fear your name So I choose not to avoid a topic just because the lunatic fringe hovers around it.
As a corollary to that, I’m also unwilling to reject an interpretation of a prophecy just because it’s fanciful or unimaginable. For example: if the word of God says (it doesn’t) that five creatures that appear to humans as size 36 army boots will one day rule the cosmos from the deep caverns of the ocean, I’m going to believe it. Implausibility is very relative, and if we looked out into the “normal” world with the fresh eyes of children, we’d find even a tree to be rather fantastic (see Chesterton’s Orthodoxy: the Ethics of Elfland).
So there’s the introduction to our “Prospective” series, and I hope you’ll join me in this conversation. Yes, I’d ask you to make this into a conversation – please give comments, questions, push-back in the “comments” field. I’ve taken a few college and seminary classes around the topic of prophecy, but admit to feeling very much a novice in all this. Your contributions – or if it applies – and expertise are welcome. As always, feel free to be straightforward, even curt, in expressing contrary perspectives. But let’s not make this personal – “Colin you jerk” or Colin, you think that because you’re a slothful stutterer…”
Next time we’ll begin in Matthew 24: the “Olivet Discourse.”

2 thoughts on “Prospective: Issue 1, Introduction

Add yours

  1. Thank you for dipping into the Rubicon (apart from any reference to civil war).

    I found D Brent Sandy’s Plowshares & Pruning Hooks helpful.

    Like

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