The Beginning is Near
It’s fall in southern Alberta, which seems to mean, if the last two years are any indication, that it is end-times prophecy season at a local hotel. Last year, it was “Unlocking the Prophecy Code” and the promotional material came adorned with all kinds of sinister looking beasts and fiery looking scenes. According to a recent flyer I received in the mail, this year’s theme is equally cheery: “Preparing for Economic Armageddon!” Speaker Darrell Beaudoin, who is “considered by many as an authority on Bible prophecy,” will apparently outline the “imminent global crisis” as well as provide guidance to his listeners regarding how they can be “survivors.” Sounds exciting.
As I noted last year around this time, it’s probably a bit too easy to poke fun at these sorts of events. Expecting credible theology from “Amazing Facts Ministries” would probably be roughly equivalent to expecting respectable journalism from the Weekly World News. But whenever I see stuff like this, I can’t help but wonder about the obsession with the end of the world, and the enthusiasm with which these people seem to embrace their role as the harbingers of doom. On one level, it makes a kind of sense. I guess. The end of the world means the beginning of (a certain understanding of) eternal life. Doom and gloom is the necessary precursor to paradise. So bring it on. But is the telos of the biblical narrative really an ending? Or a beginning?
A couple of recent queries about my masters thesis from a few years ago has led to a bit of digging around in and cleaning up old files filled with quotes, discarded portions of writing, etc. One of the quotes that caught my eye—not least because of the aforementioned delivery in the mail—deals with the issue of beginnings and endings in the Christian story. Speaking about common images in popular Christian end-time imaginations, German theologian Jürgen Moltmann has this to say:
These images are apocalyptic, but are they also Christian? No, they are not; for Christian expectation of the future has nothing whatsoever to do with the end, whether it be the end of this life, the end of history, or the end of the world. Christian expectation is about the beginning: the beginning of true life, the beginning of God’s kingdom, and the beginning of the new creation of all things into their enduring form. The ancient wisdom of hope says: ‘The last things are as the first.’ So God’s great promise in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is” ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (21:5). In the light of this ultimate horizon we read the Bible as the book of God’s promises and the hopes of men and women—indeed the hopes of everything created; and from the remembrances of their future we find energies for the new beginning.