This marks the end of our series on Douglas Jacobsen’s and Rodney Sawatsky’s fine book, Gracious Christianity, and tomorrow I’ll resume looking at Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places — one day later than I hoped. Overall, Gracious Christianity adds a note of pervasive grace to classical theological questions. Not the least of which is our topic today: The Future. How does one approach the future with gracious Christianity?
It begins by recognizing that Christianity is forward looking and hopeful. “Christian hope is about faithfully working together with God so that peace, righteousness, and justice are established on earth whenever possible, looking forward to the day when God will make all things new” (115). I find this in contrast to the way many Christians speak of eschatology — which becomes simply (and almost only) vindication.
1. Realistic hope: the essence here is that God has promised a final triumph of good over evil. This gives Christians hope even in the “flux of life” — which challenges each of us at times in our life.
2. Praying and Working for God’s Kingdom: here they look at the Lord’s Prayer and see prayer and life as a distinctive mixture of patience and impatience; they look to Martin Luther King, Jr., which is timely. There is a “holy impatience” about the one committed to the Kingdom.
“The kingdom of God forms slowly in the world as each of us learns personally and together how to love god and one another more willingly, more fully, and more selflessly” (120). Don’t jump up and down here and start saying “postmillennial!” for I see no sign of this in the chapter. Both the Second Coming and the Book of Revelation are treated to special acts of “we don’t know when and how so let’s be a little more gracious” about these ideas.
3. Living and Dying: they move now to personal eschatology. Good short section.
4. Judgment, Heaven, and Hell: “What we do know is that our actions and attitudes in the present have long-range consequences for both ourselves and others, and the traditional symbols of heaven and hell point toward those consequences with dramatic, visceral power” (123). And here’s a great statement: “God’s judgment is final because when it is rendered, whenever that may take place, we will know once and for all exactly who we are” (123).
On purgatory, about which many of us are keen to do some thinking, they see the Catholic and the Protestant view of “time to purge” (RCC) or “immediate purge” (Protestant) both thinking that purgation is necessary. There are differences here, but the point they make is worth making. On hell, they see “embracing grace [love that phrase!] is clearly the antithesis of hell” (126).
The Conclusion to the book pulls out Johann Arndt, a Lutheran pastor, who advocated loving God and loving others, in his book True Christianity. Arndt makes this statement, and I tend to think it is very close to what Jesus taught: “The love of God and the love of neighbor are one thing and must not be divided” (130).
That is what gracious Christianity is all about.
Thanks Douglas and Rodney for a gracious book about our gracious vocations rooted in our gracious God.