Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Narrative Preaching 5

posted by Scot McKnight


TomLong.jpg

As if Tom Long hasn’t taken on board some major issues in his lectures on preaching, the last chapter in his new book, Preaching from Memory to Hope
, examines preaching about eschatology.
Here’s the big introduction idea, as he asks preachers in the mainline the questions:
“What do you think about eschatology? I don’t know. What about a sermon on the last things? I’m not in the mood.”
There you have it: preaching on the Second Coming — and it’s an article of our faith — has fallen on agnostic times, something we hope we don’t have to do or something we’re dreading.
How about you? How much preaching on eschatology do you do? And how many sermons on eschatology in your church?

Long provides an overview of what happened: a century ago mainliners preached eschatology of a postmillennial sort, but the three-legged foundations were all sawed off, and all that survived was an evolutionary hope in progress and development. But progress won’t sustain eschatological hope.
He’s against the literalistic stuff of premillennialism and The Left Behind series. But he thinks a genuine eschatology is needed.
Three characteristics of eschatological preaching according to Long:
1. Participate in the promise that God’s shalom flows into the present and draws us toward consummation.
2. Affirm that life under the providence of God has a shape, and that shape is end-stressed. The basic plot of life is “tick… tock.”
3. Seeing that apocalyptic language is not literal prediction; it’s a way of seeing the present in light of hope.


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John W Frye

posted February 16, 2010 at 8:02 am


Scot, I grew up in the days of dispensational charts and every world leader that fundamentalists didn’t like was a candidate for “anti-christ.” By the time I reached my middle 30’s I was so disillusioned by the headlines + prophecy hype and the latest book predicting the rapture (*88 reasons Jesus is coming back in 1988* et al). I got allergic to eschatology and refused to preach on Revelation. Thankfully, Eugene Peterson’s *Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination* gave the Book pf Revelation back to me as a *pastoral* resource, not a ouija board for divining the end times. Now, I am reading Craig Koester’s brief analysis *Revelation and the End of All Things* and I am beginning to possess a sane eschatology that has robust pastoral energy. I am pretty sure I am not the only jaded pastor out here in pastoral land who gets jitters when the latest pre-Trib rapture fiction gets published.



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E.

posted February 16, 2010 at 8:18 am


I think as a 30 year old pastor, my problem is that I’ve grown up with primarily two models for it: either a very revivalfocused heaven or hell preaching, or really not much preaching about it all.
The first one didn’t seem like a good approach to adopt – at least not in a uncritical way, and the second didn’t offer much help to form my own way of understand and preach eschatology.
In a time were the understanding easily is that you “own” everything you preach, to have integrity, it is challenging to preach about something that really haven’t been very formative to my journey with Christ. And there the problem lies, to make it a stronger part of my own faith journey – to be able to share with others.
I do think, though, that the missional conversation focus on Gods move against our world is a help on the way.



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Andy Holt

posted February 16, 2010 at 8:49 am


While I’ve never preached on Revelation or eschatology in particular, it’s something that always seems to be around, looming on the horizon. The hope of resurrection, vindication, and eternal communion with God is a throughline in my preaching because it’s a throughline in my life. I think about the end a lot because it helps me to know what to do (and get through) the present. So while I’ve not preached on Revelation as a book, chapters 21 and 22 come up again and again, whether I’m preaching or teaching a class.



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Phil

posted February 16, 2010 at 8:56 am


For myself personally growing up dispensation, then moving convenental (still pre-mil), when the conversation comes up I point to the actual hope of resurrection, rather than the gnostic soul in heaven on the clouds folk Christianity.
This comes up on occasion during funerals, not in an attacking way, but pointing people to what we hope in and then read from 1 Cor 15, Rev 21, 22. To allow the listener to challenge the folk religion in their head with the scripture. It’s the only way I know how to handle it without becoming my default “know-it-all” which goes nowhere fast.



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MatthewS

posted February 16, 2010 at 9:07 am


I identify very much with where John Fry was in his 30’s.



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Jim

posted February 16, 2010 at 9:31 am


I agree with these three points. It seems that over the last 40 years or so, eschatology has focused on certain and impending doom. It is as if the point of our message is retribution through global suffering and destruction. Honestly, as a very new believer, I used to get giddy when a war broke out in the Middle East. We all did back then.
How did we miss the hope? How did we end up re-imaging the “restoration of all things” into condemnation and destruction?
Since those times, I have walked away from the Dispensational perspective. I see Jesus’ return as hopeful and integrated in the Gospel of reconciliation.
And (a bit of poetic justice) I see the “Left Behind” books being flogged off in the 99 cent stores…Sweet!



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Terry

posted February 16, 2010 at 9:35 am


I’m with MatthewS, I too completely identify with John (#1) in his 30s. I never knew anything but solid Left Behind-style dispensationalism. Over the years I too have become disillusioned. Because of the initial weight and focus on the rapture, etc., within my peer group, this was akin to becoming disillusioned with my faith altogether. I have taught the Revelation twice, but would be stuck to do so now. Though I cannot return in good conscience to my previous certainties, I yearn to put into robust language and thought, if not a time-line, eschatological hope.



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Andrew

posted February 16, 2010 at 11:04 am


I just reached the one year mark in my first call as a full time pastor. I preached 46 times in the past year, and 5 or so were significantly eschatological in content. N. T. Wright’s “Surprised By Hope” has given me a lot of perspective with which to preach eschatology. I think Long’s characteristics are similarly helpful, and I haven’t read the book, but would perhaps add that eschatological preaching is grounded in our theology of resurrection, the firstfruits of Christ’s resurrection being one of those things that “draws us toward consummation.”



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Danielle Shroyer

posted February 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm


This is one of my soapboxes (fair warning!) but I think pastors should talk far more about eschatology, especially if they have a community of people who came from “Left Behind”-esque backgrounds. The story of God is incomplete and incomprehensible without an eschatological dimension. God’s intent has always been to move the world toward new creation.
If you’re looking for help in re-envisioning your eschatology, may I suggest Jurgen Moltmann to the rescue?
Here is his academic book on the matter (though all of his theology is thoroughly eschatological):
http://www.amazon.com/Coming-God-Christian-Eschatology/dp/080063666X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266341621&sr=8-1
And here’s one he wrote for laypeople:
http://www.amazon.com/End-Beginning-Life-Hope/dp/0800636562/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266341723&sr=1-1



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Barb

posted February 16, 2010 at 12:52 pm


Dear Pastor Friends,
if you struggle with understanding the “not yet” just know that the people in the pews are totally in the dark. I was totally surprised when the mature Christian women at our last retreat stated (and all agreed) that the best books they’d read were the “Left Behind” series. And we’re a PC(USA) church!
The people need to be taught.



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E.G.

posted February 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm


Wow… I’m another of the “too-much-dispensationalist-wall-charts-as-a-kid” folks out there.
Sometime in my late teens or very early 20s I decided that doom, gloom, and destruction – along with the fact that Pierre Trudeau, Gorbachev, or a host of others didn’t end up branding us all on the forehead with 666 and guillotining those of us who refused – just wasn’t for me. So, I went without any sort of authentic eschatology (other than cynicism for what I had previously been taught) for years.
It wasn’t until I was leading a small group study on Daniel that I had to seriously confront it again, since passages of that book are so vital to Hal Lindseyian theology. That’s when I discovered that there were other, orthodox flavors of eschatology. I have since pretty much settled into an amillenialist mode, and that settling has been great for me in terms of my own walk with the Lord and my teaching. It gives me a great foundation for so much of the rest of my study of the Word.
I’m amazed that I could go so long ? a decade or so ? without a reasonable foundation like this. I’m thankful that various folks our there (e.g. Kim Riddlebarger, and others) have spent the time to study to help me along in this way. I just wish that the word would get out further.
At this point, I see a general fatigue with eschatology. I suspect that there is an overall evangelical cultural cynicism developing around the dispensational program, much like my own personal journey. I’m hopeful (and hoping) that the negative cynicism eventually develops into a positive search for truth and a regrounding of evangelical doctrine.



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Patrick

posted February 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm


I’m an occasional preacher, but the more I go on it seems to me that, as I think Moltmann said, Christianity is eschatology. And that future orientated perspective has begun to shape more and more how I preach and teach. Not in a literalist times and numbers way, but in how for example one reads the gospels in light of the Kingdom of God; how one reads Paul in light of his theology of the Spirit; how NT ethics are shaped by hope of the life to come and so on.
I see it as the job of the Christian teacher and preacher to help people shape their lives in light of the shape of the God’s future orientated story. I think we need to preach & teach this regularly because our culture is so relentlessly focused on meeting our own short-term needs. If people ‘get’ eschatology, it leads to a pretty radical re-shaping of our lives and priorities to a different story.



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samb

posted February 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm


Can anyone recommend a good commentary or meditation on Daniel that will help me with Tom’s characteristics above?



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Jim

posted February 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm


I agree with these three points. It seems that over the last 40 years or so, eschatology has focused on certain and impending doom. It is as if the point of our message is retribution through global suffering and destruction. Honestly, as a very new believer, I used to get giddy when a war broke out in the Middle East. We all did back then.
How did we miss the hope? How did we end up re-imaging the “restoration of all things” into condemnation and destruction?
Since those times, I have walked away from the Dispensational perspective. I see Jesus’ return as hopeful and integrated in the Gospel of reconciliation.
And (a bit of poetic justice) I see the “Left Behind” books being flogged off in the 99 cent stores…Sweet!



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Jim

posted February 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm


I apologize for the double post. I’m such a noob!



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