[Related to this post is “1988” below.]
What do you do when the alarm starts chirping the morning after the world was supposed to end? What do you do when the most precious of all promises (the return of Christ) fails to happen on (the latest popularized) schedule?
You get up, you brew another cup of coffee, and you live another day knowing that it could still be your last. You do your homework. You pay the bill on the dining table. You change a diaper. You drive to work. You put the trash out on the street for the garbage truck. You enjoy conversations with your friends… but you also fight to maintain a sense of eschatological urgency.
What most troubles me about end-of-the-world predictions is the potential for cynicism and disillusionment over the most glorious of all Christian hopes, the Second Advent of Jesus. He will reappear at some point in tangible, visible fashion to finalize Death’s reign and to establish New Creation. But the more t-shirts advertising a particular date for that moment, the more radio broadcasts announcing that date with exactitude, the more street preachers verbalizing their confidence in the latest prediction, then the more likely it is that our greatest hope as Christians will become associated with quack theology. The more likely it is that our greatest hope as Christians will become associated with idealistic pipe dreams.
I do not fault anyone for urging a sense of imminence regarding Christ’s return. They find good company with both Jesus, Paul and John the Seer. But to claim a date is to create a delicious media spectacle that amuses or annoys non-Christians and leads Christians into becoming more sheepish about living in the imminent urgency that Jesus is indeed coming one day with unstoppable force.
The premise of Faith Without Illusions is that idealism is a farce but cynicism is a dead end. I write that cynicism is rendered obsolete by Christian eschatology. Since Jesus rose from the grave, initiating the encroaching of New Creation into our present sphere, then we can exchange cynicism for a hopeful realism.
This hopeful realism is therefore eschatological. So it is very hard for me personally to wake up the day after the supposed end of all days knowing that Christians have exploited eschatology in such a way that cynicism is the more likely response than hopeful realism.
Paul urged the Thessalonians to stop using their eschatological urgency as an opportunity to check out of their daily, communal and personal responsibilities. This morning, let’s not use someone else’s eschatological urgency as an opportunity for cynicism.