Saturday, September 30

The Second Coming

Most Christians in one way or another believe that Jesus will return in a fashion that is dependent on what eschatological beliefs the Christian holds. I don’t really have any beliefs about when and how Jesus will come again, but I do have some sympathy for the position of ‘partial preterism’. Nevertheless, the most popular and contemporary view holds that all Christians will be raptured away by Jesus, the earth will experience seven years of great tribulation which will kill millions or billions of people (I forget the exact number), and then Jesus will return with all of the saintly Christians riding in white robes as he slaughters the people who attack Israel.

I have a lot of trouble dealing with the idea that Christians are looking forward to when Jesus will take them up to heaven, and then start killing masses of people with meteors, oceans of blood, and locusts with human heads that originally inhabited the deepest depths of hell. The problem of evil is one thing, but believing in a benevolent and loving God who purposefully slaughters millions of people is incomprehensible. And the fact that Christians are looking forward to the rapture, the time when they enjoy streets of gold while the rest of the world suffers, is quite terrifying. Are we not the followers of Christ, who are supposed to be self-sacrificing in our love and service to others? Jesus instructed that the righteous course of action was always the one that lowered ourselves and raised others, and today’s grand theories of eschatology showcase the complete opposite of this philosophy of altruism.

It was Paul who said that he would wish himself to be accursed if it meant his brethren could know God, and it was Jesus who said that there is no greater love found than in a man who gives his life for a friend. Both of these attitudes are irreconcilable with what is often brandied about today in “Christian” circles. On an existential level, the talk of a rapture, tribulation, and second coming do nothing but give Christians a feeling of vast superiority, isolationism and separation from fellow human beings, selfishness, egoistic roots to their Christianity, apathy, and an ignorant sense of security.

Furthermore, the belief in this fundamentalist interpretation of the book of revelations has significant political repercussions. Many of the Religious Right in America has given Israel unflinching support solely because the Jews have to resettle their home land for prophecy to be fulfilled. More significantly, the integration of the state of Israel into prophecy has demonized the Arabs in the region into evil and bloodthirsty soldiers who are seeking to kill God’s people. Moral depravity lies on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, with the slaughter of civilians being perpetuated by both Israeli missiles, and Palestinian suicide bombers. There is also the fact that Israel resettled by taking land from Palestine, and is now conducting illegal land grabs with those extremist settlers continually pushing the border of Israel into the West Bank. Siding with Israel because they are on “God’s side” is simply absurd. This “Second Coming” has done much to negatively shape US policy towards the Middle East, and also the opinion of masses of Christians regarding the conflict.

Fundamentalist eschatology has become one of my pet peeves; apologies if this post was too ranty in style and substance.


Anonymous Nathan said...

Hey Timothy,

On an existential level, how does one reconcile with one's self on the feelings of selfishness, superiority isolationism, apathy, and an ignorant sense of security.

I'm quite interested on the sense of security, moreso on the side of those who call themselves Christian, yet fail to really met the criteria of what it is to be Christian. Walking into a church on sunday makes one no more a Christian than walking into a garage makes one a car.

Once again I'm enjoying your postings.

All the best,


2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for eloquently voicing some ideas I have been having. In addition, I have always found it troubling that 'Christians' relate to God in ways that strike us as unhealthy when seen between humans. To build a relationship upon preference and constant beseeching for favor seems to me to be diametrically opposed to the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.

Thanks again,

9:34 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Thanks for the comments...

I love the garage analogy nathan, but I imagine any person could feel secure and Christian if he was psychologically conditioned for it.

anonymous: It gets even weirder; how God relates to people could be seen as irreconcilable to how Jesus command we treat others, and indeed how Jesus treated us. Jesus did say that to know the son is to know the father, but im not sure if many people grasp that fully.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Soul Food Dude said...

Great post, and it's okay to rant here and there. :-) Sometimes it can be more edifying.

I agree. Growing up in a Christian church, I was introduced to the Left Behind series, and I read the first three volumes about five years ago. Strange how things have changed for me since then. I heard from a friend about how the series ends, with the last installment, "The Glorious Appearing." Jesus spouts Pauline verses and makes people's heads explode. Hmm...

Is this the same as the man who, as he wasted away on the cross, whispered forgiveness to his tormentors? Is this the same character who told us to love our enemies? Who came for the sinners?


5:07 PM  
Blogger Soul Food Dude said...

BTW, my latest post is an excerpt from the man, SK.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Soul Food Dude said...

Also, how do you put a picture at the top of your blog?

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Existential Punk said...

GREAT post! i used to be a believer in this sketchy eschatology but no more!

i found your blog at wikipedia under christian existentialism.

great blog! Looking forward to your new one.

i'd go with

4:35 PM  
Anonymous luthsem said...

yeah I was raised on that left behind crap and I am partial to partial preterist and a-millenialism.

Here's a good interview with Barbara Rossing author of the Rapture Exposed on the dangers of Fundamnmentalist end-times theology:

5:47 AM  
Anonymous ursa smaller said...

since my "deconstruction" I haven't worked my way back to this whole end-times busines, so I have no opinion whatsoever. But you have some brilliant points. Sometimes I wonder if the whole book of Revelation is just a bad pizza dream.

11:56 AM  
Blogger the_burning_bush said...

Do not lose sight of the fact that Jesus frequently references his second coming and the ensuing disarray the world will be in.

He says that his return will be like the days of Noah when people are working, marrying, etc. His point is, "You see a lot of routine stuff going on around here... but you've got an important choice to make, and woe to the person who regrets his choices."

This is as existential as walking through a graveyard. If you focus on the existential aspect of the message, you should encourage people to read what the Bible says about the judgment of the earth.

>> "believing in a benevolent and loving God who purposefully slaughters millions of people is incomprehensible"

It's one thing to say this on a theology website, or a critique of the Bible, but the name of this blog is "existential Christianity". Existence is incomprehensible by definition. Are you saying the only God you will worship is the one you can comprehend?

Check out the section on Nebachudnezzar in Stages Along Life's Way. Kierkegaard challenges us to ask if we can examine God's reasons.

>> "today’s grand theories of eschatology showcase the complete opposite of this philosophy of altruism."

Have you read Fear and Trembling? If you're looking to lead a life of altruism, the life of Abraham is not for you. God is not a God of altruism or any "ism". This is the non-ideology approach that existentialism demands of its adherents.

Anyway ... I continue to have high hopes for the individuals here, and for you, Timothy. I have linked my blog to this site.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

The Burning Bush: Your criticisms were good ones. My study on Kierkegaard and existentialism has not been exhaustive, and I know that my conception of 'Christian existentialism' rests on a quite immature understanding of existentialism. Which is why I wrote it as "existential christianity", a much looser term that embodies things that might not fit in either existentialism or kierkegaard. Often times my arguments might be based on cliche liberal christianity, with no aspect of existentialism involved.

Nevertheless, my own struggle with the problem of evil has made the question of what God can or cannot do before becoming evil an important one. I also believe it is a just question to ask considering what Jesus commanded from his followers, which I guess was the whole point of this post.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Charles Rathmann said...

Your post resonates with me as discussions with fundamentalist Christians online have left this Quaker shaken with the exclusionary doctrines that some people espouse.

Sometimes, I feel myself making a distinction between the teachings of Jesus and the subsequent teachings ABOUT Jesus -- that in some cases illustrate an immediate slide into apostasy of the church.

In the Light of Christ,
~ Charles Rathmann

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noah warned sinners to repent for 100 yrs and they would not...I think we all know what happened...God is love but He is also just and He will punish sin.

3:26 PM  
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