eschatology is not geology

ArvesonPT@nswccd.navy.mil
Tue, 15 Dec 1998 10:41:50 -0500


Jonathan Clarke said:
Almost all the discussion in this
group focuses on the interaction between scientific and theological accounts
of
beginnings. There is almost nothing about the interaction between
scientific and
theological ideas about the end. As Robert Russell of CTNS pointed out
last
year at a conference I attended in Sydney, the challenges to eschatology
(and
relevant Biblical interpretation) raised by cosmology are just as great.
The
implications of oscillating universes (if correct) is one of them. I can
think
of three more.

How do we integrate the Christian doctrine of hope with the cosmological
choice
of freeze or fry?

To what extent was the eschatology of the Bible limited by the world picture
of
the writers?

Christians have traditionally expected the end to come next week (if not
before). However, I presume all times are "soon" to God. What if human
history
continues for another 1,000 years? What about 10,000 years? What if we
continue
for 100,000 years?

---------------

The 'beginning vs. end' bias has been something I have also noticed. I hope
to do some more thinking about the other end issues, someday when I have
more time.

Jonathan's second question I think is very important. Genesis 1:1 refers to
'hashmayim v'at eretz', the heavens and the earth. Revelation concludes
with the same phrase, as 'a new heaven and a new earth'. The new earth is
pictured as a polished gold cube, thousands of miles on a side, 'coming down
out of heaven'. Since dimensions are explicitly given, it is apparent that
this object is much smaller than the known size of the whole universe. It
reminds me of the 'Borg' of Star Trek, only nicer. However, that is enough
for you to see the direction this heremeneutical approach leads to.

Our exhaustive discussions of Genesis have at least allowed many to realize
that the text is more than merely a literal, journalistic account of
history. I know some have insisted that historical narrative is the
'highest' kind of message, and others have found 'numbers' hidden in the
text. But many (Jews as well as Christians) have felt that this
unnecessarily restricts the text and tends to overemphasize its other
meanings, resulting in endless debates over details. Worse, it distracts us
from the more profound messages it may contain. (My conclusion is that its
metaphysical philosophy is one of its most helpful messages, a philosophy
which forms the foundation of the 'Western' scientific approach to nature).

When we approach Revelation with the same historistic emphasis, we run into
even more difficulties, because this hasn't happened yet, so there can be no
geological or astronomical evidence to relate to it. If we are going to
make any sense out of the Rev. text at all, it will have to be by other
hermeneutical methods. For instance, it is pretty obvious that the text is
full of symbols drawn from the OT. This points in a direction away from
historic narrative.

The YECs are fond of saying that the laws of physics were different in the
universe before the Fall. I think this is just an inverted way of saying
that the Genesis text is not talking about physics. Likewise, I don't think
Revelation is talking about physics, or astronomy, or geology. It is
talking about collective personal, spiritual relationships. These are not
measured in units of time and space.