Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Wed Oct 15 2008 - 18:44:06 EDT

Hi David,

I didn't get much chance to get around to the below, but thank you for the observation!

Frankly, my MAJOR problem with Ed's piece on the subject is not his faith position (or lack thereof) but rather that his hermenutic is precisely the same as the eschatologically frenzied fundamentalists which he hopes to dissuade.

One simply has to do more than wrench a series of texts out of their literary and historical context, redefine the terms to prejudice the argument in one's favour, line them up together like pearls on a string, and - ignoring every piece of evidence unfavourable to one's conclusion - pronounce "voila!"

I'd pretty much go with the rest of your critique on Bernie's argument only adding that I don't think Bernie's position is entirely silly - it does seem, as a rough first approximation, not unreasonable to suggest that the disciples teaching on any matter was grounded in the teaching of Christ. My problem is that constructing such "reverse" arguments is not how biblical studies is done!

I'd only add that I've repeatedly tried to make clear that the disciples DID expect a return of Christ in their lifetime and I do "get" (but disagree vehemently with) the claim that this eschatological expectation was the PRIMARY motive for their actions. Frankly, I think it were a great many more issues informing their actions and I think it highly spurious to attempt to reduce the actions of an individual (let alone a group) to a single primary motivator.

I've also tried to point out that the idea of a return "in our lifetime" seems to me a SECONDARY idea - probably inferred from the PRIMARY idea of a "sudden" return. Certainly both ideas are consistent with the idea of an IMMINENT return. Here I note two points: first, "imminent" is OUR word - imposed upon the Scriptural witness precisely in order to force the rather disparate sayings into a false unity. I've been trying to get past this term to actually look at the data WITHOUT imposing our later attempts at unifying theological construction, but to no avail.


On the suggestion that there may be a body of unrecorded teaching of Jesus NOT contained in the Gospels, I have a few observations:

First, the Gospels contain the teaching of the apostles about Jesus, not the teaching of Jesus himself. So if there WAS any unrecorded teaching which might greatly influence the Gospel accounts it must ALREADY be contained therein. To put it simply, the Gospel authors had already come to a quite developed understanding of who Jesus was, and what his teaching was about, prior to writing the Gospels. In one sense, of course, this furthers the conundrum - how could their "quite developed understanding" include the view that Jesus was returning in their lifetime and still be held credible? My response: first, I think (again) it's an inference from what Jesus CLEARLY taught (a "sudden" return). Second, if their understanding was based on an unambiguous teaching of Jesus, then I'd expect clear reference to this in the Gospel records.

Second, whilst it's an uncheckable assumption, I'd wager that the Gospels contain a "cross-section" of Jesus teaching such that nothing is really lost in our not having that additional 99% anyway. Or, to put it another way, I believe that if one had access to a voice recording of ALL of Jesus ministry, one would STILL have the ambiguity as it currently stands.

Third, you're quite right that I privilege the WRITTEN teaching of Jesus over anything else. I particularly privilege it over speculative reconstructions of what he MIGHT have said AND I privilege it over the beliefs even of his closest followers.

Or, to think of this third point in another way, you suggest that I think that what Jesus told the disciples "off the record" (so to speak) is "irrelevant." My response is to point out that the disciples were the ones who determined relevance when they decided not to write it. The fact is that the Gospels contain the "most relevant" material selected by the disciples out of the 100% which was "off the record" in the first instance. The additional 99% might be interesting to know about, but I'm guessing it wouldn't vary our picture a great deal.

I'd only add that if you find a great many pastors disagreeing with your point-of-view on such matters, then perhaps there's a message in there for you? At least, I'd personally want to counsel a person to have very sound reasons to go against a majority view.

Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

David Opderbeck wrote:
> In this regard, the supposed proof texts offered by Edward Babinksi are
> all over the place. There is a huge amount of theological baggage in a
> term like "the last days," for example; the sense of "already-not-yet"
> that we now recognize in this phrase is sometimes latent, sometimes more
> explicit. You may not realize this, but Babinski has rejected the faith
> entirely and is simply out to discredit any sense of coherence at all in
> scripture. This kind of string-verse-together-out-of-context
> prooftexting is simply not a useful way to read the Bible. --

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Received on Wed Oct 15 18:44:34 2008

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