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

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Fri Oct 17 2008 - 17:04:10 EDT

Murray, I have to disagree with your conclusion here. Given what Jesus
taught about his return and his relationship to the Father with respect to
it, I think Jesus explicitly teaching an immediate return that was not to
happen would have some serious theological consequences. Whether he himself
might have thought or wondered about this without having taught it, perhaps,
is a different matter.

On Fri, Oct 17, 2008 at 4:27 PM, Murray Hogg <>wrote:

> Hi Bernie,
> This particular discussion could go (and seems to be going!) in a number of
> different directions! I, however, would want make the point that question at
> hand isn't whether Jesus could have been in error on the date of the
> parousia, the question is whether he was. And that in turn puts the question
> of whether we have sufficient data to make that assessment.
> To which I think the answer is "probably not" - I simply don't see any
> compelling reason to put on the lips of Christ a date (nor even a date
> range) for the eschaton. As I've repeatedly stated "suddenly and without
> warning" is what he taught and "in our lifetime" was an inference the
> disciples drew from it.
> But to scotch suggestions that the data is being misrepresented to avoid
> thorny theological problems, let me just make the following few
> observations;
> 1) The idea that Jesus was wrong/ignorant would be a theological problem
> only in as much as it illustrates the difficulty which ALREADY exists in
> trying to reconcile the idea of Jesus' human limitation vs divine fullness.
> It's clearly very difficult to find any solution to this difficulty but in
> theory at least the entire concept is simply (ha!) a restatement of the
> theme of Phillipians 2:6-8.
> 2) The issue (to my mind) isn't the question of whether Christ could
> possibly have been wrong. That possibility is already inherent in the
> concept of the incarnation as I've just outlined above. The issue, rather,
> is whether Christ was _actually_ wrong. And to discuss that we have to first
> determine that he made some sort of definitive claim about the date of his
> return. Frankly, I think HE (as opposed to his disciples) makes no such
> claim. I may be wrong, of course, but it has nothing to do with attempting
> to evade the possibility of Christ being in error. In short, it's an issue
> of exegesis not one of what I consider to be a priori possible.
> So one might then want to open a discussion on what follows on the
> assumption that I'm wrong with respect to the exegetical question. And
> having reflected on that for a few days the answer would most likely be "not
> much." Indeed, I've already urged taking Matthew 24:36 as indicating the
> Jesus WAS ignorant of the date of the parousia - so I've already factored in
> some level of "limitation" in respects of Christ's knowledge. To my mind,
> Christ being wrong/uncertain about the date of the parousia would merely add
> one more thing to the list of things involved in the Word emptied himself in
> being made flesh. In terms of theological consequence, I don't find the
> thought "scary" in the least.
> Blessings,
> Murray Hogg
> Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
> Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology
> Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>> Here's my idea. Pastor Murray (someone you likely agree with) and I agree
>> that the disciples thought Christ would return in their lifetime, and these
>> disciples were wrong. My hypothesis for consideration: Isn't it a
>> possibility that Jesus was wrong? Can that be possible, and still not
>> detract from the nature of the trinity, which no one understands fully
>> anyway? Jesus did not know everything. I think we can all agree to that.
>> He had to learn how to walk, speak, and get potty-trained just like every
>> other human, right? When he was learning math, he probably got some
>> questions wrong (oops, 2+2=4, not 3, when in grade school, if there was such
>> a thing). And somehow that doesn't detract from His Godhood. In the same
>> way, could he have simply taught his imminent return and had been wrong? I
>> know the consequences of that may feel scary, but that hasn't stopped before
>> as some of us ignored the consequences to our Biblical understanding when we
>> studied and rejected YEC.--
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David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Fri Oct 17 17:04:43 2008

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