Thursday, April 19, 2007

What About Utopia? (Part II)

So we left off yesterday discussing the fact that Christianity does not approach the issue of utopia as such but instead turns our eyes to eschatology, or the study of the “last things.” It is precisely this type of eschatological thinking which was at the center of much of Christ’s preaching, although its actual form was different from those who first heard him. As I discussed earlier this month about Palm Sunday, the general conviction at the time was that Christ was the political Davidic Messiah who would set the peoples free from Roman enslavement and establish the New Jerusalem. To use the language from a lecture I attended last night by Dr. Brant Pitre, Christ was viewed as the New Moses who would lead the people in an exodus to a New, Earthly, Jerusalem.

However, in Christianity, there is a radical shift from what seems like political eschatology to something which seems like nothing other than an aberration, namely a focus on the person of Christ in Christology. To many, this is what is repulsive in orthodox Christianity which still holds the person of Christ as central, far surpassing the moral message of Christ (although the latter is an unquestioned corollary to Christ’s personhood). This begs the question: Has Christology replaced political eschatology or established a new kind of eschatology? Since this entry is not about the defense of this but merely its exposition, let us leave this at the affirmation that the Eschatology of Christ is truly a message of Christology, even during His lifetime (“Behold, the kingdom of God is among you”). This redirection to a person and not a political event makes Christian eschatology one which never finds intra-historical fulfillment. Instead, it signifies that all of creation awaits the return of its Omega Point, in the fullness of time (just as at the fullness of time He became incarnate).

This is important because it answers the problem of the Fall as mentioned yesterday. Eschatology lays one requirement for love at the feet of humanity, namely that love must never secondary to some grand plan to make the world perfect. Instead, love must be an interpersonal encounter which seeks the betterment of the other. It therefore also places a limit on our political powers, although it does not constrict them entirely. Instead, it hones our vision on to the fact that sinfulness will never allow for the establishment of a utopia on Earth. It means that the complete fulfillment of our striving must be the result of an eschatological in-breaking by means of which humanity is ultimately lifted up from the mire of sin to the fullness of human life.

Insofar as it is Christological, the center of Christianity is indeed this eschatological center. It is “the Way” by means of which we experience a foretaste of the eschaton which is only possible when humanity is united without sin, a task only possible in union with him who is called “the Way.”

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