- a theology of hope - or what I have been calling a positive and transformative eschatology (in academic writing). Eschatology refers to what we understand not only about the end times, but about the ultimate purpose, goal or 'hope' that the whole of creation and history is working towards. We know that it ends with the return of Jesus and the new creation of a new heaven and earth. But before the restoration movement, the most prevalent view among Christians was that things in the world were going to get worse and worse, the church was going to get generally lukewarm, there was no need to try to change anything in the world as it was all going to get destroyed anyway, but before then Jesus would come back and rescue-rapture us Christians and we just had to 'hold on' until then. Some people sadly still believe this negative and defeatist eschatology, the spirit of a theology called pre-millennial dispensationalism (explaining all that Left Behind nonsense!). But through the restoration movement I learned that actually Jesus is coming back for a glorious and victorious church, a bride who has made herself ready for her king; that we don't withdraw or retreat from the world but we get involved and expect to see transformation now, because the kingdom has already come; that God is not just seeking to get us into heaven but to bring heaven to earth. Even though the kingdom is still to come in its fullness, we are involved already in the process of restoration in the here and now; we get to anticipate that new creation now, tasting the powers of an age to come, bringing heaven to earth, the kingdom of God into our areas of influence; and heaven is not our destiny but a restored and re-created earth, united with heaven, is our ultimate home. I'd say on reflection now that we sometimes allowed this message to produce a triumphalist spirit and a culture where our rhetoric was not always matched by our practice. I have come increasingly to see that the cross must be kept at the centre of our understanding of the kingdom (I'll post more on this in the future as it is what is most occupying by thoughts at the moment). The kingdom is a different kingdom, a counter-cultural kingdom and its values and criteria for success are different from the world. Nevertheless, the message that has gripped me all these years and for which I feel so indebted to men like Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallis, Ern Baxter, Terry Virgo, Keri Jones, Tony Ling, Hugh Thompson, David Matthew, and others is that God's future kingdom has already broken in upon our world and is transforming it and we, the church, get to be part of advancing that kingdom in the earth, of transforming our world by the power of the cross and we live to see God's glory filling the earth as the waters cover the sea. This is part of the legacy I definitely want to hold on to!! And it's a purpose worth living for!
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Restoration Legacy 7
Dissertation done!! So finally getting round to writing the last of these thoughts on the legacy of the restoration movement. This last is top of the list for me really, and ironically is what the dissertation that has stopped me from posting more often is all about: