Monday, May 18, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rapture Ready

A friend recommended Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh. It is an in-depth exploration of the parallel universe of Christian pop culture. Here is the review in Slate. 

And here is a link to the Rapture Ready website, which has nothing to do with the book --- it's all about being ready for the rapture. 

I am an evangelical Christian but, like many other evangelical Christians, I do not believe in the teachings about the end times and the apocalypse espoused by dispensationalists (i.e., people who believe in the rapture). Rapture theology is a fringe belief that has really gained traction in the last 30 or 40 years. Although the mainstream Christian faiths do not hold to this hyperliteral and uncontextual reading of the Bible concerning the second coming of Christ, it plays a huge role in the Christian pop culture mentioned by Daniel Radosh, and is a significant element driving those Christian groups who are pushing to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. It is not that they support Israel or the Israeli state, but rather that they wish to hasten the second coming, and believe that the power to do so lies in their hands. Jirair Tashjian from the Christian Resource Institute has written an article about the Second Coming in which he looks at the biblical writings concerning the second coming, and how those writings have been used to support teachings about the rapture.

I like Tashjian's concluding thoughts, which I will quote here:

There is no rapture in the book of Revelation. The church not taken out of the world and the earth destroyed. Instead, God comes down to dwell on earth. The church is in the world. This is a new heaven and a new earth because the older separation between heaven as the dwelling place of God and the earth as the dwelling place of human beings is transcended by God’s redemptive work in history. Now the earth becomes the dwelling place of God. There is no need for temple because God’s presence is no longer localized in a place but is pervasive (v. 22). There is no need for sun or moon because the glory of God is everywhere. Nations and kings continue to exist in the world, but now they conduct their work in the light of God’s glory (vv. 23-24). The gates of the city will never be shut because there is no longer any enmity or threat (v. 25).

I must confess that this picture of the end is much more appealing and hopeful than rapture theology can ever be. Rapture does not fit with the spirit of the Bible. The picture I get from the Bible is that God in the end will bring his kingdom fully and completely to earth. Affirming a fervent hope that some day Christ will return and the kingdom of God will be fully realized in the world ought to energize God’s people to work toward that end, or as 2 Peter puts it,

"What sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God… Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation" (3:11-15).

When writers and preachers make such a big fuss about the Second Coming and the end of the world, they are forgetting something much more important. They are in effect minimizing the First Coming. In a real sense the world ended some two thousand years ago in Jesus. Something decisive happened for humanity and for our relationship with God in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The New Testament is much more concerned with what it means to be crucified with Christ than with being glorified when he comes again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Voices Against Violence

I want to commend Judge Agnes Chappell and Judge Annetta Verin for the work they have done in Birmingham with Voices Against Violence