Eschatology as the study of the last things or the end of the world is an intriguing area in theological studies. It basically assumes this world will come to an end and proposes what’s next. This immediately raises some questions. What exactly is going to come to an end? And if there is a new beginning after the end, as it is held in Christian theology, is this a real end or just another point in an ongoing cycle of reality?
In Christian theology there is a reference to two worlds: the present one and the one to come. In all flavors of Christian eschatology the world to come is better than the current one. Obviously. It is actually believed to be the best of all worlds. For those going through tough times (and who doesn’t?) it is what helps them navigate life here and now, knowing that one day it will be all right. No wonder it fuels hope. If there is no justice now, it will one day. If there is pain now, it won’t be one day. If things don’t work the way there are supposed to, they will one day. It is described in, basically, perfect terms. There won’t be anything lacking. Now, this view is true for both those who believe this world, as we know it, will be destroyed and a totally new heaven and earth will replace it and for those believing that a perfect world will one day be here on earth. It all sounds fluffy and it inspires hope … if … you don’t think a bit deeper about it, if you just take it as a matter of faith, something to just accept as true. But here at Theology Gym, we don’t let things slide. We ask questions. We try to expose cracks. Since this the first post in a series on eschatology I want to get us started by addressing two problems.
First, Christians believe the world to come will be perfect because, well simply, God will make it so. But doesn’t this seem to overlook an all too important factor: the present world is God’s creation. Last time I checked God created this world … perfect. How can he do a better job? Was this project a try-out on the way to create the truly perfect universe? How do we know he will nail it on the next attempt? And what kind of God does this presuppose? You can’t have God create a better world after He already created one that was supposed to be perfect and still hold that what God does is perfect and good every single time, can you?
Second, it is said the next life or Heaven, as it is commonly called, will be perfect because of the absence of sin. If that’s the case we need to ask what sin we are talking about. Isn’t sin only possible when you are free to choose? So if there won’t be sin in heaven, there won’t be free will either. Well, that complicates things. First, does that mean that God thinks the idea of giving freedom to people was not such a good idea? Again, that paints a different picture of God. He can’t make up his mind what’s best? In his view robots are now better? What is the place of love in this “perfect world”? If you’re forced to love is that love?
Let’s stop here for now and let the conversation begin.
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