Sunday, 9 March 2008

What are we waiting for?

"Waiting for glory." That's what my msn tagline currently reads. It's what Romans 8 would have us know - even as we have glory now in freedom as God's sons, yet we wait - through suffering now - for glory to be revealed to us, which is beyond comparison with the present suffering.

Yet as I read the recent Paternoster book, What are we waiting for?, I got the impression that we aren't waiting for very much. What is ahead, we're not sure of, and anyway, it's mostly already in the here & now so that's what we should work at. I'm grateful to Authentic for the free copy, and I applaud the aim of the editors to replace the default Left Behind popular eschatology with something better than an 'embarassed silence'. My own grandfather did such a thing in his own generation, which has been very influential ever since. But on an admittedly quick read, I was disappointed by the variety between chapters. The impression I had was that, sitting down for a good, many-course meal, I'd been fed some good food and some Spam. Interesting discussion is good, but I'd rather the sheep were fed.

Some of the chapters are notably good, such as Krish Kandiah on escatology and pop culture, and Tim Chester's Eschatology and mission. Others seemed to emphasise the now so much I'm really not sure what we're waiting for. We should indeed seek to further the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, to care for others and the rest of God's creation, as Christ has inaugurated the new heavens and new earth. But what hope do we offer to the dying thief on the cross? Or the terminally ill cancer patient? Or the Christian thrown in jail in Azerbijan for having a Bible in his home?

It's all very well to have healthy conversation - something which this publisher seeks to encourage by being broad in its theological range. But for love of the Church, let's be very careful not to gut our future hope - for some, it is not merely a different way of saying, 'our present kingdom-work', but is all they live and die for. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen, eternal.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

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