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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Monday, September 24, 2007
Hermeneutics and Eschatology
Thinking makes my brain work...Long ago in my faith I spent some effort focusing my study of God's word on the teachings about the last days. We use the word eschatology to describe this, and I suppose that is only natural as it comes from two Greek words: eschatos and logos, which mean "last" and "word" respectively. We use the word eschatology therefore to identify "end time" specific theology.

I say, I had in the past given some considerable study to this, but was unable from my studies to conclude a cohesive model. I like to describe the outcome of that time of study not as fruitless, but rather as producing a certainty in me of what eschatological teachings I am certain cannot be correct. That is, while I did not have enough light to build a complete model, I believe I had enough light to examine errors in some of the popular systems around.

To be sure, I regard the study of eschatology as perhaps the very least valuable of all theological studies, and in saying that I suppose I put myself before the ire of those who have made eschatology their great passion, for implied in my confession is, I suppose, a thinly veiled jab at those who are preoccupied with this particular study and regard as adversarial anyone who does not share their priorities.

That is not to suggest however, that I believe a Christian is justified in neglecting eschatological teachings, for one errs in neglecting such matter just as surely as one can err in over emphasizing it. I mention this only to avoid the charge by denying the supremacy of eschatological teachings, I am necessarily demanding their neglect, or dismissing their value altogether. Don't laugh - when a person disagrees with you, they typically do so and presume that you are not only disagreeing with them, but are doing so by embracing the position that is farthest away from what they believe.

I suppose I am hindered in my study of the end times by the approach I take to when I interpret the meaning of scripture. My hermeneutic is simple enough, I read the bible, and believe it to be true, and trust that it is never going to be my intellect that reveals truth to me, (though my intellect will certainly play a role in articulating that truth), but it will be God's Spirit that reveals truth to me. I don't raise that up as some pious method, but rather as the only way I have ever studied scripture, and having had some light from the Lord in the past, I am inclined to continue to use what has worked for me so well thus far.

That is not to say that when I come to a text I disregard what is clearly stated in the text in favor of some mystical impression I presume will come to me. If that were the case I wouldn't need a bible, I could just mediate until "truth" impressed itself mystically into my understanding. Such gnostic nonsense is not what I mean - rather I believe that as we let the word of God dwell in us, as we meditate on it's meaning, that the Spirit given to us as the Guarantee of of sonship - this same Spirit illumines our understanding. The words of scripture are like a bowl that holds in it truth - when the Spirit enlightens us we can drink from that bowl, but in the same way that what we drink out of a bowl is first contained in the bowl, so too with the word of God, the truth is held in a text like living water in a bowl - and just the water conforms to the shape of the bowl, so too the truth conforms to the text. Which is only to say that my hermeneutic does not involve taking more from God's word than is there - a truth when rightly articulated draws water from the well of the word without polluting it; but while this may well be articulated by our intellect, it is not our intellect that opens up Spiritual truths to us. Our intellect is part of our flesh and blood, and flesh and blood do not reveal truth to us.

So I say, my understanding of eschatology is limited or hindered by my hermeneutic, but I mean it in this sense - I refuse to knowingly speculate beyond what a text says. That is, I imagine that scripture is not presented to us as a riddle to be figured out, but as a truth to be understood. I reject the premise that God has given us puzzle that is not only missing some pieces, but has a rather out of focus image upon it such that we must not only lend our speculation to the puzzle to fill in the missing pieces, but must also squint in just this 'right' way to see what the other imagines the blurred image to be.

I am reminded of seventies paranoia about backward masked Satanic messages in songs - you remember that don't you? Here we see the Christian alarmist playing some record backwards and you listen and no matter how many times the recording is played, you hear no messages, and in fact hear only the sound of human voices that sound all wrong and nonsensical. Then the expert tells you what to hear, and you listen again, this time trying to hear that - and what do you know? You can now make it out. Sure it doesn't really sound like that or you would have heard it the first time, but you cannot deny that if you project clarity into these verses where there is really no clarity - you can now "hear" what previously wasn't there - all you have to do is add to it a little projected "clarity."

So when I speak of that hindrance produced by my hermeneutic, I mean only that when I come to a text wherein the meaning is unclear, I make it my practice to leave the clarifying work to God, even when there are a hundred "experts" willing to clarify the text on my behalf. I respect that God has given the church men with insight and understanding, and I am glad to take instruction on such matters, yet instruction stops being instruction and begins to be speculation when instead of shining light upon a verse, instead one is told to "squint thus" in order to "see it". There are two fools: the first refuses to take any instruction, and the second is willing to take instruction even when that instruction goes beyond the text.

What that all means is that when I say something like "I don't make eschatology my passion" I am not suggesting that I neglect eschatology, or that I am better than someone because I haven't figured it out, or any such nonsense. All I mean is that my study has yet to yield a complete and cohesive model.

I mention this only because I plan to post on a passage that is somewhat eschatological in nature, and I want to grease the way a bit beforehand...

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posted by Daniel @ 10:45 AM  
  • At 2:30 PM, September 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I look forward to reading your post on the passage somewhat eschatological in nature.

    I am not passionate about eschatology, but became interested in certain passages once my pastor preached on Matthew 24 from a partial preterist perspective. That view was new to me, and I started looking at passages that were previously always expounded to me as futuristic as possibly now not necessarily in the future. I never quite understood them very well and kind of mentally assigned certain texts of Scripture as too difficult for me (Revelation, Daniel, etc) to understand.

    After hearing my pastor's view, I started discussing the considerations of these texts in blog comments and eventually my own blog. Therefore, some folks pegged me as particularly interested in eschatology, when I am not per se.

    Rather I am thinking (out loud, as it were) through passages that may or may not be eschatological. I suppose that too depends on how one views "last" (eschatos). After all, the "last" could apply to all time (not eternal time, but our own chronological sense of time) from Christ's death, resurrection, ascension and forward.

  • At 11:49 AM, September 25, 2007, Blogger Brad Williams said…


    You and I have had some minor quibbles in the past, at least I regard them to be so. But I can say that I am whole-heartedly, 100% with you on this post. I do not know if you and I will wind up in the same place in our eschatology, but I will enjoy reading your insights.

    I freely confess that I am not satisfied with my current "end times" understanding and that I am currently working through it again.
    That doesn't mean that I am ignorant of the issues or that I have no position. I'm simply trying my best to work through the Israel/Church relationship, the promises of God to His people, and other such related issues.

  • At 3:14 PM, September 25, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Brad, I have never regarded our discussion as quibbles. Rather you had some good questions, and solid reasons for asking them, and neither of us seem to have enough time to plumb them like we would if we were eating supper together.


  • At 3:18 PM, September 25, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan - There are some (not you) who spend all their time on eschatology, and if you suggest even by way of hinting that there are perhaps more relevant pursuits, they have a special sledgehammer set aside to clobber you with. I was referring to those sorts and no one in particular.

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