Under-realized

W2K/Amillers usually criticize postmil/theonomists as having an “over-realized eschatology”, i.e. taking too much of the age to come (consummation), and placing it in this age. (That seems a little ironic, given the Klinean view of OT Israel as an “intrusion” of God’s consummation justice/ethic leaking into this world. The only reason the Klinean would not accuse Moses himself of having an “over-realized eschatology” is because God ordained for Israel to have an “super-realized” eschatology (though only for a parenthesis).)

Conversely, transformationists/reconstructionists would probably label W2K/Amil as pessimists, having an “under-realized eschatology”. But, rampant W2K’er Jason Stellman recently turned the question in an interesting direction with a new series of posts (one, two, watch for more) asking whether Luther’s “theology of the cross (good) vs. theology of glory (bad)” distinction might illustrate an “under-realized eschatology”, i.e. finding too little of the age to come in this present evil age.

Thus begins the extensive quoting (these all by JJS, from the comment trails):

contemporary theologians of Luther have taken the cross/glory antithesis to mean that there is to be absolutely no evidence of sanctification, but life must be characterized by “anfechtung,” by which they mean spiritual agony. Here’s an example from Walther von Loewenich:

In speaking of the Christian life we must speak of a contrast between perception and reality. The hidden life of the Christian is a reality but it is not perceived. The new life is not the object of empirical experience, but often enough is in opposition to it. Sin and righteousness in the Christian are in the same relationship as reality and hope.

what our Lutheran (and some Reformed) brethren do is shuffle all the glory to the age to come. Sure, that will be when we are glorified, but the descent of the Spirit as a foretaste should demand that we at least get a little now, right?

The main difference between postmillennialists and amillennialists, as I see it, is that the former see the new creation that the resurrection inaugurated as already beginning to transform the world, whereas the latter (myself included) see the future transformation as being restricted to the Christian believer, now indwelt by the Spirit of the new age.

So we, along with creation, groan for full redemption. But you can’t read Romans 8 and deny that what is purely “not yet” for the physical world has “already” begun in the individual saint.

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5 Responses

  1. These comments betray a lack of understanding of Luther and the Amill/Reformed position. To be sure, Luther (or at least Lutherans), has an under-elaborated doctrine of the third use of the law. Who knows if Luther really believed in such a use. I would argue that even if he denied it in theory, he didn’t deny it in practice, because he did feel bad about the craziness that took place in those riots, where people were doing horrible things to priests, etc. He did believe in some kind of moral norm for the believer.

    Theology of the cross has to do with the Christian life of suffering, and doesn’t speak to a lack of sanctification. Certainly the reformed can profit from an understanding of Luther’s cross/glory distinction to a great degree. It teaches us that God uses suffering to sanctify, and this is clearly biblical. Paul says it, Peter says it, etc. It’s all over the NT that we are going to suffer.

    The Reformed have a well developed doctrine of sanctification.

    And we don’t have an under or over realized eschatology, but a semi-realized one. We believe in the already not yet. But our glory is not revealed here. The eschatological life of the age to come that manifests itself in us is not glory but sanctified works of love. if this is what is meant by “just a little bit of glory”, then, well, ok, we agree on what happens to us, but I think such a definition is extremely unhelpful.

    Paul says that we are being led like sheep to the slaughter. If this is glory, I don’t understand what glory is. We suffer in this life even as Jesus suffered in this life. He was not glorified prior to the cross, but was meant to suffer. When he was raised, he was raised in glory and ascended his throne. No glory, but suffering before that. We recapitulate that in a lot of ways. We suffer even as he did. We are called to participate in his suffering, as Paul makes clear in Phil 3 among other places. This is our calling in this life.

    Glory is for the age to come. What can be pointed to in this life that can compare with the glory of the age to come? Those who find our glory here have an under appreciation of what is to come. No eye has seen, nor ear heard.

  2. Those who find our glory here…

    Those who find too much glory here, to be sure, but I agree with JJS (and I think you do too, once you get past your instinctive defensiveness for the reformed faith) that finding too little glory here is also wrong. We are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, and as JJS points out, this is (a) in this life, and (b) due to the influence of the Holy Spirit of the New Covenant. I think especially that his definition of amil/postmil is spot on: Transformation not of the world, but of the believer.

  3. A little thread-jacking business here: Echo, if you are out there, some guy named Lupin is calling you out on my website to defend Jesus’ deity on my Mormon thread.

  4. Rube,

    Perhaps you mean that as redeemed people, the image-likeness to our Creator is somewhat restored, consistent with our degree of sanctification. If that’s what you mean, then ok. I don’t think it’s in any way accurate to say, however, that the reformed have not consistently confessed this for centuries, because we have.

    If you mean something else, I’m all ears.

  5. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” –Inigo Montoya

    Not that anyone is still here…

    I don’t necessarily have any problem with what JJS is trying to point out. I agree with the formulation that the trasformation is not of the world but of the believer (and corporate Church…let’s not get too individualistic here). I think he may want us to not throw out conceptions of transformation altogether. And that is a noble project.

    But I also think it’s important to be aware of our own natural grids when we hear the word Transformation. I think all too often we read such language through “worldly” ears. We hear the stuff of self-actualization or self-improvement vis-vis Maslow and/or Wayne Dyer (the stuff I embraced pre-conversion, so I like to think I know it when I doth hear it). We are not talking about self-glorofcation. The transformation of the Bible is actually fairly off-putting to the human ear because it’s just so alien in nature. It is not sexy; it’s not exciting; it’s not powerful. In fact, by its very nature it’s the opposite of all these things, as demonstrated by its vehicle of water, bread and wine. So before we get all hot and bothered about “changed lives” (the lingo of worldly Xian transformationalism), take heed that it just isn’t what you may be thinking it is. I am not denying its reality, just trying to point out its nature.

    Zrim

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