23 June 2012

Imminentizing the Eschaton

A few weeks ago, I was talking with my friend Hannah at school. Not this Hannah, (though she's pretty awesome and you should go read her blog) but a different Hannah. They're pretty similar, in a couple ways, but let's move on from this hang up.

Hannah and I were working late at school in the MIDI lab on a project. The MIDI lab closed at 7:00 pm, so we packed up and left to the bus stop. However, the buses stop running every ten minutes at 7:00pm, so we had a wait of about 30 minutes before our respective buses came.

Naturally, we fell to talking in the interim. Subjects included everything from classes to weekend plans, and then finally, to personalities. Hannah is a self-described "quirky person," a fact to which I can easily attest. On the day in question, she was wearing, in addition to a skirt, heels, and flowing top, an American flag scarf. She has worn similarly unusual clothing articles to class previously. But it was not her clothing that made me include her in this post.

While talking about unusual interests, my classmate said something to the effect of :

"A life without an obsession isn't life." 

Just think about that for a second. If you like, rephrase it a bit.

"A life without passion isn't life." 

For something entirely different, let me tell you a little story. When I was still in high school, I took a Rhetoric class taught by a pretty awesome seminary graduate, musician, and person. It was one of the ongoing jokes in class that "Little Tommy runs with scissors, doesn't play with others, and imminentizes the eschaton."

What, you may ask, is "imminentizing the eschaton?" Well, imminent means "near" or "close:, so imminentizing would be to make something draw near. Eschaton is simply heaven or utopia. To imminentize the eschaton, then, would be to attempt to draw heaven, or utopia, close to earth.

The problem with imminentizing the eschaton is that it doesn't tend to work. Whether it's European interpretations of communism or mid-20th century eugenics, man's interpretations of the Eschaton and their abilities to bring it down to earth remain deeply flawed.

Hence, when little Tommy imminentizes the eschaton, it appears on his report card alongside running with scissors and licking paste.

The thing is, I've been thinking a lot about how this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, historical attempts to bring heaven to earth have failed not so much because heaven is not meant to be on earth, but rather, their version of heaven is not meant to be. When approached theoretically, communism is a pretty brilliant idea. Don't get me wrong - every time we've ever tried to apply it, it's failed miserably - but if you take the pesky realm of reality out of the picture, communism is great! The idea of sharing everything in common is the same as what inspired early Christians in Jerusalem.

The very idea of heaven or utopia is peaceful. Not the drug induced peace of the hippy, but the pure and lasting peace that can only come through God's grace. There is something inherently wrong about co-opting earthly authority to administer one person's innately flawed vision of utopia. This is not even considering that utopia, by definition, exists nowhere. But anyways. If it is really heaven, it will have no need of strict rules, harsh retributions, or policing. Communism will always fail because it is foreign to human nature, and moreover, the force required to perpetuate it goes against the very idea of Heaven on Earth.

I digress. To sum the very wordy point I've made, the reason attempts to immimentize the eschaton have failed so spectacularly in the past is because humans try to use earthly authority to enforce utopia.

"Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth." [The internet attributes this one to Mark Twain, but we all know how trustworthy the internet is on these things].

I would submit to you, dear readers, that the real sign of a Christian is how they imminentize the eschaton wherever they go. We are imago dei, the living representation of the Church, and we are to spread our joy wherever we go. Sounds suspiciously like bringing heaven to earth. If we are really the Body of Christ, then "Wherever we go, that's where the party's at {Newsboys}." Ahem. To approach it more seriously, the duty of the church is, in part, to bring a foretaste of heaven to all still living on Earth. Like an appetizer, our behavior should be a preview of things to come - as far as it is up to us, live in peace with all men.

There's one question that's been running through my head these past few weeks. Do I imminentize the eschaton? Do I live as though heaven were on earth? Can I truly love half-heartedly and claim to be a good representation of God's love for the world?

So to conclude this very long post, I would ask you: Do you long to bring heaven to earth?

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