Oct 17, 2022Liked by David Armstrong

Incredibly fascinating! Raised evangelical as I was, the preterist/historicist/futurist "options" were really the only ones I knew; but being introduced this past decade to Origen and Nyssen eschatology has been a great wonder to me.

As much as I think Irenaeus got a lot right, like his medicinal theory of atonement, or his understanding of Adam and Eve as children needing to grow rather than specially made fully mature, Origen beats him out when it comes to the eschaton. And of course the fact that C.S. Lewis had a similar idea with the Kingdom of Aslan, and even the Origenist postmortem schoolhouse with the Great Divorce.

As always, great work!

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Oh, re, the Holy Spirit: there’ll be a forthcoming treatment of that probably around Theophany.

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I was so struck to read, "To speak plainly, I find the delay of the parousia the most serious challenge to my own Christian Faith."

That is a perfectly reasonable thing with which to feel challenged, I think, but I am left wondering why it is that I am not bothered by it at all (or only vaguely). I am much, much more troubled by the problem of evil.

But on the question of delay . . . I've been teaching The Bible as Literature this semester, and so marching through the Old Testament for the last few months. Not my first time through, but for whatever reason I am struck as never before by the way God frustrates expectations on every conceivable level. When all is said and done, it seems to me that the Hebrew Bible -- even in its most confidently nationalist / triumphalist moments -- cannot seem to resist pointing out that expectations about God are almost always wrong. What God wants, of what he approves, what he looks like, what pleases him, whom he regards as righteous, who has his favor, what political organizations he prefers (this list seems endless, honestly) . . .

I suppose this sounds vaguely blasphemous, given that the book is commonly regarded as providing clarity on these matters. But the most common motif of all, it seems to me, is that of a profound disconnect between the way "we" imagine divine things should be and actual divine logic. This is more than God's ways not being our ways. It's as if there is an almost total lack of analogy between our expectations of what a deity would/should/can do and what he actually does do.

I don't know that this solves anything (I'm quite sure it doesn't, actually). But I see no discontinuity here at all, at least on this particular point, between the "God of the Old Testament" and Jesus. If anything, I see absolute continuity. With Jesus, the God who comes is literally none of the logical options occurring to anyone (and I say this as someone very much aware of the contours of Jewish apocalypticism at the time). And while one might discern its lineaments in prophecy after the fact (as many obviously did), one might ask why, given the millenium-long pattern of frustrated expectations, we should be any clearer about the parousia prior to its coming *even with the testimony of Jesus* than anyone would have been about the cross prior to its revelation on Calvary.

I probably sound as if I'm saying, "Well, God's ways are mysterious!" against your thoughtfulness and considerable erudition on these matters, but . . . well, I suppose I am! Funny thing about studying the Bible *as literature,* I suppose. *As literature* it often seems like a story that is breaking every narrative rule possible: including certain quite venerable rules about narrative/generic expectation.

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Does Lehtipuu's book cover Origen's account of the resurrection?

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Thought provoking, no doubt; but as you question yourself, Dave, your insertion of political opinion (asserting that Trump is among examples of tyrannies) undermines your efforts to appear to have truth-seeking objectivity - resulting in at least half of your readers likewise questioning your thought processes.

While not an eschatology specialist myself, my understanding of that aspect of theology and many others is heavily influenced by metaphysics - specifically the time portion of spacetime.

Everyone's experience with spacetime ends upon their own death, wherever along history's timeline that death occurs. For lack of better language, what if each death's moment inside spacetime combines with everyone else's into a single moment outside of space time - the final judgment? All those expecting eschatolon by the death of the last apostle would indeed have experienced it as hoped - just upon their deaths. This theory would allow for the truth of Jesus's prophesies and negate the need for another Messiah.

(A similar time-transcending theory could explain the Mystery of Eucharistic 'remembrance' - how each Mass is united with the Last Supper.)

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Hi David, I greatly enjoyed this article. I have a question which may have some faulty thinking behind it stemming from my great ignorance of the relevant history, but I'll try the best I can.

In your view, does taking either the Hays or Ehrman/Schweitzer/Allison position on Jesus's intentions undercut a high Christology (like that in the Nicene creed)? High Christology would have developed in an environment where the Christian view of Jesus's non-return would have been closer to that of N.T. Wright than that of Ehrman/Schweitzer/Allison - it seems unlikely that proto-Orthodox Christians would have conceived Jesus as having made a mistake in his predictions.

However, it's not clear to me that his non-return/failed prediction can/could have been seamlessly folded in to his human nature (in my understanding of the Chalcedonian definition). If he got the prediction of his return wrong through his humanity, so that he unintentionally misled his earliest followers about the proximate future, even if you want to say that he never sinned in his humanity, what else might he just have gotten wrong in his humanity?

Hope that was somewhat clear, and my apologies if you've already answered this in the course of your article, but your stuff is pretty dense for me as someone with little background in the field. Thanks!

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Can you back up the claim that the New Perspective includes the "fundamental assumption... that Jesus intended to found a new religion?" It strikes me as an unfair caricature. I can't imagine N. T. Wright owning it, for instance (and in fact, I imagine he'd vigorously insist on the opposite).

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Where does the real, actual, inspiration of the Holy Spirit come into play in your analysis of Christianity (rhetortical)? It seems like Capt. Obvious to note that early Christians conceptualized Christianity variously. One only needs to read Acts 15 to see this quite clearly; among the Apostles themselves. Arianism is another example of various conceptualizations, albeit a bit later, but still relatively early. You also engage in contradictory analysis disclaiming Father Josiah Trenham as a Christian, in comments to one of these articles, yet broadening the tent to include a multitude of conceptualizations otherwise. I came to Christianity through mindfulness meditation, consciousness study and Buddhism; your writing in this Substack has helped me embrace Eastern Orthodox Christianity. I genuinely thank you for sharing your thoughts, assimilation of your reading and your personal struggle. You have genuinely helped me embrace my new life path, which I am thankful for and why I characterized my opening question as rhetorical; we’re both Americans with the right of freedom of religion.

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