ESCHATOLOGY* [* Edited.]


Current technical developments in armaments ought to dispose the modern mind to a more sober reconsideration of the New Testament picture of the end of this evil age and its Final judgment.  This picture has always been somewhat unflattering to the modern man’s estimate of human nature, which, of course, is part of the offence (offensiveness) of Christianity to our era.  New Testament Christianity has never lent any encouragement to the gilded hopes of an earthly paradise achieved by creating human power.  This is partly why Christian Liberalism tried to rationalize the New Testament doctrine of the Kingdom of God, so as to make Christianity more palatable, not only to the modern mind, but still more to the modern will.  It was impossible to reconcile the New Testament vision of the end of history as “a time of troubles,” as an age of Satanic domination, with the secular delusion of an inevitable progress into Utopia.  Hence the dismissal of New Testament eschatology as an over-heated Jewish mythology, the reflection in the New Testament of the apocalyptic of Judaism in the Greek period.


This version of New Testament eschatology was given a semblance of plausibility by the course of modern history and the triumph of science.  Orthodox theology had a difficult time in defending the truth of the New Testament vision of The End in face of the accumulating triumph of man over nature and apparently over human nature as well.  The gigantic expansion in wealth-production and the consequent increase in material consumption made the New Testament appear faintly ridiculous. But that is all finished.  It is beginning to dawn upon our generation that control over nature does not necessarily carry with it control over human nature.  It is the confusion of these two that has intensified the terrible social contradiction of our age. The introduction of the atomic bomb was the sinister shadow cast over contemporary hopes.


Barely a month had elapsed since the first use of the atomic bomb, and it was beginning to become obsolete!  Experiments with a new element, plutonium, would lead to a bomb one hundred times more devastating.  Let me quote: “The prospect of an atomic bomb nearly one hundred times more powerful than those dropped on Japan was introduced by Professor Hilton Smith, of the University of Tennessee.  Engineers at the Hanford factory in Washington were working on plutonium, a new artificial element, not found in nature.” (Observer, Sept. 9, 1945).


Time is contracting.  This, perhaps, is the most profound and sinister fact of our era.  Our Lord definitely discouraged attempts to discover the date of His Second Advent.  We, therefore, would be ill-advised to speculate whether or not we have entered on the last lap of time’s race; whether or not the penultimate phase of history is upon us.  But one thing, at least, admits of little doubt.  The world is certainly facing a time of trouble, of uncertainty and insecurity.


More than ever it is the duty of the Church today “to watch and pray,” and to think eschatologically.  This is no time for the Church to indulge in the secular dream of Utopia.  And that, knowing the time” – let the reader pause on this great Pauline phrase – “and that, knowing the time, that NOW IT IS HIGH TIME” - [for Post-millennialists, A- millennialists and carnal Christians alike] – “TO AWAKE OUT OF SLEEP; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent.   Man’s great historic experiment of trying to be his own god is petering out.  The contradictions inevitably involved in that experiment are mounting and multiplying.  Hence, theology must turn with a new consciousness towards eschatology.  History is formulating the fatal issues.  Today’s methods of warfare have placed the destruction of mankind on the agenda of history.  God’s judgment on the Church’s apostasy from “the Faith,” is now materializing into visible shape.