Eschatology today is demanding the energetic attention of both the Church and its theology. This is in contrast to an optimistic confidence that prevailed during the last century when the Kingdom of God became an expected evolutionary development within culture and morality, and when the study of eschatology was but a theological curio. The catastrophes of the past generation, however, have forced the doctrine of “last things” to the place of the most crucial of theological questions. After the First World War, eschatology could no longer be thought of as an antiquated name for the final phase of man’s moral achievement. Its significance forced the attention of the Church, but was now in the form of crisis and judgment thundering from God and his holy place. Eschatology came to mean judgment upon our sinful world. And not being content to form the last chapters of dogmatics textbooks, it demanded a place in the center of things and a ruling over the whole theological scene.
The Crisis Of The Present
It was for this reason that Barth wrote some 30 years ago that a Christianity not totally eschatological was not Christianity at all anymore. The last things could no longer be considered as events lying in distant future. Rather, they were the crises of the present, permeating all human culture, morality and religion. The last days represented present judgment upon human unrighteousness and disobedience. And the last things, upon us now, were the signs of a border situation now made visible by the eternity of God. All signs of the times were seen—by Paul Althaus, for example—as being presently fulfilled in the midst of history. And the result was that hardly any perspective remained for an actual end at the close of history.
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