Eschatology has been the center of theological attention for about a half century. It was at the turn of the century that theologians rediscovered the New Testament teaching about the Kingdom of God. Against the background of nineteenth century evolutionistic thought, it was realized that the New Testament said nothing about a Kingdom of God to be gradually realized by human effort, but that it said much about the Rule of God to be brought about by a radical and new act of God. Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer laid the groundwork for the so-called “thoroughgoing eschatology,” and their influence is felt on the eschatological thinking of our own day. It was Fritz Buri and Martin Werner in Switzerland who later worked out the implications of the conclusions of Weiss and Schweitzer. Their basic idea was that the New Testament teachers (Jesus and the apostles) had reckoned on the direct and immediate coming of the Kingdom, an expectation doomed to be unrealized. The Church was disappointed at the delay of the Parousia as the Lord did not reappear and as it became apparent that the Church still had a long way ahead of her in history. So said Buri and Werner.

Such a view aroused the opposition in our day of men like Oscar Cullmann. Cullmann insisted that the “thoroughgoing eschatology” had wholly misinterpreted the New Testament hope. The radical eschatology missed the central place that New Testament faith gave to the completely decisive event of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, said Cullmann. The fact that the decisive events in saving history had already taken place kept the Church from suffering a severe crisis as a result of the delay in the reappearance of Christ.

The Lord’s ...

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