February 19, 2017 at 6:38 pm #21070
Hello, I have a question about Catholic eschatology.
My (Protestant) church is currently doing a whole-life discipleship programme to help us explore how to live every aspect of life with and for God. It’s a wonderfully encouraging and challenging course, and the majority of the church is participating. For me it has the double benefit of allowing me to think through the topics in relation to Catholic as well as reformed principles – so far without finding any clashes, and even finding opportunity to discuss and promote Catholic theology with my parents!
This week was about eschatology. It was about the renewing of heaven and earth. It emphasised a continuous process already begun. He had the brilliant line: in the our father we don’t pray pray “thy kingdom go, and take us with you”, we pray “thy kingdom come”.
It’s not about enduring the world until being able to escape to heaven leaving the problems behind. It’s about Gods kingdom coming on earth, it has already begun from the crucifixion and resurrection. The whole of creation is a temple to God (as described in the creation narratives in Genesis) so we must treat it as such, and all people bear the image of God so we must treat them as such. The cleansing/renewal/perfecting of creation is begun and ongoing, so it matters what we do and how we treat others. We must do what we can to bring the life of Christ to people and to make things better. It matters and is worth doing.
My question is: is this compatible with Catholicism? I’ve heard Catholics talk about “escape eschatology” as well as Protestants, and I just can’t see how it’s biblical or fits at all with the work Jesus began. If they are right, any effort we make seems pointless and the whole thing seems very individualistic. But with the kingdom view I described above, there is a point and what we do does matter and there is a more communal/familial emphasis.
I found this in the catechism: “670 Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at “the last hour”.554 “Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real but imperfect.”555 Christ’s kingdom already manifests its presence through the miraculous signs that attend its proclamation by the Church.556”
I looked up Aquinas too and although he didn’t think animals and plants would be preserved (I disagree because God made them and called them good, and the imagery of the prophecies implies they will be restored along with all creation), he talks about the world being cleansed rather than destroyed.
These appear consistent with what we were learning today. What do you think?February 19, 2017 at 8:08 pm #21071
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
What you have presented here as being taught in the class, cosbap, looks acceptable, although perhaps somewhat incomplete from a Catholic standpoint. The Catechism — as befits a catechism — does have a reasonable amount to say about the “end times,” but it does not explore it from all sides and angles, only the basics.
I had not previously encountered the term, “escape eschatology,” but once I looked it up, I can agree that the label fits. It refers to those denominations and congregations which believe in dispensational theology (of “Left Behind” fame). That is the polar opposite of what Catholics believe. We accept Creation as the work of God and see no reason to run away from it.
What you read about animals and plants in the World to Come in Aquinas is theological opinion, not doctrine, so it’s OK to disagree. The fact is that this is something not included in divine revelation.
“Cleansed rather than destroyed” is definitely how Aquinas understood the End Times. Scripture speaks of the destruction of the present universe and the establishment of a “new heaven and a new earth” which is spiritual in nature (Revelation 21); also of the resurrection of the body in an enhanced and spiritualized form (1 Corinthians 15). But if we take into account the biblical way of speaking, this may not mean actual destruction and re-creation, but transformation. Divine revelation, then, is not entirely clear on the point.
DavidFebruary 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm #21080
Thanks very much David.
Im extremely pleased to hear it is compatible because I cannot accept the alternatives. I’m also excited, although not surprised, to hear there is more to learn.
This a bit of a tangent, but I think it is related. I understand that it is important to do what we can for others, to love our neighbours, and to bring Jesus to people who don’t know Him. However I’m very limited by my health at the moment. Is making a commitment to pray for people and situations a cop out, or a reasonable substitute for action while I’m not able to do much?February 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm #21082
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
Praying for others is always in season, cosbap. Whether or not one is able to do more material things for the advancement of the Kingdom of God, prayer is the mighty force behind them. In fact, without prayer, the “other things” are of little to no value. Reading assignment: The Soul of the Apostolate, by Jean-Baptiste Chautard. It’s inexpensive as a paperback, and even available online at this website.
DavidFebruary 20, 2017 at 5:43 pm #21084
Youre absolutely right! Thank you for reminding me of that. I have found the book and will read it.
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