Monday, January 18, 2010

Time and History: Tensions in Ladd

I tend to cringe a bit when in a song for worship or in everyday conversation the Christian hope of the life to come is described as a flight from planet earth or a cessation of creaturely existence in time. On the latter, I resonate with Bavinck: "Time is the necessary form of the existence of the finite" (Reformed Dogmatics, 1:429). Yet, in the new creation, "Time is charged with the eternity of God" (Reformed Dogmatics, 4:729). To develop this a bit further, time just is the creaturely mode of existence and it seems odd to expect this feature of reality to come to a halt with the eschaton and the advent of the new creation. After all, eternality is an incommunicable divine perfection. However, we can expect that the intensification of the presence of God among us, beautifully laid out in Revelation 21, will somehow rework the "feel" of creaturely existence in time. Time continues for us creatures, albeit in an eschatologically revamped sort of way.

With this as a backdrop, I appreciated the comment from Ladd: "In biblical thought, eternity is unending time" (A Theology of the New Testament, 44). But later on he avers, "The Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history and consummation at the end of history" (ibid., 90). To give him the benefit of the doubt, Ladd may not mean that, strictly speaking, history as such reaches its conclusion with the consummation of redemptive history. However, I wonder if it might be better to say simply that the inbreaking of the kingdom has two great moments: an inaugural one in the mission of Christ and a consummative one in the future ("future" instead of "end of history"). I don't mean to pick on Ladd, but I think that, in the name of recovering in the church the earthy, presumably temporal contours of resurrection life, selecting different terminology does have some value. Thoughts?

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