Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Interesting email from the mailbag:

I saw your blog today and wanted to offer some thoughts on this. Lutheran minister Barbara Rossing has written an excellent book on the rapture theology beloved of some evangelical Christians called The Rapture Exposed. She points out that this theology is only about 180 years old, and that it flies in the face of traditional Christian teaching about the end times. Rev. Rossing correctly points out that this type of thinking has scary implications for peace in the Middle East and in the world. Why bother solving problems about environmental pollution, excessive use of natural resources or overdependence on oil if you believe that you won't be around to pick up the pieces. It also creates a callousness toward those who don't believe as you do.

I certainly agree. The Rapture is one doctrine that has sure caused a lot of havoc in 20th century Christianity and it is a doctrine that I do not know what to do with. A professor of mine who is as good a Pauiline scholar out there as anyone, concluded that Paul was mistaken in 1 Thess 4 when he says that we who are alive will be "caught up." For me, that is just too easy to say Paul was mistaken.

I think there is something riddle-like in Scripture and things predicted do happen but never how or when people expect it to happen. There is also a sense in which the story is still being written and so the expectations created by Paul I think are for a purpose. What that purpose is, who knows.

In my Protestant days we were literally waiting for the Rapture in the sense that I just knew we weren't got to be around more than 5 years (we had pretty much checked all the boxes on the signs of the times list). But what bothered me is that it creates a passive and narcissistic Christianity. All then that matters is your salvation and waiting. There is also a sense of human temporal irresponsibility that creeps in, i.e, why plan responsibly for the future? why get an IRA or a 30 yr mortgage? why save? etc I saw Paul Crouch once refuse an offer for a free burial plot on TV, he stated that he honestly believed the Rapture would happen in his lifetime.

Again, the Rapture theology has the hallmarks of the conservative eschatology that undermines human dignity. Those selected for the Rapture are those who are born again, no one else. It doesn't matter if you've devoted your life to the poor or needy, if you've told only one lie in your life, if you've been kind, patient, etc a model of Christian love, it doesn't matter, all that counts is that you are born again. The Catholic correlate of this is if you accept what the Church teaches as true, do you believe the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ, are you pro-life (politically speaking), do you believe the Pope is infallible, etc. Again, you works do not count. However, the Catholic Right is not a proponent of the Rapture, so there are differences there.

I have jumped the gun on the post I wanted to do on the Kingdom of God and how one's view of how it comes affects one's view of human dignity and responsibility in the present, but it is along these lines. More and more, I'm seeing that the primary problem in Catholic morality is its static analysis as opposed to a moral view that has dynamic progressive context.(See next post for more of this)


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