Eschatology and Christian Practice

Eschatology, understood as a theological imagination of not only life with God beyond physical death but of the fulfillment of God’s promises and purposes in the full realization of a “new heaven and new earth,” has increasingly come to play a central role in shaping Christian practice inside and outside of churches. This seminar course will explore various approaches to imagining eschatological futurity, with a continual focus on how such an imagination informs individual and corporate expressions of Christian discipleship. Eschatology has, until recently, often been a rather neglected area of Christian theology. Where it has appeared, it has generally taken the form of a problematic apocalypticism or an over-emphasis on the traditional “four last things” (death, judgment, heaven, and hell) without paying sufficient attention to the facet of Christian eschatology that imagines “the end” as a thoroughgoing cosmic transformation. This has clear deleterious consequences for the way in which eschatological themes are treated in preaching and pastoral care. But it also has what may be less noticeable but no less problematic consequences for how Christian discipleship is practiced more broadly. This course aims to expose students to the energizing potential of recovering and accenting this deeply biblical and traditional current in the Christian theological imagination. Moreover, it seeks to demonstrate that such a theological conception of the future is loaded with the potential to activate life-giving modes of Christian discipleship, inside and outside of the ecclesial context. Active participation in class discussion, writing assignments consisting of responses to class readings, and a 12–page research essay on the course theme are the central requirements.