Announcing the Eschatological Christ

The most exciting part of my theological development (and in somewhat Hegelian fashion, predating an immediate downfall) was my discovery of New Testament eschatology seen in the Redemptive-Historical school.  The arguments of the school are mostly simple: redemption only has meaning in God’s context. There is no redemption apart from the plan of God.  In other words, God’s plan is a story.  As such, most would agree.

In 2005 I started reading the Reformed Biblical Theology guys:  Clowney, Richard Gaffin, Gerhardus Vos, and later Herman Ridderbos.  Of course, with heavy doses of N. T. Wright.  A common theme is that the eschaton made an initial appearance in the person of Christ, whose death and resurrection marked an overlap between This Age and The Age to Come.   An advantage of this approach is that it is sensitive to the time-contexts of Scripture.  It avoids wooden interpretation and cheap applications.

One of the unfortunate downsides, though, is that many students of this approach really don’t know how to make applications in sermons, besides chanting “already—not yet.”

I am currently listening to a few of Richard Gaffin’s lecture series (most are available at ITunesU), and he made a number of suggestions, following Gerhardus Vos’ The Pauline Eschatology.  Vos suggests that soteriology is eschatological in structure.  Meaning, I suppose, something along the lines of our salvation is both now and not yet.  We have been fully saved (note all the aorist verb usages in Romans 8:29-30; this is probably the strongest argument one can make about the reality and future finality of one’s salvation.  Aorist suggests something that is both past tense and really happened) but much of our salvation–salvation now broadened to include the whole cosmos–is yet future.

There is another implication of viewing soteriology as eschatologically-structured:  Romans 2 (and elsewhere) speaks of a verdict on the future day.  Most people get upset because it suggests a justification by good works.  Leave that issue aside for the moment.  I just want to note a presupposition of this view, whatever your views on justification may be:  this passage is a highly forensic model.  Salvation is seen in forensic terms.

Vos’ argument is now common place.  However, Vos goes on to say that New Testament Christology is also eschatological in structure.  This is where it gets really interesting.  Gaffin didn’t explain what Vos meant by that, though I have an idea and perhaps a precis for a future construction:

If classical metaphysics, upon which the ancient councils were based, is proved to be a false ontology, what becomes of Christology?  Note what I am not saying.  I am not rejecting the conclusions of these councils.  I am not saying we should replace these systems with my own.  that would be silly.  However, church historians like Schaff have noticed shifts in these councils (the “nature” of God-in-Christ used to be seen as generic but was later seen as numeric).  I will say more upon this later.