Friday, June 22, 2012

Is ethics rooted in eschatology?

I am enjoying the reading through Ethics of Hope by Jurgen Moltmann. In the beginning of Chapter 1 he states:
Every Christian ethics is determined by a presupposed eschatology. In differing ethical decisions we must always deal not only with differing ethical conceptions but also with fundamental theological decisions in eschatology, and then in Christology. In this chapter we will make this clear form an apocalyptic eschatology, a christological eschatology, a separistic eschatology, and a transformative eschatology.
I am not sure what is the basis of these bold claims. It may become apparent later in the book.

With regard to the different eschatologies Moltmann argues the first three are inadequate and he favours a transformative one.

Apocalyptic is rooted in the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms (church and state). The state is seen as an instrument for law and justice. Moltmann makes the extreme claims (p. 12):
According to the doctrine of the two kingdoms, in worldly structures the Christian acts no differently from other poeple, appropriately and rationally. But that makes him invisible. So in worldly life Christians become anonymous. There is no plan for a specifically and distinguishable Christian ethics.
He further argues that central to apocalyptic eschatology is the notion of the cathechon 
(2 Thess. 2:7-8) concerning the one who restrains the man of lawlessness. This then leads to Armageddon and bizarre ideas such as associated with The Late Great Planet Earth and Hal Lindsey.

A Christological eschatology stems from a Calvinist Kingdom of God theology and finds its most sophisticated expression in Karl Barth. The death and resurrection of Jesus have established the Kingdom of God and "hardly anything is left for a futurist eschatology except the universal unveiling of what God has already brought in Christ." (p.23)

A Separatist eschatology has its roots in the Anabaptists and Stanley Hauerwas is characterised as its modern exponent.

Aside: In 1964 Karl Barth wrote Moltmann a letter criticising his book Theology of Hope and the central role that eschatology played in his theology.

1 comment:

  1. If you're interested in pursuing this line of thought at a slight tangent, Oliver O'Donovan's article, "The Political Thought of the Book of Revelation", might make a fruitful companion piece as a "worked example" of the intersection of ethics and apocalyptic literature (in Tyndale Bulletin 37 (1986), 61-94). FWIW!