First of all – I know I shouldn’t borrow titles from books I haven’t completely read, but the title of this Brian McLaren opus fits too well to pass it up.
Because, secondly, what I want to write about is eschatology – “end” things – and I want to remain completely generous in my view toward them and toward others’ interpretations of them.
Thirdly, my byword on this and many other subjects is a disarmingly honest “I don’t know.” I can afford to be generous about my stupidity because I lose nothing by confessing it. I don’t hold any advanced degrees, nor does my lowly professional position require one. Same for my reputation and my ego.
Finally, to the point: I favor my unique view of Christ’s (ongoing) return because it is generous. It’s generous with God’s greatness. God is the Person whom, Peter tells us, regards a day as a thousand years and vice-versa. So, about three of His years could equal about a million of ours. Or the reverse! I’m certain, in fact, that one of those thousand-year-long days for Him was the day His Son hung on a cross.
God’s greatness remains undiminished by our limited perception of it. I think He understands that, and expressed His eternal truths in the simplest possible terms for our impossibly simple minds.
It’s also generous with the potential lifespan of the earth – “Men come and go, but earth abides (forever?)” implies the Preacher. “The earth and its fullness are God’s,” observes another inspired writer of antiquity. That means I have a responsibility toward it; toward generations that may well follow me. I may be part of the humanity charged with subduing it, but we’re not charged with selfishly wasting and destroying it.
The “new earth” promised to His children might be parallel to this one … but it might also be this very one, completely renewed, currently only a shadow of its glory to come. And that fate could still be consistent with Peter’s description of its total destruction at some point in the future. (Think of that “Genesis wave” sequence in Star Trek II and III, except animated by God.)
Can children who have wasted a gorgeous, delicate, precious toy be trusted to be given another that’s even more fabulous?
So I’m generously willing to concede a lot of points offered by differing views of eschatolgy – excepting, of course, those which are inarguably contradictory to what God reveals in scripture.
But – can I say “in the end”? – the view of a continuously-unfolding eschatology that I tend to favor gives me the same level of comfort and discomfort that I find in the rest of scripture – and for the same reasons.