Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Bleak Future For The End-Times?

Given the fact that I've spent the past nine months both preaching through Revelation and teaching a Sunday School class on eschatology, my recent life and thinking has been all but consumed by the biblical study of the end times.
This has also been the case, on a less academic level, for much of the American, evangelical subculture in recent years (given the popularity of the Left Behind books and films for instance). At the same time, I wonder if the popularity of end times books, films, sermons, etc. may be coming to an end considering that - based not only on my observations - those most caught up with end times events (and sensationalism) seem to be Christians in the baby boomer generation and older. Scholar Craig Blomberg, in his A Case for Historic Premillennialism (pp. 171-72), recently noted a similar observation:

"The twenty and thirty-somethings of today among whom we minister have, for the most part, very little time or patience for the eschatological debates of even just a generation ago, and they are so put off by the 'Left Behind' kind of literature that it can take quite a bit of persuation to convince them that eschatology in all but its broadest contours is even a major doctrine of the Christian faith worth elevating to a fundamental or studying in any detail."

If you've been following my sermons or classes this year, you know that, on the one hand, I find Blomberg's observation encouraging. I'm optimistic about a younger generation of Christians who are wary about jumping on the end times, sensational bandwagon. On the other hand, the gospel-centered, Christ-exalting Christian readiness emphasized by biblical texts such as Revelation IS a major doctrine which all Christians - including twenty and thirty-somethings -desperately need.

So here's my question: If you are a twenty or thirty-something Christian, what is your attitude toward the end times? Are you predisposed to a kind of default cynicism in reaction to the sensationalism of older believers? Do you predict that the end times as a doctrine will be marginalized into oblivion in the church of the future, or will your generation simply embrace and promote its biblical truths in different, perhaps more responsible, ways than many Christians of the past?


Anonymous said...

Andy, great question.

I suppose my answer is somewhat cynical. I wonder if the lack of interest in the eschatological debate (identified by Blomberg) is just a result of a more postmodern culture that doesn't believe the position one takes on anything matters.

Jason Skjervem said...

I would agree with that comment as well. I see way more college students just not caring about end times stuff than even my generation does/did. It's not that they don't care, but from talking with Christian students, and even alot of my peers, we just kind of figure, "hey, if Jesus comes, great, until He returns though, we'll just keep pressing on and following what Jesus told us to do".

I don't think it's a matter of us not caring about it, it's just that as a whole, I think this generation sees other aspects of our faith as more important (evangelism, fellowship, etc...) so therefore will spend more time on it and not as much time on making huge charts on why Jesus will return on such and such a date.

That being said, I think the overboardness (yes, I made up that word) of people in the past with their elaborate charts, graphs, theories, and such that never came to be true (the book "The Late Great Planet Earth" comes to mind), have turned a whole younger generation off to the idea of caring about the end times.

Jason Skjervem said...

I must clarify in case my last comment made it sound like I don't care about end times stuff. I do know and believe that eschatology is very important. I've come to appreciate and understand it even more through this series and I wish others in my generation would take the time to be taught about it like Trinity has this year.

Overall though, I just see my generation glossing over it.

Pastor Jeff Higbie said...

As a pastor of mainly baby-boomers (and older) but who is in the twenty to thirty something crowd I resonate with this. My view is that the popularity of the end times has distracted us from the centrality of the Gospel. At the same time I believe that Christ's return and the Book of Revelation are critical to the faith. My hope is that we would move to a place where we continue to place a value on eschatology but in it, make sure to keep the Gospel central.

Anonymous said...

As I ponder this more, I wonder if something like this is going on.

Taking a look at my own path towards eschatological understanding, I had, not a cyncism, but a confusion as to eschatology. Left-Behind-ism just seemed plain wrong, but I couldn't get a grasp on what would be the truth. Having what I thought was enough of a grasp for my walk at the time (that being, "The Lord will come back, and I simply must be vigilant to have Him find me doing what He's commanded us to do - Lk 12:42-43), I simply gave up to God's grace my desire for a better understanding. Years later, He has given me a clearer understanding.

I am quite positive there are others out there like me - quietly praying that God will enlighten them in His timing.

However, I'm also painfully aware that not everyone who claims to profess faith in Christ really has saving faith.

So, in my mind, some of the baby-boomer hysteria (and likewise some of the recent cynical backlash) is exaggerated by the fact that nominal Christians will latch onto whatever is popular. Back then, it was end-times. Today, it's postmodern relativism.