Living in the Shadow of the Apocalypse

In James Faulconer’s “Re-thinking Theology: The Shadow of the Apocalypse,”[1] the Apocalypse is already here. Or rather, the revelation of God’s kingdom, which constitutes the Apocalypse scripturally (rather, than, say, physically or cosmologically) is alive and present. He points out that ἀποκαλύπτω, which is the root of the Greek word for “apocalypse” means “to uncover, to disclose, to reveal.” Consequently, the revelation of the kingdom of God is not strictly something that we are awaiting; it is here, among us, revealed to us, happening to us as we make ourselves members of the kingdom, asking us to entangle our hearts, minds, and strength in an event that has already come upon us.

This does not mean that the Apocalypse does not refer in any way to the end of the world, but the End Times scenarios of death and destruction are not mainly how the kingdom was preached in the scriptures or how it is preached now by prophets and apostles. And though the Apocalypse is now with us, it is nevertheless, Faulconer points out, invisible to those who cannot see its “figuration in the world” (111). Seeing and experiencing the announcement of Christ’s presence is not a matter of acknowledging worldly facts but of experiencing God’s kingdom. “The experience of the nearness of the Apocalypse does not produce an answer to a question but a response to a call” (111).

The Gospel of Christ, Faulconer writes, is not about something I choose but something that God gives. It is the graceful gift that I become aware of, and becoming aware that I then must choose to be faithful to or not. The inclination to understand and teach the gospel in idolatrous ways is strong; we all put our own ideas, perspectives, and worldviews onto the gospel in ways that make it more my gospel than Christ’s. But this is why the call to repentance with regard to the ways we understand and teach is constant. It is not that we can or should truly try to separate ourselves from the way we see the world; it is that we need to take exquisite care in how we allow the divine to reveal itself through us, an us that comes ready made with a set of beliefs, interpretations, and worldviews. Being open to permitting those views to be shaped by our reception of the kingdom, being aware of how the glass is always seen through darkly because it too exists in the shadow of the Apocalypse, allows us to resist being covered over in the cement of idolatrous “I, me, mine” thinking and therefore be truly malleable and translucent in the hands of God.

Consequently, living in the shadow of the Apocalypse does not mean that we can see signs of catastrophic geo-political events, or that such events are imminent. In fact, such a notion is itself idolatrous, because it reassuringly removes the need for my own self-correction, repentance, and faithful commitment to a revelation that always stands before us, and almost as importantly, cannot be reduced to or encapsulated by political events or physical catastrophes. When the Apocalypse is merely external happenings in the world, we think nothing more than that we know ourselves to be righteous and everyone else to be wicked, and our task simply becomes one of gathering together, collecting the food storage, and hunkering down until the iniquitous are finished eating each other. Of course, we still may believe that some kind of catastrophe will be the result of particular events, but such a catastrophe is simply not the Apocalypse of which the gospel requires us to demonstrate fidelity to.

This also requires us to see that before, during, and after our other identities and views we hold dear, the kingdom requires that we be faithful to that which has called to us from beyond ourselves, and invites us to be together as family within his kingdom.

[1] See also this same article in Chapter 6 of Faith, Philosophy, Scripture by James E. Faulconer (Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2010), 109-136. This is the version that I am reading from here.

Comments

  1. Great post.

  2. .

    I’m going to be incorporating this into my thinking. I wonder where I’ll end up.

  3. @Th I second that thought. It rather scares me right now

  4. Yes, it’s interesting that the word Apocalypse means just literally Revelation; revealing the will and Kingdom of God.

    Kingdom of God has always been a spiritual presence for those, who were ready to understand it. And it doesn’t matter how long one has sat in Sunday School classes or cursorily scanning Scriptures for snippets that support our own theses.

    That reality is not to be found without spiritual understanding and a certain kind of humility, that doesn’t seek to justify oneself as much as to understand and support others.

  5. Antonio Parr says:

    Jim Faulconer is one of the great hidden treasures of Momonism. His Patheos articles should be required reading.

  6. Antonio Parr says:

    Not to mention a hidden treasure of ~Mormonism~!

  7. Lee Family Tree says:

    I’m writing my master’s thesis (history) on the ideas and influences of/on Parley Pratt. It’s very interesting how he was working within a framework of Puritan eschatology calling for a literal and physical return of Israel (albeit one where Zion and Jerusalem were two separate places, one in America and the other in the Levant/Palestine). Now that’s happened (Israel, not an American theocratic Zion) and Jesus didn’t return and so that eschatology has to be re-mystified or spiritualized and goes back to a more traditional “historical Christian” viewpoint. Also interesting how a single temple in each Zion and Jerusalem was originally part of the plan, now it’s temples everywhere (except Jerusalem, for obvious reasons). I think this has been part of that eschatological spiritualizing process, kind of like Reform Judaism began calling their synagogues “temples” around the same time Mormons began building theirs in order to illustrate the notion that Zion is spiritual state and/or a people, not a specific place. Perhaps I’m going out on a limb but I think if Parley Pratt had his way, those temples (both the LDS and Jewish) would one day be shared between Saints and Jews…

  8. Wow. Big stuff here to contemplate, Jacob. Thank you.

  9. Nice, Jacob — this is one of my very favorite essays of Jim’s.

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