Realized Eschatology -- By: John F. Walvoord
BSac 127:508 (Oct 70) p. 313
[John F. Walvoord, President, Dallas Theological Seminary, Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra.]
Higher criticism during the last century has been marked by an unrelenting attack on any form of literal eschatology. The concept that the Bible can actually prophesy future events in detail with accuracy is abhorrent to the liberal mind. Every effort accordingly is made to date prophetic utterances after the event prophesied as illustrated in the dating of Daniel in the second century B.C. The premise is that detailed prophecy of the future is impossible for either God or man. Although it is often couched in terms of objective scholarship, it is obvious that such a premise is extremely subjective and prejudicial to any calm evaluation of the data. It is built on a thesis that God is not sovereign, is not omniscient, and is not omnipotent. Further, it involves a theory of revelation which renders impossible communication of details to man beyond his natural wisdom. Such higher criticism spares no fundamental of orthodoxy and is free to revise its theology as well as the statements of Scripture to harmonize with the thesis involved. The concept of realized theology must be understood as an outgrowth of this approach to prophecy.
The place of eschatology in liberal theology has undergone in the last generation a dramatic change. The extreme skepticism expressed by Harnack1 which regarded eschatology in Scripture contemptuously has been replaced by a new study of the eschatological aspects of Scripture largely due to the influence of Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus.
This trend toward eschatology has been analyzed by Suggs as follows: “…during the years since World War I there has been a growing appreciation of the breadth, depth, and complexity of eschatological thought in the Bible. We have
BSac 127:508 (Oct 70) p. 314
come a long way since Harnack spoke of eschatology as the ‘husk’ rather than the ‘kernel’ of Jesus’ teaching, with the result that Christianity became the delineation of an ideal ethic rather than the proclamation of judgment and salvation.”2
Suggs goes on to explain the role of Schweitzer in this renewed analysis of eschatology: “We work now with a more positive appraisal of the centrality of eschatology to the early preaching…. The literary roots of this revival actually extend beyond the turn of the century to the work of J. Weiss on the kingdom of God in the gospels. But it was Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus (German edition, 1906), which issued an inesc...
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