Does your eschatology suffer from "ascension deficit disorder"?
The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry by Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean includes a chapter from Dean titled, Ascension Deficit Disorder (Youth Ministry as a Laboratory for Hope). She masterfully shows that the purpose for eschatology (the study of God's ultimate purposes for humankind) is not to help us predict the future, but to give us hope - a commodity often in short supply due to what Creasy calls, "ascension deficit disorder (A.D.D.)," which is the tendency:
...to act as though the future God has promised in Jesus Christ is a fairy tale, which shrivels our ability to practice hope. When we don't believe that Christ's promise to secure the future is true, we live as people fearful for our own prospects, protecting ourselves instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to use us as Christ's witnesses. A.D.D. is the reason churches get distracted so easily from the work Jesus commissioned us for: to be his witnesses throughout the earth. Instead, we are stymied and stressed, straining to make sense of the future's cloudy uncertainty" (p202).For Creasy, the solution to this A.D.D. is to have faith in the incarnate, risen, ascended, and returning Son of God - a faith that gives rise to an "eschatological imagination," which is:
...the ability to envision the counter-intuitive world God intends, and to live into the fact that this world has already started to unfold... Churches with eschatological imaginations do not merely cling to hope; they enact it, because the kingdom of God is not just up ahead. The kingdom of God is at hand" (p203).Creasy continues:
Eschatology is neither a way to predict the future nor a doctrine about heaven and hell. Rather, eschatology simply means that we know how the story ends - God wins. And because God has bound Godself to humanity in Jesus Christ, if God wins, we win too. Knowing the "end of the story" therefore funds Christian hope, and it profoundly affects the way we live now. If we no longer need to worry about the future, we can let go of our survival anxiety. This allows us to live life as it unfolds, one play at a time, without worrying about the score or about running out of time... When we know how the game ends, we don't sweat the individual plays, even the ones we lose.... A sturdy eschatology makes the Christian community an "unanxious presence" in the world because we are not obsessed with life's final score. Instead of functioning as a spiritual weathervane, eschatology enables us to read the "signs of our times" in light of an ending God has already written (p204).Indeed, the message of Advent is one of hope in light of the ultimate end (the eschaton), which is in continuity with the past coming of Jesus into our world at Bethlehem, and his present coming to us in the Holy Spirit. And so with this message of hope in mind, may all the readers of this blog enjoy the presence of the One, True and Blessed Hope, Jesus Christ, who, in himself, is "the reason for the season." May he bless you this Advent with a vivid eschatological imagination, and may that lead you into joy-filled celebration of his birth at Christmas.