Oct 8, 2016

Review of Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches

D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider, eds., Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2016).

The volume under review serves two purposes. First, it is intended festschrift for Craig Blaising in honor of his sixty-fifth birthday. Second, it is intended to be, “an introductory, student-friendly textbook” on eschatology (p. 31). This work consists of twenty-six essays distributed into four sections: (1) The Doctrine of the Future and Its Foundations, (2) The Doctrine of the Future in the Bible, (3) The Doctrine of the Future in the History of Christian Thought, and (4) The Doctrine of the Future and Christian Ministry. As is typical with festschrifts, readers will find some contributions more profitable than others. The following review will be more selective than comprehensive and will in some sense reflect this reviewer’s interests.

The first section consists of four essays focusing on the doctrine of the future and its foundations. The section kicks off with an essay by Jeffrey Bingham, entitled, “The Doctrine of the Future and Canonical Unity; Connecting the Future and the Past.” This essay consists of two parts, (1) Marcion: Dichotomy and Discontinuity, and (2) Orthodoxy, Harmony, and Discontinuity. Although Bingham treats Marcion with more sympathy than is sometimes the case, he clearly points out that he was in error. After discussing the orthodox counters to Marcion, Bingham writes,
Essential to any Christian eschatology is a Christian philosophy of salvation history and or progressive revelation. This philosophy must account for the differences between the Testaments and dispensations without wandering into the forbidden territory of dichotomy and contradiction. This philosophy must produce a hermeneutic that reads the differences only in linkage with the fundamental concepts of unity: One God, Creator, and father, one Christ, and one history with a common subject and objective in its part. With such a philosophy and hermeneutic, we avoid doing dishonor, as Marcion did, to the one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, both God and human (p. 50).
Another essay of particular interest was Stanley Toussaint’s essay on hope. Toussaint argues that genuine hope must contain both desire and expectancy (p. 54) and then traces how these elements can be seen in the Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, Toussaint argues that the present tense “I Am” in Matthew 22:31–32 does not directly point to the resurrection of the Patriarchs but rather the passage as a whole points to the Abrahamic promises which require resurrection to fulfill (pp. 56–7). The chapters by Charles Ryrie and John and Stefana Lang provide a clear affirmation of the concept of predictive prophecy.

This is not so much a criticism per se, but I think that this section should be placed later in the volume. Methodologically, one should move from the Text to theology. Or in other words, I would switch the order of parts one and two. 

The second major section includes eight essays on eschatology in the Bible with four essays devoted to each Testament. In the Old Testament section, Daniel Block’s contribution focuses on Israel’s eschatological salvation in Deuteronomy. Unfortunately, although there is much to appreciate in his chapter, he downplays the messianic significance of the book, even rejecting a messianic reading of Deuteronomy 18:15–19 (p. 113, fn. 20). George Klein develops the concept of waiting on the Lord by a careful examination of the psalms and his explanation of waiting is, and is not, is valuable (p. 174). Mark Rooker’s chapter on the Prophets offers a solid introduction to Old Testament prophets.

In the New Testament section, Darrell Block surveys the Synoptic Gospels by looking at three broad areas; (1) sayings about the future, (2) Parables about the future, (3) the Olivet Discourse and the future, and (4) the future of the individual. David Turner’s essay on John’s writings, particularly John’s Gospel, argues that, “John’s interest is not so much to project what will be as it is to describe what is in light of what will be. What is anticipates what will be; what will be has already begun” (p. 212). Edward Glenny argues that, “Paul’s understanding of the future flows out of and is based upon the core belief that the ends of the ages had arrived in Christ” (p. 227). Similarly, David Allen’s examination of the eschatology in Hebrews and the General Epistles identifies a number of common elements in what is otherwise a fairly diverse group of writings (p. 262). Oddly missing from this survey of the New Testament is any detailed treatment of Acts and Revelation (although Revelation is touched upon in Turner’s essay). 

The third major section is devoted to the doctrine of the future in the history of Christian thought. Here, eleven essays cover a broad historical sweep, from the Apostolic Fathers to contemporary Evangelicalism. Most interesting to me were the chapters by Stephen Presley on the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons and Friedhelm Jung and Eduard Friesen’s study on the doctrine of the future in contemporary European theology.

The fourth and final section related to the doctrine of the future and Christian ministry consists of three essays. Among them, the most helpful is probably Denny Autrey’s inquiry into how eschatology affects or informs pastoral ministry.

By way of broad evaluation, this is a good, but uneven, volume on eschatology. It functions well as a festschrift but is less suited in its desire to be a “student-friendly textbook” on eschatology. The treatment of eschatological content is uneven. Some aspects of eschatology have a fair amount of overlap between various essays whereas other areas are inadequately addressed or not addressed at all. This volume also lacks a glossary, indices, and visuals that would make it truly “student-friendly.” In sum, this work is probably more beneficial for those who are already familiar with biblical eschatology than for the beginning student.

Thanks to Kregel for providing the book used in this review.

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