Messianic Time and Animals – Part One

Photo by Marcello Newall

LIVING AT THE END OF HISTORY

In 1989 the political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote a landmark paper entitled ‘The End of History’. In the view of Fukuyama the end of the Cold War represented the completion of history as we know it and, what he believed to be, the triumph of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism that would now become the default political and economic system of all of humanity. Even though Fukuyama’s hypothesis is highly debatable, his basic premise is strongly reminiscent of the Judaeo-Christian worldview.

The Apostle Paul considered the Christian Age as the last epoch in human history, in this sense Christians are indeed living at the end of history: ‘Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come’.[1]  Again the author of Hebrews tells us that, speaking of the appearing of Christ: ‘But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’.[2]

In reality, the concept of movement within history, the idea of progress, and a future fulfillment come directly from the Christian vision of time. These concepts were virtually unknown to Graeco-Roman thought, which saw history as the endless repetition of the cycles of the universe and obsessively looked to the past as the golden age to be imitated.  Many have ventured as far as to say that much of the West’s concept of the future is derived from the Hebrew prophets. This Judaeo-Christian view of time was later secularized and gave way to a generic notion of progress which continues to influence what many in our society hold to today.

Much of Western thought, art and literature is aware of the sense of ultimacy of the present time. T. S. Eliot talked of this present epoch as the ‘the last of meeting places’.[3]   Absurdist theatre, such as Samuel Beckett and Waiting for Godot, sensed the precariousness of time and how the lack of an ultimate eschatological fulfillment, on which Western thought was premised, left humanity in the state of aimless vagabonds destined to inanity, whose communication degenerates into unintelligible gibberish. In Waiting for Godot the delayed arrival of the messianic event means that the daily waking and rising of the two characters is reduced to meaninglessness. Similarly, in End Game, Beckett describes a chess player that continues to stubbornly play on even after all possibility of victory has vanished.

A LOST MILLENNIUM

The year 2000 represented what was supposed to be the beginning of a new millennium. Some had even believed that it was to usher in a new period in human history; a new era of progress and prosperity or perhaps even a special eschatological event that would initiate a radically different world. As the world has continued in its normal course of events it has become abundantly clear that the year 2000, and the hopes pinned to it, was simply part of the continuation of the customary course of history. Very little has truly changed apart from technological progress, which now seems to represent the hope of humanity.

Whereas the beginning of the 20th century evidenced the end of positivism with the  First World War, it also saw the failure of all three of the major political systems of  thought, fascism, communism and liberal capitalism, in substantially altering the human condition. Even the apparently superior ideology of liberal capitalism, which has outlived its all but vanquished competitors, has brought about ecological catastrophe, profound social unrest and periodical financial meltdowns as proven by the global collapses of 1929 and 2008. History is in fact strewn with failed millenniums and messianisms that lie as monuments to the dashed dreams of countless millions.

The impossibility of understanding the world without some sort of reference to an  eschatological framework became apparent to many of the most sophisticated  philosophers in the latter part of the 20th century. Martin Heidegger, one of the greatest exponents of the German school of philosophy, lived through, and participated in Hitler’s Third Reich that was supposed to herald a new era. Having witnessed the shattering of the mad Nazi dystopia that crumbled in the raging fires of Berlin, Heidegger near the end of his life admitted to the incapability of philosophy in deciphering the human condition. In a rare interview, which was published posthumously, he explained the futility of human history without the coming of God:

Philosophy will not be able to bring about a direct change of the present state of the world. This is true not only of philosophy but of all merely human meditations and endeavours. Only a God can still save us. I think the only possibility of salvation left to us is to prepare readiness, through thinking and poetry, for the appearance of God or for the absence of God during the decline.[4]

Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon! For those who would like to read the entire article: Messianic Time and Animals.

____________________
[1] 1 Corinthians 10:11, Italics are mine.
[
2] Hebrews 9:26b
[
3] T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men, Stanza 4.
[4]
Der Spiegel Interview, 1966, Martin Heidegger.


Thank you for reading and following our blog!  We welcome you to share widely with others; comments are also welcome.  Blessings in Jesus  ~Marcello

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3 Responses to Messianic Time and Animals – Part One

  1. Pingback: Messianic Time and Animals – Part Two | Shepherding All God's Creatures

  2. Pingback: Messianic Time and Animals – Part Three | Shepherding All God's Creatures

  3. Pingback: Messianic Time and Animals – Part Four and Conclusion | Shepherding All God's Creatures

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