A New Heaven and a New Earth – J Richard Middleton

I first became aware of the idea that the future hope of Christians is bodily resurrection on a renewed earth, rather than spiritual translation to heaven, back in 1971, through an unusual theological source: the British music newspaper The Melody Maker.

Deciding I’d spent enough time in Cambridge for one year I didn’t stay on to hear one of my heroes, the guitarist Rev Gary Davis, play at the Folk Festival. This could be seen as a mistake, as he died the following year. The Melody Maker report, however, mentioned that Davis had said he hoped to spend eternity on earth, not in heaven and (with all the biblical expertise of popular music journalism) it remarked that this was an odd view. I can remember thinking it interesting, rather than odd (so perhaps I’d heard it before), though I do recall hoping Davis hadn’t lapsed into being a Jehovah’s Witness rather than a Baptist minister in his old age.

By 1993, when I was teaching our young people an extended course on the Revelation of John, I’d become sufficiently convinced of it myself to write:

Well, are the saints to dwell in heaven, as our Sunday-school theology often tells us, without much support from the Bible? Or are we to dwell in a refurbished earth, which perhaps in some ways might appeal more to our sensual desires?…

2 Peter 3 speaks about the destruction of the heavens and the earth by fire, and then goes on (v13): *”But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”* … The meaning is that the new heaven and the new earth together constitute the dwelling place of righteousness. Heaven is God’s dwelling, and earth man’s: as God and redeemed man come to dwell together, the distinction between the two disappears. There is no more sea, not in a literal sense, but because the sea in Biblical thought is the symbolic source of mystery and evil (which is why the beast, Antichrist, came from it).

…Now we can see the nature of the City – it is not a paradise let down from heaven for us, but a bride coming down from heaven for her husband, Christ. The new Jerusalem is not simply the place where redeemed mankind will dwell: it is none other than ourselves, clothed as we shall then be in garments of righteousness, transformed into the true image of Christ and at last fit to dwell with him for ever.

“The dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”

God is on earth! Men are in heaven! The veil which was needed to protect us from God’s glory is gone, and we shall see him face to face – even more, he will live with us. We will be his people, and he will be our God – the long-awaited central promise of the whole Bible is fulfilled! Is it the Garden of Eden restored? Yes, and yet better than that, for the physical limitations of our earthly bodies are done away with, and like the risen Christ, we are able to have direct spiritual communion with God. God is not dwelling in the palace at the top of the city, as the king did in the earthly Jerusalem, but in our living room, in our kitchen – at our side and before our eyes. That is indeed a change in the old order!

middletonI include this personal background to demonstrate my appreciation for the new book by J Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, which explores the theme more thoroughly than any other book I’ve read (though it does appear in the work of G K Beale and N T Wright).

Middleton gives some historical background on why it came about that the teaching of the Bible – that of physical resurrection to eternal life with God on a renewed earth, the completion of what sin interrupted – came to be replaced with the idea of the persistence of an eternal soul in a disembodied existence in heaven. In brief, perhaps the major factor was the desire of the Patristic church to synthesize the best current philosophy with the biblical picture. The early apologists like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus argued strongly for the physical resurrection, maintaining an uneasy tension with more Platonic ideas. But the latter gradually won out, the earthly aspect of eschatology being first confined to a literal millennium, and then dismissed altogether as carnal (as in some cases they may have become) and Jewish (which is hardly relevant, as the whole Bible is Jewish).

The main part of Middleton’s book, however, deals in depth with the biblical evidence. Overall, Middleton shows how the “holistic eschatology” is of a piece with the whole thrust of biblical theology from Genesis through to the New Testament, and indeed makes sense of much of it, whereas the more common view leaves loose ends all over the place.

I was particularly helped by his accounting for those texts that appear to teach that our destiny is heaven itself. In fact the majority of these conform to what he helpfully labels an “apocalyptic pattern”: what is prepared for us in heaven is to be revealed on earth, whether that is the New Jerusalem in Revelation, coming down from heaven to earth; or those still alive when Christ returns rising to meet him in the air, not in order to go back to heaven with him, but to greet him as a delegation would greet and accompany a coming king, and as indeed the believers greeted Paul on his approach to Rome (Acts 28.15-16).

The purpose of such language is, amongst other things, to show the security of our inheritance (“kept safe in heaven for you,” 1 Pet 1.4) amidst the uncertainties and sufferings of this life.

Why does it all matter? After all, there are many who have replied to eschatological disputes by saying they are “Pan-millennialists” – it will all pan out in the end. But there are several good reasons, apart from truth itself, for embracing the “holistic view”. One is to confirm a subject dear to my own heart – the goodness of the created order as it already is. Nature points us to God as Creator (rather than to nature as divine, of course), and not to indifferent or malevolent forces apart from God. This is a central truth to maintain not only against materialist beliefs, but against Fundamentalists who regard the creation as utterly corrupted by sin, against Platonists who regard the material world as intrinsically evil or inferior, and against those Modernists to whom the natural world is a subject not for praise and thanksgiving, but for endless attempts at theodicy.

This leads on to a sense of continuity in our eschatology – this world is not to be abandoned and deserted by God, nor destroyed and re-built from scratch, but restored and (to a degree we are told not to second guess) transformed, but in continuity with what was first created. It’s perhaps dangerous to endorse too firmly comedic writer Adrian Plass, who predicted that cricket and beer would undoubtedly exist in the world to come. After all, I’d put in a bid for loud music, whilst others would be campaigning equally strongly for its abolition. But such trivial pictures have a whole lot more going for them than the popular conception of an endless church service in the clouds.

For Middleton points out that the original purpose of man in creation was to fill and rule the earth – in other words to work on God’s behalf to nurture it and to build a society embodying his ways. That is not changed in the New Testament, which teaches that it is the lives we lead that constitute our spiritual worship. That purpose does not change in the eschaton – it just becomes one that is lived out free from failure and sorrow, and in the presence of God, as it should have been in Eden.

That is why the continuity offered by this “holistic” view of the age to come has an ethical dimension, which is its most important fruit. If we value this world as God’s creation, and the people in it as those made in his image, and we look forward to its redemption rather than longing to escape from it, then we will be more likely to seek to bring it about. We are bound to take the question of discipleship and stewardship more seriously in every area of life, because every area of life is to be redeemed in the age to come. Christ, in several parables, told us to be faithful servants here and now, so that we would be entrusted with more hereafter. This is not because we will by our own actions bring about the time of perfection, for only the return of the King will do that, but because it actualizes the paradigm of God’s kingdom, whether in the realm of our care for “insiders”, our concern for “outsiders”, our seasoning of society or, indeed, our care of the planet. The age to come judges this age – and challenges ourselves no less than structures of injustice.

middleton bwThe case presented by A New Heaven and a New Earth is, obviously, quite a radical challenge to assumptions that are held by a majority of ordinary believers. And you’ll maybe know that, as a natural conservative, I’m always more than cautious about anything that suggests that everybody before now has got it wrong. But one thing that struck me in reading the book is that, although the “other worldly” view has had some harmful effects, and continues to do so particularly in wetsren Evangelicalism, by the grace of God even faulty theology has been associated with obedience to the commission of Christ. It reminds me that the Kingdom is Christ’s project involving us, not our project for him.

But far better for orthodoxy and orthopraxis to be in harmony. And this book will help us towards that aim.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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22 Responses to A New Heaven and a New Earth – J Richard Middleton

  1. Ian Thompson says:

    I think you are wrong about the view you oppose if you talk about a ‘disembodied existence in heaven’.
    After all, even Abraham has a bosom in heaven. And Paul talks about a spiritual body, not a disembodied existence. And every account I have read about spiritual or heavenly worlds talks of people there who appear in bodily form. Admittedly spiritual bodies, not physical bodies, but still bodies.

    To talk in this way is certainly to not make physical bodies as essentially inferior. After all, that is how we all start out, in order to become spiritual, so they must have good purposes.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Ian

      A few points in replay, and mostly disclaimers. First I’ve only tried to point to Richard’s book, which is cheap enough, and deliberately so because his case is argued closely from Scripture, and, AFAIK, covers all the “problem” cases. I can’t cover that in a blog.

      Secondly, there are inevitably points at which I disagree, or question, details of his position. For example, although he’s not entirely closed to the “natural” continuance in some (shadowy) form of the human spirit/soul, he places his money on the resurrection of the body as a work of God’s creative power. I’m with him on the latter, but don’t go with him in doubting the former. However, unlike me he’s done some detailed scholarly work (which I’ve not read) that convinces him of his case, and he doesn’t insist on it to the exclusion of the other position, so I wasn’t about to make a big thing of it.

      So to answer your particular points:

      (1) There are several things about the Dives and Lazarus parable that suggest it is not intended to be taken as a guide to the geography of the immediate afterlife, but is based on popular beliefs of the time. That’s mostly because it disagrees with the general tenor of the rest of Scipture, which speaks of the resurrection and judgement only occurring at the parousia of Christ. But in detail, the text says nothing about “Abraham’s bosom” being in heaven – rather, it’s perfectly visible to the rich man in torment, and that seems to correlate with rather vague inter-testeamental ideas of the division of Sheol into two, for the wicked and the righteous respectively.

      (2) Paul does talk about a spiritual body, and that is the hope of the resurrection Middleton speaks of. But the question is what “spiritual body” means, as it has only yet been revealed in the body of the One who has been resurrected, the Lord himself. And nothing in Scripture says that that body is received before the final resurrection, nor that its locus will be in heaven.

      (3) Although, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a near-death experience, I don’t regard such things as authoritative sources of doctrine: our source is Scripture. All experiences are filtered through our existing belief system – and none of us has any experience of, or way of expressing, a non-physical state.

  2. pngarrison says:

    My recollection of my fundamentalist youth (which at 63 is fuzzier and fuzzier) is that the bodily resurrection was specifically taught. It certainly was by the time I took Doctrine in college. When I was a philosophy major in college, I had to read a little book called “Survival and Disembodied Existence” which concerned whether disembodied existence was a coherent notion or not. I think the author decided it was, but it all seemed a little too much like those angels on the head of a pin to me.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      pngarrison

      I have to labour under a slightly different tradition here in England: for example, dispensationalism has been a minor influence at the margins of most environments I’ve been in, whereas in the US, I believe, it’s been far more normative in Evangelicalism.

      But Middleton, from a North American experience, mentions the commonness of a rather inconsistent fusion of ideas about going to heaven as spirits when we die, followed by the resurrection of the body, and a final existence in heaven with or without a merely temporary earthly millennium. The importance of his book is endorsed by some big guns like Walter Bruegemann and Cornelius Plantinga, so I conclude there is an itch requiring scratching.

      Where in Scripture, for example, is there anything about the immortality of the soul or the other-worldly Catholic teaching of the beatific vision (as opposed to seeing God face to face in the flesh)?

      • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

        Jon:

        I think Middleton is right about the fusion of two ideas — immortality of the soul combined with earthly resurrection — but I don’t see that fusion as characteristic only of current North American experience. I think it runs through the Christian tradition from very early days. Certainly by the time of Dante the notion of the “detachability” of body from soul was standard in Christian thinking, and behind Dante lay centuries of speculation connected with prayers and masses for the dead, which apparently were fairly early practices of the church. (I don’t know how early they are documented, but it’s fairly early.)

        I think that for centuries now the typical mainstream Church believer — Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc. — has grown up with some sort of idea of a spiritual existence in heaven (or some other place) that starts immediately after death, and that for mainstream churchgoers “the resurrection of the body” is very much downplayed — acknowledged in the Creed to be sure, but thought of as some far distant event. (Perhaps after a million years in heaven or so God will give us all bodies again, presumably healthy ones not subject to disease and decay. If so, that is fine, but if he doesn’t, who could complain about an eternity in heaven with God, even without a body?)

        The idea of eternity in some blessed state was always far more predominant in my own religious upbringing than was the idea of coming back to earth in a body — even though I said the Apostles’ Creed every week. Actually, as child, as far as I can remember, I think I understood the resurrection of the body in the Creed to refer to the body of Christ only, and the “life everlasting” to refer to life in heaven, not in a resurrected body. It seems to me that the first time I came across the clearly-stated notion that the afterlife meant not life in heaven but life on earth in a new body, it was in Jehovah’s Witness literature, and I remember the idea striking me as very strange, and not at all attractive in comparison with life in a spiritual heaven.

        Much of this has to do with what one thinks Christianity is as a religion. If one starts from the Protestant premise that Christianity must consist only of doctrines that are expressly warranted or clearly implied by the Bible, and that all else is pagan addition that should be shunned by Christians, then one is going to think about the doctrine of afterlife differently than if one starts from the premise that Christianity may also contain doctrines which are neither directly stated nor clearly implied by the Bible, but which are not in contradiction with the Bible. Such extra-Biblical (but not anti-Biblical) doctrines would be conceived of as being revealed to Christians through the Church — the idea being that the Spirit did not stop speaking with the last word of the Bible, but continues to speak today.

        I’m not here talking about doctrines essential to salvation, all of which can be found in the Bible. But I see no reason why the holy spirit could not reveal other things in post-Biblical times to the Church –things which are not required to be believed in order to be saved, but which are nonetheless true. If the Church came in practice to believe in a disembodied afterlife, I don’t see how that is in itself a problem merely because it goes beyond what’s “Biblical.”

        In any case, I see the book of Revelation as visionary and mystical, not a photograph obtained in advance of what the future will look like, and I don’t see that the imagery of a New Heaven and New Earth is intrinsically superior, from a spiritual point of view, to the imagery of a disembodied soul experiencing the Beatific Vision. Both are pictorial ways (Hebraic pictorial, and Greek pictorial) of talking about a blessedness which is beyond the understanding of currently living human beings. And in the end, I don’t really care whether or not I have an earthly body, a glorified earthly body on a glorified earth, or only an intangible soul in heaven when I meet with my Maker; I see the distinction between these descriptions as religiously trivial. To me, that is like worrying about whether you will finally meet with your long-lost parents at a train station, or at an airport, or at a shopping mall. The joy of reunion will be the same regardless.

        That’s why I can’t get all fired up about what Middleton is talking about, even though I have no objection to any of his scholarly remarks. He may be entirely right about what the “Biblical” view of afterlife is, but I don’t conceive of Christianity as bounded on all sides exclusively by what is “Biblical.”

  3. pngarrison says:

    Although my father was very committed to dispensationalism in the Dallas Theological Seminary form (he was on their board for 40 years), I tend to be more of the pan-millennialist persuasion, since I observe that detailed interpretations of the last days/millennium, new heavens, etc tend to lead to considering the Bible as a puzzle to be solved, and that pre-occupies people who should be doing other things.

    I was brought up on the pre-trib rapture, pre-millennial Second Coming to a world still inhabited by a mixture of believers and non-believers. That kind of millennium now makes no sense to me – it was maintained out of the conviction that God’s seemingly temporal promises to the nation Israel must still be fulfilled. That Israel-centric millenium with Christ reining from Jerusalem directly over a world of both unbelievers (how could they remain unbelievers after the Second Coming?) and believers seems incoherent to me now, so I just say it will all pan out somehow. My indoctrination in literalism in eschatology has backslid I guess. I still can’t escape the feeling that God isn’t finished with Israel as a nation, but I have no idea what form that will take. Prophecy is difficult, especially about the future. I think the people of God should have their security in His love, not in knowing the details of things yet to come.

    Just a thought- why not seeing God in the flesh (the risen Christ) and seeing the Father and Spirit in a beatific vision? So now I’m speculating along with everyone else, but speculations are all they are. We are after all told that it will be beyond all we can imagine.

    • pngarrison says:

      I wish I could edit my entry. The obsession with prophecy tends to have the characteristics of a pursuit of gnostic knowledge, with a competitive aspect where the folks in the pew figure out whose scenario they want to bet on by spending their time and money. Doesn’t look right to me.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      PNG:

      I’m sympathetic with your critique of overspending time on the details of Biblical prophecy — especially when the differing interpretations lead to rancor and denominational splits (as they have) in the Christian community. (Of course, I come from a mainstream church where emphasis on the book of Revelation seems bizarre. I can’t recall ever hearing a sermon preached on the book of Revelation, in my own church or any other church that I’ve visited.)

      The same could be said about young earth creationism. It has to spend so much time on the defensive — trying to explain away every apparent textual and scientific difficulty — that it develops a fortress mentality. It is so preoccupied with “defending the Bible” that it misses the point — that we are to live out the teaching of the Bible. It strikes me as very odd that God would give us a book which teaches us how to live, and expect us to expend all our intellectual and personal energy and time defending that book as pure history and good natural science. That deformity — that absorption in defending a book rather than practising a Christlike way of living — to me is enough by itself to condemn literalism-inerrantism, regardless of any detailed scriptural or scientific problems in the literalist/inerrantist position. Jesus’ own readings of the Bible, based on the fragments we have preserved in the Gospels, were nothing like literalist-inerrantist readings, but were focused on application, homiletical. I would bet that the literalist-inerrantist camp publishes more pages annually on Genesis than it does on the Gospels. It seems to me that the shift in emphasis to Genesis has been a religious disaster for “conservative” American Protestantism.

  4. Lou Jost says:

    I’m surprised to see such earnest discussions of this. To an outsider it looks much like Muslims taking seriously the notion that they will have their virgins in heaven, and wondering what that will be like….Don’t you think you are taking things a bit too literally here?

  5. GD GD says:

    Some interesting aspects of this subject are also related to the nature of Christ as a human, and also after the resurrection, as a resurrected human being, and as the Son of God. My view is the doctrine “being with God” and “living in Christ” means sins are forgiven and we now live with God – this is equivalent to eternal life, and it may take any form God would will for us. The rest of the discussion may be filled with speculation on how eternal beings exist in eternity; I suspect all eternal beings will find interesting and creative things to do.

    Another point that has interested me is that God wishes all to repent and be saved. I suggest this is in this is the context on matters of the resurrection, judgement, and the New Heaven and New Earth (and New Jerusalem).

  6. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    GD, Eddie, pngarrison, Lou

    I should say that Middleton addresses most of the points you’ve raised head on – too many to comment here, but for example, GD’s entirely biblical concept that eternal life is a quality of life that Christians enjoy, in part, here and now is a key to the ethical imperative that we live as citizens of the Kingdom here and now, rather than looking forward to some entirely discontinuous pie-in-the-sky.

    In other words, what you believe about the future affects practice in the present. png’s reminders of the futile gnosticism of some of the dispensationalist navel-gazing on future prophecy is also shared, in more or less as many words, by Middleton. It’s why books like his are necessary.

    But Eddie’s experience of never having heard Revelation preached is actually symptomatic of why people like the JWs acquire credibility: if pastors took as much trouble in their understanding of apocalyptic as they do of other doctrine, they’d realise why Revelation is in the Bible and what it’s there for – which, like other future prophecy, is to guide life here. That would encourage and empower their flocks in the storms of life, and innocculate them against foolish speculation.

    But I would say that, having written a book (albeit unpublished) on Revelation. That above all taught me that the prophetic teaching in Scripture is not gratuitous but functional: to ignore it is to bias ones theology from the start.

    Lou, eschatology is, and has been since Genesis was written, what gives shape to the biblical narrative – and arguably, by presenting time as a teleological trajectory has moulded the entire western world-view, including science, though that’s not the issue here. I make no apology for dealing with it on a Christian blog, and nobody has the privilege of deciding how literally it should be treated without presenting both reasoned arguments and recognising of their own prejudices – including a Roman Catholic uprbringing and reaction against it.

    • Lou Jost says:

      Yup, it’s just my personal prejudices that make me surprised that people seriously believe they’ll have a new physical body and new earth after they die, or that Mormons seriously believe they will each have their own planet after they die, or that Muslims seriously believe they’ll have 72 virgins when they die…sure, those things only seem silly to me because of my prejudices.

      Like I’ve said here before, I quite enjoyed my upbringing in a fairly progressive Catholic church. I wouldn’t mind believing in life after death, either. But wishing something is true does not make it so. We have lots of evidence that mind is a function of the brain.

  7. Merv Bitikofer Merv Bitikofer says:

    While I also share in some of the sympathies already expressed for “pan-millenialism” I nevertheless thank you Jon for your defense of time and effort spent to understand what Revelation and other eschatological passages have to offer. I have heard a sermon or two on Revelation (but literally not much more in a life time of Sundays at church –you can do the math). So even here in the U.S., obsessed as we are with such apocalyptic topics (much more evident in our entertainment industry than in any random mainline church you may visit on a Sunday morning) we still also tend to not spend much time delving into after-life issues in church. In fact it may be a trade mark of certain charismatic or Pentacostal leaning congregations that they do spend any share of time on it, and a mark of separation from the same that most churches soft-pedal or shy away from those topics and tend to shun literal approaches to them on the rare occasions they do address them.

    I think it a sign of how comfortable we affluent western Christians have become in this world in stark contrast to the persecuted Paul and other early apostles, that we have so much trouble identifying with Paul’s unequivocal passion that “if only for this world we have hope then we are most pitiable among men”. But there are still so many suffering people in this world currently, Christians and otherwise, that we comfortable ones may be the outliers of religious experience even today; and that probably does not bode well for us from what I read in my Bible.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Thanks Merv.

      Just a quick note since Revelation has come up again. I mentioned Richard Middleton’s “apocalyptic pattern”, in which many of the promises on which Christian hope is founded, in a world of insecurity and frank persecution, are stored up absolutely securely in heaven against the future. A prime example is Ephesians 2.6, in which “God has (not “will”) raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.”

      The main key to understanding Reveleation is nothing to do with trying to predict world events or post-world details, but to understand that it is, in fact, the whole of history that’s stored up securely in heaven in the same way. Certainly it’s coded largely in the genres of Jewish apocalyptic and prophecy, and absolutely embedded in the fabric of the Old Testament, but those are as accessible to scholarship as ANE texts, and it’s only irrelevant if the trials of the early Church have ceased.

      If you’re one of the thousands killed in northern Iraq last year, or in the destroyed town of Baga, a massacre of 2000 pushed out of the newspapers by 17 killed in Paris – even that two fewer than those killed in Maiduguri on Saturday), and so on, it’s a vital message.

      After all, it’s faith, hope and love that endure: presumbaly all three need some content.

  8. Merv Bitikofer Merv Bitikofer says:

    woops … botched that link. It may be ugly but should still work. Insert the word “here” after Jon.

  9. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Yes, I take the point, Merv – and it has weight given the writer is Nigerian. I mentioned Northern Nigeria particularly because I’ve recently scanned the photos my father took there in the Second World War, and also as a kid I corresponded with a colonial officer whose letters went “via Maiduguri”.

    At the same time, there’s a strange selectivity about our western response to things abroad: some abusive governments or lawless situations we get media campaigns about, followed by political or military action, and others remain peripheral amidst much greater suffering.

    It’s not just “the west”, though, so much as the human capacity for doublethink. For example, depictions of Mohammad only became eschewed in Islam in the 18th or 19th century, but nevertheless lead to “days of rage”. Whereas widespread murder of thousands of innocents, including Muslims, in the name of Islam, is seen as an over-reaction or an American plot.

    Personally, I’m more angry if Christ’s name is used to support evil than I am by satirical depictions, small-minded as those are.

  10. pngarrison says:

    The recent subject of discussion induced me to do a search of some mysterious documents I have in my possession. This turned up in an old e-mail with the sender identified as me. The trouble is, whoever wrote this idea for an epic ballad was obviously on drugs, and I don’t remember ever being on drugs myself. It may be that I wrote this to a friend when I was in some state of giddiness of undetermined (or unremembered) cause. Anyway, I submit it to this august society (with Jon’s encouragement) to analyze as you see fit. (This may owe something to one of the characters on the animated series Futurama.)

    Preston G.

    The Epileptic, Somewhat Elliptic, Low-Down, Apocalyptic Rastafarian
    Calypso Blues,

    which will be an epic ballad telling the tale of an End Times Preacher
    who was dropped on his head shortly after birth and went on to win the
    Chiliastic Olympics at his seminary (which shall remain unnamed), for
    his hermeneutical gymnastics in developing his epic foretelling of the
    Last Things, in syncopated rhythm, self-accompanied on the electric guitar,
    while simultaneously weaving his own dreadlocks and doing a
    world class limbo.

    This epic masterpiece is predestined to be picked up as a music video by MTV, a
    documentary by the History Channel, which thinks its viewers are
    getting a little bored, PBS (which has run one too many shows about
    Martin Luther King), the Weather Channel, which will mistake it for a tornado
    video, and the Theology Channel, which will be newly formed for that purpose. As a
    result, the young preacher will fail to graduate, but start his own
    evangelistic-prophetic-therapeutic dance ministry, become fabulously
    wealthy, marry a converted actress, market a Caribbean voodoo
    life-extending, zombie-tending root extract (hold it, I’m getting too
    much realism in here somehow), be brought up on charges by the FDA
    for making unwarranted promises on the label, but exonerated when
    Rick Perry (conservative governor of Texas) wins the presidential
    election and appoints the reincarnated Milton Friedman to head the
    newly reformed FDA. (Francis Collins and the NIH will clone Professor
    Friedman.)

    Having escaped the old FDA by the skin of his teeth, the preacher will see
    the error of his ways, do a sabbatical with the formerly disgraced
    TV preacher Jim Bakker, on a mountaintop in south Florida (a small
    mountaintop) and return, chastened, to his TV and internet ministries.
    But the old prophet (Oliver Wendel Holmes?) was
    right; fame and power corrupteth, and before long
    the preacher will be dancing around (and selling) the prayer cloths again,
    forecasting the doom of preachers on competing channels and stooping
    to that inevitable apocalyptic iniquity, picking dates for the Second
    Coming. After guessing wrong six times and inadvertently picking Feb.
    29 of a non-leap year, he will have only 10 million followers left.

    But then something strange will happen. The Second Coming. For the first
    few milliseconds, the preacher will be elated. He hasn’t predicted it, but
    he will live to see it. Then the Judgement will happen. And maybe he lives
    happily ever after, or maybe not. 🙂

    Preston G.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      I do, in fact, stock very effective prayer cloths, which are apocalyptic in shape and made of genuine clean white linen from flax grown overlooking the Sea of Galilee (just before it passed away).

      A discounted price to regular readers and those who are members of the Guild of Manifest Bikers (with signs following). I take PayPal, of course.

      • pngarrison says:

        After I sent you that bit of silliness, it occurred to me that a good medium for the idea would be an animated cartoon, so I e-mailed it to the creator of Futurama, or rather to his lawyer, which is the only contact info available. This was really a lark, since the series is out of production and it doesn’t look like there will be any more episodes made. I thought Mr. Groening might be amused by it, and his work in Futurama has amused me many times.

        I had no financial expectations in doing this, but the reply indicated that one of the functions of these types of lawyers is to insure that no one can send plot ideas to the creators of these series, presumably because it would open them up to legal claims if the writers did an episode similar to what was suggested. I personally know two people who have evidently had their ideas stolen after they pitched them (formally, not just in a letter or e-mail) to another large studio. In both cases the productions became big successes, and my friends who pitched them got nothing or close to nothing out of it. Apparently the system only works when the big boys want it to. In the future I guess I’ll stick to posting my jokes on obscure theology blogs. 🙂

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          ‘Twas ever thus – I once saw a TV programme exposing a health scam, which was clearly based on a leading article I’d done for a magazine called World Medicine. No attribution.

          One of the matters to be sorted out on the new earth.

  11. pngarrison says:

    There is another review series on the Middleton book, or taking off on it, here:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2015/01/15/the-end-of-the-world-rjs/

    Preston G.

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