Talkin' Eschatology and Emmanuel Kant

Akron / Canton Emergent Cohort 7.13.07

I was going to start an emergent cohort in my area, but lo and behold! One had just started up!

We met Friday night at a local coffee shop (Arabica in Canton’s Belden Village area). About 11 of us sat outside, drank coffee drinks, and talked about Christianity in a postmodern culture.

The conversation was very stimulating. Everyone in attendance was extremely thoughtful about theology and philosophy.

Jared Coleman facilitated the discussion. We talked about how a Christianity that preaches an eschatology of delayed gratification later for believing the right things now seems too much like salesmanship. “Buy this now, and you’ll receive rewards later.” This “metanarrative” focuses on the reward of heaven. Thus, Jared was saying, this metanarrative must be viewed with incredulity. The counter to this type of Christianity, it seemed to the group, would be to embrace an eschatology that does not offer an escape from this world to a better life elsewhere, but one that offers God coming to this existence and offerin a better life here and now. “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” But in order to get beyond the narcissism so prevalent in modern Christianity, this Christianity must be less about me and more about us. In other words, this better life should not be merely for my own individual benefit, but for the benefit of everyone – here and now. And we each need to sacrifice for the sake of this better life for everyone else’s benefit. This seems to us to be the mandate of the Christian life – being a redemptive community for the sake of all peoples.

Another thread in the conversation revolved around how the metaphysical concept of God is difficult to believe by way of scientific proof. One person in our group had been influenced by Emmanuel Kant, saying that because of the limitations of reason, no one could really know if there is a God. God is a mere concept that we may believe by faith but cannot actually know in any real way, since we have no sensory data to prove God exists. The group worked with that throughout the evening, trying to figure out how, if God is very real to many of us in the group, he is, in fact, real! We finally came to the conclusion that Reason does indeed have no way to really prove God’s existence. This is why we, as a group, are embracing some of postmodernism’s ideas about a skepticism of Reason. We find that we experience God in ways other than through mere logical proofs; we experience God in Christian community, in love, in worship, in the kindness of strangers, in doing good, in witnessing others (Christians or not) doing good, in the poor and needy, in the hurting, in the hardships, and in the joys and the celebrations. God is here. And we have chosen to see the world around us with eyes of faith – so that we can see him.

Akron / Canton Emergent Cohort Blog

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Nate W said...


That is so exciting to hear that a community of people have come together in your area to have open dialogue about some things that matter so much to how we live here and now in the world we find ourselves in.

One thing that struck me in your post is that some of you are "embracing some of postmodernism’s ideas about a skepticism of Reason." While some Christians are very skeptical of postmodernism and its effects in our culture (sometimes rightfully so), I find that many who identify with Emergent, including myself, feel that postmodernism not only offers ideas that are in stark contrast to those offered by modernity, but offers a way of thinking that is actually closer to the Hebrew mind than what modernity had to offer during the age of reason.

However, I know you would agree that the goal can neither be modernity or postmodernity for us as Christians. We must continually ask God for new eyes to see beyond the labels that we are so often quick to identify with, and into the already but not yet coming of God's Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Jared Coleman said...

That was a wonderful summary of the evening, Bob. Thanks for sharing that!

Bob Robinson said...


Thanks for the great job you did leading the group. You were very helpful in generating conversation, and gracious toward all in the circle!

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, Nate.
We live in the culture in which God has placed us. This is part of our gospel proclamation. Bringing the Kingdom into a postmodern context.