It is vital that Christians address apocalyptic questions and the proper handling of scriptural texts because there is a powerful sense of ‘an end’ right now in our culture, declared the Rev Dr Barbara R. Rossing at the Trinity Institute's 37th national theological conference on 23 January 2007.
Dr Rossing, who is professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, is the author of ‘The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in The Book of Revelation.’ She has lectured, preached, and published widely.
This year's gathering, offered by Trinity Church in Wall Street, New York, concludes on 24 January.
In her presentation, Rossing said that the "whole notion of apocalypse, of catastrophic future scenarios and end times is so prominent on our culture radar screen these days."
The controversial new Christian video game, ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces,’ invites players to "command your forces through intense battles across a breathtaking authentic depiction of New York City; recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular angelic and demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choices," she said.
Professor Rossing added: "Ads for the game online show gun-wielding soldiers marching here in New York City, helicopters floating overhead and people being killed all accompanied by the music of 'Amazing Grace'."
She asked, "is this how 'God's Unfinished Future' is about to end – right here in New York as ancient scriptures come to life? No, I think this theology is nuts and that we must say no to the 'Left Behind' fictional version."
However, faced with global climate change, depletion of the supply of oil, escalating violence from wars around the world, the threat of nuclear weapons, and the pain of those who are being left behind in today's globalize economy, Professor Rossing said saying "no" was not enough.
She continued: "If apocalypse means revealing, then the question for us today is what curtain did Hurricane Katrina pull back? What does it reveal? What do other events unveil for us?" she asked. "Whether the accelerating melting of Greenland's ice, the war in Iraq, or 9/11 and its aftermath, how do we read these signs of the times?"
Professor Rossing quoted at length an October 2005 column by Peggy Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist and former speech writer for President Ronald Reagan, entitled ‘A Separate Peace.’
The column suggested that the world's people may be living at the end of something. In the article Noonan said that she and some friends were discussing the sheer number of things that parents buy for teenage girls – bags, earrings, and shoes. Some describe it as affluence, but Noonan said "it's also the fear that parents have that we are at the end of something and that they want their kids to have good memories."
Noonan wrote that there's an unspoken subtext in national culture right now; a subtext to society. People are carrying around in their heads an unarticulated and, in some cases, unnoticed sense that the "wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley is coming off the tracks and it won't be fixed anytime soon."
Noonan asked: if this sense is correct, how are people dealing with it on a daily basis? She surmised that those who hadn't a clue just kept life moving but those who realized that something was askew, maintained the line of thinking of "I've got mine, you get yours."
"As Christians, that cannot be our message," said Professor Rossing.
“We need to read the Bible for the future; for the end of the world, said the New Testament scholar. We can learn from early Christians and New Testament communities about how to live in hope for the future "since they too believ