Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Heaven Misplaced, by Douglas Wilson

from Jonathan

Having read plenty of works by Doug Wilson, I was expecting a fairly in-depth, academic study of eschatology (the "end times" debate) in Heaven Misplaced. I was surprised to discover his writing style in this book to be much more light-hearted and whimsical than usual! At less than 150 pages, it's not very intimidating.

Eschatology can be such a hotly debated subject, with lots of controversy around the interpretation of scripture, that I found his attitude refreshing. Rather than feeling like I was being dragged down the path, argument by argument, to an inevitably ponderous conclusion, it was like being invited to skip along hand-in-hand and see how incredibly simple the answers can be to some of the most frustrating passages of scripture:

"Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour." (1st John 2:18)

"Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:8-9)

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)

And then, a few verses later:

"Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." (Matthew 24:34)

Ouch!! I'm used to cringing inwardly when I come across verses like these, thinking, "So, here we are, two thousand years later, with our iPods and air travel and Internet, still trying to guess when 'the last hour' will actually be..." and assuming that it would require a seminary degree and a lot of carefully-worded excuses to convince anybody that these statements haven't been deeply compromised by now.

Wilson actually does answer all of the hard questions posed by scriptures like these. Actually, he explains them so simply that they cease to be questions at all, and I'm left scratching my head and wondering why, exactly, the evangelical church is so perennially confused on these topics.

Heaven Misplaced takes a fairly meandering path through a variety of Old Testament and New Testament prophecies and promises, showing how they fit together and actually match up with historical events. And, actually, they do! The conversational writing style usually works well in communicating these points, although occasionally it wanders into rabbit-trails that can be interesting, but requires some effort to relate everything together and maintain a sense of context.

Throughout the book, Wilson does not "take sides" with any particular camp of established eschatology, or argue his points using a very theological vocabulary. The writing is plain-spoken and unassuming. (Although, in the glossary at the end, he admits that the position he argues is that of preteristic postmillenialism.)

You can read the introduction and the first chapter to get a feeling for the book. If these are questions that you find yourself coming up against sometimes, I recommend spending some time with this book!


B said...

Wilson's style has turned me off before, but this does sound interesting. I might give it a try.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Brandy Vencel said...

I made my way over here via Semicolon's Saturday Review. I was looking at this book on the Canon Press website and couldn't determine if I would want to buy it or not. Wish I had been able to read this before I placed my order! Anyhow, I will have to purchase it next time. I agree that one can't read such passages without cringing. I would love to read a concise explanation of it. I've been trying to unravel this for some time (being raised that this is still future leaves me a bit confused about eschatology), but usually the answers only lead to more questions. Thanks for pointing me in a good direction!

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