Will God Save the World or Not? Prolepsis, open theism, and the world's future

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Date: Aug. 2012
From: Currents in Theology and Mission(Vol. 39, Issue 4)
Publisher: Lutheran School of Theology and Mission
Document Type: Essay
Length: 3,175 words
Lexile Measure: 1500L

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Anticipating omega

As Soren Kierkegaard astutely observed, "life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." (1) Not only in life, but also in Christian eschatology, his insight holds true. Not unlike Kierkegaard, Ted Peters employs what he calls a "retroactive ontology" (2) when it comes to thinking theologically about the future. At the center of this retroactive ontology is the assertion that who we are today, as well as who we have been, are both "determined by, and defined by, our future." (3) In other words, we can only understand our past existence, or our existence today if we look backward at it from the perspective of God's promised future. Thus, Peters says, "God creates from the future, not the past," (4) and moreover, "the first thing God did for the cosmos [at its creation] was to give it a future." (5)

This retroactive ontological relationship between God and the world should not be understood as slavish or deterministic however. Peters' retroactive ontology includes the possibility of genuine openness and novelty. "Contrary to common sense," he writes, "past causes do not hold the present moment [and so not the future either] in the grip of absolute determinism." (6) Rather,

The first thing God did was provide nascent reality with an open future. Since then, God has continued this double relationship to the created order, negatively releasing the grip of the past while positively offering being and openness to a future of new possibilities. ... God opens up an array of potentials that await actualization. (7)

God opens up an arrayofpotentials that await actualization. God's gift of a future--given to the world at its creation--makes both contingency and freedom in present existence, and in the future, genuinely possible.

God's gift of a future to the created order functions in a twofold way according to Peters. Not only is it the ground of contingency and freedom, but it also contains within it God's offer of a final future, an ultimate future, a fulfilling future. "At omega," Peters writes, "creation will be complete." (8) Thus, the creation of the cosmos is God's ongoing eschatological act--an ongoing act grounded in the future, not the past.

This eschatological action by God will include the incorporation Into the divine life of our cosmic reality. The creation will be absorbed into God, and God's presence will imbue the creation as a whole and in all its parts. ... The entirety of past history will be taken up into eschatological eternity. ... God's creative activity will attain its completion. God will be able to take that Sabbath rest described in Genesis 2:2. ... That seventh day is tomorrow, the day that will conclude all of God's creative work. When it is redeemed, our world will be created. (9)

Elsewhere Peters says, when God's creative work is redeemed, it will at last be the new heaven and the new earth promised in Revelation 21:1.

To further underscore the ontological priority of the future, Peters advocates...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A298752161