Monday, February 13, 2006



“Though we may never prove it scientifically and by formula ; it seems inevitable that we will eventually taste it experientially and by faith: the arrow of time is not uniderctional, and may most fundamentally operate from, and originate in, the future ”

This created but representative quote from the field of physics, as shocking as it might sound, is so common a working assumption of post-Einstein physics that anyone conversant with the discipline will already be nodding off… blah blah, yada yada, tell me something I haven’t heard..And if you’re not a scholar for whom this is a 101 basic bonehead assumption, then the implications of the quote might ring esoteric and resound like clanging gobbledygook if you don’t get it, and resolutely ridiculous and absolutely impossible if you do. But its proposal must be wrestled with; it is neither too wild-eyed to entertain, nor too throwaway to flirt with. Don’t dare diss it; discuss it. It may well be the very keychain of the Kingdom, and that’s nothing to throw away. I must commend physicists for inviting this proposal into the professional, public and Christian areas; for whether such researchers are searchers or not; are Kingdomed (Tom Fuller’s marvelous word) or not: they are, in the language of the Kingdom’s King, “not far from the Kingdom of God” in such a suggestion.

Is it about time working backwards? Well, yes, but in a frontwards kind of way. More on that later, but I’m guessing some are scoffing , “That’s impossible!”. Of course it’s impossible. That’s precisely and prophetically why we must consider it possible:

“’You speak of impossibilties, ’ interrupted the King. ‘You must have seen a vision.’”
(p.59, Flatland)

“For only one thing is impossible with God: nothing.”
(Luke 1:37)

No wonder Einstein required his disciples to read the first book quoted above. No wonder Einstein’s creator requires His disciples to be read and heed the second Book noted above. Both teachers intuitively knew that there is something radically freeing in at least opening oneself to…at least for the science’s sake, if not for Christ’s sake…the possibility of impossible possibilities. Otherwise, no human could muster a mustard seed of hope. Without hope, we die. Inveterately we live in hoplessness; inevitably we die of and by it. No theologian has pondered this in a more profound and practical way than Jurgen Moltmann. Watch the astute linking he establishes between hope, the future and possibilty:

Since Christian faith lives in hope, there is only one realproblem in Christian theology—the problem of thefuture—and hope is the foundation of theologicalthinking as such. Moltmann takes a strong stand againstthe mysticism of being because he thinks it presupposesan immediacy to God which the faith that believesin God on the ground of Christ cannot validly adopt.Future-oriented, he rejects much of the Hellenic worldview. For him, all knowledge in faith is anticipatoryand fragmentary; its mobilizing force is hope, throughthe medium of which all theological judgments func-tion as showing reality its future possibilities. More-over, “creative action springing from faith is impossiblewithout new thinking and planning that springs fromhope” (Moltmann, “Theology of Hope” 1967, p. 35).

Moltmann's theology of hope understands history as a reality
instituted bypromise. That is, there is a relation between promissio and missio such that the Christian consciousness ofhistory is a consciousness of mission. In this view, then,the reality of man is historic and progressive, andrevelation too is progressive in that it creates progress.
Dictionary of the History of Ideas, p, 215

Revelation is progressive, and it does indeed lead to progress. But it may well be that, like time itself could be, and like the Kingdom itself clearly is…such life-saving and crucial hope is God- gift from the future to the present; progress progresses from the future, and unfolds and completes and lands in the present time.

So, anyone wanting or needing hope (that’s all who are breathe, as Hugo was hugely right: “Hope is the word written on the brow of every man”), and at least claiming a spirit of honest enquiry must… by default or design... “do” theoretical theology…in a way that hopes least hopes to hope for..the impossible. Only then, as the power and promise of the “future and hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) unfold among us in the her-and-now, can the “creative action springing from faith” spring at all. It’s our only hope! “It impossible for hope to disappoint,” according to the bold blanket promise of Paul in Romans 5:5, for at heart it is hope that actually “saves us” (Romans 8:24). Find it impossible and hopeless to risk believing in God? Fine, “try on” a temporary believing anyway, and see what happens. What do you have to lose?, Pascal’s famous wager still asks. Find it impossible to believe that the arrow of time might, against all odds and impossibilities, also “run backwards”? Fine, even if you have no reason; “test drive” the temporary and tentative belief and hope for season, and watch what just might emerge. What do you have to gain? Lots, even to the degree of witnessing your life changed and rearranged in wild and wonderful ways you never had even conceived or hoped for when you innocently started this essay. That’s the scope and sweep of this chapter, and I indeed wager the farm on it.

So you don’t have to check your brain at the door to continue in good conscience, but I do recommend adopting the timeless wisdom of the mystics: “descend with the mind into the heart.” Read that again, make and manuever the descent; even if it calls for a radical dismantling. Then your descent down the page will flow more naturally.

What’s “up” with all this descent? And what’s going on with all this talk about the direction of time’s arrow? Back to the Future? Back From the Future? Time travel? Maybe, but basically it’s just back to Jesus’ keynote sermon: “The Kingdom of God (which operates and originates in the future) has now arrived (in the present). Therefore, turn yourselves and your understanding around”

Anyone familiar with the life message of Fuller Seminary’s George Eldon Ladd will be able to summarize: Jesus’s gospel is all about the Kingdom of God, a reality which belongs first and foremost to the future (the “age To Come”); invading and lopping over into the present (“this age”). Why was Jesus murdered? For daring to teach that, in Him, the Kingdom had already begun to come on earth as it is in heaven. Inextricable from a Jewish concept of the Kingdom of God is that such a reality..because it is the property of the future messianic age, and age and time completely wall it off from this current, evil, earthly age.
One could only preview the Kingdom prophetically; not view (postview?) it proleptically. Jesus and Paul ..and God..being good Jews. clearly pick up on this teaching , and do not subvert, highjack or framyank it, but are consisitent and insistent with its tenor, but recogogize that in Jesus, the Impossible has come; the eagle has landed. By the Spirit they steer this existing theology towards its shocking and inevitable “holy coda” and (il)logical extreme: Even though these two ages are dichotomized and walled off, in the invasion of the impossible that Jesus has inaugurated, the future has come; and by definition it can only wander in from one direction: “backwards” from the end of the timeline, and ..against all known laws of physics of the day (but not against what contemporary physics has since discovered, which is precisely the point of this essay and its exuberance) into the currency of our “current” life. Eternity, a gift from and of the future, has begun visiting, affecting and effecting time. Kingdom is “here and now” and not merely “then and there.” Reversibility is irreversible. Every good and perfect blessing one receives from God is a gift, not from the past (though we are historically rooted, ..especially in the crucifixion/resurrection event), from the future.

“The presence of the Kingdom of God was seen as God’s dynamic reign invading the present age without (completely) transforming it into the age to come, ” (p.149, The Presence of the Future.”) Ladd asserts; taking careful and prayerful note of the necessary “inaugurated but not fully conumamted,” creative teension of the “now and not yet” mix which has caused so much fuss and ink to be spilled by theologinas. Unfortuntaley, we are not comfortbale living in paradox and creative tension. Yet the tension is designed to snag our attention. And it got the attention and guard of the religious leaders/theologians of Jesus day alright; the only filter they had for him was heretic. He broke the kingdom/two age teaching, or so they thought. In reality, of course, he came to “fulfill, not destroy.” Ladd gets this: it is this in-breaking without a change of age that is the very springoard of Jesus’ message and ministry.

Since have acknowledged the cruciality (literally, “cruc” as in “cross”) and crux (ditto for word origin) of our faith’s history , it is wisdom to park here for awhile and ponder the past. For one, to ensure and insure our grounding at the cross’s historical and holy ground.. Secondly, to trace the grounding wires of this holy grounding from the cross(an event in the past) to the Kingdom (a future “event” which embraces and encompasses the present and past)..or vice versa. Appropriate also at this juncture to quote a fiction writer, as isn’t that the best way to get a handle on non-fiction? No don’t worry, we won’t jump to HG Wells’s Time Machine or Zemeckis and Gale’s “back to the Fture. Let’s start a little more squarely in Christian orthodoxy; with the master of Christian fiction and non-fiction.” In “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” a volume in C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia, it is said of Aslan, the Christ-figure, and his substitutionary death on a “table”:

'When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.'"

Death working backwards; time works backwards, reversing the curse…but it’s all historically grounded in a specific “time and place” table ..even if in another dimension, or parallel universe/parallel time. Too wild? Hey, note, in the definitive “non-fiction” book, “when” the crucixion happened: “before the creation of the world,” or “before time began.” Historic? Prehistoric? Post-historical? Choose the prefix to affix: trans-, sur-, pan-, etc. Jesus died before being born? The cross before creation? Time out! (Exactly! Literally!)

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