The scientific revolution represents a pivotal moment in human history. While the term science essentially originates from a Latin term that means “knowledge”, what science would ultimately ask is this “what is truth?” Whether or not it was realized, this was precisely what the minds of the scientific revolution were asking. What presented itself as a uniform method of measurement in regards to physical realities became a measure of what truth is, and how it is defined. The scientific revolution, riding the wave of humanism of the Renaissance, stands boldly forth and points toward a world of ultimate truth and clearly defined laws. In time Sir Isaac Newton’s mechanics would measure the world of human existence. Life itself would be reduced to a formula; testable and repeatable. The mysteries of the universe were within the grasp of humankind. The riddle nearly solved.
Certainly all things pointed favorably to such a conclusion in those early days of scientism. Newton, as mentioned, had given the world the laws of motion. Darwin coming along a couple of centuries later would give the world a mechanical means to explain living diversity. The world must have appeared to thinking minds of that time like a puzzle with only a few pieces missing. Within a few decades surely even those pieces would be filled in by science; the bright and shining star of the modern era. The material progress of science only helped to bolster such conclusions. The efficiency it produced, the amazing wonders it performed! Science was magical. Men were born into an era where what they imagined as impossible became mundane by the time of their demise. Utopia within our reach – Eden ours to conquer.
Yet while humanity looked forward with such hope and lofty aspirations, it failed to look behind to the carnage in its wake. The brilliant efficiency of the industrial revolution was borne on the back of immense human suffering in the ghettos of the common laborers in Europe. The amazing speculations of Darwin, led to the arrogance of genocide and social narcissism; the will to power. Imperialism spread European humanism globally, yet these efforts at civilization ran red with the blood of those who were marginalized by it. Rather than a humanistic utopia, what humankind created was a version of gehenna smoldering with the burning remains of our collective soul. Where was the promise of science? Where was the confident surety? Further examination caused Newton’s mechanics to unravel. Quantum mechanics sounded like scientific sarcasm. Perhaps the Creator’s practical joke on His arrogant children. The mystery loomed larger than ever – the gaping abyss before mankind. The mystery remained, yet the hopeful soul of mankind had been long abandoned. Birthed from this era was a disgruntled humanism. A skepticism born of abject failure. Believe nothing.
Perhaps the abject failure of scientism in regards to human morality and spirituality (the blame for which was ironically laid at the feet of religion), was based in part on its immature desire to amputate itself from the human experience that gave birth to it. Science in some ways has become the prodigal son and religion the patient father. With premature arrogance the scientific revolution renounced the ignorance of religious mystery in favor of the sure thing of rationalism. Yet like the delinquent son of parable, it soon found itself indulging in the dregs of moral failure. A failure from which society has yet to recover.
Will the scientific community “come to itself” – awaken? There is hope. Science is nearly spiritual these days. While fields like biology hold doggedly to material naturalism, others fields seem to have the naivety to speak with nearly childlike boldness. Mysterious fields like quantum physics and consciousness theory are saying things out loud that sound strangely close to forgotten ways of looking at the world. What is old is new again. Yet there is a chasm between these two worlds, ancient and modern, created by centuries of willful disconnection on the part of science. Science at times seems to be rediscovering truth without realizing that it is doing so. Perhaps the prodigal has begun its journey home. One would pray it is so; what glories await its homecoming…
Futurism. A term that has become pejorative in preterist circles. While there are many things that preterists disagree on, one thing it seems that all agree on is that futurism is bad. But what is the basis of that assumption? Typically when discussing preterism, the key apologetical points revolve around what was fulfilled in the first century. To arrive at the preterist position it is essential to establish that chronological events of the first century directly correlate to prophecy. In most cases these are the very same events that so-called Futurists say have yet to be fulfilled. Preterism to some degree becomes nearly the mirror image of futurism, and this leads to a tendency to dismiss everything in the New Testament as being fulfilled without qualification. This is however a lazy hermeneutic, and yields down right odd results.
Is the broad-brushed dismissal of ongoing and future implications of the New Covenant warranted? The contributions of those who have taken this approach have produced little to substantiate such a claim. Yet in spite of the weaknesses in their approach, and the mountains of supposition that are used to substantiate claims, we are still given a list of propositions that seem utterly absurd prima facie. Are we to believe that the events of the first century leave no covenant body, no ongoing actions of the Holy Spirit, nothing to instruct or guide our present age? Are we to believe that the entire witness of scripture is to take us in an arbitrary circle back to the days of Judges 21:25 where “every man did that which was right in his own sight”? Was random spirituality really the ultimate purpose of the Christ? The same Jesus that says “this generation shall not pass” also says “upon this rock I will build my Church.” The same Jesus that says “some standing here shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in power” says “my words shall not pass away.” The version of fulfillment presented by some seems more like failure.
Lets consider the situation a moment. What took place in the first century? Did time and space cease to exist? Did the physical laws of this cosmos give way to a new supreme physical order? No. Was there any indication of a mass “rapture” of Christians? No. Did humanity suddenly come to a grand revelation of God by which all men everywhere are now fully enlightened to His majesty and power? No. So what actually happened? A religion was born. I know in our present climate of “religion is bad”, the idea that the results of Christ coming was establishing a religious movement seems distasteful. But from a strictly empirical standpoint, this is what was produced. I could perhaps choose other terminology and put some frustration to rest. Perhaps if I had written “a new spiritual path was born” or “the supreme spiritual path was revealed.” Perhaps this phraseology would seem more in line with our cultural climate. However one might phrase it, what came from the first century was Christianity. Which makes it difficult to understand why so many reject out right the one thing that we can point to as emerging from the events of the first century. Two things beyond question take place in the first century: the Temple in Jerusalem falls and the Church emerges to a level that the Mosaic system never came close to achieving.
Is fulfillment futureless? I suppose we might need to ask what fulfillment is. It cannot mean the end of time, a secret rapture or even an instantaneous, perfect revelation of all God is to all humankind. Because we see no evidence of any of that from the first century. The only thing fulfillment can possibly be is something pertaining to the initiation of a religious/spiritual movement. In fact this concept of restored order and renewed priesthood is woven throughout the New Testament. The believers are a royal priesthood, made kings and priests unto God. The New Covenant is the restored order of Melchizedek; with Christ its high priest. The Christians are the “tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.” They are a house being built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. The Church is the New Jerusalem and Heavenly City. The New Jerusalem is not going into heaven, but coming down from God out of heaven. What is spoken over it? “The tabernacle of God is with men!” God with us. This is the beginning prophetic announcement of the New Testament, and the vision by which it is concluded.
I would then contend that fulfillment is not only not futureless, but that it in fact demands a future. The Kingdom is a mustard seed, leaven, salt and light. It infiltrates, changes and grows. It is a spiritual institution that has been commissioned to remain in the earth and to enlighten the world. The nature of the Kingdom – the Church – may be a subject for discussion, yet its reality is undeniable. This particularly for those who contend for a first century fulfillment. The emergence of the Church – His Body, is the only tangible evidence of the coming of Christ. Christ came in flesh, and then came to the world in His Body the Church. This is the only tenable position for fulfillment. Fulfillment then secures the future, it does not eliminate it.