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God - The World's Future: Systematic Theology for a Postmodern Era.

This is a wonderfully fresh rethinking of systematic theology done in the light of eschatology. The particular eschatology Peters is advocating is not wholly original with him but derives much from Pannenberg with assists from Moltmann and Braaten. P. calls his eschatology "proleptic."

Prolepsis, for P., is an anticipation of future reality in a concrete preactualization of it. Hence, the Incarnation is an anticipation of the promised destiny of the whole of creation, the good news of the coming kingdom of God arrived ahead of time. God's creative power preactualized in the person, words, and deeds of Jesus: "The future unity of all things with God is proleptically anticipated in the man from Nazareth" (223). P.'s attraction to proleptic eschatology can be traced to his understanding of this age as postmodern. By this he means we have vaulted past modernity with its passion for science, objectivity, and differentiation. Postmoderns, by contrast, try to make sense of things in terms of their wholeness or relatedness to each other. "The desire for synthesis or integration points to the deeply experienced human need for healing, for the assurance of oneness, for salvation" (30). The oneness is future to us, obviously. It's augur is the kingdom of God which is not wholly future but proleptically present.

P. reinterprets common-sense categories as well as the traditional doctrines for the churches and the Scriptures in the light of this thirst for the reintegration of reality in terms of Christ. First of all, this Lutheran systematic theologian rethinks the meaning of time and causality. Instead of assuming that today's state of affairs is the result of yesterday's causes--and all the way back to the divine first cause, P. posits the principle of proleptic creation: "God creates from the future, not from the past" (134).

P. rethinks, e.g., the doctrine of creation. The universe was not created once and for all and then left to run on its own as the past becomes present. Rather, creation is in the process of being created, so that God can and does alter nature and history, creating new things in the course of time. The Holy Spirit is the primary agency of this new creation that is breaking into time. The Spirit makes parts into wholes by making the Risen Christ present through the proclamation of the Word and his real presence in the sacraments. For anthropology there is a refusal to define the self in terms of present or past. Rather, the self is defined in terms of what it will become in relationship to and communion with the new Adam who is exercising his dominion over the new creation.

Three latinisms, once distinguished, lend further clarity to proleptic eschatology. Futurum: we ordinarily see what is to come, the future, as caused by the past. Actuality follows from potentiality. Adventus, in turn, is seen as new, not the effect of past causes. Hence, the kingdom of God comes and will come adventitiously, as an advent breaking into time from outside. Venturum impacts us before its advent; there is an invasion of the present by the power of what is yet to come. This last term best conveys proleptic eschatology.

P. is anxious to give a theological account of a whole that is larger in scope than the ecumenical. Hence, his concern to be "ecumenic." "Ecumenical" is focused on the God-intended unity of all Christian believers, while "ecumenic" looks beyond Christianity to the interreligious world and all that is involved with the "unifying power of the kingdom of God" (ix).

The weakest chapter is the last one, "Proleptic Ethics." In it P. tries to make the connection between his particular systematic theology and its ethical implications. If the whole we anticipate (and to some degree already enjoy) is the kingdom of God, what should our present agenda be? He elaborates seven "provolutionary principles" that he hopes will serve as guidelines for a practical ethical response to his theology. He could have benefited from Rahner's distinction between categorical futures and the absolute future. It would have saved him from coming up with such shibboleths as "promote human dignity," "promote a sense of global community," "provide for posterity" as his principles. These principles are both incontrovertible and bland and could be agreed on independently of the ideas in this otherwise very rich volume.
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Author:Haughey, John C.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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