Immanentizing the Eschaton?

I first heard the term “immanentizing the eschaton” when a naturist friend of mine was let go from his job at a Christian non-profit because of his beliefs about naturism. Instead of hearing him out and studying for themselves, they opted not to give him the benefit of the doubt and instead they accused him of being perverse and attempting to “immanentize the eschaton.” According to this definition, “In political theory and theology, to immanentize the eschaton is a pejorative term referring to attempts to bring about utopian conditions in the world, and to effectively create heaven on earth.” This is certainly disheartening, but not surprising. It’s a common mentality, especially among Christians, to link the naked body to sexuality, calling it lust provoking and even obscene. While they may make exceptions for certain situations like doctor’s offices and such, they hold these knee jerk reactions as core beliefs in order to hold on to their flawed perception of purity. They can’t seem to fathom any notion that one can be both nude and modest at the same time, and to think otherwise is trying to usher in a utopia or the age to come in a fallen world, and that just can’t be.

That’s what I’d like to spend some time on— an examination of that thesis. I used to believe the same, but now I see everything in a new and more glorious light.

Is trying to restore the innocence of Eden an effort in futility? That goal is what caused us to start this site and name it what it is: Aching for Eden- longing to restore the innocence. Being a grown up, can we have faith like a child? Jesus seems to think so (Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:17). Being an adult, can we be born again (or born from above)? Jesus perplexed Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, with these same words (John 3:1-15).

These themes keep coming up to me. It’s like the Lord keeps trying to show me his goodness time after time and in many different ways. Just the other day I listened to a podcast called The God Journey on Restoring Innocence. In it, Wayne Jacobsen said, “Every morning I can awake to restored innocence in Him, so that I can embrace him in ways that lets his glory find access to my heart.”

He also commented about the apostle John in his book, Finding Church, “For John, eternal life didn’t just describe life after death, but the quality of God’s life that we can experience now by entering into an affection-based relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus opened the door for us to participate in the divine community in the midst of this broken creation.” (Finding Church p. 44)

This takes the innocence conversation to another level for someone who doubts whether we can experience end-times realities in present day situations at some level. For my friend, it came down to his superiors not seeing how he could be around naked women and not fall into lust. If anything, that may be a future heavenly condition, but in this fallen world, you will always lust because “men are visual.” (I spend a lot of time on this blog debunking that myth and lie). To live innocently as a child does, to not automatically lust at the sight of another person this side of heaven, is that a bad goal? To some it would seem to be. They have a defeatist attitude toward this one sin in particular, exposing perhaps their own impure thoughts onto the matter. 

I’ve made this point quite often and in slightly different ways. But would they counsel someone with another problem the same way? Let’s say an alcohol addiction, or a gambling problem, a shopping compulsion, or a lying streak, or a proclivity to gossip, or a lifestyle of gluttony… I’m sure you get my point. Would they throw their hands up and give up trying to overcome these issues and accuse them of immanentizing the eschaton if they were bold enough to do something about them? Should they put off, prolong, or postpone any hope of overcoming any of these issues until the are ultimately glorified?

Hebrews 6:5 NIV talks about those “who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age” – it seems to me from this text that the powers of the coming age can be tasted today. In other words, we can be enjoying the blessing of the future age here and now.

The Lord has been putting this message in front of me in more ways that I have time to quote here. One worth noting would have to be this one: “The kingdom of God is already but not yet. In other words, the kingdom is here (already), but it hasn’t arrived in its fullness (yet). The kingdom is present, yet it’s future. The kingdom is today, yet it’s tomorrow. The kingdom is here now in the people of God and manifested whenever they are bearing the image of Christ and exercising His authority. But one day it will descend on this earth in its full power and glory.” (Frank Viola, Insurgence p. 121)

I’m a proponent of not just taking men’s words to heart, but seeing what the Scriptures have to say on matters of interest. So let’s look at some verses. 

“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23 NLT

I would ask if we have this new life now? Or do we have to wait until later? What good is it if we have to wait for it? Why would it even be written down for us if it’s not applicable in this very moment? Notice, it didn’t say “wait to love each other deeply until you are born again…” Or “Your eventual new life will begin later and then last forever…”

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

I don’t need to expand with much commentary, because the case is building on it own in black and white letters. Even, and especially, our Lord acknowledged this concept when he taught his disciples to pray saying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Why would he instruct us to do this, if it’s not possible? Later in Luke 17:20-21 we see that “One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.’”

I know there is a difference between justification and sanctification. Being justified is “just as if I’d” never sinned at all. In Christ we are 100% justified. Whereas, our sanctification is a process to be completed one day in glory. But why take an important issue like lust and practically give up? Why limit yourself to avoidance techniques and strict measures that do nothing but intensify the problem? Why not trust that in the kingdom that has been established, we can live as new creations and serve others on earth as in heaven? We see enough hell on earth today. We could use a little bit of heaven. We live in the tension of the “already, but not yet.” We are living between two trees (The Tree of Life in Genesis and the same in Revelation). Let us stop eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, trying to manage and maintain our morality by our own efforts. Instead, let’s trust the one who has power to redeem and restore our whole beings in general, and any part that needs his finished work in particular.

One of my favorite verses since I overcame my 20 year long porn and lust compulsion is Revelation 21:5 where Jesus says, “Behold I am making all things new.” Just when does this “making all things new” take place? The verse is found in the book of Revelation which many see as being in future tense, however I believe it was written to encourage those in persecution in the present tense when it was written and for all future generations in their tribulations. There is a timelessness to that statement and the principles throughout the unveiling of the whole book.

Perhaps you have opinions about the hit movie “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson, and that’s quite ok. No movie is perfect in its depictions of events or all the details brought forth. One scene that really stuck me was when this verse was stated. They had Jesus say it as he was struggling and falling to the ground. His mother, Mary, has a flashback of a time he fell down as a little kid, and then it shows him bloody and weak falling again. She runs to him to try and comfort her son, but he looks at her with his blood-stained face and comforts her instead with these words, “I am making all things new.” My eyes well up with tears right now as I type these words and think about the scene in my head. He certainly has made all things new with me and paid the ultimate price to do so.

When exactly did Jesus make all things new? Is it solely in the future when there is a new heaven and new earth as we see in Revelation 21? Or might it be on his way to and on the cross, struggling to breathe but managing to utter the words, “It is finished.” (see John 19:30; Hebrews 9:12, 26) Regardless, his work on the cross is powerful today, if you would just believe in it.

In a booklet called Naturism and Christianity: Are They Compatible? the authors claim, “Some naturist say that it is more fitting for a Christian than a non-Christian to be a naturist, given that Christians are new creations living before God, who need not know that shame with gives nakedness such symbolic potency.” (Gorham and Leal, p. 24) I believe naturism is not only compatible with Christianity, but also a practice that is most fitting. If you are a Christian who would accuse me of immanentizing the eschaton, then I would have to say, “Good! Why aren’t you?”

21 thoughts on “Immanentizing the Eschaton?

  1. The James

    Your last sentence was all i needed once I learned the definition of the term. I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t want to live in the kingdom of God, as a child, now! Getting out of religion and into the kingdom of God is the best thing I have ever done. In my opinion this term immanentizing the eschaton is exactly what should be happening when you decide to live off of the tree of life!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The James

    In my opinion, there are certain things God has put into place that we and creation “knows.” Animals don’t fornicate with people, people aren’t ruled by fish, water flows down hill, we know what a nude body is. A lot of animals cover their feces or at least have a certain area they will use so as to not contaminate their habitat. Some things God has designed that we just know. When a person doesn’t have clothes on because they choose not to for comfort, recreation, swimming etc….all of the stuff we know doesn’t go away. We are still the rulers of the earth and we still behave responsibly and respectfully, we still refrain from sexual immorality. We have just temporarily made a choice to take off our clothes. God knows we need clothes, we know we need clothes, we know that we live on the earth. Some things don’t change while we live here on earth. A lot of christians seem to have missed that we are supposed to live in the kingdom of God. We are not going to be ruled by man’s thinking anymore. We can live in freedom and be led by Christ.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Phil O.

      Good comment. We have these instincts and eternity placed in our hearts. We sadly have abdicated our dominion that we were to have over the earth. Our fallen state has taken over, but it doesn’t have to be this way!

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    • jochanaan1

      Still, we must distinguish between God-given knowledge and conditioned reactions. Many non-naturists would say that “we just know” we need to put on clothes, forgetting just how much fuss they made about it as young children…

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  3. pastordavidrn

    As shown in this article, body acceptance isn’t the only practical area accused of “immanentizing the eschaton.” In the Garden, our first parents had an ongoing, two-way dialogue with God. Some Christians today insist that, beyond what stands as written in Scripture, God no longer speaks to us personally. Besides being unbiblical, that concept facilitates a crippled relationship with Christ, Who said, “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me.”

    When I wrote my novel MUSE, I intentionally included examples of hearing and following the voice of Jesus, and I met with a somewhat similar accusative rebuke. Since I received my Bible education under theologically “cessationalist” teaching, I had participated in giving such rebukes myself. But I repented. Christ’s present Kingdom Reign through the Holy Spirit really does “immanentize the eschaton,” bringing us “the presence of the future.”

    For anyone interested, I preached 3 “Back to the Future” sermons on this theme, all posted on http://www.pastordavidrn.com/files/sermons.html (found by scrolling down the long list to 01/03/2016-mp3, 01/10/2016-mp3, and 01/17/2016-mp3). It might be new territory for some, but very solid ground.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Phil O.

      Yes!!! I have been ringing this bell lately with folks. I’m sorry your novel came under that unfair scrutiny. That’s one of the aspects that really appealed to me as stated in my review post on here, aside from the body acceptance. Perfected stated and let’s continue listening to the voice of the Shepherd!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. John Figleaf

    I keep think of the word “immanentize”. It brings to mind the word “Emmanuel” – God with us! Isn’t Jesus the fulfillment of “immanentizing the eschaton?” Seems like a very worthy goal for all of us to follow in every possible way – even living like we were beck in Eden walking with the Lord in our innocent natural state.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. davidvogel64

    Fantastic post and discussion here. As I said on another site in response to this post, I’d rather be in the group that strives to live toward God’s kingdom on earth, rather than wait for everything to come in the hereafter.

    BTW, I also mentioned that it appears the word “immanentize” may be misspelled in your post title, missing the second “n.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jim Crutchfield

    I understand the Mayflower pilgrims were about Immanentizing the Eschaton in the New World, but so was the Jim Jones church in Belize. Koolade anyone? Immanentizing the Eschaton had value when we emancipated the slaves, and in the civil rights movement, etc. but was also very disruptive to many churches, especially in the south,

    My thought is we must consider carefully the outcomes when we raise controversial issues. Nudism offers value in overcoming the sins associated with pornography and sexual objectification. Praising God’s creation is commanded us. But nudism can also lead to disruption inside the church and disdain from the community. This can interfere with the mission of the church. I am reminded in 2nd Thessalonians 3, vs 11-12 to avoid creating disruption in the church, and the exhortation in verse 13, “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” Still, it would be nice to overcome the lies associated with textile-ism (e.g. nudity is a sin, it causes lust, it is unhealthy, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Phil O.

      I appreciate the comment and it’s a valid point. I like koolaid, but not that koolaid! Any point if made the single most important thing will fall short in the end, because it’s not the ultimate thing. I don’t suggest everyone be a naturist, most are not ready to adopt such a view without serious disruption. But those who have found that freedom from within the ashes of lies must not cease because of another’s viewpoint that is contrary (and also not ultimate). Being in the world, but not of the world, accomplishing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, is good. Drinking koolaid Jones style, not so much!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. R. B. Mears

    What a great thought you have given us. You did speak of sanctification. “our sanctification is a process to be completed one day in glory.” Oddly, it was when I started going to church after meeting my wife I was introduced to the idea of sanctification, and her grandfather told me it could be had here on earth. He could imagine every facet of this sanctification but never went so far as to state that we could be baptized as the early church did. It was as if he believe in it with so much hope, yet withheld the greatest part of it. Many other teachers in the Church of God denounced sanctification in this world, and I believe it was because they could see the logical course that thought would take a person.

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  8. hanchampion

    On first read, I found myself in total agreement, but then something didn’t sit right. You wrote “They have a defeatist attitude toward this one sin in particular”. That isn’t my perception. It seems to me that they have a defeatist attitude to all the sins you list. No one is ever cured of alcoholism for example. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. You simply track the time since your last relapse. Resist/ avoid the temptation. I don’t see any difference with the treatment of lust. I know people who were set free from alcohol, heroin, and lust. It is far too rare, but it does happen. The Kingdom is manifest, albeit incompletely

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    • Phil O.

      I get what you are saying. I do tend to speak in generalities about the purity culture I was confronted with. While good intentioned it projected some not very good ideas about the prevention (or lack thereof) of lust. The sin management style of striving doesn’t work well for any sin, to your point. But some have touted, if not with their words, with their actions, a disbelief in the ability to be free of lust this world, where they wouldn’t say the same about a thief. They wouldn’t say, “Once a thief, always a thief.” like they might say about any addictive tendencies. We can get into hair splitting territory pretty quickly, but generally the Christians I heard growing up were more defeatist about lust than anything else. Where is the faith in God to redeem any sin in us through his power?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. hanchampion

    There has been a change from “we are sinners” to “we are sinners saved by grace”, and now to “we are adopted children of the living God”. Where you are in those transitions will impact how you approach dealing with sin, and if you consider victory over sin a possibility or not.
    I have seen the truth set people free. They walk in victory in some parts of their lives by the power of God, not by human will or effort.

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