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?”