It is a curious feature of the present time that a boom in secular interest in the idea of a life after death seems to be matched by a recession in high-level theological interest in that possibility. There is today a wave of popular non-religious concern about death and about a post-mortem existence, expressed in parapsychology, occultism, thanatology, and talk of mediumship, reincarnation, out-of-the-body experiences and the reports of those who have been revived after having been clinically dead. And yet at the same time some of the best Christian thinking today is inclined to de-emphasise the idea of the life to come, even to the point of virtually abandoning it as an element in the Christian message. It is true that there is much talk of the future (sometimes with a capital F), and of Christian hope and of the radically eschatological character of the Gospel. For example, Jürgen Moltmann has said that ‘From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving ….’1 But when we read on we find that the hope of which he speaks is, in so far as it has any content, a this-worldly hope and that ‘the life everlasting’ has been reduced to a penumbra of mythic imagery.
KeywordsFuture Life Christian Tradition Religious Pluralism Present Life Eternal Life
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- 1.Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope (London: SCM, 1967) p. 16.Google Scholar
- 2.Wolfhart Pannenberg, ‘Can Christianity Do Without an Eschatology?’, in The Christian Hope, ed. G. B. Caird et al. (London: SPCK, 1970) p. 31.Google Scholar
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