Q & R: Could you say something positive?

A great question …

You teach on welcoming those with different beliefs than your own. I was wondering then if you could publicly write a statement that says something positive to those who don’t have a similar theological understand as you. For eg., could you perhaps say something positive about a literal rapture eschatology? I have several charismatic friends who strongly espouse this belief. For eg., can the belief in a literal rapture be reconciled with advocating a healthy environment. Also, for those who believe in a literal hell or penal substution be all that bad? Dr. Tim Keller is one who is able to reconcile these doctrines to help better shape society.

Response after the jump …

R: There are many positive things to be said for almost every belief; otherwise, people wouldn’t hold that belief.
For example, the Rapture doctrine gives people a sense of urgency – they need to evangelize fast, because it’s almost too late. It could give them a detachment to material things (although strangely, it seldom seems to do so): why accumulate money and wealth when you’re soon going to be evacuated? It can make them interested in current events in order to track the signs of the times.
It’s a little hard for me to see – and I’ve never heard anyone advocate for this – a connection between rapture theology and care for creation, although I’m sure a good person somewhere could do so.
And millions of wonderful and good-hearted people believe in penal substitution and a literal fire-and-brimstone hell, and have done so for centuries. The problem isn’t the good people who, as you say, “reconcile these doctrines to help better shape society.” The problem is the unintended negative consequences of these beliefs, especially as they’re held by less sensitive or ethical people. And then there’s the question of whether these beliefs are the best consolidations of the biblical data. But you wanted me to say something positive, so I won’t go any further in this direction!