Eschatology: The Crown and Capstone of Dogmatic Theology

Having a firm grasp on eschatology seems to be at times like attempting to grab a wet bar of soap. The doctrine of last things can be rather slippery and for this reason many theologians land on particular views of eschatology like a butterfly with sore feet, always looming above and rarely coming down to stay. I would suggest that this is  partially due to the fact that eschatology is the only major division of theology which hasn’t been fully worked out in the history of the Church. We can point to periods of time where the Church came to a clear position on the other loci of theology such as the person of Christ, the Trinity, and the doctrine of salvation. Attention to last things brings with it both positive and negative consequences. For instance (concerning the negative), many evangelicals today have a skewed view of the end times thanks to the popularity of the Left Behind series and Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. While eschatology can be slippery and confusing, it is clearly important. As we read the apostle Paul’s letters we find that he was clearly driven by his eschatology and exhorted his audience to live with a view towards the end of all things and the consummation of God’s kingdom. Why is such a difficult subject so important? Lewis Berkhof writes:

It is the one locus of theology, in which all the other loci must come to a head, to a final conclusion. Dr. Kuyper correctly points out that every other locus left some question unanswered, to which eschatology should supply the answer. In theology it is the question, how God is finally perfectly glorified in the work of his hands, and how the counsel of God is fully realized; in anthropology, the question, how the disrupting influence of sin is completely overcome; in christology, the question, how the work of Christ is crowned with perfect victory; in soteriology, the question, how the work of the Holy Spirit at last issues in the complete redemption and glorification of the people of God; and in ecclesiology, the question of the final apotheosis of the Church. All these questions must find their answer in the last locus of dogmatics, making it the real capstone of dogmatic theology. (Systematic Theology, p. 665 – emphasis mine)

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