Septuagesima Sunday: Septuagesima vs. “Immanentizing the Eschaton”

Image result for immanentizing the eschatonSeptuagesima is the first of three Sundays known as “Pre-Lent,” meaning “seventieth” because it falls between 60 and 70 days before Easter. The following Sundays, Sexagesima (sixtieth) and Quinquagesima (fiftieth) fall, respectively, between 50 and 60 days, and between 40 and 50 days.

Certain liturgical changes begin at this time. Vestments change to violet, and the Church ceases the Gloria in Excelsis and Alleluias.

Why is 70 so significant a number? It invokes the 70 year exile of Israel in Babylon during the sixth century before Christ. Few words better express the pathos of this event on the hearts of God’s people than those from Psalm 137:
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?
These sentiments might explain why the joyful words of the Gloria in Excelsis and Alleluia (“Praise the Lord”) cease: How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

And indeed, right there is the significance of the Church invoking the typology of the Babylonian exile in its Lenten meditations: We are in a foreign land. We are pilgrims. As Hebrews 11: 13 and I Peter 1: 1 make clear, this pilgrim status is not reserved only for those who were literal exiles in Babylon, but for all the saints from faithful Abel to Christians today.

This is hugely significant and introduces a point of meditation against today’s Neo-gnostics. Consider, there is not a hint of suggestion in the New Testament that Israel’s return to Jerusalem ended their exile or their pilgrimage. The words of Hebrews sum up the problem nicely, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” That is, we are still exiles and pilgrims.

What does this mean? It means that the end of exile is not political or historical (at least historical this side of Christ’s return), but something grasped this side of heaven by faith alone. Septuagesima broadcasts this point powerfully: Easter ends the 70 year exile! Easter is when we pick up our harps again and sing Gloria in Excelsis and Alleluia! The resurrection ends the exile! Lent reminds us of our ashen mortality and the sin which put us in exile, as well as setting our hearts on the one event which redeems us from this exile.

That the Church invoked the 70 exile in this manner, as something ending with Easter, underscores that it never understood redemption as a this-worldly or political occurrence, or as something emerging progressively through Historical forces. Its redemption has always centered on the eschaton, or Christ’s coming at the end.

Political philosopher Eric Voegelin was famous for describing today’s political gnostics as those who would “immanentize the eschaton,” that is, make what should be a future event – realized at the resurrection – an immanent event realized now through political movement. We see examples of this “immanentizing the eschaton” in the urgent “NOW” of the Neo-gnostic placard: Health Care NOW! Peace NOW! Justice NOW!  We also see it in Joel Osteen’s false promise:  Your Best Life NOW!

Yes, if only we are just worked together, if only we just dedicated ourselves to making the world a better place, we could inaugurate a heavenly home right here on earth; our exile could end.

Septuagesima says, “Nope. There’s only one event, inaugurated by one Person, which can bring our exile to an end, and that is our Lord Jesus in His resurrection.” Until then, we are pilgrims in a foreign land, not foreign because it’s alien to its Creator (something we’ll explore further in this week’s meditations), but foreign because of where man’s fallen put it.


Embracing the Satan (Part II)


I’ve been ruminating on this whole concept of “embracing the Satan” (which I posted a few days back) and, to quote The Big Lebowski, “New sh&* has come to light.”


The Problem with Experiences with God

Recently I was alerted to an analogy intended to help understand the relationship between doctrine and religious experience. Supposedly it came from Lewis, or Chesteron, or someone. It went like this. Imagine two people gaining understanding of the Atlantic Ocean.


Embracing the Satan

One way to look at Gnosticism is that it is a form of theodicy. What is theodicy? Theodicy is defending God’s goodness in the face of an evil world. The question of theodicy essentially is, “If God is so good and loving, why does evil happen in the world?”

Contemporary Christian Music Evangelicalism Extra Nos Liturgy Theology Worship

The Road to Lutheranism for a Former Praise Team Leader

The following is an interview with Jonathan Rodebaugh, a former praise team leader who became Lutheran.  Read Jonathan’s other thought-provoking meditations on his evangelical past, here at his blog, In, With, and Under.

Millenarianism Politics Prayer

The Millenarian Temptation: Co-operating with God

Recently I was at a conference where a Roman Catholic presenter gave an excellent review of post-modernism and its effects on our society. At the end of it he put up these words from John 17: 20-21:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Book Media

Janet Mefferd Show

I’ll be discussing my book “Gnostic America” on the Janet Mefferd Show on February 11, 2015. You can listen by streaming online or on the radio if the show is broadcast in your area.

Emergent Evangelicalism Liturgy Millenarianism Theology

A Reader Asks about Evangelicalism…it’s Origin, Problem, and a Fix

Recently a reader of Gnostic America e-mailed me with a list of questions regarding evangelicalism. Here are his questions and my answers.