Dec 01, 1999
The National Council of Churches, its existence threatened by persistent deficits, inept financial management and denominational apathy, approved plans at a November 9-12 meeting to eliminate 34 staff positions, mandated a gaunt new structure, and OK'd the framework for a balanced year 2000 budget that would include a built-in 10 percent surplus.
Robert Edgar, whose four-year term as general secretary of the National Council of Churches begins January 1, will commute between New York and Southern California for two months while he wraps up his responsibilities at the School of Theology at Claremont. He is expected to be virtually full time at the council by March.
The colleague with whom I teach astronomy likes to challenge our students with the question, "Are we any smarter than the ancient Greeks were?" We surely have a great deal more knowledge—especially about technology, medicine and the natural world—than Plato, Aristotle or Aristarchus had, but few of us equal them in brain power or logical reasoning. Nor have we surpassed Jesus in moral reasoning. Two or three millennia are not long enough for natural selection and variation noticeably to augment brain capacity.
"For almost 50 years, South Korean villagers have insisted that early in the Korean War, American soldiers machine-gunned hundreds of helpless civilians under a railroad bridge near a hamlet some 100 miles southeast of Seoul," read a front-page article in the New York Times. "When survivors and victims' relatives told their story, and sought redress, they met only rejection and denial, from the United States military and from their own government."
The Apostles' creed ends with a statement of Christian belief in "the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." The second article of the Nicene Creed states that Jesus Christ "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end." Eschatology, from the Greek word eschata, meaning "last things," is the technical word for the Christian vision of the future end and fulfillment of history and the cosmos.
I have been dreading this semester. Bill Mallard, my colleague in historical studies at Candler School of Theology, is retiring at the end of the year. Together he and I have team taught the first semester of the History of Christian Thought each fall for 21 years. It is hard for me to imagine what the autumns will be like now.