All eschatological interpretation of history, when united to a strong religious mentality cannot but produce the finest practical theological fruitage.
What has been found is important not merely by reason of the light it throws upon the genesis of Paul’s teaching on its intellectual side, it likewise helps to answer the charge of the absence of systematic coherence brought particularly against the eschatological teaching. It were far more accurate to say that the eschatological strand is the most systematic in the entire fabric of the Pauline thought-world. For it now appears that the closely interwoven soteric tissue derives its pattern from the eschatological scheme, which bears all the marks of having had precedence in his mind. Among all the other factors usually reckoned with as sources or determinants of the Apostle’s theological system, there is none that can lay equal claim to self-evidencing character with this. No doubt Paul’s mind had by nature a certain systematic bent, which made him pursue with great resoluteness the consequences of given premises. No doubt also some influence should be attributed to his Jewish scholastic training. As to the latter, however, the influence of the Rabbinical cast of mind has, if we may believe Jewish writers, been greatly overestimated. The Rabbinical teaching was not particularly systematic. Even where it tended towards logical correlation, it contented itself with more or less superficial attempts at harmonizing, and did not feel disturbed even by serious antinomies.10 It is safe to assume that far more than all this counted the eschatological mould into which the Apostle’s thought had been cast from the beginning. What gives dogmatic coloring to his teaching is largely derived from its antithetical structure, as exhibited in the comprehensive antitheses of the First Adam and the Last Adam, sin and righteousness, the flesh and the Spirit, law and faith, and these are precisely the historic reflections of the one great transcendental antithesis between this world, and the, world-to-come. It is no wonder that such energetic eschatological thinking tended towards consolidation in an orb of compact theological structure. For in it the world-process is viewed as a unit. The end is placed in the light of the beginning, and all intermediate developments are construed with reference to the purpose a quo and the terminus ad quem. Eschatology, in other words, even that of the most primitive kind, yields ipso facto a philosophy of history, be it of the most rudimentary sort. And every philosophy of history bears in itself the seed of a theology. To this must be added that the Pauline outline of history possessed in the Messianic concept a centralizing factor of extraordinary potency, an element whereby the antitheses above named were dissolved into an exceptionally harmonious synthesis. Only one thing more, and that of supreme importance, needs to be remembered: all eschatological interpretation of history, when united to a strong religious mentality cannot but produce the finest practical theological fruitage. To take God as source and end of all that exists and happens, and to hold such a view suffused with the warmth of genuine devotion, stands not only related to theology as the fruit stands to the tree: it is by reason of its essence a veritable theological tree of life.
Vos, G. (1930). The Pauline Eschatology (pp. 60–61). Princeton, NJ: Geerhardus Vos.
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- All eschatological interpretation of history, when united to a strong religious mentality cannot but produce the finest practical theological fruitage.