Two apocalyptic families: a modest proposal

In 2009, Fleming Rutledge created an “apocalyptic family tree” that traces the genealogy and identifies the basic tenets of what has come to be known as the “Union school of apocalyptic.” It was, by and large, quite insightful—extending all the way back to the Blumhardts and including numerous non-Union affiliates and “cousins.”

Rutledge’s family tree, however helpful, is in need of reorganization. The lineage is more complicated than her single family tree would seem to indicate. For this, I propose two apocalyptic families. I first made this proposal in a paper I gave at the 2011 AAR meeting on “theology and apocalyptic,” which is now published in Apocalyptic and the Future of Theology, edited by Douglas Harink and Joshua Davis. I further elaborate on the point in an article coming out in the March issue of IJST on Bultmann and Bonhoeffer. The point in both pieces is that we need to differentiate between what I call “apocalyptic A” and “apocalyptic B,” though perhaps we could give more descriptive names, such as: “nondialectical apocalyptic” and “dialectical apocalyptic.”

The distinction comes down to this. For the first family of apocalyptic, the new age is one that is directly visible or apprehensible according to the categories and faculties of the old age; the new age sequentially follows the old and is competitive with it. For the second family of apocalyptic, the new age is only indirectly or paradoxically visible, and thus cannot be grasped according to the categories and faculties of the old age; the new age paradoxically coincides with the old age and is noncompetitively present within it. The latter is thus a dialectical understanding of the apocalyptic event, in that Christ’s incursion into the world is “wholly other” in a way that preludes its observation apart from the parabolic vision of faith. The former is nondialectical or antidialectical, however, in primarily two possible respects: historico-metaphysical (i.e., kingdom of God as the supernatural, millennial reign of Christ) and historico-political (i.e., kingdom of God as revolutionary order or alternative polis). The Union school of apocalyptic harbors an internal tension, insofar as it sides with both the political-liberationist approach of apocalyptic A and the dialectical-paradoxical approach of apocalyptic B. The work of Paul Lehmann and Christopher Morse captures this tension nicely.

With this differentiation between the two apocalyptic families, we can see that Rutledge’s family tree can be separated into two different lineages, beginning with the Blumhardts themselves. What follows is thus my attempt to trace the two family lines. I have left a number of names off the list, because I do not know enough about their understanding of apocalyptic to place them with any precision. Most of those I have left off are primarily biblical scholars whose work is more descriptive, rather than normative and constructive, in nature. I have placed a question mark next to those names that I suspect belong in a particular family but cannot state for sure. Finally, certain names I left off because I do not consider them to belong to the apocalyptic family at all (e.g., Childs).

Apocalyptic Family A

Thomas Müntzer

J. C. Blumhardt

Johannes Weiss
Albert Schweitzer
Ernst Käsemann

Fathers, children, and cousins (Union and non-Union):
J. Christiaan Beker
John Howard Yoder
Jacques Ellul
Jürgen Moltmann
Wolfhart Pannenberg?
John Baptist Metz
Gustavo Gutierrez
Stanley Hauerwas
Susan Grove Eastman?
Carl Braaten (see update below)

Estranged second cousins:
Thomas J. J. Altizer
John Milbank
David Bentley Hart

Estranged third cousins:
Jacob Taubes
Slavoj Žižek

Disowned great-uncle:
John Nelson Darby

Apocalyptic Family B

Martin Luther

Christoph Blumhardt (his later theology)
Søren Kierkegaard
Franz Overbeck

Karl Barth
Rudolf Bultmann
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Walter Benjamin

Fathers, children, and cousins (Union and non-Union):
Paul Lehmann
Christopher Rowland
J. Louis Martyn
Christopher Morse
James F. Kay
Martinus C. de Boer
Beverly Gaventa
Fleming Rutledge
J. C. Hoekendijk
Walter Lowe
William Stringfellow

Douglas Harink (in his most recent work)
Philip Ziegler
John Barclay
Susan Grove Eastman
Douglas Campbell?
Nathan Kerr?

Estranged third cousins:
Alain Badiou
Slavoj Žižek
Giorgio Agamben

To be sure, these two family trees raise as many questions as answers. Most people will scoff at the notion that Bultmann is an apocalyptic thinker, but since I have already made that case elsewhere, I refer people to the articles mentioned above. Others will wonder why Käsemann belongs in family A. This is also a case I make in those articles, but let me at least state the following: when I put Weiss, Schweitzer, and Käsemann together in apocalyptic A, I do so on the grounds that all three, writing as historians, identify a certain kind of apocalyptic thinking (viz. the historico-metaphysical type) as forming the theological milieu of the primitive Christian community. The difference between them is that Käsemann, unlike Weiss and Schweitzer, makes this conception of apocalyptic, or at least some understanding of it, to be essential to Christian faith. To be sure, Käsemann is more complicated, in that he goes on to write more normative-theological writings that seem closer to the Barth-Bultmann family line. Nevertheless, he left his mark on the apocalyptic conversation through his early historical writings. Where the definition of apocalyptic is concerned, Käsemann and Martyn represent distinctly different positions.

Other changes are worthy of extensive comment, but here I must be brief. First, I have added a “great-great-grandfathers” category, with Müntzer and Luther representing A and B, respectively. Müntzer is, of course, the anti-Lutheran Anabaptist rebel leader who is the hero of Taubes’s apocalyptic genealogy. There may be strong objections to Luther’s inclusion in the family tree, but contrary to those apocalyptic theologians who pit their views against the reformation, I can only see apocalyptic—at least in the sense of apocalyptic B—as the proper fulfillment of the reformation. Second, I have split the two Blumhardts. The father, Johann Christoph, is known for the deliverance of Gottliebin Dittus in 1842 and had a historico-metaphysical vision of the eschatological action of God. His son, Christoph, progressed through various stages in his thinking, including a period in which he left the institutional church altogether in favor of socialist politics (thus representing the historico-political side of apocalyptic A). But Christoph ended his life in a more dialectical conception of apocalyptic, whereby one engaged in action by waiting for God, since God’s action is radically eschatological and wholly other in nature and thus cannot be objectified in any metaphysical or political form. I have therefore split father and son as representative of A and B, respectively.

I’ve added some second and third cousins. Second cousins are theologians who share some of the family traits, but the rest of the family is embarrassed by them and exclude them from reunions. Third cousins are philosophers who share a thoroughly “Union apocalyptic” perspective, with the crucial exception that they deny the truth of this perspective. They are estranged by nature, rather than by any embarrassment on the part of the larger family.

Finally, I confess to being unsure about several of the names on the list. I placed Eastman in family A because she pits her position against Bultmann, but she could well belong in family B. Nate Kerr is more of an enigma to me, even though we have had numerous conversations. I am inclined to put him in family B because of his opposition to metaphysical or historicist objectifications of the Christ-event, including those of Hauerwas and Milbank; but he also seems to share a kind of historico-political form of apocalyptic that identifies the Christ-event with a certain kind of political praxis. Further clarification is needed.

This gives me a chance to clarify, in closing, my thoughts with respect to politics. Emphasis on the political nature of the gospel is not itself the issue in distinguishing between A and B. Notice above that I spoke specifically of a “historico-political” form of apocalyptic, and the list of family B theologians includes many with a political bent, including inter alia Barth, Bonhoeffer, Lehmann, and Morse. What I am seeking to identify instead is the collapse of the eschatological event of Christ into a certain sociopolitical modality—a direct (or at least not paradoxical) identification of the Christ-event with a particular political subjectivity that stands in a visibly competitive relation to other subjectivities. What unites apocalyptic A is that the eschaton, the new creation, is something literal and generally perceptible on the surface of history. The metaphysical version identifies the eschaton with an imminent, supernatural divine reign that all can observe (the so-called “second coming”); the political version identifies it with an immanent, political entity that all can observe (whether systemic or sectarian in nature). Apocalyptic B rejects both of these options—because the invasive action of God has already occurred in Christ and is available to faith alone. As Martyn says, it creates an “epistemological crisis.” This does not lessen the political import of the apocalypsis of God, but it does lead to a political agency that is more parabolic, indirect, paradoxical, and incognito.

Much more clarification is warranted, to be sure. But it is time for me to stop and for the conversation to begin.

Update on 1/16/13:
I have made a few changes. First, I moved Eastman and Žižek to apocalyptic B. Those who know their works better than I have persuaded me for the time being. Second, I added Carl Braaten to apocalyptic A. I meant to put Braaten on the list but left him off on accident. A couple years ago I came across his 1972 book, Christ and Counter-Christ, and was intrigued by the contribution it makes to the conversation. To be sure, this book is a product of its time and as with a number of the names on these two lists, putting him in one family or another is anachronistic. Braaten wrote this book on apocalyptic before Martyn and others came along to shake things up, so he takes it for granted that Käsemann’s position is really the only game in town, so to speak. Nevertheless, it reads like a combination of Tillich and Taubes (he praises both of them in the book), and it largely fits very well within apocalyptic A. He argues that the essence of apocalyptic theology is its “historico-eschatological dualism” (9), that is, its historical conflict between the powers of the old age and the powers of the new age, between God and Satan. He contrasts eschatological “development” (from present to future) with apocalyptic “liberation” (future to present), arguing that the latter “brings new reality through creative negation” (11). The goal of apocalyptic theology is realize the future in the present by “mediating the new into history, and creating a new tomorrow through revolutionary transformation of the world” (19). This is all vintage apocalyptic A. And let me add that I am all in favor of developing what Braaten calls an “apocalyptic theology of revolution.” But a person in family B will want to insist on a couple points. First, the dualism will have to be a paradoxical identity, which in my opinion is the central achievement of Martyn’s interpretation of Galatians, where he replaces a literal apocalypse with a bifocal vision of the new within the old (i.e., he epistemologizes the apocalypse). The dualism must not be a literal, observable conflict between two intraworldly powers. Second, the revolutionary action, which is absolutely necessary, cannot be seen as the actual mediation of the future into the present, or the effective realization of the new age here and now; it can only be a sign and witness to that which remains eschatologically beyond our grasp. Braaten has since confirmed that he belongs within apocalyptic A, despite abandoning his earlier apocalyptic thinking, by replacing his “theology of revolution” with a theology of “mother church.” When the revolutionary fever of the 1970s died away, the basic historico-eschatological dualism shifted from politics to ecclesiology, resulting in a call for a “return to catholicity” and “evangelical catholicism.” He thus writes in his 1998 work, Mother Church, that “if the church lives toward the future of God’s coming kingdom, she will not only be open to change, but she will also become the revolutionary instrument of change” (41). The ecumenical task—including, inter alia, the task of developing a theology of apostolic succession and church order—has therefore replaced the political task of revolution, since now the institution of the church is itself the agent of the new age simply by being the unified ecclesiastical organization within the world. Braaten thus unites within the trajectory of his own life the different forms of apocalyptic A that range from Käsemann and Moltmann to Hauerwas and Milbank.

Update on 1/16/13:
Question mark after Stringfellow’s name removed.

Update on 1/17/13:
Wolfhart Pannenberg was added to family A, but with a question mark indicating that I am not entirely convinced he belongs in the apocalyptic family tree. I have also added Christopher Rowland. De Boer notes that it was Rowland’s important study of apocalyptic, The Open Heaven (1982), that dislodged apocalyptic from being associated strictly with future expectations. In so doing he paved the way for Martyn’s apocalyptic reading of Galatians. Rowland sees apocalyptic as primarily about the present-tense, since it is fundamentally a matter of receiving heavenly wisdom for life now.

More importantly, I want to offer some explanation for why I devised these two trees in the first place. The genesis of this post goes back to the summer of 2011, when I was researching for an AAR paper that I had been accepted to give on Taubes and apocalyptic. In the course of that research, I did some extensive reading in Käsemann, Beker, and other scholars of apocalyptic. I had done a lot of work in Martyn years earlier, but this was my first time really delving into the wider conversation. What I noticed was that the definition of apocalyptic was not only wildly inconsistent—imminent, cosmic parousia (Käsemann), eschatological dualism (Braaten), heavenly wisdom for life (Rowland), etc.—but there were some obvious contradictions. For instance, Beker places Barth and Bultmann together as theologians who are anti-apocalyptic. But then how could contemporary apocalyptic theologians consistently point to Barth as the origin of the recovery of apocalyptic in modern theology? I also read Philip Ziegler’s piece on Bonhoeffer’s apocalyptic ethic, and while I came away convinced, I was also puzzled how to understand just who or what counts as apocalyptic. At the same time, I was neck-deep in my study of Bultmann, and I simply could not see sufficient reason why he should not also be considered apocalyptic. It became clear that what Bultmann was rejecting as apocalyptic was not what the members of the Union school were advocating. Martyn was talking about the need for “bifocal vision” and for an apocalypse in Galatians that does not have a literal invasion or catastrophic destruction of the old age. Morse even goes so far as to argue for a “deliteralizing” of the apocalypse. At this point things started to fall into place for me. On the one side I found Käsemann, Beker, and others arguing for a historical definition of apocalyptic as referring to a literal, visible, cosmic event in the chronological future. On the other side I found Martyn, Morse, and others in the Union school arguing for what I would call a theological or normative definition of apocalyptic as a way of interpreting the meaning of the Christ-event as it breaks into our existence in the present situation. Once I differentiated between these two understandings of the apocalypse, I could suddenly make sense of how Barth and Bonhoeffer could be rejected by some and affirmed by others as apocalyptic thinkers. What was more surprising was that I realized Bultmann rejected only the historical definition, and he was dismissed largely for that reason. In short, this whole exercise arose out of a need to clarify the relation between Käsemann and Martyn, between Beker and Barth. My only goal has been to shed light on the meaning of the concept of apocalyptic in order to assist the ongoing conversation.


Andrew Esqueda said…

Thanks, this is helpful. Where might you place Pannenberg and Jenson? I'm assuming that it would be the latter category, at least for Jenson.
I thought about including both Pannenberg and Jenson, but in the end I decided against it. Pannenberg certainly has an eschatology that is very similar to Moltmann, and in an earlier version I had him alongside Moltmann in apocalyptic A. But it seemed to me that his theology just does not qualify as sufficiently apocalyptic to warrant inclusion, though I am open to correction on this point. Jenson, however, is antagonistc toward apocalyptic theology, as his essay in the Harink/Davis volume attests (not to mention his review of Kerr). I find his theology to harbor an internal tension between a doctrine of God that fits nicely in apocalyptic B (highly actualistic and dialectical) and a doctrine of the church that fits nicely in apocalyptic A, if it is apocalyptic at all. His theology is a somewhat oxymoronic dialectical-postliberalism, and in the end I couldn't place him in either category. His overall theological vision is shaped by the *story* of God that is embodied by the ecclesial community, rather than by the apocalyptic emphasis on the eschatological invasion of God that resists all objectification. For this reason I have to place him outside the apocalyptic family tree, even though I find much encouragement and aid from his work and would be willing to consider him an honorary member of the family!
A brief addition to the original post: I should have pointed out that there is some debate as to whether the two family trees can both claim the apostle Paul as their common "great-great-great-etc.-grandfather." Certainly both want to, and there are legitimate claims to be made on both sides. But here is where Käsemann comes into the picture again, for according to Barth, Käsemann told him that it is Matthew, not Paul, that contains the origin and essence of the NT. And I do think that apocalyptic A is actually tapping into the basic prophetic logic of Second Temple Judaism (something Taubes confirms), whereas apocalyptic B is a development of Paul's radically different apocalyptic vision in Galatians (and perhaps Romans). So I might say that Matthew/Jerusalem is the ancestor of apocalyptic A, while Paul/Antioch is the ancestor of apocalyptic B. Of course, this raises a number of historical and textual issues that I cannot get into now, so take these as suggestive remarks, a tentative hypothesis if you will.
Put another way, apocalyptic A originates with the "little apocalypse" (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21), whereas apocalyptic B originates with the Galatian apocalypse (Galatians 3-4).

Interesting typologies (or family trees).

I guess what immediately came to mind, and seems confirmed in your Matthew vs. Paul is that this difference between, in continential philosophy of religion terms, either "determinate religion" and "religion without religion." Is this accurate? Or at least analogically accurate?
It would be a fairly loose analogy, but that's on the right track, I would say.
Thanks for the clarification.

Also, while I'm not qualified to speak about many of the names here, it seems that you have exactly reversed the positions of Žižek and Badiou. Badiou, via the event, is given over to a pretty determinate practices directed by the fidelity to the event while it is Žižek who remain between and beyond all social configurations.

Or did you have something else in mind as an organizing principle?

Yes, I was anticipating that objection. I also think this is where your analogy is leading you astray. Remember, the distinction has nothing to do with determinateness as such; it has to do with a certain way of understanding how the event relates to a world.

Let me say up front that I wavered about Zizek, almost placing him with Badiou for the obvious reasons. But he has writtenn enough on the topic of the apocalyptic that indicates, at least rhetorically, that he belongs with A. For instance, his claim that, even though the Christian fundamentalist understanding of apocalypse "is considered the most ridiculous but dangerous as to its content, it is the one closest to the 'millenarist' radical emancipatory logic" (Paul's New Moment, 186). However, I'll grant that this logic is in many respects closer to B. So I'm willing to move him around if need be. Badiou, however, is another story.

I am presupposing that the Badiou of "Logics of Worlds," in contrast to his earlier work, is the normative Badiou here. That being said, I think you can map A and B on to Badiou's distinction between democratic materialism and materialist dialectics. Apocalyptic A locates the event at the level of bodies and languages; apocalyptic B locates it on the level of "truth as exception." The apocalypse cannot be objectified; it only leaves behind a "trace" or "primordial statement" (what we might call parables or witnesses) that mobilizes faithful responses, but these responses are not themselves the truth-event. It's crucial here to take into account the entire phenomenology that Badiou provides in LofW, but I can't go into everything here. I'll just say that it is no accident that Badiou draws upon Kierkegaard. His position here is highly existential and dialectical. Granted, he is a materialist and does indeed think that the new occurs in history as a new political order. But there is also a surprising convergence between Badiou and Agamben in that this political order cannot be ranged alongside or identified with any order already in existence. As Badiou puts it, he is after a "politics without parties." As I understand it, this places him squarely in the B camp.
Well, I guess on a strict accounting of how Zizek speaks of apocalyptic then he may belong in A, but I think the clear driff of this philosophy is B (at least as I'm understand how you are using the terms). Certainly Zizek and Badiou are very far apart on other issues.

But back to Badiou. I'm not sure I agree with your characterization. There is too much antagonism between the old and new. I agree with Bosteels that there is much more dialectic in Badiou that strict opposition (but not dialectic as you are using it, I think). The difference between democratic materialsim and a materialistic dialectic is not "bodies and language" vs "truth as exception" but that either their are only "bodies and language" or "there are only bodies and language, except for truth." I think this is where you misread "politics without parties" to mean something like "religion without religion," but that is not close to Badiou's intention. Rather he still seeing the need for a concrete militant collective (i.e. a determinate church), but realizes that the party form has been thoroughly co-opted by state management of bodies and languages. But he is is not way against the formation of bodies and language as long as they are faithful to the event (which always retroactively re-organizes the situation).

Certainly LofW expands on the figures of subjectivity, but I don't think it supersedes the contours of the event from B&E (declaring the event and discerning its consequences are still essential for Badiou militant subjectivity).

I realize I'm pressing into the "estranged third cousins of your family trees, but perhaps these are the ones that will make most clear what the difference is between them.

Thanks again for responding and clarifying.
Nowhere have I denied that apocalyptic B is concerned with bodies and languages faithful to the event. That was the whole point of my clarifying the issue of politics in the post itself, as well as my clarification to you about the issue of determinateness. Again, I think you are using your "religion without religion" analogy to misread me, and that's resulting in a lack of understanding.

To the issue of Badiou, it remains the case -- does it not? -- that the event cannot be circumscribed within any formation of bodies and languages; it remains an exception to every constellation of human subjects. It is, as he says, "transpositional"; it is a migratory truth that always moves ahead of us and resists all ossification in the form of a "party."

And, contrary to your reading, I *do* believe that LofW supercedes B&E, **precisely because Badiou himself says so in his Second Manifesto!**
LofW supersedes B&E in the sense of moving from the ontologoy of being to a phenomenology of appearing, but in no way replaces the general framework of the event, only completes it with a subjectivated body.

But putting Badiou aside, I'm still wondering about your distinctions (why discuss how Badiou fits in with your typology when I'm not clear on the typology). Perhaps I'm reading too much into this statement, but you say that Apocalyptic A is either "historico-metaphysical (i.e., kingdom of God as the supernatural, millennial reign of Christ) and historico-political (i.e., kingdom of God as revolutionary order or alternative polis)." I read this in the sense that these types give the apocalypse some sort of determinacy (i.e. it really has content for us here and now), thereby making it less apocalyptic (Please correct me if I'm wrong here). I don't remember you giving an alternative counter-example of these position so I supplied the non-determinate "religion w/o religion" for the B category (and again, perhaps that is where I'm off). But if this is where I've gone ascue then please clarify so as not to inadvertently placing you into that category.

Also, I'm not sure the A category theologians would find themselves in your definition that they attempt to see without the vision of faith and only the B category live by the "parabolic vision of faith" (which I gather also stands in for dialectical theology, but I could be wrong on that).

Anyway, I've been scurrying around in other corners of theology lately (Hegel and Augustine) so I'm still trying to get a handle on your angle on apocalyptic. But I am interested, so thanks for the conversation.
I can see where you would get that idea, Geoff, but that's not what I have in mind re: apocalyptic A. Let me state it clearly: it is *not* determinacy that differentiates A and B. I said that was only a loose analogy, and perhaps I should have denied its validity altogether.

What differentiates A and B are two *kinds* of determinacy: competitive and noncompetitive, visible and invisible. For A, the apocalyptic event is properly something that occurs on the surface of history as we experience and encounter it; for B, the event does not belong on the surface of history and can only be seen by those who have what Martyn calls the "bifocal vision" of faith. To be sure, many of the theologians listed in A would want to emphasize the role of faith. I'll certainly grant as much. But I discern a common emphasis on the apocalyptic event being measurable and observable within the world, whether in the form of a particular community of virtue (Hauerwas) or a particular political mobilization (most of them) or a particular supernatural occurrence (J.C. Blumhardt).

To be sure, I recognize that many, perhaps you are among them, will say that only A has determinacy. But I presuppose that the apocalyptic event can be determinate without being available for general observation or investigation. In fact, that is precisely what makes B distinct; to give up that claim is to give up its fidelity to the apocalyptic event itself.
Matthew Frost said…
With respect to this little discussion of "determinacy," perhaps it would be better to speak of what, exactly, each kind of apocalypse validates. It must be said, I think, that all apocalyptic "really has content for us here and now."

Family B reveals the absolute invalidity, and so the merely-relative validity, of all things. "Religion without religion" makes a nice catch phrase for such an idea, but don't take it literally! Paul would rip into both sides of Matthew's dialectic and still point them both towards something positive. Family B inevitably identifies the determinate content of revelation as outside, enabling absolute criticism of all positions.

Family A, on the other hand, takes a side, and perceives that revelation also takes a side. The determinate content of revelation affirms something that exists as right, enabling relative criticism of all other positions. Self-criticism only happens relative to an ideal of the self as revealed.
Matthew Frost said…
The Pannenberg question is interesting. The man certainly considers the eschaton, but having an eschatology doesn't make you apocalyptic. He even has the idea that the eschaton is already proleptically revealed in Christ—but the result is not an apocalyptic dissonance. Prolepsis lets Pannenberg engage in a teleology that resolves existential dissonance!
Interesting. I think your instinct on Stringfellow is correct, and you can remove the question mark after his name.
Andrew Esqueda said…
I certainly see your hesitation with Jenson. I might tend to think that his earlier works would fit nicely within apocalyptic A, but that his later, and more ecclesiologically oriented works would not. In regards to Pannenberg, I think he deserves a spot on the list. His entire theological project is predicated upon the idea that the biblical message is eschatological in character. I can see how one could argue that his understanding of history as revelation might take away from the significance of God's apocalyptic invasion, but at the same time, for Pannenberg, history is always in route to the apocalyptic establishment of God's kingdom whereby God's glory will be demonstrated en toto. Just some thoughts.
brainofdtrain said…
I'm at work, so I have to be brief for now, but I want to quickly disagree with Matthew's assessment of Pannenberg. The proleptic revelation in Christ is fundamentally anticipatory in nature and thus assumes a greater or more complete "horizon," and Pannenberg draws on strains of apocalyptic thinking in understanding the nature of that final horizon. Thus, there is "room" for or an assumption of "dissonance." Admittedly, perhaps due to the influence of Hegel on him, such dissonance may be weaker or less "shocking," as Bradshaw would put it, but nonetheless it is there. FWIW, I would humbly suggest that Pannenberg does belong somewhere w/in the family tree, though I'm not 100% sure where he should be placed (probably A), given that he is a bit of an odd-ball in this family.
Andrew Esqueda said…
Pannenberg would, I think, would be precluded from being in category B for the mere reason that Pannenberg wouldn't agree with the idea that the new age exists paradoxically and noncompetitively with the old. The events in history have meaning in and of themselves. This, however, does not mean that they cannot also have an apocalyptically anticipatory orientation. At the same time, I don't think Pannenberg fits very nicely into Category A
kyle klein said…
Honest question from an innocent bystander:
Would it be fair to say one list is people you agree with and the other list is people you don't agree with?
For which people is this not true? Because it seems for several you drawing a wedge where there is none. Particular the biblical scholars who should maybe have their own list.
Andrew Esqueda said…
Kyle, I think it would be entirely unfair. There are significant distinctions that David is laying out, and they are distinctions worth noting.
kyle klein said…
It is just a question. I think it would be worth knowing if this symbolizes what David consider "good" and "bad" apocalyptic. I don't think several of the people would recognize other people on the list as being from a different tree.
It would be interested to see these developments laid as one tree with different branches and overlaps and more families but that's a different project for a different day.

It's a fair question, so let me address it. I will admit that, on the whole, I personally self-identify more with the B family. That much is true. But that was never the basis for making this family tree. Rather than state why here, I'm going to post it as an additional update in the blog post itself, since I think it will be relevant to many more people.

But let me just say this: I am not trying to draw a wedge between anybody. I'm not trying to pit elder and younger Blumhardt against each other, nor pit Martyn against Käsemann. The aim here is twofold: (a) to identify two distinct ways of understanding the apocalypse and (b) to indicate a family resemblance among theologians who are otherwise not often brought into connection with each other.
Matthew Frost said…
Good updates, David. I actually proposed a paper for 2012 on Braaten's apocalyptic. As far as he's walked away from Barth and Moltmann, the apocalyptic is still there to be seen if you look for it.

I definitely fall into the trap of arguing B against certain versions of A, but I will also acknowledge the rightness of other versions of A. I think there's a basic difference between, for example, Gutierrez and Milbank, and that it comes down to what I will call a humility of self-conception. This is certainly not true of all liberation forms, but I think all good apocalyptic of either family recognizes the self as under critique from outside, whether God upholds one side or none/all.

And I'll moderate my earlier comments on Pannenberg in line with what's already been suggested since: he's an odd duck. He is certainly not family B, for multiple reasons. I guess for me the point that has to be made is what distinguishes Pannenberg from, say, Aquinas. Thomas leaves no possibility for disjunction between creature and Creator, only a continuous privative gradient that can produce resistance to, but not ultimately arrest or reverse, the divine formal determination of all things. Creation illustrates the teleological order, which is never truly violated. And yet there is still judgment based upon sin, and his eschatology reflects this, because Thomas is not a determinist.

Pannenberg instead posits the eschatological prolapse of Christ into the world, which illustrates the teleological order as that which is truly violated by sin. And yet there is in Pannenberg an epistemological continuity by which naturalism still works. It is as though the revelation is continuous with the order of the world, just not with the order of our lives. So if the dissonance is only that between midpoint and endpoint, present state and future state, then how much distance is there between belonging to apocalyptic A, and just having a Reformation doctrine of human sin? If Christ is the revelation of the end of all things, and is disjunctive with our sinful existence and its effects, but not with the order of the world and of history, and we may still use the world and history to understand God, is this apocalyptic?
Matthew Frost said…
Might the difference be that Pannenberg is post-apocalyptic? That the conformity is a result of the always-already of God's redemptive (a Calvinist would say reconciling) work?
Shannon said…
David, I appreciate your important qualifications re: Käsemann's placement in Apocalyptic A, but I still wonder whether he is getting unfair treatment (as Bultmann has) and getting pidgeon-holed into a corner by subsequent classifications and misclassifications in the scholarly discussions that followed. I grant the main reason for why you put him where you do but I wonder if the "real" Käsemann really belongs there. It may be that my problem stems from finding his later essays to be enormously helpful in tying apocalyptic rightly to Paul and the Reformation. I think he is a valuable help in NT studies in that regard.

I entirely agree with you about Käsemann. He's in A because of his historical definition of apocalyptic in the early 1960s and because I don't know of a place in his later writings where he offers a different definition. But in terms of his own theology, he's almost certainly in B. That much is quite true.

I'll also confess that A is confusing because it is a mixture of historical and theological criteria. Since it's probably tripping up a lot of people, let me just put it this way:

I place a person in A if (a) they have a historical definition of apocalyptic as based in the views of Second Temple Judaism and/or the early Christian community, or (b) they have an apocalyptic theology that is compatible with or explicitly affirming of natural theology.
brainofdtrain said…
Though this thread has gone cold, I'd like to retract my earlier comment. I'd like to do so b/c (a) I didn't specify the sources I was drawing on in my response well enough & (b) after further consideration, I'm no longer as confident that Pannenberg does in fact belong in this family tree. While I may return to my original position later, I need to give this more thought b/c at this point I'm unsure.
David, thank you for making use of my "family tree." I am glad it is provoking discussion. I have posted something on my own blog regarding it:
I am grateful for the commonalities that you and I obviously share. However, I think it is a mistake to divide up the list in such a finely tuned way. From my perspective, people are falling into the wrong categories. For instance, Kasemann certainly belongs at the head of the list of the group that I identify. Surveying the landscape today, I think that these three criteria will serve to denote apocalyptic theologians:
1) The divine agency is the central emphasis and sine qua non. 2) The presence of an occupying Power must be insisted upon.
3) The cross-resurrection is a novum not to be located on a continuum.

Thank you, Fleming, for gracing this blog with your comment. I appreciate the interaction. Let me point out my comment in response to Shannon above where I acknowledge that, as a theologian, Käsemann certainly does belong with the "B" family. But I also want to point out that your three criteria for what counts as apocalyptic only underscores why I placed Käsemann in family "A." None of those three criteria is part of Käsemann's own stated definition for what counts as apocalyptic, namely, the literal, historical, future parousia of Christ. Your definition, shaped as it is by Martyn, is entirely compatible with someone like Karl Barth. But Käsemann's definition is not, which is why Barth rejected it and why Beker later pitted Barth against apocalyptic theology. These details are the reason why I think we must distinguish between the two families. We need to acknowledge that there are real differences that are internal to a larger apocalyptic "family resemblance."

Having said all that, I don't think my dual family tree is really divided up in a "finely tuned way." Hence all the changes and corrections I've had to make already. I don't see these as hard and fast categories or types, despite how it may appear. These are flexible and malleable categories for the sole purpose of bringing clarity to the conversation. If it fails to achieve that, then I'm happy to dispense with it altogether.

Again, thanks for the comment, and for the original blog post that got this all started. I'm a great admirer of your work.