‘Is this the apocalypse?’

The answer by an Everyday God-Talk guest is eye-opening 

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Drew Theological School’s Dr. Catherine Keller (left) tells So Jung Kim (right) during Everyday God-Talk that we are facing the apocalypse, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world. (Screen shot)

LOUISVILLE — In the latest edition of Everyday God-Talk, host So Jung Kim asks theologian Dr. Catherine Keller of the Drew Theological School a simple direct question.

With the pandemic and the ecological crisis — which they had been discussing — Kim, associate for Theology in the Office of Theology and Worship, wondered, “Is this the apocalypse?”

Keller told Kim how the ground of her theological commitment for the Earth is entangled with other pressing issues of our time. Noting that certain powerful wealthy people exploit the planet mercilessly, Keller explained how our concern for the Earth intersects with the issues of race, gender, sexuality and class.

“They also disproportionately exploit people of color — who are exploited disproportionately by white people,” she said. “The degradation of the condition of our species is at stake.”

For Keller, one of the best places for ecological theology to start is where the Bible begins, with the story of Creation in Genesis.

“How did we come to think we could just abstract ourselves and even our faith from the Creation and all of the marvelous critters that God keeps exclaiming about in Genesis 1?” she asked. “Where God kept saying, ‘Oh good, oh good, oh good,’ and then when all of the creatures were together with the human being, ‘Oh really very good.’” These exclamations by God were never about human beings alone, Keller said, but about human beings together with other creatures.

The newest book by Dr. Catherine Keller of the Drew Theological School, “Facing Apocalypse: Climate, Democracy and Other Last Chances,” will be published next spring.

Keller’s theology is grounded in where the Bible starts with Creation, but also where the Bible ends in Revelation, which concerns itself with a so-called “New Creation.” After much destruction — known as the apocalypse — there is radical renewal, which seems to require our participation, Keller said.

Yes, Keller said, we are facing the apocalypse. But only in the original sense of the word — which means “revelation.”

“It does not mean the end of the world,” she said. “It means disclosure, not closure.”

Keller said great disclosures that come in crisis are meant to be revelatory, or eye-opening. This means that in the current ecological crisis, we should face up to the potential mass destruction of the very life and resources of our planet and what that means for the Earth’s more vulnerable populations — and what that will mean for all of us in the not-too-distant future.

“If we open our eyes, that’s true apocalypse, that’s a revelation,” Keller said. “But they are also apocalypse and revelation in the sense of opening up to the possibility of true Earth-wide transformation — to what the Bible calls ‘the New Heaven and Earth,’ a new Jerusalem.”

This New Heaven and Earth are meant to suggest a new way of living with the heavens. Keller said this doesn’t mean only supernatural heavens. Rather it means the sky and the atmosphere, which along with the Earth are being radically renewed.

“Even healthy urban dwellings within it are what a new Jerusalem indicate,” she said. “If we open our eyes to the danger, we also open our eyes to the possibility of really embracing this moment for deep change.”

 Keller will talk more about how to perceive a message of hope in a time of apocalypse in the next episode of Everyday God-Talk, which will be released on Wednesday, November 4.

 You can watch the first part of Kim’s Everyday God-Talk conversation with Keller here  on the Theology & Worship Facebook page. Keller’s new book, “Facing Apocalypse: Climate, Democracy and Other Last Chances,” will be published next spring.

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