These days the Rapture captures a lot of press. In April I was asked to lead an adult Sunday school class on the creeds. The week before the class, 60 Minutes II aired Barbara R. Rossing's criticism of the Rapture (and the "Left Behind" books written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins). Rossing, a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, is author of The Rapture Exposed (Westview Press, 2004).
That took me back to the early 1980s when, as a physics professor, I participated on a panel discussion during threats of nuclear destruction. There I encountered students who claimed no moral responsibility and felt they would be swept away harmlessly from any earthly destruction. They had no commitment to saving or preserving the Earth for those to come. I was shocked. The encounter left me more concerned with how people think within the world today and less about my personal salvation.
Rossing criticizes Rapture theology while LaHaye and Jenkins reinforce the kind of thinking of those students I encountered. The underlying theology of the Rapture is one of fear rather than love. The vengeful Jesus separating the righteous from the unrighteous promotes a theology of glory rather than a theology of the cross.
The creeds address incorrect beliefs or heresies of the times in which they were created. I say the Rapture is such a heresy. The Rapture relieves humans of thinking about more than themselves: If one does some particular thing (a good work, something opposed to Martin Luther's thinking) like forcing one's self to believe a particular thing, that person will be swept harmlessly away from all difficulty. Clearly this isn't Luther's theology of the cross. Rather, we should be highly concerned and should sacrifice ourselves for those who are to come. Do we not today borrow the Earth from our children?
I challenge you, like I did my Sunday school class, to write a creed that addresses the heresies today. You, like me, may find Luther's insights to be a gift from God.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers