Tradition and Apocalypse
In the two thousand years that have elapsed since the time of Christ, Christians have been as much divided by their faith as united, as much at odds as in communion. And the contents of Christian confession have developed with astonishing energy. How can believers claim a faith and practice that has been passed down through the ages while recognizing the real historical contingencies that have shaped both those doctrines and those divisions?
In this carefully argued essay, David Bentley Hart critiques the concept of tradition that has become dominant in Christian thought as fundamentally incoherent. He puts forth a convincing new explanation of Christian tradition, one that is obedient to the nature of Christianity not only as a “revealed” creed embodied in historical events but as the “apocalyptic” revelation of a history that is largely identical with the eternal truth it supposedly discloses. Hart shows that Christian tradition is sustained not simply by its preservation of the past, but more essentially by its anticipation of the future. He offers a compelling portrayal of a living tradition held together by apocalyptic expectation–the promised transformation of all things in God.