Q&A: Civility and Charity in Christian Discussion on the Book of Revelation

Civility and Charity in Christian Discussion on the Book of Revelation

How should we treat Christians who interpret the book of Revelation differently than we do?

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Answer

There are so many interpretations of the book of Revelation, the question easily becomes, how do we relate to, and how do we agree or disagree with those who share different views? Well, one, we need to relativize the different issues. While we may disagree with some people who hold to the full and final authority of the Scriptures, and believe the book of Revelation is the very word of God, we share in common with them that view; this is God's very word. And so, we need to appreciate that we share that in common. Secondly, we need to appreciate what each major interpretive approach brings to the table. Not everyone is right in their disagreements. I mean, there are many things where only one option is the right option, because they're contradictory, but as far as general approach, different traditions bring certain values to their interpretation that we all need to honor and respect and desire. Some people who look at the book of Revelation as a complete, historical prediction, they often emphasize being ready and being prepared and being watchful. Now, those people, like me for instance, who see this as a representative of history for all time, between the first and second coming, people like me often don't emphasize preparedness, don't emphasize the discontinuity, the radical difference that the second coming makes. And so, I learn from people who share different views of the book of Revelation, that they have emphases that, sometimes, I neglect or underemphasize. Likewise, somebody who sees the book as primarily predictive future, they can neglect the fact that Christ is on the throne, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are reigning, in the present, and there is nothing that is going to separate us from the love of God, that the kingdom is present, as Jesus taught in the Gospels. It's present as well as future. So, even though we disagree of major approaches, we can appreciate the things that cause people to have those major approaches. And then finally, where there are real differences, we need to, with civility and Christian charity, talk through the particulars, and in the end agree to disagree, if we must, and still appreciate and love and care for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Answer by Rev. Michael J. Glodo

Rev. Michael J. Glodo is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.