Earlier this week on twitter I tweeted this.
I got a few responses out of it, with most of them asking about what I meant by classic liberal eschatology. I have learned in the last few months about these sort of loaded phrases, so I want to tell you how I am defining it first. Classic Liberal Eschatology is part of the biblical studies project of the early to mid 20th century. It is typified by writers such as Schweitzer and Dodd. What their view does is maddening in how they take thoughts on the end (eschatology) and place them inside the gospels and the understanding of the Kingdom of God. They are true in understanding Jesus having an eschatological message, but they shift the focus specifically on the idea that Jesus made a failed attempt to force in an eternal kingdom. This is part of the classic liberal theological perspective of Jesus and the breaking of his divinity and pre-existence.
This creates a mainline (traditional mainline denominations are Prebyterian, Lutheran and Methodist) eschatology without an end. The language is merged with thoughts on the "kingdom of God", which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it breaks the idea of future Christian hope, best shown (in the liberal/main-line perspective) of Jürgen Moltmann. Their idea of the Kingdom of God is Christ making a present kingdom, and no future hope exists.
The various liberal theologies did not happen on their own. The exact same time period also serves as the rise of some pretty extreme fundamentalist views in America, in which the interpretation of Revelation was getting seriously out of control and fantastical. The two thoughts were held in tension, fighting against each other. The whole world was reacting to the two World Wars, and being birthed out of the sociological view that had predominated the 19th century, in which man would (and could) create the perfect world, and bring in the eternal kingdom.
So for the last century, Christian eschatology has been divorced. One side doesn't want to deal with the idea of a future reality and the other refuses to think of anything except for escape. But both sides have become intertwined with each other; The Mainline, through its liturgy, has regained a vision of the future and the conservative side has become thoroughly Tillichian in how they want to make Christianity work within the worlds terms and ideas. So the liberals have become more conservative and the conservative has been influenced by the liberal...but without either regaining good ground.
So what we end up with is a version of eschatology that is so fractured we can barely discern it as Christian.
Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall ever be, world without end.