I have been thinking about something, well actually observing something about the Catholic blogosphere. There are so many wonderful sites out there that write regularly about Catholic thought, Catholic culture, liturgy, rubrics, social policy, even Catholic curial gossip. You name it, if it is Catholic somebody very knowledgeable is probably writing about it. Increasingly, however, I have noticed that there is a hole there, a vacuum if you will.
The blogosphere, like nature, abhors a vacuum. So when knowledgeable and scholarly folk decline to treat on a subject, the tottering take their place. I am speaking about eschatology.
General eschatology, loosely defined, is a systematic theology that deals with the latter things. Specifically I refer to the study of the final events of the history of the world. You know, the Gospel being preached throughout the world, the great apostasy, the Antichrist (yes, him), the two witnesses, the end of / purification of the world, resurrection of the dead, the whole kit ‘n kaboodle.
In the history of the church, every Father and Doctor of the Church, from Augustine to Bellarmine, wrote about the end times. Some of them did extensive work in this area. Many of the great scriptural exegetes including Hippolytus, Ambrose, St. John Damascene, Jerome, Aquinas, Cajetan, and many more all studied and wrote about this subject. One can be forgiven if they leap to the crazy conclusion that this stuff may be important.
Bellarmine did extensive work in this area some 1500 years after the Ascension, so he was likely under no delusions about Jesus’ return being only fifteeen minutes away as some claim of the earlier Fathers and Doctors, saints and scholars. But he and many others still thought the topic was important.
Never before in the history of human kind has access to information been easier than it is now. Imagine what the litany of saints and scholars would have done with the access to information we now take for granted.
So why the silence? Why are the learned ceding this territory to the looney? You can find in depth analysis of the footwear of the Ambrosian Rite in the seventeenth century, but not a word about the two wintesses or the Parousia. I suspect that there may be several contributing factors to the eschatological quietness, but I am not sure if they complete the picture. One factor may be simple fear. The learned and the scholarly might simply not want to risk being lumped into the Jesus in a tomato crowd or the various end times conspiracy nuts that dominate the Internet on this topic.
I also wonder if another factor in the reticence to study and write on this topic is as a counterbalance to some of our fundamentalist / evangelical brethren. Is the thought that because some of our protestant brethren are so singularly focused on these issues, even if they get them wrong, that is it would almost seem un-Catholic to show some of that same focus? I don’t know. While I have seen some good work dissecting and debunking “the rapture”, I haven’t seen to much that treats the subject generally.
Another reason may be the desire to avoid being associated with any of the more controversial purported apparitions or messages that claim some imminent chastisement.
While there are certainly some good modern books out there that deal with some of this, they seem to be written narrowly, attempting to refute a particular erroneous doctrine. However, I don’t know of much that discusses these topics generally in any depth from a Catholic point of view (With a very few notable exceptions). Perhaps there are and I just haven’t heard of them. Perhaps some readers can point them out.
What I do know, is that on the Catholic blogosphere, the topic is generally taboo. The closest you come to any discussion of this topic in this realm is when someone mentions the dreaded Medj.. word and is forced to shut down their combox fifteen minutes later. Michael Brown’s Spiritdaily attempts to deal with some of these topics, but I think it is fair to say that it isn’t done in any systematic or scholarly way. (Although he does have bunches of readers)
Anyway, this is something I have been wondering about. Where is the scholarly work? Where is the real, but polite debate about the finer points of Catholic eschatology? To me, this seems like a big hole right in the middle of the Catholic blogsphere.
Someone really ought to write about these important topics. Not me, of course, I am not a nut. But someone…