Friday, September 07, 2012

The Shortcomings of Catholic Eschatology

Do you, like me, find modern Catholic approaches to eschatology very unsatisfactory? I have been reading eschatology for many years and I am just sick of so many crappy Catholic eschatology books out there. I am sure there are some decent ones, but if so, I have not came across them. Anyhow, please enjoy this 11 minute video on the subject I made. I really felt like doing video this week.


Geremia said...

Excellent analysis
I liked your conclusion, too. ☺

I also liked how you were alarmed about people not being alarmed. ☺ The devil constantly tells us "Euge, euge.," as it Psalm 69:4: "Let them be turned backward, and blush for shame that desire evils to me: Let them be presently turned away blushing for shame that say to me: Tis well, tis well [Euge, euge]."

Only the Father can know when the world will end:

"But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father." (St. Mark 13:32)

Because we can understand nature so well—e.g., through modern science—so much more are we able to discern, e.g., that ⅓ of pregnancies ending in abortion in the U.S., historically low birthrates, and historically high divorce rates certainly do not help our country and its economy.

"When you see a cloud rising from the west, presently you say: A shower is coming: and so it happeneth: And when ye see the south wind blow, you say: There will be heat: and it cometh to pass. You hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the heaven and of the earth: but how is it that you do not discern this time?" (St. Luke 12:54-57)

This St. Luke verse is a sort of charter for further studies in Catholic eschatology.

Also, judging by the covers of the eschatology books you said you've read, they seem fairly recent, the oldest appearing to be the one St. Therese of Lisieux really liked.

Fr. Joseph Pohle, PhD, DD's 1917 Eschatology or The Catholic Doctrine of the Last Things: A Dogmatic Treatise seems very good. Have you read it? It's free online.

Boniface said...

Yeah, Book of Destiny was older, from the 50's I think. I'm not saying we need to be overly alarmist like certain Protestants, but that we should be watching. Protestants err in taking the symbols too literally and trying to match them all up with current world events, but at least they are trying to interpret them. I don't think Catholics should go to that extreme, but we should be watching for the "signs", paying attention, and drawing connections.

Karl said...

We were told to watch and see; it is our duty.

You should do more of these videos. I agree with what you're saying down to every syllable, and have been feeling the same way for some time. I remember being very frustrated with how very trivially Scott Hahn treated it in a video or sound clip. I've always found this subject extremely interesting, but I suppose that can be blamed on the doomsday voice inside of me. We all want to be the last generation, don't we -- well, without all of the suffering and all that nasty business.

And, if you don't mind me saying, you have a voice that's pleasant to listen to. I hate how mine sounds recorded, so I'd appreciate it if someone gave me their (positive) opinion on mine so I'd feel better about it.

Anonymous said...


I'll sit down and listen to your presentation a little later, but am curious as to your take on the work entitled 'Trial, Tribulation and Triumph' by Desmond A. Birch (who makes use of Church approved private revelatory material only).


PS: Please everyone pray for Benedict XVI as he travels to Lebanon from 14-17 Sep; Please pray that he can gain a better deal for Eastern rite Catholics in this part of the world from iran to israel. I am a Marounite Catholic by formal conversion/reception and convincement (and have given my conversion acount on this blog previously) so am especially interested in this matter. If you could be so good as to cover it if time permits, for the sake of our fellow Catholic Christian brethren enduring unimaginable hardship in these parts of the world every single day.

Boniface said...

Desmond Birch's book is a little's kind of long and rambling, and after presenting a lot of evidence for stuff that is very speculative, he admits that only four or five of the thirty points he makes are definitive. It seemed to me that he was trying to sneak in a sort of modified Millenarianism by denying a specific minor point (a fleshly reign of Christ)while insisting on a major one (a literal thousand years of peace in a Kingdom of God on earth).

I think this sort of eschatology is very speculative, even when it is done by the saints.

Geremia said...

I have yet to find a good book on St. Thomas Aquinas's eschatology. Perhaps this is because he died before being able to write a full Treatise on the Last Things for his Summa. (There is a posthumous addition to the Summa by Fra Rainaldo da Piperno, which he took from St. Thomas's Scriptum super Sententiæ.)

St. Thomas treats divine, rational government of the universe and teleology extensively in book 3 of his Summa contra Gentiles. He says that every agent acts for an end, that every agent acts for a good, that all things are ordered to one end Who is God, that God is the end of all things, and that all things tend to become like God. Still, he doesn't seem to show how exactly we tell that something—e.g., the universe—is "finished" or has reached its ultimate end, God.

Nick said...

One of the difficulties of your movie is that it almost seemed to be asking too much, since asking too much can only give us the private revelations which come and go. It was not until I read the comments until I fully understood what the goal of this post/movie was. Now that I see the point, I agree: it's healthy to be able to speculate on these things. In other words, there's a middle ground between an anti-alarmist vagueness and full out alarmist unhealthy attention to details. If we are to be alert as Christians, then some speculation is demanded. So I say kudos for 'sounding the alarm'.

The Church Fathers were very clear that Our Lord's prophecies for the Temple's Destruction were literally fulfilled in 70AD. So this isn't something Protestants or Catholics should reject. I wrote a post on "The importance of 70AD for Christianity" to address this. What has never been part of Catholic tradition is the error of "Full Preterism," which seeks to deny any sort of post-70AD fulfillment to any prophecies. Some Full Preterists say the Second Coming (even Resurrection) took place in 70AD, yet (aside from experience) The Creed refutes this by saying Jesus will come again and the Generation Resurrection is yet to come.

Liberal Catholics like Full Preterism because it has the 'advantage' of undermining the Inspiration of Scripture as well as deflating any Hope in the future (they deny the Resurrection and Second Coming). And as you noted, many 'mainstream' Catholics tend towards Full Preterism simply as an over-reaction to Protestant doomsday predictions. What is lacking is priests and Catholic authors that are willing to go out on a speculative limb. It would be cool to see a Bishop write a book titled "Obama is the Antichrist," not because he has good reason to make the link, but rather to show that there are signs to be on the lookout for.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations from Argentine, Boniface. Excelent aproach.
We had a catholic eschatological prophet here in the XX century, who wrote in the line of your speech, that is to say: the catholic way.
A friend of mine has traduced one of his books to english, but the most importants ones are not available yet in your language.
I hope you'll enjoy it.

This priest was also a great reader of Newman, Chesterton, Lewis...


Dcn Scott said...

Rachmaninov said...

Hello Boniface,
My name is Stephen Walford. I am about to have a book published next week called Heralds of the Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Bl Pius IX to Benedict XVI. It has an apocalyptic Foreword by Cardinal Ivan Dias and is a study of the prophetic eschatological teachings of all these popes. after watching your video on eschatology, I hope you and your blog followers will find it of real interest. I have not written of any unapproved apparitions, only Fatima, Divine Mercy and the papal approved visions of St Hildegard of Bingen as they are essential to the understanding of the papacies of Bl John Paul and Benedict XVI. What the book shows without any doubt is that these popes have collectively discerned the presence of the eschatological signs given by Jesus in the Gospels. I have also written extensively about the error of millenarian tendencies in modern day revelations- or perhaps I should say the interpretation given to them. What the popes clearly teach is that no era of peace will come before the definitive renewal of the universe after the Last Judgment.
The book will be published by Angelico Press.

RC_Eagle said...

Hi Boniface,

I believe you will find my book, "Letters to the Churches: Catholic History and The Revelation to John" (Queenship Publishing, 2005) precisely what you're looking for. In case you're interested in a book on the gospels, I have another book that was just recently published by Angelico Press entitled "The Power of Four: Keys to the Hidden Treasures of the Gospels." It has an Introduction by Prof. Gregory Glazov of Seton Hall University and a blurb from Scott Hahn on the back cover.

Yours truly,

Eduardo P. Olaguer

Geremia said...

You have got to read Fr. Herman Bernard Kramer's The Book of Destiny (1955). It is the best Catholic commentary on the Book of the Apocalypse.

Boniface said...


I think I had Book of Destiny pictured in the video as one of my collection.

Yes, I own the book and have read it, and while I think it has a lot more great stuff than some of the other things out there, I was a little put out by his method of offering a strict interpretation for every single piece of minutiae in the Apocalypse while not usually offering a source or a reason for his interpretation. He will just say, "These elders represent the bishops", for example, and while that is insightful, I felt he was taking a little bit too much authority with claiming that this represented that and so on.