The End of Evil and Escape from Planet Earth

On the plane today I was reading Marjorie Suchocki’s The End of Evil. A friendly flight attendant, while pouring my coffee, noticed the book title. “The end of evil?” she said. Do you think there’s going to be an end to evil? “Well…yes…I believe that. I certainly hope for it,” I responded (probably with a measured academic tone that came from just having worked through Suchocki’s comparison of Augustine and Leibniz on finitude and freedom). “Well I know there’s going to be an end to evil,” she said. “Only, it’s not going to happen on this planet. It will be somewhere else. I’ve read the book of Revelation…and I know about the millennium!”

She had already moved on to the next row, before I could suggest that the end of evil just might happen on this planet after all (and I thought about suggesting she read N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope for a thoughtful consideration of that possibility). But that quick interaction was another reminder of the popular assumption that this world is pretty much headed for disaster. It’s all going to pot. The economy may be in the tank, resources are growing thin, social problems seem to mount, and our ultimate hope is in escape from this planet we call earth.

Of course, I don’t want to get too dramatic about this. She seems like a delightful, life-affirming, warm person who is enjoying and making the most of the life she has (from what I can tell from my few, tiny interactions). Her eschatological escapism doesn’t seem to emerge from a hatred of life or a distaste for the human race. And yet, I can’t help but wonder about the cumulative, negative impact this pessimistic view of the future role of our planet in the history of God’s salvation plan must have in the way Christians and the church think about some very pressing issues: ecology, economics, social ethics (i.e. gun control), etc. The more we de-link (is that a word?) human beings from our planetary home, the less we may feel a responsibility for what happens not only to the earth, but for what happens to the human race while we’re on it. Perhaps it’s time to imagine our future as if God will actually make his home here with us, as he promised (Rev. 21:1-4).

About Kyle Roberts
  • Steve Mader

    you reference revelation 21:1 which states that this earth passes away and there is a new earth and yet your last paragraph questions that perspective…likely I am missing something in what you are saying…if you have time to say more here…cool

  • Kyle Roberts

    Hey Steve, thanks for your good question. We tend to read “new heaven and new earth” quite literally–perhaps we read it through the lens of the “Late Great Planet Earth” and the “Left Behind” series. But take a look at Isaiah 65, where you have the “new heaven and new earth” reference to which this passage also alludes. What would the Hebrew prophet and the Hebrew readers have understood by that? Would they have imagined a sci-fi deconstruction and escape from the planet? Likely not. So “passing away” probably means something like the “old order” is going to be replaced with a new order of things. Imagine a drastically reconstructed / remodeled city (the New Jerusalem). Of course it requires “destruction” to rebuild. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we literally will be transplanted to another planet (of course, we might–who knows?–as Wright also acknowledges)

  • Steve Mader

    Kyle, thanks. i would of course publically deny Hal and Timothy lenses, but perhaps they were in play. This perspective provides yet another reason to treat Gods created world with respect and dignity. Again, thanks for taking the time to reply.

  • John W Brandkamp

    Thank you for this Kyle. Very well put and I heartily agree with recommending more Tom Wright for those infected by “Left Behind” theological escapism.