But they are important, as even McLaren realizes in "Everything Must Change". From page. 143
Theologically, I think we could say, "Eschatology always wins."
I think that's an overstatement, and a pretty large one, but not completely without merit.
He has his strong feelings against a particular form of eschatology, and expresses himself against it in no uncertain terms (surprising for a postmodern, so we may say that he must be strongly against it indeed). From p. 144
This is why I believe that many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John's Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.
(I find it ironic that he considers an end-times view immoral, but waffles with all his might on real moral issues like homosexuality)
And even worthy of ridicule. From that same paragraph but on the next page.
(about Revelation 19:15)--a rather unmistakable case of symbolism to a reasonable adult reader, I would think, unless he imagines Jesus actually thrashing his head around, slinging a sword between his teeth like a giant cigar of mass destruction.
So, what is that view that makes even him fall into sarcasm? Although he doesn't explicitly make mention of Left Behind and Dispensationalism, there is little doubt such and similar views are what he means.
And his arguments are...
The phrase "the Second Coming of Christ" never actually appears in the Bible...
That someone who claims to be "a reasonable adult reader" would make such a statement is, well, ridiculous. It's a childish argument, on par with those who try to deny the Trinity because the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible.
I would go so far as to say it's a dishonest argument, meant to influence the reader to think that scripture says little about Jesus' second coming and that it's not really that important of an issue.
But the New Testament says much about Christ's return. In his book Christian Beliefs, Grudem has a chapter about the second coming, and makes mention of such passages as John 14: 3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself...", and Acts 1:11 "who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven." And the closing of the Revelation, where Jesus says "Surely I am coming soon". There are other passages mentioned in that chapter, too, such as I Thessalonians 4 and II Peter 3.
Perhaps that latter passage, in II Peter 3, may explain why McLaren must downplay this teaching. Consider it, please.
3:3 knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts,
3:4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
3:5 For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God;
3:6 by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
3:7 but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
3:8 But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
3:11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in [all] holy living and godliness,
3:12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
3:13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Consider how much this doesn't support, even contradicts, much of what McLaren teaches. Consider this statement, on page 79
Purpose of Jesus: Why is Jesus important?
Emerging View: Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil. Through his life and teaching, through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he inserted into human history a seed of grace, truth, and hope that can never be defeated. This seed will, against all opposition and odds, prevail over the evil and injustice of humanity and lead to the world's ongoing transformation into the world God dreams of.
And this, from page 296.
We believe the vision of the new Jerusalem, like all prophetic visions, seeks to inspire our imaginations with hope about what our world can actually become through the good news of the kingdom of God.
In this emerging view, the "new heavens and new earth" (Revelation 21:1) means, not a different space-time universe, but a new way of living that is posible within this universe, a new societal system that is coming as surely as God is just and faithful...
The new Jerusalem represents, then, a new spirituality, a new way of living in which the sacred presence of God is integrated with all of life and not confined to temples...We haven't evacuated teh dark earth for the light of heaven or eternity: no, the light of heaven has come down, come down to us, down to earth.
So, McLaren says that Christ is the Savior of the world in the sense of the literal earth, that we will somehow change the world (a fearful thought indeed). Peter says that the world is "stored up for fire" and "shall be burned up".
My money's on Peter being right.
There's more to McLaren's case against what I will here call a Futurist view of the coming of Christ, meaning simply that the prophecies about Christ's return and the event leading up to and surrounding it will be fulfilled in the future. But this entry is quite long enough, so I'll deal more with it later.