2) Eschatological agency
 

The One Divine Being acts uniquely and unilaterally to bring human beings and the rest of creation to ultimate perfection. In doing so, His action is unconditioned in relation to all human action and response.[12] Here the human being is enjoined to witness divine acts of reconstructing reality that consummate history and achieve a perfected condition of human and environmental relations. M/M doctrines belong entirely to the conditions of eschatological agency.

M/M doctrines are certainly a key aspect of motivation for ethical agency but once they become a reality in future time, the truth conditions for action shift to eschatological agency. Indeed, whenever the two models of agency are confused or conflated, quite negative consequences often follow, e.g., "hastening the day"[13] such as a vision of large numbers in religious revival.

While religious revivals can be most laudable events, they do not constrain the Divine Being in any way to change the appointed time of the end. When "hastening the day" becomes politicized the eschatological vision of M/M doctrines become temporalized and believers try to approximate divine action in their own actions, the outcome can be quite the opposite to the will of God in terms of ethical agency. In order to avoid such outcomes, their distinction requires strict maintenance.[14]

A key feature of M/M doctrines is that they present a model of reality where ultimate truths and acts of divine consummation are exclusive of human intention and action. M/M doctrines conceive of perfected human conditions, conceptualize their religious hope of a perfected future in terms of unilateral divine agency and posit epochal schematization of history. If followed consistently, M/M doctrine foreclose the possibility of conflating divine and human action and truth realization.

The necessary distinction above requires focus upon ethical agency and rests upon the conventional conceptuality of synergistic agency typical of everyday religious belief and practice. M/M doctrines can serve then as antidotes to utopian aspirations (including religious perfectionism) installed in social and political planning that over-estimate the human capacity to achieve the divinely revealed visions of consummation and perfection. With a categorical focus on ethical agency, the fuller dimensions of self within the religious community can be expanded.

M/M doctrine as eschatological agency has its only analog in a divine act of creation. Divine creative action in entirely unilateral such that while creature participate in the action, they do not contribute to it in any way.[15] This is the nature of the "day of resurrection".

Creatures are either beneficiaries of this unique form of action or exempted from it. Indeed, beyond comparisons even with birth and death, creative action represent fundamental changes in the universe, in the state of the earth, in the course of human events. No human contribution to this type of action is ever in view, according to revelation.

Although there is a proximity of human action to eschatological events, and there are interpretive traditions that in their apologetical zeal suggest ways that ethical agency somehow influences the former, this is in fact not the case. Indeed, human action is not in proximity to the original divine act of creation, but the nature of eschatological action, now matter how close or interpenetrating both kinds of agency are, the eschatological does not depend upon the ethical in any way.

Indeed, the exclusivity of divine action in eschatological agency points both to the weakness and dependency of human action as well as the triumph of this act belonging solely to God. Any share that human beings as believers have in this triumph is one of inheritance, not of co-achievement let alone co-action.

The exegesis of scriptures throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries has shown an increasing realization of their eschatological nature and their outlook for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. M/M doctrines are expressed particularly in such anticipations of final judgment of the world and above all in the promise of resurrection. In each case, the principle of prophetic mediation of divine agency is central. The M/M offices of prophet, priest and king coalesce into a single figure of divine anointing for redemption of humanity from a world that has become hostile to God and God's purposes for the world.

While the role of M/M mediator is a human one, the life of this one is completely defined by the plan and purposes of God. Nothing in human agency can be done to hasten the appearing of this one, to manufacture the necessary conditions for this appearing, let alone to contribute to the triumph of divine love that characterizes the consummation of creation that is the sole prerogative of God.

In perhaps the most exalted of all apostolic passages, as a result of the eschatological agency achieved by M/M events at the end of this age, this mediation will render up all things to God "so that God may be all in all." The eschatological action of judgment is followed by that of reconciliation of all things to their Creator and to one another. M/M events and their mediator are necessary in so far as this One is at the prime eschatological agent as Person but only on the way toward the recreation of all things and their recovery in the all-in-all-ness with God.

What kind of agent is the human being under the conditions of eschatological agency? A passive agent. Just as there are two dimensions of faith, passive and active; the aspect of agency is bound up in them. The divine decision to create or to be merciful, is independent of the creature, even though it is entirely directed toward the creature. As all divine action toward is considered non-necessary - God does not need the creation to be God - so especially are eschatological events.

In the same way that faith is first a passive act that receives, eschatological event, following upon the historical events of the present time, eschatological agency among human beings is passive as God brings about those consummating events that are his prerogative alone. The time for ethical agency is over, the time for divine agency is revealed in acts of judgment and resurrection, recreation. Up until this time, believers live in hope and act ethically because of their expectation of the eschatological agency.[16]

Another of the primary distinctions to be made between the ethical agency and eschatological agency is the personal focus of the former and the collective focus of the latter. In ethical agency, the human individual is responsible for his or her own acts; in the passivity of eschatological agency, humanity becomes a collective reality, either to be redeemed or condemned, depending upon true faith in the consummation of all things. It is thus incumbent upon ethical agents to develop themselves personally, i.e., to grow intellectually and morally, to care for the body and for one's progeny, to seek the welfare of others, and the peace of the world, always guided by love.[17] Although eschatological agency is guided by divine love always for each and every creature, the narrative descriptions of this aspect of revelation - upon which M/M doctrines are based - are consistently cosmological and global. This fact should aid the necessary philosophical distinction between the two, however, so that ethical agency is never confused with eschatological agency.

[1] Some key texts: Meir M. Bar-Asher. Scripture and Exegesis in Early Imami Shiism (1999, Brill; with its extensive review of early exegetes, e.g., Furat ibn Furat ibn Ibrahim al-Kufi, Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Qummi, Abu-'l Nadr Muhammad ibn Mas'ud al`Ayyashi & Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ja`far al-Nu`mani; A. A. Sachedina. Islamic Messianism: The idea of Mahdi? in twelver Shi?ism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981 ; S. A.

Arjomand. The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam; Mercedes Garc?a-Arenal. Messianism and Puritanical Reform: Mahd?s of the Muslim West. Brill: 2006; Paul E. Lovejoy and J. S. Hogendorn, "Revolutionary Mahdism and Resistance to Colonial Rule in the Sokoto Caliphate, 1905-6," The Journal of African History, Vol. 31, No. 2 (1990), pp. 217-244; William Horbury. Messianism among Jews and Christians: twelve biblical and historical studies. London: T & T Clark, 2003; Randall Heskett. Messianism within the scriptural scroll of Isaiah.

New York: T&T Clark, 2007; Eric F. Mason. 'You are a priest forever': Second Temple Jewish messianism and the priestly christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Leiden: Brill, 2008; Jacob Neusner. Ancient Judaism and modern category-formation: "Judaism," "Midrash," "Messianism," and canon in the past quarter-century. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986; Gza G. Xeravits. King, priest, prophet: positive eschatological protagonists of the Qumran library. Leiden: Brill, 2003.

[2] In the later work of Heidegger, he acknowledges that God appears in modern philosophy as the impersonal cause and ground of being, to which one does not pray nor can one sacrifice the idea. But the greater reality is the nearness of the "divine God" (g?ttlichen Gott) in the freedom of faith; cf., Martin Heidegger. Identit?t und Differenz. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2006, p. 77; cf., also, Susannah Young-ah Gottlieb. Regions of sorrow: anxiety and messianism in Hannah Arendt and W.H. Auden. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2003; Martin Kavka. Jewish messianism and the history of philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

[3] Judaism also sees two mediatorial figures in its eschatology: Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yossef the latter preparing the way for the former. In Christianity, Moses and Elijah are seen to return to inaugurate the messianic appearing of Jesus.

[4] NE, IX, 8.

[5] NE, IX, 4; cf., Harry Frankfurt. The Reasons of Love. Princeton University Press, 2004.

[6] Critique of Practical Reason, 5.73, 74.

[7] Groundwork, 4.398.

[8] Ibid, 4.402.

[9] This has been most appropriately expressed already in the 16th century by the theologian, Martin Luther, in his great formula: the believer as simil iustus et peccator, "simultaneously righteous and sinful"; and is no better interpreted in the 20th century than by the religious ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), cf., An interpretation of Christian ethics. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935; Moral man and immoral society: a study in ethics and politics. New York: C. Scribner's sons, 1932; The nature and destiny of man: a Christian interpretation. New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1949.

[10] From Lauda 33 as cited in Alessandro Vettori. Poets of Divine Love. Franciscan Mystical Poetry of the Thirteenth Century. New York: Fordham University Press, 2004, p. 124.

[11] Cf., Sophia Vasalou. Moral agents and their deserts: the character of Mu'tazilite ethics. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2008.

[12] Cf., Joseph A. Fitzmyer. The One who is to come. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007; also very helpful: Jerry L. Walls, ed. The Oxford handbook of eschatology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

[13] Christianity has occasionally misinterpreted some of its scriptures in terms of hastening or constraining God to act eschatologically. In every case however, the proper translation requires the sense of following or traveling to the end to the age; some theologians have called this "the hastening that waits;" cf., such texts as 2 Peter 3

8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.

9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. 14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Cf., also, 1Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6.

[14] Cf., Anthony D. Smith. Chosen peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003; W.W. Meissner. Thy kingdom come: psychoanalytic perspectives on the Messiah and the millennium. Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1995; Chaim Nussbaum. Semblance and reality: Messianism in biblical perspective. Hoboken, NJ: Ktav Pub. House, 1991; Aviezer Ravitzky. Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish religious radicalism; translated by Michael Swirsky and Jonathan Chipman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996; Mercedes Garc?a-Arenal. Messianism and puritanical reform: Mahdis of the Muslim west. Translated from the Spanish by Martin Beagles. Leiden: Brill, 2006.

[15] In the famous essay, "Die Kehre", there is a key quote from the poet, H?lderlin's Patmos, stimulated by the vision of John's Apocalypse, "But where this is danger, also grows the redemptive," (Wo aber Gefahr ist, w?chst Das Rettende auch), Op. cit., p. 119.

[16] Cf., John M. G. Barclay, Simon J. Gathercole. Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment. Continuum, 2006; Douglas H Knight. The Eschatological Economy: Time and the Hospitality of God. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2006; Christiaan Mostert. God and the Future: Wolfhart Pannenberg's Eschatological Doctrine of God. Continuum, 2002.

[17] Cf., Stephen J. Pope, ed. Hope & solidarity: Jon Sobrino's challenge to Christian theology. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2008; J. Aaron Simmons and David Wood, eds. Kierkegaard and Levinas: ethics, politics, and religion. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008.