Christian eschatology and the physical universe
The scientific picture of the end of the Universe has undergone dramatic changes since 1998, with its future characterized by accelerated expansion and futility. Yet Christian systematic theology has been largely silent on this, despite the interest in eschatology in popular culture and in theology itself. This thesis argues that Christian theology can learn and contribute in a dialogue with the scientific picture of the future of the Universe. Using a Wesleyan approach to theology, the biblical narratives are explored in conversation with the scientific discoveries. If Christian eschatology is to have a fruitful dialogue, then it must take seriously the relationship between creation and new creation. In particular this relationship, modelled by the resurrection, must be represented by a tension between continuity and discontinuity. In this way the movement to new creation is seen as transformation rather than destruction of this creation. Indeed, there are pointers to this new creation which may be part of a revised natural theology. The action and faithfulness of God are both key elements in this transformation, working both in process and event. Contemporary theologians including Mollmann and Pannenberg either ignore this tension or fail to relate it to the physical Universe. At the same time the 'scientific eschatologies' of Dyson and Tipler, and the eschatoiogical speculations of contemporary fundamentalism are shown to be inadequate scientifically and theologically. This tension leads to the suggestion that space and time are real in creation and new creation, and a multidimensional view of God's relationship with time is proposed. Further, speculation on the transformation of matter in new creation needs to reflect its relationality and context. The consequences for the relationship of Christian eschatology to the biological world, providence, hope, ethics, and Christian apologetics are explored. In particular such a robust Christian eschatology engages constructively with questions of hope in contemporary culture.