OTTERBURNE, MB – On Thursday, November 4, 2021, the Biblical and Theological Studies (BTS) department is hosting a lunch-time symposium from 12 pm to 1:30 pm on Providence’s Otterburne campus. It will be held in the Howison Room across from the cafeteria in the Student Life Centre. It is a free event and open to the public. Up to 25 people can attend in-person but a live Zoom option will also be available. If you’re interested in attending, you will need to register here.
This year’s topic is delivered by Providence Seminary Dean, Rev. Dr. Tim Perry, who explores how contemporary evangelical preaching can (re)engage the topic of eschatology faithfully and clearly. His talk is entitled What May I Hope? A Plea for Eschatological Preaching.
In more recent times, pastors (in general) have distanced themselves from preaching on eschatology and all things that have to do with death and end times. It may be due to cultural factors. Our Western society has a fear of dying and typically avoids talking about it. It could be a result of apocalyptic novels like the Left Behind series that leave people confused and dismayed with peculiar ideas and visions of worldwide pandemonium as millions are raptured and go missing.
But whatever has caused our subtle departure from preaching on the topic of death, Perry wants people to leave the symposium with some deep convictions. One of them is that eschatology has very little to do with the close exegesis of the book of Revelation and parts of Daniel. It has a lot more to do with the fact that everyone is going to die at some point. This includes the people that pastors are preaching to on a Sunday, and those they are caring for throughout the week.
“I encourage anybody who wants to come to our symposium to join us either in-person or virtually,” says Perry. “I will be sharing reflections on death, judgement, hell and heaven but in a way that actually gives people a hope for the future.”
Perry will be looking at questions that sometimes get lost because people are afraid of talking about the end or they talk about it in such a way that most people don’t understand. “It is my experience that preachers either avoid eschatology altogether or they go into it with a gusto that, I think, leaves people more confused than enlightened. Both of those options leave us (those of us who are preachers) not dealing with some pretty significant questions,” explains Perry.
These questions include classic ones such as: What does death mean from a Christian perspective? What is judgement? and What is eternal destiny? But other questions like – Do we embrace this life as though it is a foretaste of heaven (for example)? Or do we make decisions in this life in the awareness that someday we are going to die, and we can’t keep putting things off until tomorrow? – are also important. They matter because they have practical import for people in their everyday lives.
Perry’s symposium topic stems from his recently published book called Funerals: For the Care of Souls. It is part of a series of Ministry Guides published by Lexham Press (2021). The book is in two parts which look at both pastoral theology and pastoral practice. Whereas Part 1 includes writings on death, judgement, heaven and hell, Part 2 describes the outworkings of becoming a catechist, liturgist, evangelist and pastor as you care for those who are dying and the family that’s grieving.
In his book, he writes:
As a shepherd (pastor), you are walking with your sheep in the valley of the shadow of death. Your goal is to lead them to the Lord’s house, to heaven. To a creation made fit for the full presence of God. To full union with Christ and His saints in the Church triumphant. To a time and place where every tear shall be wiped away, and death is swallowed up in victory (Perry, page 221 & 222).
It is this caring for the soul that moves Perry to encourage pastors to recover the parts of a funeral service that are uniquely Christian; and to encourage preachers to bring eschatology themes back into their regular teaching.
For Perry, he believes our eschatological words should always be strengthening, encouraging and hopeful. Not unlike the Apostle Paul who, when he wrote to the Thessalonians and talked about the coming of Jesus, said, “Comfort one other with these words” (1 Thess 4:18 NKJV).
We invite seminary students, alumni, area pastors, boards and lay leaders to mark their calendars with the November 4th date and plan to attend this year’s BTS Symposium. Register early to reserve your in-person spot, or to view our live stream on Zoom. ALSO, Rev. Dr. Tim Perry’s book is now available in hard cover and kindle edition. You can order a copy here.
Some book reviews:
“If any book deserved to be a bestseller, this mini masterpiece is the one. Who would have thought something entitled ‘Funerals’ could be so good? Perry teaches us not only about funerals but about the entirety of Christian dying and living. Pastorally wise, theologically sane, and beautifully written, this book should be Christianity Today’s book of the year.” – Matthew Levering holds the James N. & Mary D. Perry Jr Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary; and Author of Dying and the Virtues.
“Opening this book is like walking through a narrow door into a banquet hall. ‘Funeral’ is not a how-to book but a rich table of theology, history, biblical and practical methods of caring for souls. The writing is compelling and engaging. A rare and much needed book for these days and the future. A must for all pastors.” – Jo Anne Lyon is the General Superintendent Emerita of The Wesleyan Church.