Eucatastrophe: a sudden and favorable resolution of events in a story; a happy ending.
ORIGIN mid 20th cent.: said to have been coined by J. R. R. Tolkien
Stories can be categorized by what were called by the Greeks as either “tragedies” or “comedies”. Without going into all the literary implications a tragedy is simply a story with a bad ending while a comedy means that it will have a good ending. Tolkien coined the word “eucatastrophe” to depict a happily-ever-after story. A comedy does not mean “funny” but rather no matter how tragic things go or how much blood is spilt it ends well and things are made right in the end. The Gospel is considered therefore a “comedy.”
I would insert here that this is only in so far as we believe the passages that portray the restoration of all creation and mankind. In addition if we evaluate it on the basis of the many ways in which evangelicals are laying it out as such it is a good ending indeed! Here is a summary of the Gospel by Tim Keller in the King’s Cross:
”The book of Mark has given us the story of Jesus and declared that this is actually the world’s true story as well: Jesus, the King, created all things in love. He has the power and the beauty to see His vision for the world through to its glorious end, to undo everything we have been able to do to harm it. To accomplish that, He had to come and die for it. Three days later, He rose again; and one day will come back again to usher in a renewed creation.
“The gospel is the ultimate story that shows victory coming out of defeat, strength coming out of weakness, life coming out of death, rescue from abandonment. And because it is a true story, it gives us hope because we know that life is really like that.
“It can be your story as well. God made you to love Him supremely, but He lost you. He returned to get you back, but it took the cross to do it. He absorbed your darkness so that one day you can finally and dazzlingly become your true self and take your seat at His eternal feast.”
Wow, now that is a story with a good ending! And it has all the elements of the most powerful and gripping stories known to mankind: A spurned relationship between lovers, a conflict, an enemy, a Hero, a fight to the death, sacrificial love, grace, an 11th hour rescue, a work of restoration and a reconciliation and happily-ever-after of the Lovers to a world of love and perfect justice. These are the beautiful themes that make up our Gospel and capture our hearts.
We are attempting to show here that what evangelicals are saying and what we are claiming to believe are two entirely different things and we must come to grips with it sooner or later. Right now we seem to be oblivious to it and continue to propagate both; first the belief in a storyline that has the most tragic elements beyond any story ever conceived by humans:
…that most people who, being born by no will of their own, fight poverty, sickness, oppression and then die only to find that they were born in the wrong religion and will be tortured relentlessly for all eternity by their Creator who said in an ancient book that He tenderly loved them at one time and had given His life for their rescue but now to no avail.
Somehow we still hold tightly to that story.
But it is the worst of tragedies for most of humanity and for the rest of us who love them and are told we will lose them forever. And what about God whom we are told loves all those who reflect His glory? Is it not tragic to God? Is this story “good news” to God?
Simultaneously the other storyline that has been emerging ever more boldly is “the restoration of all things” or “the cosmic redemption of all creation” or the hope that, “everything sad is going to come untrue.” This theme has been rising steadily since the missional church movement of the late 80’s into what has been spreading steadily across denominations and cultures. It says that our God is a missionary God who has elected the church for the purpose of redeeming and restoring the world through the power of the Gospel! It calls us to restore all things by restoring all people and the cities we find them in. The father of the “missional” movement and the man who coined the word wrote:
“God’s electing grace calls into being a people charged with the responsibility of being the bearers of His universal salvation…To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To be the elect in Christ Jesus, and there is no other election, means to be incorporated into His mission to the world, to be the bearer of God’s saving purpose for His whole world, to be the sign and the agent and the firstfruit of His blessed kingdom which is for all.”
Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (“The Logic of Election” pgs 86-87)
Newbigin shows here how election has all along had a purpose not for ourselves but for the world just like that of any other election: when you are elected to something you have a calling, job; it’s not just about you.
So the tension for the Church has been how do you reconcile a personal redemption of only “some things new” with that of “ALL things new”? How do you speak of ultimate tragedy for most of humanity within the same Story as that of “everything sad is going to come untrue?” Thankfully the tension is “getting louder” and more obvious and the Church is now realizing that it is impossible to shoulder both and that they must choose. Working backward from God Himself, the Logos, the Point, the “Plot” of the Story; and what He has told us about His nature, His purpose and His glory–we are growing ever confident that:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.