True freedom is the gift of the Spirit, the result of grace: but, precisely because it is freedom FOR as well as freedom FROM, it isn't simply a matter of being forced now to be good, against our wills and without our cooperation, but a matter of being released from slavery precisely into responsibility, into being able at last to choose, to exercise moral muscle, knowing both that one is doing it oneself and that the Spirit is at work within, that God himself is doing that which I too am doing.
Within biblical theology it remains the case that the one living God created a world that is other than himself, not contained within himself. Creation was from the beginning an act of love, of affirming goodness of the other. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good; but it was not itself divine. At its height, which according to Genesis 1 is the creation of humans, it was designed to REFLECT God, both to reflect God back to God in worship and to reflect God into the rest of creation in stewardship. But this image-bearing capacity of humankind is not in itself the same thing as divinity. Collapsing this distinction means taking a large step toward a pantheism within which there is no way of understanding, let alone addressing, the problem of evil.
The radical hermeneutic of suspicion that characterizes all of post-modernity is essentially nihilistic, denying the very possibility of creative or healing love. In the cross and resurrection of Jesus we find the answer: the God who made the world is revealed in terms of a self-giving love that no hermeneutic of suspicion can ever touch, in a Self that found itself by giving itself away, in a Story that was never manipulative but always healing and recreating, and in a Reality that can truly be known, indeed to know which is to discover a new dimension of knowledge, the dimension of loving and being loved.
...left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there's nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present...is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.
At the same time, we may not as a culture be fond of old-fashioned supernaturalism, but we certainly like spirituality in whatever form we can get it. I suspect that if anyone other than Jesus (Krishna, say, or Buddha) were suddenly put forward as being due for a second coming, millions in our postsecular society would embrace such a thing uncritically, leaving Enlightenment rationalism huffing and puffing in the rear. We are a puzzled and confused generation, embracing any and every kind of nonrationalism that may offer us a spiritual shot in the arm while lapsing back into rationalism (in particular, the old modernist critiques) whenever we want to keep traditional or orthodox Christianity at bay.
Note, though, something else of great significance about the whole Christian theology of resurrection, ascension, second coming, and hope. This theology was born out of confrontation with the political authorities, out of the conviction that Jesus was already the true Lord of the world who would one day be manifested as such. The rapture theology avoids this confrontation because it suggests that Christians will miraculously be removed from this wicked world. Perhaps that is why such theology is often Gnostic in its tendency towards a private dualistic spirituality and towards a political laissez-faire quietism. And perhaps that is partly why such theology with its dreams of Armageddon, has quietly supported the political status quo in a way that Paul would never have done.
Unless a person can give reasons, there is, literally, no reason why anyone else should take that person seriously. But without reasons, all we are left with is emotional blackmail. We sometimes call it 'moral blackmail,' but it has nothing to do with morals, only with the implied juvenile threat of having a tantrum unless everyone else gives in.
It is an interesting observation on today's religious climate that many people now get every bit as steamed up about insisting that 'all religions are just the same' as the older dogmaticians did about insisting on particular formulations and interpretations. The dogma that all dogmas are wrong, the monolithic insistence that all monolithic systems are to be rejected, has taken hold of the popular imagination at a level far beyond rational or logical discourse.
The only sure rule is to remember that the Bible is indeed God's gift to the church, to equip that church for its work in the world, and that serious study of it can and should become one of the places where, and the means by which, heaven and earth interlock and God's future purposes arrive in the present.