A Detailed Outline View of an Eschatology that is based upon the Moral Character of God
Section I: Introductory Materials and Preliminary Considerations Dale Moreau 06/17/2012
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Table of Contents A DETAILED OUTLINE VIEW OF AN ESCHATOLOGY THAT IS BASED UPON THE MORAL CHARACTER OF GOD .............................................................................................................................................3 SECTION I: INTRODUCTORY MATERIALS AND PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS ................................................3
I INTRODUCTION. ...................................................................................................................................................3 1. 2.
QUESTION – WHERE WILL IT ALL END?.....................................................................................................3 ANSWER – IN HIM WITH WHOM IT ALL BEGAN. .........................................................................................3
II THE TWO PRESUPPOSITIONS OF ESCHATOLOGY ARE: .......................................................................3 1. 2.
HE WHO HAS MADE CREATION IS BRINGING BACK ALL OF IT UNTO HIMSELF. ...........................................3 ALL THAT WHICH HAS BEEN CREATED BY GOD WILL FULFILL ITS INTENDED PURPOSE EXCEPT REBELLIOUS MEN AND SPIRITS. .......................................................................................................................... 3
III ESCHATOLOGY. ................................................................................................................................................3 1. 2.
ETYMOLOGY.............................................................................................................................................3 THE BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF ESCHATOLOGY INCLUDES: .............................................................. 21
IV THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. ....................................................................................... 21 1. 2.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE AUTHORITY OF BIBLICAL REVELATION...................................... 21 QUESTION AND ANSWERS ABOUT CHRISTIAN AUTHORITY. .................................................................... 22
V THE FOUR PILLARS OF THE EARTH. ......................................................................................................... 23 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS. ............................................................................................................ 23 PILLAR 1 - ONTOLOGY – THE FIRST PILLAR OF THE EARTH. .................................................................... 23 PILLAR 2 - AXIOLOGY – THE SECOND PILLAR OF THE EARTH. ................................................................ 25 PILLAR 3 - EPISTEMOLOGY IS THE THIRD PILLAR OF THE EARTH. ........................................................... 27 PILLAR 4 - METHODOLOGY IS THE FOURTH PILLAR OF THE EARTH......................................................... 45
VI WAYS TO LOOK AT REALITY. .................................................................................................................... 46 1.
THE GREEK WAY IS DESCRIPTIVE AND REFLECTIVE AND ASKS THE QUESTION, WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? ........................................................................................................................... 46
THE LATIN WAY IS WITH WHAT METHOD DOES ONE USE TO LOOK AT REALITY (LATIN - QUI MODO) AND ASKS THE QUESTION, HOW DOES IT WORK? .............................................. 46
THE HEBRAIC WAY IS FUNCTIONAL, THEOLOGICAL, PHENOMENOLOGICAL AND PRESCIENTIFIC. .......................................................................................................................................... 46
Page 2 of 94 VII THE FIVE PRESUPPOSITIONS OF CHRISTIAN THOUGHT. ................................................................ 46 1. GOD IS. .......................................................................................................................................................... 46 2. GOD SPEAKS. .............................................................................................................................................. 46 3. MAN CAN UNDERSTAND GOD WHO SPEAKS...................................................................................... 46 4. AS THE WORLD IS NOW, IT ORIGINALLY WAS NOT, NOR SHALL IT ULTIMATELY BE. ........... 47 5. GOD HAS NOT REVEALED ALL OF WHO HE IS, BUT FROM WHAT HE HAS REVEALED, IT IS TRUE WITH WHO HE IS. – THIS IS BASED ON ONE OF TWO POSSIBLE PRESUPPOSITIONS .... 47
VIII PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS FOR A STUDY OF GOD. ............................................................ 47 1. INTRODUCTION. ......................................................................................................................................... 47 2. TWO CONTRASTING APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF GOD. ......................................................... 47
IX ESCHATOLOGY IN MISSION. ....................................................................................................................... 60 1. THIS PAPER AND THE ADDITIONAL ONES THAT FOLLOW FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF ESCHATOLOGICAL LIFE FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING AND MISSION. ............................................................................................................ 60 2. ESCHATOLOGY IS BUILT UPON THE MORAL CHARACTER OF GOD THAT EXTENDS DOWN IN NOT ONLY THE PAST AND PRESENT BUT ALSO IN THE FUTURE. ........................................................................................................ 60 3. IT WILL BE FROM THE INSIGHTS OF THIS INTRODUCTORY SECTION OF THE PAPER THAT SET THE PREMISES OF HOW TO CREATE AN ESCHATOLOGY IN CHRISTIAN THINKING. ........................................................................ 61 4. CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY OF THE LAST DAYS FAVOR A THEOLOGICAL APPROACH OF BOTH/AND. ........................ 62 5. TO UNDERSTAND THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH IN ITS ESCHATOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE IS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT CHRISTIANITY MEANS TO GOD. ........................................................................................................... 64
X THE STORY OF REDEMPTION IS NOT ONLY A PRESENT REALITY BUT ALSO IS FOUND IN THE YET-TO-COME COSMIC RESTORATION AND UNIFYING TO CHRIST OF ALL THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH THAT HAVE BEEN FRACTURED BY SIN. .............................................................. 65 1. OVER THE PAST QUARTER OF A CENTURY VARIOUS EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN VOICES HAVE ARTICULATED THE BOLD, EVEN STARTLING, THEOLOGICAL CLAIM THAT THE ETERNAL DESTINY OF THE REDEEMED CONSISTS IN THE RENEWAL OF EARTHLY LIFE, TO THE EXCLUSION OF A DISEMBODIED HEAVEN HEREAFTER. ................... 65 2. LET US FIRST CLARIFY THE INNER THEOLOGICAL LOGIC OF THIS CLAIM, BY CONTRASTING IT WITH ALTERNATE CONCEPTIONS OF CREATION AND REDEMPTION THAT ARE DERIVED FROM OUTSIDE THE BIBLE. .................... 66 3. THE LOGIC OF BIBLICAL REDEMPTION, WHEN COMBINED WITH A BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF CREATION, REQUIRES THE RESTORATION AND RENEWAL OF THE FULL COMPLEXITY OF HUMAN LIFE IN OUR EARTHLY ENVIRONMENT AND IN THE WORLD OF THE SPIRITUAL, YET WITHOUT SIN. ..................................................... 69 4. THE USE OF NARRATIVE STORY-TELLING PLOTS IN THE BIBLICAL STORY OF REDEMPTION. ............................. 70 5. THE MAIN PLOTS OF THE BIBLICAL STORY: TO RULE - GOD, HUMANITY, EARTH (THE NATIONS); BLESSINGS ABRAHAM/ISRAEL; DELIVERANCE - MOSES, JUDGES, KINGS, PROPHETS, JESUS............................................ 71 6. SUB-PLOTS: THE GENTILE MISSION AND THE HUMAN CALLING RESTORED. .................................................. 76
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A Detailed Outline View of an Eschatology that is based upon the Moral Character of God Section I: Introductory Materials and Preliminary Considerations I
Introduction. 1. Question – Where or how will it all end? 2. Answer – In Him with whom it had all begun.
II The two presuppositions of eschatology are: 1. He who has made creation is bringing back all of it unto Himself. 2. All that which has been created by God will fulfill its intended purpose except rebellious men and spirits. III Eschatology. 1. Etymology. A. The word eschatology comes from the Greek words eschatos, meaning last or final and logos, meaning study of (the study of the last days) and has two meanings: 1). It means last in the sense with what happens to persons and things at the conclusion of each one’s existence. 2). It means final in the sense with closing out the last or final chapter of a book. B. Christian existentialism’s view of eschatology. 1). Eschatology may also be a study of that which is ultimate and highest in terms of values and quality in time. A).
Eschatology is ultimate in the sense that there are events, circumstances, persons, etc. that make up the content of time, are crucial in defining one historical and eternal event over another, and fulfill and bring the purposes and functions of each historical and eternal event to a close or completion. i.
This view is not concerned with clock time or those seconds, minutes, and hours which are the measurements of time but is concerned with those events that fill up and give distinctiveness and meaning to time.
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The nature of time simply is, it cannot do anything but it only provides the historical framework in which things happen, but time has no innate ability itself. a.
To express the same thought in different words: time is quantitative, not qualitative, and this is the most important distinction with several implications on precreation, creation before and after the fall, and the future of creation with which all will be dealt in time throughout the paper in the next few sections.
Though time itself possesses no intrinsic power, it can provide the opportunity for other forces to work effectively. i). For example, God, who fearfully and wonderfully designed the human body (Psa. 139:14), has built remarkable recuperative abilities within the biological mechanism. ii). But, unlike the case of a miracle â€” which produces an instantaneous effect â€” in the providential order of things, time is required for the body to heal. iii). Time soothes many wounds of the heart which, in the event of tragedy, may seem unbearable initially.
There is another aspect of time that is intriguing. i). It facilitates the acceleration of knowledge on the part of human beings. aa. We differ from all other biological organisms in that we accumulate knowledge with the passing of each generation. ba. We can accomplish things today (e.g., space travel, transplant surgery, computer technology) that our ancestors never dreamed of centuries ago.
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ii). By way of contrast, your dog or cat has no greater intellectual capacity than did his ancestors of two millennia ago and implies a few things: aa. Humans are unique; they are not mere animals. ba. They have intellectual powers unparalleled in nature. ca. We have a serious responsibility to use our knowledge wisely â€” in the service of God. da. There is a high price to pay when we do not! B).
The Flow of Time. i.
Time is Godâ€™s way of keeping everything from happening at once because if everything happened at once, it would be like a gigantic explosion or bang, a chaos of the biggest kind.
Some folks, both of the ancient world and in the modern era, have viewed time in a sense that is different from what is portrayed in the Bible. a.
In the Scriptures, time is represented as a linear experience, whereas many have contended that time is cyclic, that is, it involves a series of revolutions that occur again and again. i). Basically, there are three beliefs about what happens after death: annihilation, which holds that nothing happens because there is no reality outside the world of matter; resurrection, the Christian belief that a personâ€™s mortal body is transformed into an immortal one; and reincarnation, which theorizes that death is a passage to cyclical but unending rebirth (Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age, p. 262). ii). The notion of cyclical time is common to religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, and it has become popular in the modern New Age Movement.
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aa. For example, in the Eastern Yogic tradition, Hindus believe that when a person dies, his soul (which, allegedly, is eternal) transmigrates into a different body. ba. This may happen hundreds of times, but, hopefully, with each new reincarnation the soul is progressively purged by oneâ€™s Karma until finally it merges with God, who is the Soul of Souls. ca. This aspect of Hinduism is called the wheel of life. da. In summary, eastern mysticism views human existence as a wheel with continuous revolutions; biblical revelation affirms that human existence is proceeding down a road which has an ultimate goal. ea. Another way to analogize the contrast is to suggest that Christianity sees life as a three-act play, consisting of birth, death, and immortality. fa. Hinduism, on the other hand, view manâ€™s existence as an endless, cyclical drama. b.
How, then, might one define time from the biblical perspective? i). First, we must try to understand eternity in order to understand time. aa. We often read or hear people say something like, back in eternity, or, eternity future. ba. But this, I believe, is misleading. ca. Eternity is not, as we often hear, eternity past and neither is it eternity future. da. These two terms contradict the meaning of eternity.
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ea. Eternity is not the distant past before the creation or the distant future when the universe will be changed. fa. Time is not a parenthesis in eternity because eternity is timeless while time is limited and not part of eternity. ga. Eternity surrounds time and is before, during and in front of time pulling us into the future. ha. God is in eternity, and eternity is outside of time. ii). So, how is time perceived in the Bible? aa. Time may be represented as a historical era, commencing with the creation (Gen. 1:1). ba. Time receives its purpose through the incarnation (Jn. 1). ca. Time will conclude (so far as its present constitution is concerned) with the second coming of Christ, at which point the present world and Heavenly order will have been terminated and a new one will have taken each oneâ€™s place (cf. 2 Pet. 3:813; Rev. 21-22). C).
The Phases of time. i.
There are different ways of looking at time that are consistent with biblical revelation. a.
It is, for instance, advantageous to divide pre-Christian history into periods that are marked by significant events. i). Paul spoke of the times that preceded the redemptive mission of Jesus (Eph. 1:10). ii). The Apostle Paul employs the Greek term kairos (frequently rendered seasons â€“ KJV), which generally denotes an era characterized by certain features.
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There was, for example, a period of beginnings that featured the early centuries of earth’s history, during which significant events like the creation, the fall of man, the great flood, etc. occurred.
There was a span that might be characterized as the Hebrew family, in which the lives of certain prominent patriarchs were chronicled. i). The Hebrews passed through a stage known as Egyptian bondage, followed by the opening of the red sea, the wilderness wandering, and then the conquest of Canaan, etc. ii). There was the era of the United Kingdom, and subsequently that of Israel and Judah - and so, Old Testament history was delineated by distinct times.
On the other hand, it is also possible to view human history in terms of phases and there are three distinct phases that may be considered. a.
Phase 1 - Preparation in both a short and long duration of time (Greek, chronis). i). There first was a phase that may be described as the preparatory period of history. ii). This embraces all of that which took place in eternity with God’s decision to create time and the cosmos and the reasons for it, and all of that time before the first advent of Christ during which God was working out those providential events which would facilitate the Lord’s mission. iii). Consider, for example, the Apostle Paul’s point in Galatians 3 in which he affirms: But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law is become our tutor [schoolmaster – KJV] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor (v. 23-25).
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aa. The word tuto comes from the translation of the Greek term paidagogos, and neither tutor nor schoolmaster does justice to the significance of the original word. ba. The Greek literally means a servant leader, and it signifies the role of a slave who functioned as the custodian (RSV) of the child, being responsible for the moral and physical well-being of the youngster until he reached the age of maturity. iv). The Old Testament regime, with its hundreds of prophecies (cf. Lk. 24:27, 44), and its great collection of the prophets and the provisions of law,” i.e., shadow-aids or shadow-pictures (cf. 1 Cor. 10:6; Heb. 9:1-10), wonderfully prepared the ancient world for the arrival of the Savior and Lord. v). The explosive growth of the early Church was no accident because the preparation of the past was the seeds for the growth of the early Church. b.
Phase 2 - Fulfillment as a fixed and definite event in time (Greek, kairos). i). Following the preparatory phase of human history, there was the fulfillment era. ii). This was a time when the divine plan in the union of the divine and human in Jesus Christ had come onto the stages of history. iii). The early portion of Mark’s Gospel account affirms that Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled (1:14-15). iv). Paul described the culmination of God’s redemptive system in the following way: . . . but when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son . . . (Gal. 4:4).
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aa. The apostle has a more elaborate statement in Ephesians 1:9-10. ba. There he argues that God has made known to us the mystery of his will. ca. The term mystery denotes the more obscure suggestions of the divine plan in Old Testament times, as compared with the full revelation of that system under the New Testament economy. da. The Heavenly plan was focused in Him (i.e., in Christ), in anticipation of a forthcoming time in which He would burst upon the scene of human history. ea. Dispensation, as here used, refers to the fusing of the divine and human in the historical incarnation of Christ (Arndt, p. 562; cf. McCordâ€™s Translation) - So when Paul uses the word dispensation in the phrase the dispensation of the fullness of times he is talking about God's plan for the ages, established and settled before the foundation of the world (1:4), centered in Jesus Christ with the fusion of the divine and human in Him that was planned before time, and now approaching its culmination in time during the incarnation. fa. The divine plan of the incarnation was to become effective when the fullness of the times was realized, at which point all things were to be summed up in the work of Christ. v). The writer of Hebrews asserted that Christ, at the end of the ages, was manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (9:26). aa. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, Godâ€™s great system of the unifying of all things in Heaven and upon earth that have been fractured by sin has taken place in history.
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ba. It only remains for honest human beings to submit to the conditions imposed. c.
Phase 3 - Consummation, completion, fulfillment, and end of time (Greek, sunteleia). i). Ultimately, the consummation of the divine purpose for history will occur. aa. Time is moving towards a goal which will be realized at the time of Christ’s return. ba. In that connection, Paul affirms: Then comes the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God . . . (1 Cor. 15:24). ca. What is the end here contemplated? da. It is the end of the world, the consummation of the work of Christ in history and the beginning of Christ’s work in eternity when all the saints are raised from the dead and have taken on immortal bodies and stand in His presence. ii). The Lord’s return will signal the end of: aa. Time (as that term is used with reference to earth’s history) – Jesus spoke repeatedly about the coming last day (Jn. 6:39-40, 44, 54; 12:48). ba. The Universe – The created universe will “perish” (Heb. 1:11). ca. The Elements - they will be dissolved (2 Pet. 3:10-11) and pass away (Mt. 24:35; Rev. 21:1). da. Earthly Suffering – All the ravages associated with this sinful environment will be eliminated (Rev. 7:16-17; 21:4). ea. Physical Death – Death, as man’s final enemy, will be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26).
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fa. Deceptive Teachings – The deceptive doctrines that have confused and destroyed souls will be vanquished (Rev. 20:3). ga. Opportunity for Salvation will be closed – The door of opportunity for spiritual reconciliation with the Creator will be closed (Mt. 25:10; Heb. 9:27). ha. The Old Earth and Heaven – there will be the passing of the old Earth and Heaven and replaced by a new Earth and a new Heaven (Rev. 21-22). D).
The ancient Hebrew would ask what is the purpose or function of a particular period in time and has it fulfilled its purpose and function? i.
This will be a bit difficult, but one must understand it. a.
You need to step out of the usual way through which you see the world after 25 centuries of Greek influence.
You need to reconsider the world from the perspective of the ancient Near East where the meaning of existence is very different.
You need to do this because the Bible rests on this Near Eastern worldview and it cannot be read or understood without absorbing a different way of thinking, even in areas where we believe the views with which we hold are indubitable or unquestionable.
In Hebrew thought, something exists because it fulfills a function and purpose. a.
It does not exist simply because it occupies space and time.
Unless something has purpose or acts according to design, it has no existence.
This is why Christianity defines what is real, what is existing and what is being by each one’s relationship with God, self and others rather than to define it in terms of its occupation in time and space as the Greeks thought.
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Greek thinking is just the opposite of Hebrew thinking. a.
Something exists because it occupies space and time. i). It does not need to have purpose or be part of a design in order to exist. ii). For example, the proposal that the universe came into existence as a result of the random clash of energy in the Big Bang suggests that something can exist without design or purpose. iii). In fact, if the full implications of the Big Bang are correct, everything that follows is ultimately without design or purpose.
This kind of thinking is simply impossible in a Hebrew context. i). It isnâ€™t just wrong. aa. It is nonsense! ba. Itâ€™s like saying that red is green or that 2 + 2 = 5,000,000. ii). In Hebrew, there is no existence without design and/or purpose.
In Hebrew, to name something is to specify its distinctiveness in design and purpose. a.
Only those things that have a name exist and only exist because they fulfill some role within the greater design in creation.
We have often heard that naming in Hebrew means describing the essence of something, but now we must realize that describing the essence of a thing does not mean describing the way it occupies space and time. i). To describe the essence of something in Hebrew is to say what it does according to its design and purpose.
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ii). If I do not know how something fits into a role, I do not know what it is. c.
You might think of the Hebrew term manna (Hebrew, wa Salwa - Ex. 16:14, 20-21, 31; Num. 11:7- 9), a term that means what is it? i). Until the children of Israel knew what manna did (what its purpose was), they did not know it. ii). It occupied space and time but it did not yet exist as part of the design of the cosmos.
If we apply this shift to our thinking about the Genesis story, we see immediately that Day and Night are not designations about astronomical rotations. a.
Day and Night are designations about what light does and what the absence of light does.
This has nothing to do with the sun or the moon (which is why the designation of the function of astronomical bodies comes after the separation of Day and Night). i). Day is the name for the function of light. ii). Night is the name for the function of not-light. iii). Astronomy has nothing to do with it.
If this is true for Genesis 1 (go read all the days of creation from the perspective of what function is being named), how much more true is it in the making of humans. a.
From a Hebrew point of view, we are what we are made to do. i). We exist within our designed function. ii). When we act according to our designed function, when we play the role, we are assigned in the order of the creation; we are named zakar and neqevah (Hebrew, male and female) in the demut and tselem (Hebrew, image and likeness) of the Creator.
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iii). When we fulfill the function for which we were designed to fulfill, we exist as nephesh hayah (Hebrew, living creature, living soul), just as Elohiym is YHWH (the name of God, Elohiym, is defined by His function, YHWH â€“ English spelling, Yahweh). b.
But what if we do not fulfill that role? i). What if we do not do what we were designed to do? ii). What are we then?
You might ask yourself, given the Hebrew worldview, if those homo sapiens (Greek term, man, mankind) who do not fulfill the purpose for their design actually exist as human. i). And while you are thinking about that one, you might ask yourself if the ezer kenegdo (Hebrew, equal in power and strength and not helpmate fit for Adam as some translate it), who is not fulfilling her design (by choice or by compulsion), exists as ishshah (Hebrew, woman). aa. I do not believe that the Hebrew term ezer keneg means helper or helpmate who is fit for Adam. ba. Genesis 2:18 should be translated as I will make a power [or strength] corresponding to man. ca. On the basis of later Hebrew thinking in Genesis 2:18, the second word in the Hebrew expression found in this verse should be rendered equal to him. da. If so, then God makes for the man a woman who is fully his equal and fully his match. ea. In this way, the man's loneliness will be assuaged.
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ii). The same line of reasoning occurs with the apostle Paul, who urged in 1 Corinthians 11:10, for this reason, a woman must have power [or authority] on her head [that is to say, invested in her]. aa. This line of reasoning, which stresses full equality, is continued in Genesis 2:23 where Adam says of Eve: This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called â€˜woman,' for she was taken out of man. ba. The idiomatic sense of this phrase bone of my bones is a very close relative to one of us or in effect our equal. ca. The woman was never meant to be an assistant or helpmate to the man. da. The word mate or helpmate slipped into English since it was so close to the Old English word meet, which means fit to or corresponding to the man which comes from the phrase that likely means equal to. ea. What God had intended, then, was to make a power or strength in a woman/female for man and who would in every way correspond to him and even be his equal. iii). Just something to think about as you go out today to do what you were designed to do. 2). The Biblical understanding of revelation includes revelation or disclosure of those values that not only define the divine, demonic, humanity, time, eternity, events and circumstances, etc. but that also define the meaning(s), purpose(s), and function(s) of a thing both in time and eternity. A).
This view is prevalent in the Genesis account where Adam is to name the various animals of earth: Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name (Genesis 2:19 NASB). i.
What does it mean for Adam to have named something? â€“ Adam must have worked overtime.
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Can you imagine how long it would take to name all the living creatures? i). Considering that there are approximately 30 million species of insects alone, Adamâ€™s task would have taken more than his lifetime. ii). Obviously, this verse is not about identifying a Genesis taxonomy (to name something according to their similarities and differences).
But if itâ€™s not about giving names to every living creature, what is it about? i). To answer this question, we need to investigate the difference between our view of the structures of the world and the ancient Near Eastern view of the structures of the world. ii). Our Western view is based on individualization and identification of things. aa. Taxonomy is a list of individual creatures according to identifiable similarities and differences. ba. Our Western worldview sees the world as a collection of entities, causally related within a closed box called the universe. ca. The categories we use to define the world rest on this idea of individual peculiarity. da. From a linguistic point of view, we see the world as nouns tied together by verb relationships. iii). The ancient Near Eastern view of the structures of the world was totally different. aa. In the ancient worldview, the cosmos is the functional expression of the gods. ba. What mattered was not the existence of individual things but rather the function
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and role assigned by the gods to various entities. ca. In fact, according to ancient cosmologies, existence itself was tied to function and role. da. In other words, something came into being when it had a function in the world. ea. This means the existence of a thing is defined in terms of external relationships, not in terms of internal concepts. fa. What exists is what can be seen in its function in the world. iv). We actually see this Near Eastern perspective in Genesis 1 but this view is assigned to God the Creator, who alone has the power to create, and not to a bunch of gods who have no power over God and cannot create anything. aa. The sun does not come into existence until it has a role to play (a sign in the sky), but light comes into existence when it separates. ba. Thatâ€™s why light can exist without the creation of the sun. ca. Read the opening verses again and you will see that each step of creation is about function. da. What exists does exist because it does something, and that something can be observed! ea. Nothing exists without purpose. ii.
When Adam names the living creatures, he does something that is not found in other ancient cosmologies. a.
He functions in the role that is usually assigned to the gods.
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i). He brings into existence what he names because he identifies function and purpose. aa. Before animals exist, they must be named to identify each oneâ€™s function and purpose. ba. Usually only the gods can do this, but in Hebraic thought, man cooperates with God in determining the function of other living creatures. ii). In other words, what Adam names expresses the relationship of that creature to man. aa. What Adam names is what that creature does for him. ba. What Adam names helps him with realizing that he needs an equal to him, not found in animals and in their functions and purposes, but found with a person in the form of and whose function is female. b.
The point of the verse is not to provide taxonomy but rather to establish a relationship. i). Living creatures named by Adam play a role in Adamâ€™s life. ii). Those not named simply do not exist for him. iii). Those animals that are named by Adam show that they are not fitting for Adam because he needs a person that is equal to him in the form of a female and he is not able to find it in the animals that he named.
This ancient Near Eastern concept is crucial for understanding the statement that Adam names Havvah (Hebrew, Eve).
People tend to think that the Hebraic view of naming is about identifying the essence of the thing that is named and what is implied is that naming identifies some internal inherent property of the thing.
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This is a Greek worldview and not the Hebraic Biblical worldview.
What we must realize is that Hebraic naming establishes the external function of the thing that is so named. i). Naming gives the thing purpose in relationship to the one who names it. ii). Naming is about what the thing does because what it does is what it is. iii). It does not exist apart from its purpose, and that purpose can be observed.
Did you get that? Do you see the difference between our Western view and the ancient Semitic view? i.
Now apply this difference to Genesis 1:26. a.
What does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of God?
What does it mean to be named male and female?
In other words, what is your purpose?
How are you related to the One who named you?
What do you do for Him?
What are the external, observable functions you fulfill?
Our typical religious language about internal changes and heart relationships, about hidden transformations and spiritual restoration of the soul has no meaning in a Hebraic worldview unless it is accompanied by external, functional, observable evidence. a.
In Semitic thought, no man is saved because his soul is saved but rather men are rescued when their lives demonstrate clear differences.
Men are verbs, not nouns, and verbs are actions.
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i). If you have been rescued, you will act differently because your purpose has changed. ii). It will be obvious to others. iii). You can’t go in two directions at the same time (refer to Jesus’ comment that you cannot serve two masters – Matt. 6:24). 2. The Biblical understanding of eschatology includes: A. The culmination of time in which time and space will cease to exist by turning into the eternal order at the end of days when Christ comes again, and, B. Fulfilling history with spiritual and eternal values that come from God and into men and give meaning to and bring its purposes and functions into completion – this is founded on three principles of the revelatory norms: 1). The principle of the promise-fulfillment motif of revelatory norms in which every promise that comes from God will always bring a larger fulfillment until it fills up and comes to a completion or fulfillment. 2). The principle that is built on the divine undertaking in which God is enlarged by the experiences through the incarnation and is on-going and will continue after time is turned into eternity at the second coming of Christ. 3). The principle that wherewith God’s moral character abides so does evil in lesser force and that wherewith evil abides so does the moral character of God abide in greater force. A).
This constant contradiction and tension that exist between God’s moral character and evil and abide in history will continually grow throughout history and culminate into an Anti-Christ principle of evil in the latter days.
But rest assured the moral character of God will win out over evil in the end through His might and power that will be just and righteous because His moral character tempers His might and power to be just and righteous.
IV The authority of the Christian faith. 1. Questions and answers about the authority of Biblical revelation. A. Question – Is it true because it is in the Bible or is it in the Bible because it is true?
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B. Answer – It is in the Bible because it is true. 1). If it is any other way, the Bible would be a book of inflated egos and lose any credibility with which it possesses. 2). The Bible reaches into the external world and discovers the truths that only come from God in this external world and records and provides understanding about these truths of the external world. 3). The Bible is God’s great dialogue with men in which He shares the knowledge of truth upon which the whole of reality of things seen and unseen is built and to choose any other way is to bring destruction upon oneself. 2. Question and Answers about Christian authority. A. Question - What is the primary authority of the Christian faith? B. Answer – It starts with God – The authority of the Christian Community is a stairstep model which includes: 1). The moral character of the Triune God 2). As is revealed in Scriptures, 3). As is conveyed through heritage, and, 4). As is made real and met in corporate and individual experiences. A).
The authority of the Christian community is a stair-step model that starts from the top step (the moral character of the Triune God) to the bottom step (corporate and individual experience).
Beginning from the top step of the stair case to the bottom rung or step, Christian authority is as follows:
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The very top step is the moral character of the Triune God that has authority over all the below steps of the Scriptures, Christian heritage, and corporate and individual experience.
But the revelation which is in Scriptures (the second step from the top) has authority over heritage, corporate and individual experience but has no authority over the moral character of the Triune God.
And Christian heritage (the third step from the top) has authority over corporate and individual experience but has no authority over the revelation of the Scripture and the moral character of the Triune God.
And corporate experience (the fourth step from the top) has authority over individual experience but both corporate and individual experience have no authority over heritage, revelation of the Scripture, and the moral character of the Triune God.
V The four pillars of the earth. 1. Preliminary considerations. A. The four pillars of the earth are the requirements for all knowledge and understanding; and without them, one is not able to reason about or know anything. B. Whether one does or does not acknowledge or recognize it, the four pillars of the earth are required by all discipline if there is to be any discourse and meaning for a subject matter. 2. Pillar 1 - Ontology – the first pillar of the earth. A. This is the study of being or that which exists. 1). The question of the Christian community is, what is or what exists? 2). Answer – The Christian Community has answered, “The Creator and the created.” B. What has God created? 1). Spiritual beings that are two dimensional in existence. A).
Socio-psychic dimensions (mental and social).
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Ultimate dimension (spiritual).
2). Mankind who is three dimensional in existence. A).
Biochemical dimensions (physical).
Socio-psychic dimensions (mental and social)
Ultimate dimension (spiritual).
3). Animals that are two dimensional in existence. A).
Biochemical dimensions (physical).
Socio-psychic dimensions (mental and social).
4). Stuff that is one dimensional in existence. A).
Biochemical dimensions (physical).
Do plants have a primitive socio-psychic (mental and social) dimension?
C. What is being, existence and reality? 1). Reality. A).
What is reality?
Reality is anything that is capable of having relationships and affecting others.
Being is a subcategory of reality. i.
What is being?
Being is that part of reality which has the capacity for relationships within its own sphere.
Existence is a subcategory of reality and being. i.
What is existence?
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Existence is that part of reality that has purpose in time and space relationships. a.
For one to exist he must have being and purpose and live in time and space. i). All existence has ontological being. ii). However, not all ontological being has existence.
Is there non-being or any form of being which can turn into non-being or be totally obliterated? i). Jean Paul Sartre says being can be turned into non-being or totally obliterated (see Sartre’s Being and Nothingness – 1943 Edition). ii). Conditional immortality (the just of God shall be saved while the remaining shall be obliterated into non-existence) stresses the good get their reward in while the bad go into non-being or nonexistence. iii). Annihilationism stresses that part of God’s creation which has rejected Him shall be turned into non-existence or non-being.
2). The moral being of God is the most important existence for man. 3. Pillar 2 - Axiology – the second pillar of the earth. A. Axiology is the study of values or what is important in life. 1). The Christian Community understands man to be a value-pursuing being rather than a rational being with which the Greeks made to be paramount. 2). What a person loves and pursues determines more than all the powers of his or her reason and intellect. 3). The postulate of man with being a value-pursing being revolutionizes reason, intellect, education and all other phases of life. B. The Christian Community’s question is, “What is important?” 1). Those things which have being or are coming into being (such as the birth of a new born child).
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Greek thinking about being. i.
The Greeks believed being was more important than is nonbeing.
The Greeks believed that which has potential was being or real.
Christian thinking about being. i.
The Christian Community sees God to be the most important value.
The Christian Community believes that which has potential is not actuality, does not have being, does not have reality, or does not have existence because all being, reality or existence must, in the Christian worldview, have life that is capable of having relationships with God, self and others. a.
In the Christian worldview, reality is anything that is capable of having relationships and affecting others.
Being, according to Christianity, is that part of reality which has the capacity for relationships within its own sphere.
Existence, in the Christian view of things, is that part of reality that has purpose in time and space relationships.
2). Those things which are known by a person. A).
The Greek philosophers said the cardinal sin was ignorance.
The Judeo-Christian Community says the cardinal sin is disobedience to God.
3). Those things with which one possesses or has. 4). Those things which are done by a person. 5). Those things to which one relates. A).
To the Christian Community, relating or relationships is the most important value.
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The Christian Community says life is not life unless you are able to relate to God, self, and others.
6). Those things to which one gives obedience. 4. Pillar 3 - Epistemology is the third pillar of the earth. A. This is the study of knowing or how does one know anything. B. The Christian Communityâ€™s question is, how do you know? 1). Reflection - this is the use of logic or deductible reasoning. A).
Insights into the art of reflection in logic. i.
Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science. a.
It examines general forms with which arguments may take, which forms are valid, and which are fallacies.
In philosophy, the study of logic is applied in most major areas: metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, and ethics.
In mathematics, it is the study of valid inferences within some formal language.
Logic is also studied in argumentation theory.
The premise of reflection is in the ability of an argument to logically extend to conclusions that are not absurd or contradictory to proven truth. a.
An argument is false if it is reduced to an absurd conclusion, reductio ad absurdum (Latin, reduction to the absurd) whereby a proposition is disproved by following its logical implications to an absurd consequence. i). A common type of reductio ad absurdum is in proof by contradiction (also called indirect proof), where a proposition is proved to be true by validating that it is impossible for it to be false.
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ii). That is to say, if A being false implies that B must also be false and it is known that B is true, then A cannot be false and therefore A is true. iii). Where such an argument is premised on a false dichotomy, the ostensible proof is a logical fallacy. b.
Reductio ad absurdum is the logic of mathematics but also of the world of ideals in philosophy. i). Reductio ad absurdum is a process of refutation of an argument on the grounds of its absurdities and that its patently untenable consequences would ensue from accepting the item at issue. ii). The consequences of an absurd argument takes on three principle forms: aa. A self-contradiction (Latin, ad absurdum). ba. A falsehood (Latin, ad falsum or even ad impossibile). ca. An implausibility or anomaly (Latin, ad ridiculum or ad incommodum).
There are two divisions in the art of logical reflection. i.
Straight line thinking. a.
Major premise (ex. All men are equal).
Minor premise (ex. John is a man).
Conclusion (ex. Therefore, John is equal).
Dialectical thinking or back and forth reasoning as proposed by Socrates and then reinvented by Hegel. a.
Basis of dialectal thinking. i). Thesis â€“ a governing wisdom that is popular and accepted to being true. ii). Antithesis â€“ an idea that opposes the governing wisdom by combating it.
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iii). Synthesis â€“ After the battle is over, a new consensus appears and becomes the new standard of governing wisdom. b.
Paradox or seemingly logical contradictions is the literary tool of the dialectician. i). Dialecticism can destroy absolutes unless there is a general truth or standard which governs this method. ii). The moral character of God is the standard which can redeem this way of thinking.
2). Inductive reasoning. A).
Characteristics of inductive reasoning. i.
This form of reasoning examines causes and works its way from cause to effect.
This is to reason from the particular unto the general.
Inductive reasoning cannot ensure the premises on which it builds itself. i.
Inductive reasoning consists of inferring general principles or rules from specific facts.
The philosophical definition of inductive reasoning is much more nuanced than simple progression from particular/individual instances to wider generalizations. a.
Rather, the premises of an inductive logical argument indicate some degree of support (inductive probability) for the conclusion but do not entail it; that is, they suggest truth but do not ensure it.
In this manner, there is the possibility of moving from generalizations to individual instances.
3). Empirical knowledge. i.
This form or reasoning uses experimenting and experience.
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That knowledge which comes from observation.
This type of knowledge is the method of science.
It is limited when people say there is no existence that is outside of empirical knowledge.
4). Intuition. A).
This is the hunch method of knowing something.
I feel it in my gut type of reasoning.
In Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of the Scientific Revolution, he stresses that every scientific discovery came from intuitive responses or a hunch.
5). Phenomenological knowledge (closely akin to empiricism but not as much as one may think. A).
This is prevalent in the Bible.
This type of knowledge is what comes from one’s senses.
This view is not based in science but is based upon what makes up the natural and spiritual world when met by one’s senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight, hunches, and faith.
Ex. – when I touch a fire, I know it is hot.
Ex. – when I hear the birds chirping, they sing to God.
Ex. – when it snows, sleet, rain, or hail, God must have a storehouse of snow, rain, sleet, hail, etc. that is located in Heaven and opens up when the earth needs it.
Ex. - sunset, sunrise, or references to sun and stars moving.
Phenomenology is very important to understand the Bible because in Scripture: i.
Phenomenology is the alternative way of thinking to either empirical science and hangs ups on inductive data.
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Phenomenology is the alternative way of thinking to deductive reasoning and hang ups on the a priori (knowledge or justification is independent of experience).
In phenomenology one allows the sense data to determine the categories under which to organize thinking about God. - When one says allow the sense data to determine the categories, what is meant by it? (this is very crucial to understand Biblical thinking): a.
What that means is, you have a bit of qualia, an impression of the way with which sense data strikes us, the way something appears to us. i). God is not the subject of empirical data because He is the basis of empirical knowledge in reality. ii). Let’s say a scientist who is a marine biologist says to another, my boss has assigned me to study only things that are called water or the make-up of H2O, but I cannot find water anywhere. aa. The marine biologist says this because it never has occurred to him that water surrounds him on a constant basis and that he only sees through water rather than looking directly at water and misses the very thing that surrounds him. ba. It’s the idea that one cannot see the forest because of the trees – the individuals units that are called trees make up what is called a forest and we see so many individual trees that the forest as a whole is lost. ca. Therefore, because God is the basis of reality, the ground of Being (“For in him we live and move and have our being” – Acts 17.28), and when we try to look for God and to see Him directly, we have a tendency to look through rather than directly at Him because He is the medium in which we live and who is the ground of all being that surrounds all creation and reality.
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iii). The only way to the search for and find God, other than through the revelation of Scripture, is not to look for empirical data or evidence of His existence but to look for a co-determinate or trace of Him in reality and creation. aa. Thus, one looks for the signature or trace of God in creation much like one looks for the trace or aura of a neutrino. ba. One cannot photograph neutrinos directly but one can photograph their aura or trace when neutrinos react with other particles, and when one sees that aura, one knows neutrinos exit. b.
Atheists are hung up on empirical knowledge. i). Thatâ€™s why so many of them (not all by many) insist that we have no information about God or that you cannot verify God. ii). God cannot be the subject of empirical data because He is not given to sense data since He is the basis of sense data and all reality. aa. That's because God is not just another object alongside objects in creation. ba. God is not just another thing because God is the basis of reality and things.
Knowledge and faith in the Bible are not opposed with each other but are equally matched. i.
Knowledge, in the Bible, is not pure scientific objectifying cognition, but is an act whose meaning is drawn in part from the usage that makes, for example, the sexual union of man and woman to be a knowing, or a special knowledge that only belongs to men and women when in and after sexual union with one another.
Faith is no second-class knowledge in the Bible because it is directed toward a first-class object (God and human life are first-class objects in the Bible) and it possesses a first-class
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certainty because it is grounded in a first class knowledge of God and humanity. iii.
Faith, like knowledge of God, is that act of the whole person in which God is apprehended, acknowledged, accepted, and affirmed (â€Ś by earthen vessels who see in a mirror dimly â€Ś - 2 Cor. 4:7)
C. The Christian community must use all forms of reasoning from man and knowing spiritual values and principles that are from God. 1). Part of the way to knowledge is by faith. A).
Faith is to believe in something to be true before one can accept it.
Faith also affirms the way toward wisdom and not just intellect alone by acting upon that part of knowledge with which you have accepted to be true.
2). The way into true knowledge is to use the central-self, conscious mind, unconscious mind in unity with the deep mind that is referred by the Apostle Paul to be the renewed mind of man in Christ (Rom. 12:2; II Cor. 4:16; Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10; Titus 3:5). A).
In Biblical thought, man is never divided into a compartments or classes such as body, rational mind and soul.
Man is looked upon as a whole unit which functions as a whole self that takes on many dimensions including spiritual, physical, mental, communal, and social and so forth. i.
The wholeness of man points to a deep mind which falls in love with values and articulates itself through the central-self that functions through the mind, both conscious and unconscious, and then expresses itself outwardly through the body. a.
The deep mind (Biblical word is heart) will place the living Christ to be the supreme value that is above all else (For a deeper understanding of the use of the word heart in the Bible, read, Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, 2002, Navpress Publishing Group). i). The word heart in the Bible does not stand for emotions as many learned men of theology have suggested (only two instances of heart as referring to emotion are found in I Sam. 1:8 and 2:1).
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ii). The Biblical word heart refers to and is inseparable from the mind and the ability to understanding deep spiritual things both demonic and divine (Prov. 23:7, Deut. 9:4, Isa. 10:6, Matt. 9:4, James 1:26). iii). The heart, in the Scripture, gives values to the things with which the mind understands. aa. Hebrew thought does not express abstract thinking about anything but is always expressed through concrete material things. ba. Hebrew thought saw the heart as the concrete and physical heart, the organ in the chest. ca. But the Hebrew thinkers of the Old and New Testament used the concrete word for heart to express the place where one exercises faith (Lk. 24/25, Rom. 10: 9, 10), where the location of the human deliberation is made, and where wisdom is employed. da. To the Hebrew mind, when men got scared, the heart would beat faster and they felt it in their chest and associated it with the idea of what to do to escape fear. ea. When man is calm, the heart beats slower than when he is excited from fear or depression. fa. Understanding is said to be the function of the mind (Job 38:36), yet the connection to the heart is undeniable because the heart is where a person desires the difference between right and wrong (I Kings 3:9). ga. The Biblical concept of heart in modern days has been too much determined by secular psychology and pietism, a hangover from the nineteenth century.
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ha. The heart, regenerate or apostate, gives basic sets of values to the mind but it does not completely control the mind. ia. The unregenerate heart, because of common grace, does not come to full expression in the unbeliever’s mind. ja. The regenerate heart, because of sin, does not come to full expression in the Christian’s mind. ka. There is an unqualified and absolute antithesis between the regenerate and unregenerate heart. la. There is not an absolute antithesis between the Christian and non-Christian mind. ma. He who in his heart is a Christian belongs to God in principle and yet may have a mind that embraces egregious error and breathes a reprehensible spirit. na. He who in his heart is a non-Christian belongs to Satan in principle, and yet may have a mind that embraces much of truth and breathes a temperate spirit. oa. In the case of both the Christian and the non-Christian, the mind, though for different reasons, can be false to the heart. (Henry Stob, Theological Reflections, Eerdmans, 1981, page 236). pa. The heart contains knowledge that is both conscious and unconscious. qa. Basically, the heart is the center of man’s moral character, who he really is from on the inside (Lk. 6:45). b.
The central-self is made in the image of God that is value pursuing, and centered in values of God’s moral character that come from the deep-mind, i.e., the central-
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self is the soul or essence of a person wherewith God’s image is present in all men. i). Biblical psychology of man (refer to C. Ryder Smith, The Doctrine of Man; R. Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man). aa. There is no Hebrew word for body but there are several Hebrew words for body parts, such as heart, mind, etc. ba. The English word body or form comes from the Greek word soma and means form that is animated by life. ca. The Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word equivalent psuche are translated as soul, the total life force of living man. da. The Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma is translated spirit, meaning life force, a person who strives for selftranscendence when energized by God and is able to turn all life toward God’s dimension, or a person who strives for selftranscendence when energized by the Evil One and is able to turn all life toward the Devil. ea. The Hebrew word basar and Greek word sarx is best translated flesh, the capacity to cooperate with the Evil One and order life toward Satan’s direction. ii). The Hebrew word nephesh (used 754 times in the Old Testament) and the Greek word psuche (used 105 times in the New Testament) for the word soul are equivalents to the modern day term central-self and has many shades of meaning such as: aa. Breath, the breath of life, ba. The vital force that animates the body and shows itself in breathing within man and animals,
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ca. Life and that in which there is life, da. A living being, a living soul, or the soul, ea. The seat of feelings, desires, affections, aversions of the heart â€“ these are selective values with which only nephesh or psuche can partake because it only selects or chooses what is pertinent to man at the time for which those values are called. fa. The moral being of man that is designed in the image of God and destined for everlasting life when God Himself calls it forth from the dead and into His life by accepting Him to be their God and Master. iii). Nephesh and psuche both mean life in the sense of an individual, or the life experiences of an individual and is the thing which makes each individual person to be unique and different from everyone else and is made in the image of God. iv). A commonly held and false belief that is among Christians is in the existence of a human soul, aa. That is dwelling within us, forming the core of our entity, and is an immaterial and invisible spirit. ba. This spirit or ghost enters our flesh in the womb, exits our flesh at death, and acts as the hub of our consciousness and thought process. ca. It is the fundamental constituent and essence of who we are, making us to be ourselves, and not someone else. da. This belief is Greek thinking and is not Biblically sound or logical in the light of whom God is. ea. When man dies, there is no immortality of his soul after death, because when he dies,
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he remains dead only until God calls him forth from death and into life. v). The central-self is very picky and selective with which values that it chooses for man at the moment of choice but it must have a value system that is inexhaustible and can constantly challenge it to seek the depths of that value system without reaching a plateau. aa. The moral character of God is the only non-exhaustive value system and principles that will never grow stale or on which man will never flat-line. ba. The moral character of God is invested in the deep-man of man in all its glory and beauty but the central-self has to reach into the unlimited reservoir of the moral values of God in the deep-mind and sort through them to find those values that are needed in the environment of man at the time that the central-self operates for man. ca. The vitality of man is found in what he loves and for which he is willing to die. c.
The mind is suited to examine data, make rational deductions, and use experience to gain knowledge of the truth about reality. i). However, these actions are not always carried out properly because the mind often interprets data and experience through preconceived notions of life and faith rather than though objective truth. ii). This contradiction between preconceived notions and objective truth is evidenced by the fact that two minds may take the same data and come to contrary conclusions concerning that data. iii). Greek thinkers and philosophers who created theories of the nature or reality, which had little or nothing to say about the real world, vividly demonstrate this contradiction of notion and objective truth because these Greek thinkers found
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themselves living in a real world that was often contrary to their theories. iv). The mind has the ability to deceive itself and rationalize away faults and weaknesses. v). Within the mind is the conscious mind which is the logical self of a person and the unconscious mind which is the emotional side of a person who sometimes allow his emotions to overtake sound thinking and wisdom of the conscious mind. d.
The deep mind, the central-self, the unconscious and conscious minds and the body are so unified that the individual is all of these things at once.
When the deep mind, the central-self, the mind (conscious and unconscious), and the body function according to each oneâ€™s particular uniqueness, they blend into a harmony of unity and wholeness. a.
Therefore, the following is how man thinks and lives: i). The deep mind or heart of man falls in love with a value system and accepts it whether or not it is good or bad. ii). The central-self is awakened by the deep mind and seeks to steer man toward selecting only those values from the deep mind that are worthy of manâ€™s stature or importance in life. iii). The unconscious mind or manâ€™s seat of emotions is either excited over the selected value system of the central-self and pushes man to act upon it or it is unexcited and causes man to delay or procrastinate the way with which he is to handle these selected values of the central-self. iv). The conscious mind or logical-self determines the worthiness of the selected values that have been accepted by both the deep mind and the centralself and uses the powers of reason and intellect to render judgment upon these selected values of the deep mind and central-self and sometimes runs
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into conflict with the unconscious mind of man’s emotions. v). The body of man becomes the outward expression of the combination of the workings of the deep mind, the central-self, the conscious mind and unconscious mind with the value system that is in question. b.
Steps with how the deep mind, central-self, unconscious mind, conscious mind and body work together when assimilating Christ’s values from the moral character of God (for a fuller understanding of the workings of these various dimensions of man, see Section II: The Moral Character of God, p.69 -187): i). When the deep mind passionately chooses the value system of the moral character of God in Jesus Christ, ii). then the central-self chooses or only selects the values of the moral character of God that are fitting for man’s place within his environment, iii). And this is followed by emotions of the unconscious mind that causes man to become excited enough to act upon the value systems of Christ that come from the deep mind and centralself, iv). which triggers the conscious mind or logical-self to determine the rationale for accepting the value systems of Jesus Christ that came from within the deep mind and central-self but sometimes comes in conflict with the emotions of the unconscious mind, v). and from the combination of the total workings of the deep mind, central-self, unconscious and conscious minds about Christ’s moral nature and values, man comes to some sort of conclusion that produces expression of these values through the body and into the world. vi). Therefore, when the central-self passionately chooses the beauty of Jesus Christ that comes
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from the depth of the deep mind and works its way through the unconscious emotional mind and conscious logical-self, then the body willingly acts upon these value principles that trigger the power of the whole being of man to be centralized and released into the world in and with words and deeds. aa. This is the whole being of man unleashed and what God intended us to be. ba. Consequently, a hierarchy of values is established and brings about richer fulfillment. ca. Within this context, the imagination can make tremendous contributions to the whole of life for memory can unite the past with the present and lessons spring forth that guide man further into adventure with Christ. da. Emotions are awakened to become healthy drives toward realistic goals; and worldly values, which allow the rise of inordinate lust and purely physical desires, are lessened. ea. Other-centered love then begins to redeem sexuality from being physical and sensual to being self-giving to the one that is loved by you. fa. The energy of temper is increasingly directed away from personal tendencies toward righteous anger where justice is practiced rather than raw angry emotions. ga. A whole gamut of values mixed with emotions and reason start the budding of the whole man into being transformed into Godlikeness from the slavery of sin and self-life. ha. Below is a composite drawing of the workings of the moral character of God in
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the whole man. (Also refer to Section II: The Moral Character of God, pp. 69-186 for a more thorough treatment of the Whole Man in Christ and how Christian character is inwrought into the believer by God through His moral values).
D. Involvement with the three levels of learning. 1). A tremendous surge in growth can be found in what may be termed as the three ways of learning. A).
The first level of learning is empiricism. i.
In empiricism knowledge is gained from facts that come from experience and the assimilation and relation of those facts with meaning that issues into evidence of a thing with being true.
.Knowledge is the seeking of facts that are true and any approach to knowledge that by-passes or overlooks empiricism will soon defeat itself.
If empiricism is considered to be adequate in itself, knowledge will decline.
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Science and technology are the masters that use empirical data in the quest for scientific truth; but science and technology that is left alone with empiricism as the only source of knowledge will enslave people.
The second level of learning is rationalism. i.
In rationalism the mind or reason is considered to be adequate at its best to know the whole of reality.
Knowledge, in rationalism, is by inference and propositions that correspond to reality with what has already been proven to be true. a.
Many great advances in learning have come out of rationalism but it is unable to know the whole of truth when it is considered the only way to knowledge and learning.
If one does not allow some measure of guidance from empiricism into rationalism, rational thought can lead into an unreal conception of truth.
The third level of learning is moral integrity. i.
It would seem the harmonious union of empiricism and rationalism would be a better avenue to learning than with either one of them alone as the only way to knowledge and truth. a.
There are those who reject any such effort of joining empiricism with rationalism.
For those who do desire to unite empiricism with rationalism, the task is not easy.
The third way of learning involves one with values and the spiritual aspects of his or her being. a.
This third level of learning seeks the services of both empiricism and rationalism in its quest for truth. i). In empiricism the senses are the means by which facts from experience are gathered and organized.
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ii). In rationalism the mind acts according to thought and logic in order to know the explanation and meaning of reality. b.
In the third level of learning, which is mainly spiritual, the vital avenue to learning lies in moral integrity in which one acts in harmony with and obedience to values and spiritual principles with which one seeks to understand. i). To accomplish moral integrity with spiritual values and principles, the seeker of the whole truth gathers all the relevant truth by which empiricism can furnish to him. ii). Added to this, the contribution of rationalism is supplemental in which the coherence, validity of inferences or conclusions, and implications of principles are recognized. iii). Added to empiricism and rationalism is the perspective of values and spiritual principles and all are blended into a whole that serves for further learning. aa. Spiritual principles and values are more than facts of experience and rational concepts because they must be internalized into character and made to be part of the deep mind that is within the inner most being of one who seeks knowledge so that these spiritual values and principles may issue into expressions of personhood. ba. Some aspects of reality are grasped by experiences and other aspects of reality are known through reason, but the wholeness of truth includes the entire range or reality that comes from the spiritual, the experiential and the rational, which includes both the knower and the known.
2). Oneâ€™s concept of the truth includes more than knowing enough of the principles of nature, for instance, that comes to one from empirical evidence and rational thought in order to use nature for oneâ€™s own ends.
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The wholeness of truth will require the knower to understand the principles that stand in back of nature and reality so that he can intelligently and creatively cooperate with them to the benefit of all.
The wise use of the three levels of learning must result into knowledge that is dynamic and splendid in growing conditions for the Christian.
5. Pillar 4 - Methodology is the fourth pillar of the earth. A. The methodological question is three-fold: 1). How do you know what exists or is real? 2). What is important to you and the Christian faith? 3). What is it with which we are able to know anything? B. Symbols are the methodology that is used in communicating anything. 1). Non-verbal symbols. A). Signs. B). Body language. C). Symbols. 2). Verbal symbols. A). Symbols are those things which describe: i. What is and is not real to us. ii. What is or is not important to us. iii. How we are able or not able to know anything. B). Symbols describe realities of the world and participate in the very realities by which it describes and yet do not exhaust reality of its content. C. All language is symbolic and falls into three classes of symbols. 1). Common symbols â€“ Ex. â€“ water.
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2). Technical symbols – Ex. H2O. 3). Poetic symbols – Ex. – the water of life – Would you use apocalyptical language to interpret historical language or historical language to interpret apocalyptical language? – I would hope not. VI Ways to look at reality. 1. The Greek way is descriptive and reflective and asks the question, what does it look like? 2. The Latin way is with what method does one use to look at reality (Latin - qui modo) and asks the question, how does it work? 3. The Hebraic way is functional, theological, phenomenological and pre-scientific. A. The Hebraic mind would ask: 1). “Does it work?” 2). “Does it function?” 3). “What is the function?” 4). “What is a things purpose?” 5). “Has it fulfilled its purpose or function?” B. The Old and New Testament revelation of God is always seen through the ancient Hebrew thinking and not through Greek thought. C. Though the New Testament was written in the Greek language, it does not reflect Greek thinking or reasoning but rather through the Hebraic view of reality. VII The five presuppositions of Christian thought. 1. God is. A. The atheist says there is no God to whom we are responsible. B. Practical atheism claims there is a God but acts like He is not the one to whom one is responsible. 2. God speaks. 3. Man can understand God who speaks.
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4. As the world is now, it originally was not and nor shall it ultimately be. 5. God has not revealed all of who He is, but from what He has revealed, it is true with who He is. – This is based on one of two possible presuppositions A. Finitum capax infiniti – Latin for the finite is capable of knowing the infinite. B. Finitum non capax infiniti – Latin for the finite is not capable of knowing the infinite unless God reveals it to him – this is the position of the Christian Community. VIII
Preliminary considerations for a study of God. 1. Introduction. A. What God has revealed of Himself is not all that there is of Him, but from what He has revealed, it is true with who He is. B. Knowing God. 1). Question and answer 1. A).
Question 1 – How is God known or what is God like?
Answer 1 – God is known or like by what He does.
2). Question and answer 2. A).
Question 2 - What has God done in history in order for us to know Him?
Answer 2 – God has acted out of His moral character on our behalf in history with redemptive acts of love and has provided understanding.
3). Question and answer 3. A).
Question 3 – How does God speak?
Answer 3 – Revelation.
2. Two contrasting approaches to the study of God. A. Scholastic or classical way. 1). The presupposition of the scholastic and classical studies of God is finitum capox infiniti (Latin, the finite is capable of knowing the infinite).
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2). The scholastic method of approaching the study of God was built on the distinction between essence and existence. A).
The assumption is that within God Himself there are certain attributes.
But when God deals with His creation in the historical scene, God is different than from what He is within Himself.
This view is logical but is not Biblical.
The historical movement of Scholasticism. i.
Scholasticism was the dominant western Christian theological and philosophical school of the Middle Ages, based on the authority of the Latin Fathers and of Aristotle and his commentators. a.
It was the theological and philosophical movement, beginning in the 11th century that sought to integrate the secular understanding of the ancient world, as exemplified by Aristotle, with the dogma implicit in the revelations of Christianity. i). Its aim was a synthesis of learning in which theology surmounted the hierarchy of knowledge. ii). Principal figures in early Scholasticism were Peter Abelard, Saint Anselm of Canterbury, Saint Albertus Magnus, and Roger Bacon. iii). The movement flourished in the 13th century, drawing on the writings and doctrines of St. Thomas Aquinas.
By the 14th century Scholasticism was in decline, but it had laid the foundations for many revivals and revisitations in later centuries, particularly under Pope Leo XIII (1879), who sought to modernize the insights of the medieval scholastics.
Modern philosophers and theologians influenced by Scholasticism include Jacques Maritain, Tienne Gilson and Edgar Young Mullins.
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Although historians sometimes refer to scholastic philosophy, scholasticism is not a philosophical school or current of thought but rather, it describes the methods of study characteristic of the medieval universities and also, in the view of some historians, the particular accommodation between Christian doctrine and rational investigation reached by scholars there.
3). Some of the vocabulary about God in the scholastic method. A).
Aseity = Latin, God is self-caused and self-existent. i.
Aseity or the self-caused-ness of God makes God to be so perfect that He cannot suffer but the Bible says God did suffer on several fronts. a.
He Suffers due to Hell because Hell is the eternal ulcer that eats away at the stomach of God.
He suffered at the cross.
This reduces the theology of God into minuscular segments of what and who God is.
This view says God is not moved by passion.
The corollary to this assumption about God is God and men are equal with each other.
Simple or the ultimate substance which cannot be reduced any further.
Immense or God is so large that He is not capable of being measured – this is based on mathematical models and does not work well with revelatory norms.
Omnipotent or all powerful without limits.
Omnipresent or His everywhereness.
Omniscient or His ability to know all at the same time.
Infinite – God is greater than all our minds and therefore, man’s mind cannot grasp all of who He is.
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Immutable/Unchanging – God never changes in anything that he does. i.
However, God does change His mind about things based on the circumstances that are presented before him.
God’s moral nature and His natural attributes do not change but His moral nature tempers and conditions His natural attributes and gives freedom to God to change with the circumstances that are presented to Him at the moment without changing His moral nature.
Self-sufficient – whatever God is and all that God is, He is in Himself and is true to Himself.
Immense/Awesome – His immensity and beauty demand one to pay attention to Him, eliciting praise for the beauty of who He is.
Sovereignty - the quality of having supreme, independent authority over what He has created and made.
4). Examples in two people of Christian history that used the scholastic model to study and present God in theology. A).
Thomistic Philosophy [Theology] of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 7 March 1274) divides God and the things of God or created by God into esse (Latin, act of existence) and essence. i.
Thomas Aquinas, also known as Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Roman Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus (Latin, [the] Angelic Doctor), Doctor Communis (Latin, Common Doctor) or Doctor Universalis (Latin, Universal Doctor).
Saint Thomas Aquinas developed a metaphysical view of reality unlike anything that had come along during his lifetime.
His metaphysics of essence and existence, his theory of act and potency, his views concerning the analogy of being, his stress on the primacy of existence (Latin, esse), his metaphysics of participation in being--each had an important role in the development of what it means to live in time and space and how God accomplishes this creative act of existence and essence.
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Aquinas had sought to convert from the prior metaphysical philosophers of Plato and Aristotle to a new metaphysics in the distinction and relationship between existence and essence and form and Ideals. a.
Plato and Aristotle posited that reality is unchanging, eternal, immaterial, and can be detected only by the intellect. i). Plato and Aristotle referred to these realities as Ideas or Forms. ii). Plato and Aristotle speculated that since we have ideas of perfections that do not exist in the real world, they must exist somewhere. iii). For instance, nowhere can we find a perfect line, since a perfect line has no width or height and is one-dimensional. iv). Well, since we've never seen a perfect line then the idea must exist somewhere outside of the world we interact with through our senses.
The metaphysics of Aquinas differed significantly from that of Plato and Aristotle. i). This is evident in the distinction made by Thomas Aquinas between form and matter. aa. Every material substance is composed of both form and matter. ba. The form is the universal element that places an object in its class or species such as horse or chair. ca. The individuated particular members of the class are found in the matter. da. For instance, John and Peter have the same form-the form of humanness. ea. But they are two separate and distinct persons.
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fa. John is 5 foot 6 while Peter is 6 foot 5. It is the matter that distinguishes between the two. ii). Aquinas also made a clear distinction between act and potency. aa. Act is that which exist, while potency is that which can be, or the capacity for being. ba. To illustrate using our previous example, John as a man has actuality that is he is actually a man. ca. He is actually 5 foot 6, and weighs 160 lbs. da. But as a man, John also has a certain amount of potentiality. ea. He can become seven feet tall, 350 lbs. fa. As a man he can also be black, white, or any other color that man can potentially be. ga. It is act which gives something whatever positive perfection it has, and potency which allows it to acquire a new act or perfection which it does not have at the moment. ha. It is through this concept that Aquinas addresses one of the main concerns of philosophers; that of how something changes yet retains its identity. iii). God alone is Pure Act, since He has no potential to become something else. aa. Every contingent being, however, is a combination of act and potential. ba. M. C. D'arcy writes of Aquinas' view: Every being which can change in any way, which needs the help of any other being to explain itself and to exits, must be composed (M. C. D'arcy, St. Thomas
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Aquinas (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1953), 79). ca. Dâ€™arcy goes on to say: It is not pure act; it is act in so far as it is something actual and determinate, but it is relative nonbeing or potency in so far as it does not contain a necessity for existing with itself (Dâ€™arcy, St. Thomas Aquinas, 81)? c.
At the center of Aquinas' metaphysics is his distinction between essence and existence (Latin, esse). i). Essence is what a being is and existence is the act by which a being is. aa. Or to put it another way, the essence of something is its what-ness, while its existence is its is-ness. ba. What something is is its essence, the fact that it is is its existence. ii). Under the philosophy of Aquinas these are distinct. aa. But although distinct, there is a definite dependence on one another. ba. One cannot exist without the other. ca. Frederick Copleston writes: There is no essence without existence and no existence without essence; the two are created together, and if its existence ceases, the concrete essence ceases to be (Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. 2, Medieval Philosophy (New York: Doubleday, 1962), 335). da. Copleston adds: Existence, then, is neither matter nor form; it is neither an essence nor part of an essence; it is the act by which the essence is or has being" and "existence is not a state of the essence, but rather that which places the essence in a state of actuality (Copleston, vol. 2, 332).
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iii). Summary of what is essence? aa. It is what a thing is. ba. It is what makes a thing to be what it is. ca. It is its whatness. da. One way to do this is to ask ourselves what makes a what to be a what, or what is whatness? ea. What is the essence of essences? fa. These are strange questions, to be sure, but ones that Thomas posed in his own way, and to which he gave a fascinating answer that came to revolutionize metaphysics (what is there, what is it like) of his time. ga. An essence, or a what, is a certain capacity for existence. ha. Different essences or what are partial reflections or refractions of what it means to exist, to be, just like different colors of the rainbow are partial refractions of sunlight. ia. This is the heart of the metaphysics of Aquinas in one simple lesson, but its simplicity comes from its depth, and we need to penetrate into that depth by focusing on the relationship between essence and existence if we are to grasp what it truly means for Aquinas. iv). Summary of what is existence. aa. All around us are existing things. ba. We have no doubt there are apples, butterflies, and elephants.
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ca. They are certainly different, but they all exist. da. Existence is the thatness of things in the sense of the very fact that they exist, or the isness of things. d.
Not surprisingly, Aquinas' metaphysics begins with God. i). God is Being. aa. In Him essence and existence are identical. ba. He is necessary, essential, and without limitation. ca. He is existence while everything else has existence. ii). This existence is necessary if anything was to ever exist since for anything to be possible there must be something existing. aa. And it must be of His nature to exist; nonexistence is not possible for God. ba. In everything else there is a distinction between essence and existence. ca. God is the uncaused cause of everything else so His existence must be necessary. da. That is, He could not have not existed.
So, in the hierarchy of being we have God who is Pure Act in which essence and existence are identical. i). Below Him are angles: they possess no matter because they are spiritual beings; they are pure form; they have both essence (potency) and existence (act). ii). Below the angles, we have man: his form is that of the rational soul and body; he also has both essence and existence.
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iii). Below humans are things: they have no soul; they are purely material form; they also have both essence and existence. iv). As we can see, the composition of act and potentiality is found in every finite being. v.
There also exist a relationship between form and matter, act and potential, and essence and existence. a.
It is the form of something that determines or completes its essence, but the essence is actualized by its existence. i). The form is that which is, but existence is the act by which the form is. ii). Matter is described by Aquinas as pure potentiality, while form is act. iii). Copleston writes, the cause of existence; it is act, distinct from the potentiality which it actualizes (Copleston, vol. 2, 26).
How does one extract the material reality about a thing from its essence and existence? i). There are two fundamental ways in which we can look at things. aa. We can ask about the elephant, what is it? ba. And we can assert about the elephant that it is. ii). But we have to go deeper and explore the relationship between essence and existence. aa. Aquinas believed that existence (i.e., esse, that which is already existing or actual) is in the act of being (that which is potential or is becoming potential) and is exercised by beings. ba. Aquinas believed the view of the actual is in that which is or has potential is similar to form in Platoâ€™s philosophy, in that it
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actualizes potency as form actualizes matter. ca. Taking the notions of an act/potency relationship learned from cosmology as form and matter, he expands the notion of form by means of analogy. da. Just as the substantial form of a material being determines and makes actual some part of matter, so esse or existence actualizes the potency of a thing's essence. ea. This similarity is an analogous one because, the essence of a thing is not separable in real beings of existence or esse, as the form is not separable from matter in abstraction; the two are only distinguishable because of their own very real distinction. iii). Esse (existence) is logically prior to all other potencies because a thing cannot be in a certain way unless it simply is. aa. So, because of this logical priority of existence, Thomas calls it with being the most formal [thinking] of all. ba. The actuality of all acts (esse, existence) is in the essence of those things that are potential since a thing is in virtue of esse and acts are of supposits (Latin, a thing that is considered to be the premise or subject of philosophical theory or query). ca. From the Thomistic Philosophical concept of that which is actuality is already in that which is potential, the Roman Catholic Church developed the church decree of anti-abortion and anti-contraceptives because that potential life which is in the womb of woman is already actual life in the real world.
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da. Thus, to deny the beginnings of life through the method of contraceptives or to destroy life in the method of abortion is on equality with murder because each method destroys potential life that is considered to be actual life in Roman Church teachings. ea. Thomas Aquinas derived this understanding from Aristotle and not the Bible. fa. Though the Bible is in agreement with the concept of anti-abortion but does not necessarily oppose the use of contraceptives, it is in opposition to the Aristotelian premise from which Aquinas derived his view of potentiality and actuality with being of equal weight in reality. B).
Edgar Young Mullins (January 5, 1860, Franklin County, Mississippi â€“ November 23, 1928, Louisville, Kentucky) was a Baptist minister and educator, who from 1899 until his death, was the fourth president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and who viewed God in His natural and moral attributes. i.
In The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression, 1917, Mullins discusses God according to natural and moral attributes. a.
The moral attributes are those which in the human context would relate to the concept of rightness (as opposed to wrongness) such as Godâ€™s holiness, love, forgiveness, acceptance, mercy, and faithfulness.
Natural attributes are the non-moral superlatives of God, such as His knowledge (omniscience) and power (omnipotence).
This perspective appears to be a hideous distinction because it gives the idea that this view subjects the natural attributes of God to be non-moral while only the moral attributes are representative of morality but is not exactly what Mullins was saying.
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i). What Mullins was saying is that the natural attributes are attributes of God’s greatness while moral attributes are attributed to the goodness of God in creation. aa. The natural attributes or the greatness of God are in His self-existence, immutability, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, eternity and immensity. ba. The moral attributes or the attributes of God’s goodness are in His love, forgiveness, acceptance, utter-self-giving, and servanthood, faithfulness to His moral being, other-centeredness, holiness, and love-wrath. ii). The natural laws of God are those laws which are within God Himself while the moral attributes of God are those laws with which God uses in His creation; the laws of moral attribution, however, temper the laws of the natural attributions of God. ii.
Mullins spoke of God’s natural attributes as those that relate to His unchanging character while His moral attributes are the ones by which he relates to His creation (The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression, p. 225, 265-276, 343). a.
In the doctrine of election, God’s natural attribute of omniscience and His moral attribute of love comes together (The Christian Religion, p. 225).
In God’s omniscience, He foresees the future in exact detail, making His election to be based on His foreknowledge (The Christian Religion, p. 225, 343)
God’s motivation in election is love, wanting all to repent, but He knows who will and will not repent (The Christian Religion, p. 265).
Thus, God’s moral and natural attributes are seen together (The Christian Religion, p. 343).
B. The revelatory or functional model of studying God.
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1). The Bible shows what God does, and from those acts by which He has done in history is how we know God. 2). The presupposition of the revelatory or functional mode of God is in the Latin phrase finitium non capax infiniti (the finite is not capable of knowing the infinite). A).
This view prefers to explore the acts of God in history and extract from these characteristics of who He is from what He has done.
This view is biblical and functional.
3). Look at God’s acts. A).
Because God does these things that are in history, He must be like with what He does.
God is known by His activity in history.
IX Eschatology in mission. 1. This section of the paper and the additional ones that follow focus on the importance of eschatological life for Christian living and mission. A. This renewed call for eschatological life among Christians is set in the context of modern materialism and secularism. B. The study reflects on eschatological perspectives based on the Old and New Testament teachings, their implications for mission as applied both to proclamation and social engagement. 2. Eschatology is built upon the moral character of God that extends down in not only the past and present but also in the future. A. Christians are commanded to enter into the pilgrimage of being made after the moral pattern of the Father God through Jesus Christ and by His Spirit. B. The values of the moral character of God not only worked in pre-history and the beginning of history but also work in the present and future and one can build his life on the solid foundation of God’s moral values. C. The goal of the Christian is to be made into Christlikeness and pilgrim into becoming eschatological man in the present. 1). This is the ideal of the Apostle Paul’s concept of the Whole Man in Christ through the renewing of one’s mind by the Spirit of God (Rom. 12:2).
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2). One does not need to wait for the future to come but the future enters into the present and transforms men after God’s own value system through Christ and by the Holy Spirit. 3). By being transformed into the image of Christ’s moral character in the here and now, it will create the conditions within to be able to migrate from the present stage into the future and not be over-whelmed. A).
One must be transformed into eschatological man in his present historical environment by Christi’s moral nature before he can easily enter into the future without incurring serious and damaging consequences.
When Christ comes again, it will be His power and might that will be displayed in the world and one needs to be made like Christ in His moral nature in the here and now if one is to succeed in entering into the future life without being overwhelmed by Christ’s omnipotence.
3. It is from the insights of this introductory section of the paper that set the premises of how to create an eschatology in Christian thinking. A. At first sight the connection between mission and eschatology may appear remote. 1). Mission is concerned with the practical task of dealing with the world as is and not as we wish it to be while eschatology, to many minds, is a somewhat obscure doctrine relating to what are generally termed the last things. 2). Servanthood stands at the very center of the Church's call to the world and is a present imperative that is able to transform the world after the pattern of the value system of the Kingdom of God. B. Eschatology is thought to be a subject largely theoretical and speculative in character, forming more or less, a postscript to the central acts of faith. 1). It is the sign of the new thinking at work in the Church today that this approach to eschatology no longer satisfies human intellect and curiosity. 2). The Church is moved very far from the conception of eschatology with being a secondary element in Christian belief to a position where we recognize it to be central and determinative for the understanding of the faith as a whole. 3). Neither are we content with the conception of mission as simply a practical task for which no theological insights or norms are necessary.
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4). Indeed we are coming to realize that not only . . . are the missionary task of the Church and the theological faith of the Church are inseparably linked but eschatology and evangelism have a special and particular relevance for each other (R. A. Nelson, Mission and Eschatology, Ecumenical Review, VI, 1954, 147). A).
It is startling to know that the preaching of the Gospel to all the nations is itself an eschatological sign.
In the New Testament the missionary preacher and equipper of the saints in the churches are set forth as a sign of the end and of the coming fulfillment of God's ultimate purpose for the human race. i.
It is linked with other eschatological signs like wars and rumors of wars and world catastrophes.
This is the meaning of the words in Matthew 24:14 along with the parallel text in Mark 13:10, This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.
4. Christian theology of the last days favor a theological approach of both/and. A. Thus we try to affirm an eschatology that is both futuristic and realized at the same time. B. The Kingdom of God that is the finality of history has already been realized in the Incarnation, Jesusâ€™ preaching of the kingdom, and especially in the mysterious connection of his historical human life and the transcendent event of His resurrection. C. On the other hand, human history is still on the way to somewhere. D. The Risen Christ has not yet come to full stature (Eph 4:13) and world is still groaning for its full redemption. (Rom 8:21-22). E. We must be sure that this both/and approach is an invitation to live in a creative tension rather than a way to absolve ourselves from having to make any theological claim at all. 1). Living in such a tense, two-fold theology of history will lead us to a double sense of mission. A).
First, our realized eschatology, our belief that history has partially reached its completion in the resurrection of Christ but will be completed in the future upon Christiâ€™s coming again, will lead us to
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proclaim to the world the great joy that fallen, fallen is Babylon the great (Rev 18:2)!
This will be a mission of preaching and proclamation, of bringing the good news to the world that it has been freed from its bondage of decay and may begin to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:21).
It is in the eschatological passages of the New Testament in which we most often find exhortation toward both mission and personal spiritual renewal.
Second, our belief in a not yet, in a futuristic eschatology, will lead us to a mission of service. i.
This vision of history as not yet complete will call us to serve the world as healers and prophets.
This is the missionary mandate to heal the sick and preach the coming kingdom, (Lk 9:1-3) to denounce injustice, and to bind up the brokenhearted. (Is 61:1).
2). The belief on the importance of mission to the eschatological plan of creationâ€™s completion by God is highlighted by the proclamation of the Gospel. A).
The apostles understood eschatology not merely as futurology but as a mind-set for understanding the present within the climaxing context of the redemptive history. i.
That is, the apostles understood that they were already living in the end times, and that they were to understand their present salvation in Christ to be already an end-time reality.
Every aspect of their salvation was to be conceived of as eschatological in nature.
To put this in another way, the major doctrines of the Christian faith are charged with eschatological electricity. i.
Just as when you put on green sunglasses, everything you see is green, so Christ through the Spirit had placed eschatological sunglasses on his disciples so that everything they looked at in the Christian faith had an end-time tint.
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This means that the doctrine of eschatology in New Testament theology textbooks should not merely be one among many doctrines that are addressed but should be the through which all the doctrines are best understood.
Furthermore, eschatology should not be placed at the end of New Testament theology textbooks or at the end of chapters dealing with all the different New Testament corpuses because it purportedly describes only the very end of the world as we know it.
Rather, the doctrine of eschatology could be part of the title of such a textbook because every major theological concept breathes the air of a latter-day atmosphere.
5. To understand the mission of the Church in its eschatological importance is to understand what Christianity means to God. A. Several insights into authentic Christianity are: 1). The creative acceptance of Christâ€™s call to make willing learners (disciples) of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). 2). Christâ€™s ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). 3). Christ bringing all things under His own sovereignty (I Cor. 15:17-28, Eph. 1:9-10, 22). 4). The preaching of the good news to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, bringing deliverance to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, giving liberty to those who are bruised, and proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of the Jubilee] (Lk. 4:16-21). 5). The unifying of all things in Heaven and upon earth to Him who first brought them into being is the major theme of cosmic redemption in Scriptures (Acts 3:19-21). B. In the shadow of these magnificent insights, we have two value systems on which to base our lives. 1). The values that are founded on and created by men. A).
The values of the world are not always evil in themselves but when they become ends in themselves, they pervert and dehumanize persons who really need truth, love and God in order to fulfill their lives.
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Christ’s call to discipleship is in the remaking of persons on God’s moral value system that brings a new way of life as contrasted with the world’s inadequate values.
For people to grasp the divine value system there must be no blurring of the demands of discipleship or any watering-down of Christ’s demands by making them to be man-oriented rather than centered in Christ.
2). The values that are founded on the moral nature of the Creator. A).
There are many moral values of the divine Godhead but the major ones of God’s moral character around which all others revolve are in His unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, unconditional forgiveness, other-centeredness, utter-self-giving, servanthood, faithfulness to His own moral being, and love-wrath.
From these values, God fashions a people who are totally unique and whole from the rest of the world and become the eschatological colonies on earth in the here and now and in a sin-marred world to bring about authentic Christianity’s mission.
X The story of redemption is not only a present reality but also is found in the yet-to-come cosmic restoration and unifying to Christ of all things in Heaven and earth that have been fractured by sin. 1. Over the past quarter of a century various evangelical Christian voices have articulated the bold, even startling, theological claim that the eternal destiny of the redeemed consists in the renewal of earthly life, to the exclusion of a disembodied Heaven hereafter. A. This claim goes beyond the traditional, hybrid idea that we will experience eternal fellowship with God in Heaven, conceived as a non‐physical realm, through the medium of a resurrected body. 1). Indeed, this claim does away entirely with the notion of Heaven as an eternal hope, since this notion is thought to be fundamentally incompatible with authentic biblical faith. 2). In some circles this claim has been warmly received and in other circles, however, it has been condemned as heresy. B. Christians should explore the exegetical case for a consistent understanding of redemption as the restoration of God’s creational intent, such that the appropriate hope of the redeemed is life in a renewed intra‐mundane, earthly creation.
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2. Let us first clarify the inner theological logic of this claim, by contrasting it with alternate conceptions of creation and redemption that are derived from outside the Bible. A. Here I am concerned particularly with conceptions that have functioned as a normative grid or lens through which Christians have often read Scripture. 1). It is important to distinguish, first of all, how creation is understood in Scripture from its conception in the modern western worldview (beginning in the Renaissance), since this has impacted how we tend to use the term. A).
The tradition of modernity typically limits creation to “nature” (the non‐human, plus the body), as distinct from the human realm of freedom, which is thought to transcend nature.
Creation in the biblical tradition, however, includes human society and culture in all its complexity and fullness, along with our earthly environment; an idea that the Bible shares with its ancient Mesopotamian milieu.
This fuller biblical conception of creation; which includes the entire human socio‐cultural order and the realm of the demonic and spiritual—is ignored by many Christians in their reading of Scripture.
The idea of the redemption of creation; if it is in view at all; is typically reduced to the (admirable) task of caring for the environment. i.
Yet this is only one facet of the complex human relationship to the non‐ human world.
On a biblical worldview, all human cultural activities and social institutions arise from our interaction with this environment.
The reduction of creation to nature results in the absence of critical reflection on the defining human calling to develop culture and the redemptive calling to participate in its transformation.
2). But a second distinction is also necessary, concerning how we conceive, not creation, but redemption. A).
Here we need to distinguish redemption in the biblical testimony from its logic in the Greek philosophical tradition that has come down to us from Plato; a tradition that has deeply influenced the Church’s worldview.
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In Scripture, redemption is conceived most fundamentally as the reversal of the fall and the restoration of God’s good purposes from the beginning.
By way of contrast, in our dualistic philosophical inheritance from Plato, redemption is conceived as transferal from a lower, inferior realm (variously understood as body, earth, matter, nature or the secular) to a higher, more valued or esteemed realm (understood as soul, Heaven, spirit, the realm of grace or the sacred).
This dualistic assumption is often simply superimposed over biblical texts that address redemption and so leads to a distortion of the Bible’s message. i.
Whereas a dualistic understanding of redemption typically devalues the good world with which God created and encourages an aspiration to transcend finitude, the biblical worldview leads to an affirmation of the goodness of creation, along with a desire to pray and work for the redemption of precisely this world (including human, socio‐cultural institutions) that earthly life might be restored to what it was meant to be.
Not only is this world to be restored but the world of the spiritual is within the grasps of redemption and transformation.
Being aware of the distinction between these two conceptions of redemption helps clarify the significance of the creation‐ fall‐ redemption paradigm that is utilized by many who are interested in developing a Christian worldview.
It is important to emphasize here that redemption as the reversal of the fall and the restoration of creation does not mean a return to primitive beginnings. a.
This caution is sometimes behind the theological proposal that we should replace the creation‐ fall‐ redemption paradigm with a creation‐ fall‐ redemption‐ consummation paradigm, since the final eschatological state transcends the simple restoration of creation. i). There is certainly validity to this proposal.
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ii). Indeed, there is good biblical evidence for significant discontinuity between creation and redemption. b.
We may think of Paul’s contrast in 1 Corinthians 15 between present mortal body and the resurrection body, a contrast analogous to the difference between a seed and a fully‐grown plant. i). Likewise, the resurrected Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels as being able to walk through walls and perhaps materialize at will. ii). Nevertheless, the resurrected Jesus is still recognizably the same person and even eats a meal of fish with his disciples on the beach—which suggests a fundamental continuity between creation and redemption.
Likewise, a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 15 reveals that the discontinuity Paul emphasizes is between the body as corrupted by the fall and the body finally freed from the bondage of sin. i). That is, the primary reason why eschatological redemption differs from our present life in the world is that it entails the removal of sin and death. aa. But even beyond the discontinuity represented by the removal of sin, it is clear that redemption is not a simple return to primal origins. ba. The Bible itself portrays the move from creation to eschaton as movement from a garden (in Genesis 2) to a city (in Revelation 21‐22). ca. Redemption does not reverse, but rather embraces, historical development. da. The transformation of the initial state of the earth into complex human societies is not part of the fall, but rather the legitimate creational mandate of humanity.
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ea. Creation was never meant to be static, but was intended by God from the beginning to be developmental, moving toward a goal. ii). Nevertheless, while there is thus a certain discontinuity between eschatological redemption and the original state of creation, it is important to emphasize that redemption in the Scriptures is the restoration of God’s creational intent for humanity and the world and Heaven, including the development of culture and society through humanity’s interaction with the earth and the spiritual domain. B. With these two distinctions (concerning creation and redemption) in mind, it becomes easier to see that the traditional picture of Heaven(found in many classic hymns and contemporary praise songs) as perpetual fellowship with, and worship of, God cannot constitute full redemption in biblical terms. 1). This is because the traditional picture typically omits (and thus implies the negation or abrogation of) large areas of human life that God created to be good. 2). Heaven, therefore, as an eschatological state does not constitute genuine redemption of the multifaceted world God intended from the beginning. 3. The logic of biblical redemption, when combined with a biblical understanding of creation, requires the restoration and renewal of the full complexity of human life in our earthly environment and in the world of the spiritual, yet without sin. A. But is this logic that is fleshed out in actual biblical teaching? – Answering this question will require an exegetical exploration of the content of Scripture based upon: 1). First, I will sketch the plot structure of the biblical story that is represented in abbreviated form by the creation‐fall‐redemption paradigm in the plot of the Biblical Story of Redemption. 2). Second, I will examine five New Testament texts that describe the Christian eschatological hope as the repairing of what went wrong in the fall and that apply this repair as holistically or comprehensively as possible to all creation, human and non‐human. 3). Third, I will examine a handful of New Testament texts that do not, on the surface, fit the model of redemption proposed here, and that are typically
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adduced as counter‐examples, since they seem to suggest a supra‐mundane destiny for the redeemed. B. It will be important to examine these proposed counter‐examples carefully for what they actually say. 4. The use of narrative story-telling plots in the Biblical story of redemption. A. Let us look first at the entire sweep of the story of redemption that the Bible tells. 1). Since the Bible is an immense literature, which I cannot hope to survey in the scope of this brief essay, my plan is to sketch only the outlines of its plot. 2). Indeed, it is at the skeletal level of plot that the narrative thrust of the story becomes clear. B. At its most basic level, plot is a matter of something going wrong and being fixed. 1). We call this narrative tension or complication and narrative resolution. 2). It is thus easy to see that the Bible’s story of sin and redemption constitutes the rudiments of a plot. 3). But I want to introduce a bit more complexity into the analysis and here I turn to categories I have adapted from Vladimir Propp (29 April [O.S. 17 April] 1895 — 22 August 1970; Refer to Morphology of the Folktale, 1929), and Algirdas Julien Greimas (9 March 1917, Tula, Imperial Russia - Died 27 February 1992 (aged 74) Paris, France; Refer to Of Gods and Men: Studies in Lithuanian Mythology, 1979), mediated through the work of New Testament scholar Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948; Refer to For Everyone Series, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004 -2011). A).
These categories focus on the sending of agents to accomplish tasks and are thus eminently applicable to the biblical macro‐narrative, which contains many examples of people called or elected by God for a particular mission.
But before applying them to the plot of the biblical story, it will be helpful to see how the categories work by applying them to an easier example—the story of Little Red Riding Hood). i.
Categories for Plot Analysis: Sender is mother, Agent is Little Red Riding Hood, Task is deliver goodies, Receiver is grandmother, Impediment is Big Bad Wolf, and Helper is Woodsman.
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The story begins when Little Red Riding Hood is sent by her mother to deliver a basket of goodies to her grandmother. i). Here we have an excellent illustration of an initial narrative sequence of sender (mom) - agent (Little Red Riding Hood) - task (deliver goodies) â€“ receiver (grandma). ii). Although this is how the story begins, there is as yet no plot.
The plot proper begins with the introduction of an impediment or complication, which prevents the initial narrative sequence from being completed and so enters the Big Bad Wolf. i). The initial agent, Little Red Riding Hood, now needs help. ii). So we have a helper (really a second agent), whose task is to bring aid to the first agent by removing the impediment. iii). In our story, the woodsman comes to the aid of Little Red Riding Hood by killing the Wolf who has swallowed the grandmother.
But the removal of the impediment is not yet the end of the story. a.
The story only reaches its fruition; that is, narrative resolution occurs when the initial narrative sequence is finally completed.
Since the story began with Little Red Riding Hood trying to deliver the basket of goodies to her grandmother, the story properly ends only when Little Red and her grandma; and now also the woodsman have a picnic together.
4). If we were to apply these categories of plot analysis to the story with which the Bible tells, it is possible to sketch the plot structure of the entire Bible. 5. The Main Plots of the Biblical Story: To Rule - God, Humanity, Earth (the nations); Blessings - Abraham/Israel; Deliverance - Moses, Judges, Kings, Prophets, Jesus.
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A. Main Plot Level 1: Creation and the Human Calling to Rule the Earth. 1). The initial narrative sequence of Scripture is quite clear: God creates the human race to rule the earth. A).
This is the biblical version of the sequence sender - agent - task receiver. i.
This narrative sequence is found in the three primary statements of human creation in the Bible. a.
In Genesis 1:26‐28 the divinely commissioned human task is portrayed as ruling animals and subduing the earth; in Genesis 2:15 the human task is described as working and protecting the garden; and Psalm 8:3-8, tells us that God made humans rulers over the works of God’s hands and has put “all things” under their feet, with various forms of animal life listed as examples. i). In all these creation texts, the movement is missional—from God via humans outward to the earth. ii). And the fundamental human task is conceived as the responsible exercise of power on God’s behalf over the non‐ human world.
It is sometimes shocking for readers of the Bible to realize that the initial purpose and raison d’être (French, reason for existence) of humanity is never explicitly portrayed in Scripture as the worship of God (or anything that would conform to our notion of the “spiritual,” with its dualistic categories). i). Instead, Scripture portrays the human purpose in rather mundane terms of exercising power over our earthly environment as God’s representatives. ii). In the context of the ancient Near East (which is the Bible’s original context), rule of the earth refers most basically to the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, which are the basis of human societal organization, and ultimately includes the development of all aspects of culture, technology and civilization.
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iii). To put it another way, while various psalms (like 148 and 96) indeed call upon all creatures (humans included) to worship or serve God in the cosmic temple of creation (Heaven and earth), the distinctive way humans worship or render service to the Creator is by the development of culture through interaction with our earthly environment (in a manner that glorifies God). B).
But a complication or impediment soon arises to prevent completion of the initial narrative sequence. i.
In Genesis 3 this is portrayed initially as human transgression or violation of a boundary God has prescribed (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), with consequences for inter‐ human boundary transgression in Genesis 4 (Cain’s murder of Abel, then Lamech’s bigamy and his retribution killing of a youth who injured him). a.
These consequences of the original transgression escalate in each generation that follows, until violence—which is fundamentally inter‐human violation—fills the earth. Indeed, human violence or bloodshed, which has corrupted the earth, is noted in Genesis 6 as the reason for the flood.
However, Genesis 8 understands the flood as an ultimately failed attempt at narrative resolution, since the human heart has not been changed.
2). That is, while the initial narrative sequence of Scripture expects humanity to work together, exercising power vis‐à‐vis their earthly environment, in order to transform the initially primitive earthly state into a complex culture that brings glory to God, humans rebel against God and increasingly use their power against each other, resulting in the world of violence, brutality and abuse we know only too well—indeed, resulting in our subjection of the earth to corruption or futility. B. Main Plot Level 2: Blessings through Abraham/Israel. 1). God then initiates a secondary narrative sequence—a subplot in the biblical story—that will frame the rest of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament.
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God calls Abraham out from the now diversified human race (described as the nations or the families of the earth) to be a new agent or helper, precisely to impact the human race, the original agent.
While God promises Abraham a large family—indeed a nation— with its own land, neither of these is the ultimate purpose for which Abraham has been called.
2). In five texts in Genesis (starting with 12:1‐3), God tells Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their purpose (including that of their descendants) is to mediate blessing to the human race—as if this new family will be God’s priests in the world. A).
The task entrusted to Abraham and his descendants is, narratively speaking, to aid in reconciling humanity to God and thus restoring humanity to its original purpose, by helping to remove or overcome the impediment of sin/violence.
Whereas human power or agency was originally to be used for cultural development of our earthly environment, in a post‐fall world, it is (also) to be used redemptively, for addressing the problem of human evil and brokenness.
C. Main Plot Level 3: Deliverance through Moses, Judges, Kings, Prophets and Jesus. 1). But a new impediment arises in Israel’s bondage to Egypt to Moses and his delivering of Israel from the shackles of bondage. A).
Summarizing a great deal of narrative detail here, Abraham’s family migrates to Egypt due to a famine, increases in number there and ends up in bondage. i.
God then calls a new narrative agent to help this family, now known as Israel. a.
This agent is Moses, whose story (a sub‐subplot) takes up four books of the Pentateuch (Exodus to Deuteronomy).
Summarizing further, Moses’ complex narrative task is to bring deliverance to Israel, to mediate the Torah as instruction for Israel’s communal life, and to guide the newly liberated people back to the land initially promised to Abraham.
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Moses is successful in this task.
In terms of the plot, we would expect that Israel would now get on with the task of bringing blessing to the nations. a.
And, indeed, we find a re‐articulation of the Abrahamic calling, applied to the entire nation in Exodus 19:3‐6.
Right after the exodus from Egypt, when the people have arrived at Mt. Sinai, Moses tells them that they are called—in the context of the whole earth, which belongs to God—to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (19:6).
This is another way of describing the Abrahamic calling of mediating blessing to the world.
But new impediments arise that prevent the fulfillment of this task. i.
Summarizing even more detail here, we could sketch God’s call of Gideon in Judges 6:11‐17 to deliver Israel from oppression by their enemies once they are in the land of promise—and God calls other judges too, over and over—but these plot resolutions are all temporary. a.
Indeed, the institution of judges degenerates in the person of Sampson, the anti‐judge, followed by bloody inter‐ tribal violence, when everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25).
In sum, life has again regressed to the pre‐flood situation.
Then follows God’s reluctant concession to Israel’s request for a king like the nations to govern them and fight their battles (1 Samuel 8). a.
In the midst of a complex narrative of mostly failed kings, who do not help in restoring Israel to their mission of bringing blessing to the world, God begins sending prophets, first to the kings, but then to the people.
But the prophets’ message to both king and people to return to the LORD largely goes unheeded, resulting in the Assyrian destruction of the Northern kingdom in the eighth century and then the Babylonian invasion of Judah in the sixth century, followed by exile.
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2). Finally—jumping even further ahead—God sends his son, Jesus the Christ, as a helper or agent to restore Israel to their purpose and task. It is important to note that, in terms of the plot structure of the Bible, Jesus did not come initially to save the world from sin, but to restore Israel—and this is confirmed by looking at the actual ministry and message of Jesus in the Gospels. A).
Not only do we have Jesus’ famous comments to a Canaanite woman about his mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” (Matthew 15:21‐28), but he also commissions the Twelve (symbolizing the core of a restored remnant) to aid him in this mission (Matthew 10:1‐ 16).
In this first commissioning of apostles (meaning sent ones), Jesus explicitly enjoins them not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the towns of Israel.
6. Sub-Plots: The Gentile Mission and the Human Calling Restored. A. Sub-plot level 1: The Gentile Mission. 1). Of course, by the end of Matthew, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, when a sufficiently large body of (Jewish) disciples have been gathered, the risen Jesus finally commissions the apostles to take up the Abrahamic task, namely to go to the nations/Gentiles with the message of the Gospel. 2). The story of the Gentile mission then takes up much of the book of Acts and is the background to the Pauline and general epistles. A).
I want to conclude this sketch of the biblical plot by comparing two New Testament texts that describe the calling of the people of God.
Both of these texts clearly show the mission of Christ was placed squarely in the Gentile’s hands. i.
It is fascinating to see the stylized (form‐critical) similarities in the call narratives of Moses (Exodus 3:1‐4:18), Gideon (Judges 6:11‐7), Saul (1 Samuel 9:15‐21), David (2 Samuel 7:8‐27), Solomon (1 Kings 3:4‐9) and Jeremiah (1:1‐19), especially the objection that the one called is inadequate (typically framed as a question or series of questions, focused on Who am I?). a.
It is intriguing that there are similarities between the questions in these texts and the question in Psalms 8,
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what is humanity (man), a text that describes the human calling. b.
All these texts have fundamentally the same function, in that they (but not only they) describe the empowering of agents to impact the biblical story.
The Abrahamic blessing is specifically interpreted in Acts 3:25‐ 26 as the offering of salvation depend on the first articulation of Israel’s calling at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:3‐6) and they will serve to illustrate how the biblical plot structure moves from level 3 (Deliverance through Moses to Jesus) back to level 2 (Blessings through Abraham and Israel) and then back to level 1 (Creation and the human calling to rule) again.
The first New Testament text—which comes after the successful plot resolution effected by Jesus—uses language taken from the Exodus 19 description of God’s election of Israel to articulate the mission of the Church, now composed of both Jews and Gentiles (due to the continuing success of the Gentile mission).
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
While the language is different from that found in the Great Commission, the task here is fundamentally the same.
This is a continuation of the Abrahamic calling. a.
God’s redeemed people are called to mediate blessing to the world.
We are back to level 2 (Blessings through Abraham and Israel) in the plot structure.
B. Sub-Plot Level 2: The Human Calling Restored. 1). However, we find a very different use of this Exodus 19 language in the Book of Revelation of John. A).
In John’s eschatological vision of worshipers around God’s Heavenly throne, we discover a group of Heavenly creatures singing praise to
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the Lamb who was slain and who is “standing” in resurrection victory. B).
The Gentile mission that was inaugurated with the call of Abraham/Israel is here portrayed as complete—the nations have received the blessing of salvation.
Therefore, the worshipers sing to the Lamb: i.
You are worthy because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God members from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth (Revelation 5:9‐10). a.
Here, once the subplot of the sending of Israel has been successful and the nations have received the blessing of salvation, the redeemed human race will once again utilize their God‐given power and agency to rule the earth as God intended—a renewal of the human cultural task, but this time without sin.
The initial narrative sequence of the biblical story will finally be fulfilled.
Far from being the end or cessation of history, this is history’s true beginning, free from the constraints of human violation either vis‐à‐vis God, other humans or the earth itself.
What have we learned from this sketch of the biblical story? a.
By attending to the basic thrust and movement of the biblical plot it becomes abundantly clear that eschatological redemption consists in nothing other than the renewal of human cultural life on earth.
The important point here is that the idea of Heaven as the eternal hope of the righteous has no structural place in the story. i). It is simply irrelevant and extraneous to the plot. ii). Heaven was never part of God’s purposes for humanity in the beginning of the story and has no
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intrinsic role as the final destiny of human salvation. iii). Indeed, that there is not one single reference in the entire biblical canon (Old or New Testament) to Heaven as the eternal destiny of the believer. iv). While this idea has a vastly important role in popular Christian imagination (and even in some theologies), not once does Scripture itself actually say that the righteous will live forever in Heaven. 2). The Comprehensive Scope of Redemption in the New Testament. A).
But this conclusion is not simply derived from examining the plot structure of the Bible.
It is, further, supported by specific statements made in various New Testament texts that describe the final, eschatological completion of salvation—what is expected to happen when God’s redemptive purposes come to fruition. i.
I will examine five such texts and in each of these texts I am interested in two interconnected questions: a.
First, how is the saving activity of God described?
And, second, what is the object or recipient of God’s saving activity?
When we ask these two questions of each text, we will see a definite pattern emerge.
First text – Acts 3:19-21. a.
The simplest and perhaps most cryptic of the texts is Acts 3. i). Here Peter is preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem. ii). In verses 19‐21 of his sermon, he exhorts his hearers: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
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aa. He must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. (Acts 3:19‐21) ba. It is clear in this text that the eschatological saving activity of God is described as restoration and that it is applied as comprehensively as possible, to everything (verse 21). b.
This somewhat brief and cryptic statement gains clarity from comparing it to other statements in various New Testament Epistles.
Second text – Ephesians 1:9-10. a.
Thus, in Ephesians 1 we have a long Pauline sentence describing God’s plan of salvation. i). The most important section for our purposes is verses 9‐10. ii). And he [God] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in Heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Ephesians 1:9‐10).
Here salvation is understood as the task of unifying, under one head (namely Christ), that which has been fragmented (or perhaps alienated) and this unifying action is applied comprehensively to all things in Heaven and on earth (verse 10).
Third text – Colossians 1:19-20. a.
Our third text is from Colossians 1, which contains another long Pauline sentence. i). Verses 19‐20 constitute the conclusion of this sentence and articulate God’s purpose in sending Christ.
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aa. God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19‐20). ba. In this text salvation is conceived as reconciliation or making peace between those who are at enmity, presumably by removing the source of that enmity, namely sin. ca. Indeed, verse 20 contains the idea of atonement through the blood of Christ. ii). But Paul does not myopically limit the efficacy of Christ’s atonement to humanity but rather, the reconciliation with God effected by Christ’s shed blood is applied as comprehensively as possible to all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven. b.
What Paul has in mind is cosmic redemption and not just the planet earth but all things seen and unseen shall be included in God’s unifying and restoration of fallen creation.
Fourth text – 2 Peter 3:10-13. a.
Our fourth text is from 2 Peter 3:10‐13. i). Although the text is dominated by language of judgment and destruction, there are two positive statements about redemption nestled in this text (in verses 10 and 13). aa. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The Heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. . . . That day will bring about the destruction of the Heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new Heaven and a new earth,
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the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:10, 12‐13). ba. Here the saving activity of God is described first as laying bare (or uncovering), with the earth designated as the object of this activity (verse 10). ca. The image is of the smelting of metal, where the dross is burned off so that the pure metal may be revealed (or laid bare). da. Then, at the end of verse 13 God’s saving activity is described as renewal, and this is applied to Heaven and earth (that is, the entire created universe), which will be characterized by righteousness. ii). We should pause here and note that prior to the New International Version, no English translation said the earth was laid bare at the end of verse 10. aa. Instead, translators typically followed the King James Version, which has burned up—a reading that certainly fits the dominant image of destruction in the text. ba. As is well‐known to New Testament scholars, this is not a translation decision, but rather a matter of textual criticism. ca. But whereas the translators of the KJV had only inferior Greek manuscripts available to them, and thus may be excused, many later English translators continued to utilize these inferior manuscripts despite the clear presence of the verb for laid bare (or revealed, uncovered or discovered) in the main Greek codices that form the primary witnesses used to construct the eclectic Greek text on which modern translations are typically based. da. It seems that, aided and abetted by a dualistic worldview which devalued earthly life and assumed a supra‐mundane
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destiny for the redeemed, translators allowed the tenor of judgment in 2 Peter 3 to overwhelm the text and determine their text‐critical choices (going against the dictum that the more difficult reading is probably the better reading). b.
While the text undoubtedly speaks of judgment and destruction (using the image of a cosmic conflagration), it describes the destruction, not of creation, but of sin, thus cleansing or purifying creation.
Text 5 – Romans 8:19-23. a.
The fifth text is Romans 8:19‐23. i). Here Paul draws on both the imagery of childbirth (labor pains) and the language of Exodus 2:23‐24, which portrays the Israelites groaning in their bondage under Pharaoh (a different sort of labor pains). aa. In Romans 8 Paul applies these images not just to the human condition, but to the entire created order. ba. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:19‐23). ca. Utilizing the model of deliverance from Egyptian bondage, Paul here portrays salvation first (in verse 21) as liberation or setting free from bondage, and this is
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applied to creation itself and also to humanity (described as the sons/children of God). da. It is because the human race implicitly takes the place of Pharaoh in Paul’s picture (subjecting creation to frustration) that non‐human creatures await human liberation. ea. Since humans have been granted dominion over the non‐human world, the oppressor has first to be liberated. ii). But human liberation is not simply internal (affecting only the soul), since salvation, portrayed as redemption—which continues the exodus imagery—is applied in verse 23 to our very bodies (a reference to the resurrection). C).
The Comprehensive Scope of Redemption from the five New Testament Texts Describing the Ultimate Goal of Salvation (Acts 3:19-21; Eph. 1:9-10; Col. 1:19-20; 2 Peter 3:10-13; rom. 8:19-23). i.
Summary of these verses. a.
Scripture Saving Activity of God described object of God’s Saving Activity - Acts 3:17-21 (esp. 21).
Restoration - everything - Ephesians 1:7-10 (esp. 10).
Bringing together, unifying (under one head) all things in Heaven and on earth - Colossians 1:16-20 (esp. 20).
Reconciliation (by removing the source of enmity, through the blood of the cross) all things whether on earth or in Heaven - 2 Peter 3:10-13 (esp. 10 & 13).
Uncovering, laying bare (having purified) Re-creation, renewal, making new the earth and everything in it Heaven and earth - Romans 8:19-23 (esp. 21 & 23).
Liberation, setting free (from bondage and decay).
Redemption of creation itself, humanity, and our bodies.
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Basic Characteristics of Salvation: Restorative Salvation is God repairing what went wrong with creation (not taking us out of the world, to Heaven).
Comprehensive and holistic God intends to redeem or restore all things in Heaven and on earth, including our bodies (salvation doesn’t just apply to the human soul).
When we pull together the unifying strands of these five texts, a clear pattern emerges. a.
First, salvation is conceived, not as God doing something completely new, but rather as re‐doing something, fixing or repairing what went wrong, an interpretation that is congruent with the biblical language of restoration, reconciliation, renewal, and redemption.
Second, this restorative work is applied as holistically and comprehensively as possible, to all things in Heaven and on earth. i). Since Heaven and earth is how Scripture typically designates the created order (with the earth consistently understood as the dwelling of humanity), the final salvific state envisioned in these texts clearly contradicts an understanding of a supra‐mundane Heaven as the ultimate dwelling‐ place of the redeemed. ii). According to the first chapters of Genesis humanity has been granted stewardship over their earthly environment. aa. It therefore follows that human corruption has inevitably affected that which has been entrusted to their care, with the result that the non‐human realm is now subjected to frustration. ba. That the redemption of the entire created order awaits the redemption of humanity thus implies a redeemed exercise of stewardship over the earth.
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ca. The text assumes that renewed cultural activity is the primary mode of human response to the lordship of Christ. 3). Problem Texts for a Holistic Eschatology. A).
There are, nevertheless, certain New Testament texts that do not—on the surface—fit the holistic model of redemption proposed here, and these texts are typically adduced as counter‐examples since they seem to suggest a supra‐mundane destiny for the redeemed. i.
These texts include Jesus’ reference to the place he was going to prepare for the disciples in John 14:1‐3, Paul’s description of his longed‐for Heavenly dwelling, along with his desire to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, in 2 Corinthians 5:1‐10, and the idea of the “rapture” in 1 Thessalonians 4:13‐18 and Matthew 24:36‐44.
It will be worth carefully examining these proposed counter‐ examples for what they actually say.
John 14:1-3. i.
In John 14 Jesus comforts the disciples, in the farewell discourse, about his imminent departure. a.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1‐3). i). On the surface, this certainly seems to say that Jesus is going to take the disciples to live with him in Heaven (his Father’s house with many rooms). ii). Undeniably, Jesus is returning to Heaven (even though the actual term is not used) to prepare a place for the disciples. iii). And when he returns they will, indeed, be with him but where will this be?
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aa. One answer is to look at Revelation 21:1‐5, with its vision of a new Heaven and a new earth (that is, a new creation). ba. There the seer reports, I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them (Revelation 21:2‐3). The very description of the New Jerusalem as a bride prepared for her husband should remind us of Jesus going to prepare a place for the disciples. ca. Indeed, both preparations take place in Heaven. ii.
In Revelation 21, however, the New Jerusalem (which is both a holy city and the people of God—that is, redeemed humanity in their concrete socio‐cultural, even urban, character), comes down out of Heaven. a.
Here it is very clear that the final, permanent dwelling place of God with humanity is on earth.
Indeed, one chapter later we are told (in Revelation 22:3) that in the New Jerusalem—which has come down from Heaven to earth—there will no longer be any curse (Genesis 3 will be finally reversed).
Instead, God will be enthroned there (on earth) and God’s servants (according to verse 5) will reign forever.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10. i.
A second text often cited as a counter‐example to a holistic vision of redemption is 2 Corinthians 5:1‐10.
This is the context of describing persecution and suffering.
Paul encourages his readers:
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For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our Heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our Heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:1‐5). i). When Paul goes on to correlate at home in the body with “away from the Lord” (5:6) and away from the body with at home with the Lord (5:8), it certainly sounds as though he is contrasting embodied life on earth with the hope of living in Heaven forever. ii). Yet a close reading of verses 1‐2 suggests that when Paul contrasts life in our earthly tent, in which we groan, with our Heavenly dwelling, a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven, not built by human hands (5:1‐2), he is contrasting two forms of bodily life—our present body (subject to death) with the promised resurrection body which is being prepared for us by God in Heaven. aa. The common assumption of the New Testament is that Heaven is the place where salvation is being prepared for the faithful, until God’s kingdom comes in its fullness. ba. Quite consistently, the New Testament describes salvation (sometimes described as a city, a building, a kingdom or an inheritance) as being prepared, kept or reserved for Christians in Heaven (where their citizenship presently is), only to be revealed at the last day—on earth.
It is true that 2 Corinthians 5 is one of the few texts in the New Testament that alludes to an intermediate state—the
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possibility of communion with Christ (presumably in Heaven) beginning after death, but prior to the resurrection. i). Yet one thing is clear. Despite this brief allusion, it is the resurrection—not the intermediate state— that is Paul’s ultimate desire and hope. ii). He hammers home the point that he fully expects not to be naked (5:3) that he does not wish to be unclothed (5:4); instead he longs to be clothed with his Heavenly dwelling (5:2). aa. In other words, Paul’s explicit hope is not for existence as a naked soul or spirit (presumably in Heaven), but for eternal embodied life (on earth). ba. This idea underlies Matthew 25:34; John 14:1‐3; Acts 3:21; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:1‐4; Philippians 3:20‐21; Colossians 1:5; Hebrews 11:16; 1 Peter 1:3‐5; Revelation 3:12, 21:2. D).
I Thessalonians 4:13-18. i.
A third possible counter‐example to a holistic vision of redemption is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13‐18, one of two classic texts that are used to verify the rapture in Biblical theology from among many in the Church ( I personally do not believe in the rapture but I do believe in the resurrection of the body). a.
In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul is encouraging the early church, by affirming that those who have died in the faith prior to the return of the Lord will not be disadvantaged.
He tells his readers in verses 15‐16 that . . . the dead in Christ will, indeed, have precedence over the living at the second coming, in being raised first. “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
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i). While this certainly seems, at first blush, to support the idea of living eternally in Heaven, it is intriguing that (like John 14) the text does not say where we will be with the Lord forever. ii). This has to be supplied by the interpreter from the tenor of the rest of Scripture. iii). As we have seen, Scripture suggests this will be on earth. iv). Paul is here drawing on the Greco‐Roman custom of apantēsis (Greek, meeting), indicated even by his own use of the verb apantēsin (Greek, to meet) in verse 17. aa. As Gene Green has aptly pointed out, this was almost a technical term that described the custom of sending a delegation outside the city to receive a dignitary who was on the way to town (Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, p. 226). ba. It was customary for people to vie for pride of place in meeting the dignitary, hence Paul’s assurance that Christians who had already died would not be inconvenienced at this great event; rather they would rise first (and perhaps even be the first to meet the coming King) (Green, Letters to the Thessalonians, p. 228). ca. Most importantly, explains Green, the custom was that conception here (Ibid, 229). ii.
Other New Testament allusions to some sort of Heavenly existence prior to resurrection do not help. a.
Let us take the three most obvious. i). The reference to Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham in Luke 16:19‐31 is a vivid, imaginative picture used in a parable by Jesus to make a particular point about judgment; as is widely recognized, it
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is not meant to teach anything positive about an intermediate state. ii). Likewise, the reference to the souls of the martyrs under the altar in Revelation 6:9‐10 is of little help, since these righteous dead are clearly not at peace (as in the traditional picture of Heaven), but are crying out how long on behalf of those suffering on earth. iii). Finally, Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39‐43 confuses matters considerably, since his assurance today you will be with me in Paradise is difficult to fit with the New Testament’s own reckoning that Jesus was not raised until the third day and did not ascend to Heaven for some time after that. iv). This text might actually be used to support the notion of soul‐sleep (the idea that there is no consciousness of the intermediate state, but that one moves subjectively from death to resurrection) though I seriously doubt Luke had this in mind. E).
Matthew 24:37-41. i.
The fourth putative counter‐example is Matthew 24:37‐41, which also happens to be the other standard proof text for the rapture. a.
Here Jesus explains what will happen when the Son of Man returns.
According to verses 40‐41: Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. i). The common assumption of many biblical interpreters is that the one taken is the believer, going to Heaven to be with the Lord. ii). The problem is that we do not typically read the text carefully enough. iii). Let us understand the comparison Jesus makes.
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aa. First, Jesus describes what life was like in the time of Noah, when people did not expect the flood. ba. His point in verse 39 is that they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away and that is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. ca. Note that the phrase took them all away describes judgment (it was Noah and his family who were left on the earth). da. Thus, when Jesus introduces the eschatological equivalent to the days of Noah (in verses 40‐41) it is clear from the analogy he draws that the ones taken are the unrighteous to judgment. ea. If we doubt this interpretation, we need only turn to Luke’s version of this text, for he follows the narrative of one taken and one left (in 17:34 and 36) with a question from the disciples in verse 37 - where, Lord, they ask, that is, where are they taken? fa. Jesus replies, where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather. ga. This is clearly a reference to judgment; the image is certainly not of Heaven. ha. We should not be surprised by this, for the same Jesus who taught about the last days in Matthew 24 proclaimed in the Beatitudes: Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). F).
It turns out, then, that a close reading of these supposed counter‐ examples to a holistic vision of redemption reveals that they do not teach a supra‐mundane destiny for redeemed humanity.
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Indeed, they fit remarkably well with the dominant tenor of Scripture, which portrays the redemption of the entire created order and human redemption as the restoration of bodily life on earth—that is, the renewal of God’s creational intent from the beginning.
But what about the role of Heaven since it appears that I masticated the traditional view of Heaven in believer’s eyes, which was never my intent. a.
The point of this essay is certainly not to deny the existence of Heaven.
There is, indeed, an important role for Heaven in the biblical worldview.
In Scripture, the term Heaven (or the Heavens) represents, first of all, part of the created universe: i). In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). aa. In this context, Heaven certainly refers to that aspect of creation understood to be more transcendent (the realm beyond ordinary human access). ba. This is why Scripture portrays Heaven as the throne of God—with earth as God’s footstool (Isaiah 66:1‐2), an image, paradoxically, not only of God’s transcendence but also of God’s immanence (since he has chosen to dwell within the created order). ii). Heaven is also the realm—in contradistinction to earth—where God’s will is perfectly accomplished prior to the eschaton. aa. This is the assumption behind the prayer Jesus taught his disciples: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10). ba. It is the biblical eschatological hope that one day God’s salvation (which is being
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prepared in Heaven) will be manifest fully on earth. ca. Then earth will be fully conformed to Heaven, but Heaven simply does not describe the Christian eschatological hope. iii). Not only is the term Heaven never used in Scripture for the eternal destiny of the redeemed, but continued use of Heaven to name the Christian hope may well divert our attention from the legitimate biblical expectation for the present transformation of our earthly life to conform to God’s purposes. aa. The importance is not getting saved to get into Heaven but becoming Godlike by the moral character of God inwrought within by Christ and through His Spirit. ba. Indeed, to focus our expectation on an otherworldly salvation has the potential to dissipate our resistance to societal evil and the dedication needed to work for the redemptive transformation of this world. ca. Therefore, for reasons exegetical, theological and ethical, I have come to repent of using the term Heaven to describe the future God has in store for the faithful. da. It is my hope that all readers of this essay would—after thoughtful consideration— join me in this repentance.