Friday, December 12, 2014

4 things You learn in Your first quarter at Seminary

1. Greek opens up the Bible for you in a way that nothing else can. 

I remember when this happened. I was reading about Pauline authorship regarding Ephesians (as can be seen here) and I was going off only six hours of sleep in three days. By this I mean I was dog tired. So while reading this commentary, I perused his exegetical comments regarding 1:3-14 and just kept reading. It was not until thirty minutes and fifty pages later that I realized something:

I was actually reading Greek. The original language Holy Scripture was written in, with all its variants and difficulties and marvelous simplicity.

So that was cool.

2. Historical-Criticism is an asset for the church, not an enemy. 

All theology and research must, ultimately, be done for the sake of empowering the church. So in researching the issue of authorship and simply thinking hard about the complexities therein, I hope that it isn't seen as being...I dunno...intentionally controversial.

Rather, its a historical and exegetical question that has some pretty significant theological implications. I won't rehash them here, but if something has the power to affect the church, then the church should be fully informed in order to make her own decisions.

Well okay. I'll speculate a bit. Richard Pervo dates Ephesians to around 80-90AD. Assuming he is true, it makes it difficult to utilize Ephesians in Pauline theology. However, the historical circumstances can greatly inform our contemporary exegesis of the text.

Think about it: Ephesians 2:11-22 has plenty to say for race relations, regardless of dating and authorship. 5:21-33 has a lot to say about mutuality and marriage. On and on it goes.

3. Difficulties becomes more easy to investigate when you aren't afraid.

In thinking about points 1 and 2 more, I've learned that I don't seem to be worried about certain theological or textual issues anymore. Could be I'm burnt out. Could be that there are some things worth worrying about.

4. A Podcast is likely forthcoming.

I have a few friends who are looking to be involved, and so I might begin recording episodes bi-monthly with them, as well as some episodes on my own exploring various exegetical issues in Paul. Of course, that is subject to change as seminary is likely to cause us to drop things pretty quickly.

If you would be interested in a podcast, let me know on Twitter @nickquient and if there are any NT topics that you might like me/us to talk about.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Divine Remembrance and the Redemption of Our Bodies

This was a rough portion of my final project for Dr. Crisp's course. Enjoy!

“…We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” –Rom. 8:23.

One is hard pressed to consider a more sensitive topic than death. In coming to the conclusion that human persons are fully but not merely physical creatures, I am forced to ask how physicalism affects the nature of resurrection life. How are Christians raised in bodies fit for the life to come, or as an interlocutor demanded of St. Paul, “with what kind of body do they come?” Because of this, I've come up with a theory titled the Doctrine of Divine Remembrance (TDDR) and how it may answer the question of resurrection and translate into difficult pastoral situations involving loved ones who are passing into death. Because of this, one must first reflect upon the nature of God revealed to Israel, the people in the New Testament, and how He relationally interacts with human creatures.

TDDR may be illustrated like this: upon the death of the human person, She would cease to exist; like spilt water upon the dusty earth, like smoke that vanishes in the wind, like wind that whispers through the trees, she is simply no more. All that was alive is now gone. However, as we understand God’s omniscience and love for creation, He could remember everything about her, as if her blueprint were fully known and stored in the mind of God himself: as God is involved in the birth of a child, then he knows each atom that comprises the entire person. Every strand of neural fiber and muscle memory is found, annotated and backed up into God’s memory for the final resurrection, which involves the restitution of matter into a human being. One’s signature is engraved upon its DNA. This tentative theory relies on at least two noticeable assumptions: first, that God is capable of recreating a living person from raw matter, and second that an individual may be fully restored bodily with identity intact. I shall briefly meditate upon both assumptions.

The text in Genesis 2:7 illustrates the act of YHWH creating Adam from dust and the giving of the breath of life. Inert matter is somehow granted life. A physicalist interpretation would understand this text not as the imputation of an immaterial soul into a material body, but as the spirit of life entering raw matter, a spark of the divine birthing new creation. So as life is a necessary vitality to be granted by the immortal God, so life also returns to God once the person has ceased to live (c.f. Gen. 35:16-21). Thus, this first assumption seems grounded in Scripture: the God of life can create a living being from matter. In thinking more about this assumption, one stands in awe at the power of God to animate matter and to call it “very good.”

Assumption two is on shakier ground and I offer it humbly. In the example of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11, we see the trepidation instilled by the death of a loved one and the effect it has upon even Jesus, who weeps (11:35). Jesus then asks the Father to raise Lazarus, who then emerges from the tomb, fully alive. Under a physicalistic anthropology, Lazarus simply awoke back to life, even though he saw corruption (“stinketh”). Similarly to Adam, life was breathed back into the corpse of Lazarus. The Father just returned the life that departed him. We are given bodily indicators to his resurrected state (the mentioning of hands and feet in v.44) but also that Jesus dined and interacted with Lazarus in his resurrected state (ch12). This point is certainly speculative, but the fact that the Gospel of John does not seem to employ a dualistic anthropology in the Lazarus resurrection narrative may indicate that he conceived of resurrection in a way that is quite compatible with physicalism.

Granting these two assumptions, Scripture speaks both corporately and individualistically as regards the language that I am using in support of TDDR. For example, YHWH calls Israel to not forget their deliverance from their oppressors in Egypt (Deut. 6:12), and He does not forget the cry of the afflicted (Ps. 9:12; 10:12). Christians are called to not exercise vengeance, but to leave that to God, who alone can repay, which assumes that He remembers the good and evil done in and to the body. The use of feminine divine representation in Second-Isaiah 49:15 speaks of a maternal bond between YHWH and Israel, where YHWH is the one who does not forget Israel—even in exile. There are two final individual examples of TDDR and they both include the promise of new life: first, after Hannah prayed for a child, YHWH remembered her and she gave birth to Samuel, not forgetting her in her time of despair (1 Samuel 1). The second example is broader and argues that Mary’s stirring Magnificat in Luke 1 is a fulfillment of First Testament prophecy, where God “helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors” (v54-55). Because God did not forget or forsake his people, Mary could look forward to the incarnation of the Word and the restoration of the world.

There is ample biblical material to establish TDDR as a reasonable concept. Because of this, the blueprint of the human person is cataloged to await the redemption—the resurrection—of the body. The main matter, however, concerns the pastoral implications of TDDR. This is necessary because Christian faith is not merely an intellectual exercise; rather also all theology must be done to build up of the body of Christ and empower her to offer hope to all people.

TDDR emphasizes that life, in all its significance and fullness, is what awaits us instead of nothingness. It offers this life to all people (John 3:16). This is why a Christian physicalist can hope for the redemption of her body: as matter, she matters. As a child of God, she is remembered and loved and empowered with eternal life by the Spirit through Christ for the Father. Without TDDR and the resurrection, she is literally nothing. That is why we hope for God’s remembrance on the last day, why we hope for the redemption of our bodies, and why we faithfully confess the last stanza of the Apostles Creed:

I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting,


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Paul and Musings about the Authorship of Ephesians

Inspired by my last blog post (which I shall post here without shame), I've continued reading various commentaries regarding Pauline authorship of Ephesians. I do this for several reasons, one of them personal, so I shall elucidate that reason right here.

In the past, I simply assumed a lot of things about Scripture and what she taught. For example, the one-sided submission of wives to husbands was one such idea that I assumed. In finishing up my first quarter at Fuller, I've begun to reconsider and reexamine many theological foundations I built my life upon. Scripture has always been (since I've come back to Christ) the primary authority over my life, theologically. So, I consider many doctrines to be thoroughly Scriptural i.e. a high Christology in many places (John, Phil. 2:6, Titus 2:13 and others) and the Doctrine of the Trinity. However, I've become quite impassioned to reconsider many theological options (regarding human anthropology and other ideas) based on going back to Scripture. So, frankly, I can no longer assume much of anything without careful study. Everything is on the table. This includes the option of authorship as it relates to Ephesians.

As per the rest of this post, I won't be offering every reason for or against Pauline authorship. I'd have to write an entire book on the topic, a project that I would love to do post-seminary. But that's another story.

So a few things that I'm thinking about:

1. This is the main one, and it concerns a single partial phrase: so what?

So what if Paul did or did not write Ephesians? Why is it important?

Fair enough. If it turns out Paul did not write Ephesians, then Ephesians must be relegated to secondary status when working through a Pauline chronology and theology. Perhaps Ephesians (and subsequently 1-2 Timothy and Titus, most likely) must be placed within a Pauline school (or schools). This would keep Ephesians canonical, but would not allow them primacy of place within the construct of Pauline theology. Similar to Acts, though it is not an exact analog. 

So the question of authorship matters to me, as an evangelical who is passionate about Paul and his theology. Ephesians would still be considered authoritative Scripture (as it is impossible to determine whether or not someone was of ill-will in writing in his name) in the same way that Second-Isaiah would be. It informs our understanding of the various texts, and God saw fit to include it in the canon.

2. The issue of historical criticism and the search for truth.

Simply put, truth matters. The questions of historicity within the biblical texts matter for dating and chronology and the influence of development within Pauline thought. It can also showcase the materials utilized by a Pauline author or school at a later date, thus illustrating similarities and developments within Pauline theology.

3. Some Authorship Issues and Musings

Many put the issue of women in ministry right here. Lincoln, for instance, alludes to this issue in his commentary (I forget the page number; can find it if someone is truly interested), citing the mutuality and equality in 1 Cor. 7:1-16 and Gal. 3:28. For my money, I see no contradiction between the historical Paul and "deutero" Paul in relation to his views on women. I fully support the ordination of women.

The textual issue in 1:1-2 includes the omission of "in Ephesus." Most commentators that I've read think this is strike one against Pauline authorship, relegating the epistle to a circular letter. Included in this discussion is the explicit relationship between Colossians and Ephesians. Proponents for or against authorship cite this and use it to try and discredit the other side. For my money, I think the utilization between the two is definitive but the relationship is not decisive, though if there are other factors that push one towards non-Pauline authorship, then the writer most certainly copied Ephesians. One could cite a similar method used by Matthew and Luke in their use of Mark, but this more relies on whether or not Q exists. For my money (a phrase I love and will happily beat into the ground), I doubt Q.

Another issue is that the writer of Ephesians seems somewhat ignorant of the state of the recipients of the letter (1:15; 3:1-6 esp. 1-2; 4:20-24 esp. 21-22). This is not a usual way for Paul to write, especially given the way he writes his epistle to Rome (a place he had never been), especially since Acts 19 reveals Paul's ministry to Ephesus. This is especially potent when one thinks about how much Paul wrote in Romans to a church he had never been; indeed, he writes about the state of the world in 1-4, the nature of grace and love in 5-8, Jew and Gentile 9-11, and practical issues in 12-16. That is a lot of writing to a place he had never been. Ephesians, some have said, feels more like a summary of Pauline thought. Especially with no controversy evident in Ephesians at all, compared to the rest of the Pauline corpus.

This is not definitive but it reveals a possible tension. A lack of facebook and email does make a correspondence difficult. Although, reading

So none of this is definite or conclusive for me. More thinking this true. Thanks for reading!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Should Evangelicals Assume Inerrancy when Doing Theology?

I confess to being on the fence regarding the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. But now, let me be clear: this is not because I am at Fuller Theological Seminary, or that I’m an Egalitarian, or because of any other doctrinal commitments. No other doctrine has prompted me to reconsider the doctrine of inerrancy. In fact, I have very little interest in affirming or denying the doctrine. For many people (bless you all), this is reason enough to shut down this tab and move on; more power to you.

For the others who did not shut down the tab, I pose the question: should evangelicals assume inerrancy when doing theology? This isn’t a sustained case for or against the doctrine of inerrancy, just some musings and personal reflections.

I should get some things out on the table: I am uncertain that Paul wrote 1-2 Timothy and Titus and Ephesians. I also think it is more likely that there are at least two parts to Isaiah. In reading about these textual and theological difficulties, I have not once considered the implications for my thoughts on inerrancy.

In doing theology, inerrancy has not mattered in any substantive way. In fact, I wonder if one could affirm a doctrine of inerrancy and affirm non-Pauline authorship of certain epistles. I tend to think the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. But this is an aside, much like this post as a whole. So moving on.

Inerrancy, then, has not factored in my theology or research. Should it? I offer these two thoughts in response:
No. Because I’m not convinced one should be considering secondary issues when doing research. The research should yield fruit, not uproot a tree in search of ghosts.

No. Because the diversity of Scripture should not cause evangelicals (like myself) to rush to systematize. We should first let the options and viewpoints stand.
So I think my perspective has been to simply let Scripture stand and say what She needs to say, regardless of my thoughts on other doctrines, authors or matters. Paul is not John, John is not Paul. Do they line up? Should they?

Then one gets into the discussion about what constitutes an actual error or contradiction. A conversation that seems as helpful a discussion as a car made out of biscuits. Rather, one should assign immediate authority to the author or text that one is researching before bringing in other authors or texts to supplement or, even, correct. Or should they?

I suppose these thoughts are too scattered to be of much help. I’m still working through them myself and this post is is coming in between my Greek homework and casual exegesis. Still, in not having a doctrine looming over my shoulder, I’ve been able to simply take the text as what it appears to say and let it stand in the middle of the room, like the great, authoritative elephant that Scripture is.

Then again, do we conflate authority with inerrancy? Not going to open that can, but the thought did just cross my mind. In doing New Testament exegesis, one should simply be content to read Paul (or Deutero-Paul, if he/they exist) without pondering doctrine.

This raises a whole other question: can one actually do non-dogmatic exegesis? In a strong sense, exegesis is theological. But I suppose that is a question that must wait until I have time to think about it some more.

Suffice to say, Scripture has and will always have authority over my life. Not only because I submit to it, but because it has shown that it doesn’t quite care what I think. The reciprocity of Scripture is just that, a God offering us words written through his creation for his creation.

Would He have it any other way?

I apologize for not answering the question. Or did I? Too tired to scroll up.



Friday, November 28, 2014

John Locke & Eternal Punishment

Locke made it known that many considered the doctrine of eternal torment to be of “little consistent with the justice or goodness of the great and infinite God…thereby doing violence to the whole tenour of the New Testament.”[1] Far from post-modernism and the emergent movement, Locke nevertheless considered such the doctrine of eternal torment to be inconsistent with justice and goodness of God. This should not be dismissed as sentimentalism, but rather an acute awareness of the world around him and possibly reflects the heart of a man who had the potential for being a powerful preacher. One wonders to what extent his influence would’ve increased or decreased had he chosen to pursue the clergy. Locke says, “this [mortality] is so clear in these cited places, and so much the current of the New Testament, that nobody can deny, but that the doctrine of the gospel is, that death came on all men by Adam’s sin; only they differ about the signification of the word death: for some will have it to be a state of guilt, wherein not only [Adam], but all his posterity was so involved, that every one descended of him deserves endless torment, in hell-fire.”[2] The debate about ‘death’ and ‘immortality’ has apparently been raging since Locke’s day, and modern annihilationists may rest in comfort that we may indeed continue to be misunderstood as Locke was.[3]

Locke continues, “I shall say nothing more here, how far, in the apprehensions of men, this consists with the justice and goodness of God, having mentioned it above: but it seems a strange way of understanding a law, which requires the plainest and directest words, that by death should be meant eternal life in misery. Could anyone be supposed, by a law, that says, “For felony thou shalt die,” not that he should lose his life; but be kept alive in perpetual, exquisite torments? And would anyone think himself fairly dealt with, that was so used?”[4] While one may simply and silently concur with such an acute observation, there are arguments made against Locke and he takes it upon himself to clarify his remarks. 

The rejoinder deserves to be quoted in full: 
“To this, they would have it be also a state of necessary sinning, and provoking God in every action that men do: a yet harder sense of the word death than the other. God says, that “in the day that thou eatest of the forbidden fruit, thou shalt die;” i. e. thou and thy posterity shall be, ever after, incapable of doing any thing, but what shall be sinful and provoking to me and shall justly deserve my wrath and indignation. Could a worthy man be supposed to put such terms upon the obedience of his subjects? Much less can the righteous God be supposed, as a punishment of one sin, wherewith he is displeased, to put man under the necessity of sinning continually, and so multiplying the provocation. The reason of this strange interpretation, we shall perhaps find, in some mistaken places of the New Testament. I must confess, by death here, I can understand nothing but a ceasing to be, the losing of all actions of life and sense. Such a death came on Adam, and all his posterity, by his first disobedience in paradise; under which death they should have lain for ever, had it not been for the redemption by Jesus Christ. If by death, threatened to Adam, were meant the corruption of human nature in his posterity, ’tis strange, that the New Testament should not any-where take notice of it, and tell us, that corruption seized on all, because of Adam’s transgression, as well as it tells us so of death. But, as I remember, every one’s sin is charged upon himself only.”[5]  
Locke even takes up the challenge of the issue of the unevangelized, offering several thoughts. One being the promise of God to Israel, to persuade people to embrace what was revealed to them.[6] The more interesting is that Locke didn’t believe that all men had to have perfect doctrine, suggesting, “I desire those who tell us, that God will not (nay, some go so far as to say, cannot) accept any, who do not believe every article of their particular creeds and systems, to consider, why God, out of his infinite mercy, cannot as well justify men now, for believing Jesus of Nazareth to be the promised Messiah, the King and Deliverer.”[7] While he was not a systematic theologian[8], he was acutely aware that each idea was built upon each other. To remove one isn’t to devolve the other argument; each argument is independent, but yet related to the other argument. Therefore, Locke’s views were reciprocal with each other, never exclusive. Immortality and resurrection are married, and this appears in the shadow of the eschatological cross.


[1] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 8.
[2] Ibid, 9
[3] Modern Annihilationists may also take comfort in the knowledge that with an advocate as articulate as Locke, he was surely not alone in expressing his views.
[4] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 9.
[5] Ibid, 9.
[6] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 81. Locke appears to embrace a view of ‘limited’ knowledge for those who haven’t heard. To believe in a little, or what has been revealed to them, is enough for God. God doesn’t expect more than what he has given.
[7] Ibid,  81.
[8] Similarly, some scholars and theologians have claimed that Paul wasn’t a systematic theologian either. C.f. E.P. Sanders, Paul. This does not diminish the brilliance of Paul and John Locke; it merely showcases that perhaps they were closer aligned than many have assumed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

John Locke on Body, Soul and Conditional Immortality

In a rather scintillating comment, Locke explains his dislike of the philosophies that had impugned Christianity. For instance, he writes “in the ages wherein Platonism prevailed, the converts to Christianity of that school, on all occasions, interpreted holy writ according to the notions they had imbibed from that philosophy.”[1] What is surprising about this is that many theologians during this time accepted the belief in body soul dualism, though this would not go unchallenged from all sides. Though dualism is prevalent in evangelical circles–not to mention some secular[2]–to this day, various modern biblical scholars and philosophers are rejecting dualism.[3] Where Locke agrees with modern day scholars is that “those who are possessed with the doctrine of aerial and aethereal vehicles [or what we would call the soul], have thence borrowed an interpretation of the first four verses of 2 Cor. V without having done any ground to think that St. Paul had the least notion of any such vehicle.”[4] Frankly, for Locke, he wants to know what Paul thought, not what people put in Paul’s mind and mouth. This will be revealed in his notes regarding what he believes St. Paul intended.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10. This text is often considered the vanguard of dualism in Scripture. Locke notes, with some giddiness, the Jewish background of Paul by proclaiming in a footnote on 4:17: “What an influence St. Paul’s Hebrew had, upon his Greek, is everywhere visible: [the word] in Hebrew, signifies “to be heavy,” and “to be glorious;” St. Paul, in the Greek, joins them, and says, “the weight of glory.”[5] What this indicates is that Locke knew of Paul’s Jewish background, and this is a clever notation, designed to showcase continuity between the Old and New Testament. While there are many additional factors that modern scholars argue about within this passage[6], Locke instead pushes, first, the necessity of the approaching of Christ’s parousia. Locke notes, “the apostle looked on the coming of Christ, as not far off, appears, by what he says, 1 Thess. 4:13.”[7] The resurrection has resulted in a ticking clock. Thus, while Locke doesn’t use the phrase ‘now and not-yet’ he certainly is of a similar state of mind in reading Paul’s words. Second, the emphasis on the pain and groaning of the body (v2, 4) reveals the physicality of the present body and “by putting off this mortal, earthly body”[8] can Locke then get to his third point. Third, “we are not, therefore, willing to be put off, but had rather, with out dying, have it changed.”[9] Locke’s explanation of ‘changed’ includes changing “into a celestial, immortal body”[10] but also is noteworthy that he believes that only those “who have the Spirit of Christ” shall be raised with this ‘celestial, immortal body.’ He builds off 1 Corinthians 15, but states what he believes the ‘nakedness’ of v3 to be: “the state of the dead, unclothed with immortal bodies, until the resurrection.”[11] The acknowledgment of judgment at the end of days showcases the eschatological and the ‘now and not-yet’ of Locke’s thoughts on this passage. For Locke, it is difficult to speak of human anthropology without discussing immortality and death. Thus, for the sake of space, I will condense immortality and death into the same discussion, as Locke seems to link them together in such a way anyway. 

Here, we examine his thoughts on the rest of Scripture.
From the beginning, Locke stresses that “what Adam fell from…was the state of perfect obedience…and by this fall he lost paradise, wherein was tranquility and the tree of life; i.e. he lost bliss and immortality.”[12] For Locke, everything begins with Adam’s fall, and Adam’s being “shut out forever from [the tree of life], lest he should take thereof, and life forever.”30 Paradise is coupled with immortality, “of life without end.”[13] This is remarkably similar to the modern lexical definition of “immortality”[14] and reflects Locke’s training in Greek. “[Adam’s] life began from thence to shorten, and waste, and to have an end; and from thence to his actual death, was but like the time of a prisoner, between the sentence passed, and the execution, which was in view and certain.”[15] From this fall from immortality, Locke confirms the nature of immortality, as it lacked “drudgery, and [was] without sorrow.”[16] Because of Adam’s sin, “all his posterity born out of it, the consequence of it was, that all men should die, and remain under death forever, and so be utterly lost.”[17] There is no natural immortality given to human beings; we share the fate of Adam, namely death. Locke further paraphrases that God is “incomprehensible, majestic, eternal and incorruptible”[18] as opposed to man preferring to worship “the images of corruptible men, birds, beasts, and insects.”[19] Locke further mentions that because of this, death entered the world, alluding to two key texts: Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:22, stating, “By reason of [Adam’s] transgression, all men are mortal, and come to die.”[20] Locke did not concede the argument that exclusion entailed a conscious, miserable existence away from God. By no means; instead he argued the opposite, “the wages of sin should be to every man, as it was to Adam, an exclusion of him out to that happy state of immortality, and bring death upon him.”[21] Exclusion entails the loss of immortality, followed by the natural conclusion of death. 

Appealing to James 1:15[22], Romans 5:12[23] and 6:23[24], Locke argued strongly “no righteous person, no one that is guilty of any breach of the law, should be in paradise.”[25] Within the context of the pursuit of “eternal life” in Romans 2:7, he unpacks the logic of Paul’s verse of what God will give to the righteous: “eternal life to all those who by patience and gentleness in well-doing seek glory and honour, and a state of immortality.”[26] All others who forsake such righteousness will be met with retribution. The principle idea in Romans 5:12-19 is “that by Adam’s lapse all men were brought into a state of death, and by Christ’s death all are restored to life. By Christ, also, as many as believe are instated in eternal life.”[27] For this reason, Adam “forfeited immortality, and became thereby mortal.”[28] For Locke, “having sinned” entails the fall into mortality.47 The resurrection of Christ reverses mortality, bringing mankind back to the original source of life: communion with God and each other.[29] Immortality is never said to be given to all men, just to the saints of God.[30] Locke concludes, “immortality and bliss, belong to the righteous; those who have lived in an exact conformity to the law of God, are out of the reach of death; but an exclusion from paradise and loss of immortality is the portion of sinners.”[31] Adam was created immortal, and this entailed that he was in the image of God; “but Adam, transgressing the command given to him by his heavenly Father, incurred the penalty; forfeited that state of immortality, and became mortal.” Simply, Adam was immortal before the action of sin, and this immortality, which included right relationship with the God of the living, was removed. “After this, Adam begot children” but they were “in his own likeness, after his own image,” mortal, like their father.”[32] Thus, those born from the Adamic line are begotten with mortality and cannot naturally live forever. Indeed, that is the curse; that death is the true result of sin. 
Explicitly in his paraphrase of Romans 6:21-23, Locke couldn’t be more forthright with what he believed St. Paul was teaching: “For the end of those things is death, which are done in obedience to sin, is death. But now, being set free from sin, being no longer vassals to that master, but having God now for your lord and master, to whom you are become subjects or vassals, your course of life tends to holiness, and will end in everlasting life. For the wages[33] that sin pays, is death: but that which God’s servants receive, from his bounty, is the gift of eternal life[34], through Jesus Christ our Lord.”[35] Death has a straightforward meaning: to die is to not live. It is to be subject to the natural outworking of life. In this sense, Locke affirmed very strongly universal mortality and the reward of sin as ‘death.’ In some sense, the quotation from Braveheart rings true: “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

In his finest paraphrase of Paul’s epistles, John Locke presents the magnum opus of the resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15.[36] He concurs with Paul that the fundamental principle is that “In truth, Christ is actually risen from the dead, and become the first fruits[37] of those who were dead. For, since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead, or restoration to life.”[38] The logic for Locke is two-fold: the return of Christ, who has risen; the resurrection of “those, who are his people, his church, and this shall be at his second coming.”[39] According to Locke, Christ “must reign, till he has totally subdued and brought all his enemies into subjection to his kingdom. The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death.”[40] The emphasis Locke puts on the resurrection is not surprising, given Paul’s passion and Locke’s exegesis: for John, “when death comes, as it shortly will, there is an end for us forever.”[41] Death is the utter end of life, the cessation of personality and existence. By no means is this the end for Christians. Indeed, it is the greatest hope a mortal can have. Locke argues strongly that the resurrection of the dead includes only those in Christ.[42] Indeed, Locke appears skeptical that Paul thought there would even be a resurrection of the lost[43], a doubt I share as well. Immortality is thus within the framework of God’s act in restoring creation. Like Satan falling like lightning, death is banished forever from all of God’s creation. 


[1] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, xx.
[2] A recent example can be found in that 64% of U.S. adults believe in the survival of the soul after death.
[3] This is just a sampling: Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life. E. Earle Ellis, Christ and The Future of the Christian Church, 179-197. Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? Samuele Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? Oscar Cullmann, The Immortality of the Soul or the Resurrection of the Body? Peter van Inwagen and his essay “Dualism and Materialism: Athens and Jerusalem.”
[4] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, xx.
[5] Ibid, 228 n.17.
[6] Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 170-172; 175-177. He states, “…Paul’s language is indeed dualistic but not in an anthropological sense. He thinks of an eschatological dualism, contrasting the now
and the not-yet.” 176.
[7] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 228 n. 3. Locke also points to several other passages:
1 Cor. 1:7; 7:29, 31; 10:11; Rom. 13:11, 12.
[8] Ibid, 228.
[9] Ibid, 229.
[10] Ibid, 229.
[11] Ibid, 229 n. 4.
[12] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 8.
[13] Ibid, 8.
[14] BDAG 155. “Aphtharsia” refers to the state of not being subject to decay,/dissolution/interruption,
incorruptibility, immortality. This word appears several times in 1 Cor. 15. V42, 50, 53.
[15] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 8.
[16] Ibid, 9.
[17] Ibid, 10.
[18] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 235-6.
[19] Ibid, 235.
[20] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 8.
[21] Ibid, 11.
[22] Ibid, 11. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Locke continues with “as it were, by a natural and necessary production. Many modern annihilationists have appealed to this same text, arguing for a non-specialized non-spiritual meaning of ‘death.’ Simply put, Locke appears to concur, suggesting that death is a natural outcome of sin. C.f. Edward William Fudge, The Fire That Consumes 3rd Edition, 219-221.
[23] Ibid, 11: “Sin entered into the world, and death by sin.”
[24] Ibid, 11: “The wages of sin is death.”
[25] Ibid, 11.
[26] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 221.
[27] Ibid, 321.
[28] Ibid, 322.
[29] Locke translates “justification and life” in Rom 5:17 as “justification to life.” A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 327.
[30] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 328: “For eternal life is nowhere, in sacred scripture, mentioned, as the portion of all men, but only of the saints.”
[31] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 11.
[32] Ibid, 66.
[33] Locke’s footnote, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 340, n23: “The wages of sin,” does not signify here the wages, that are paid for sinning, but the wages, that sin pays.” Locke notes the contrast between ‘wages of sin’ and the ‘gift of God’ as eternal life.
[34] Locke’s footnote, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 340, n23: “Sin pays death to those, who are its obedient vassals: but God rewards the obedience of those, to whom he is lord and master, by the gift of eternal life. Their utmost endeavours and highest performances can never entitle them to it of right; and so it is to them not wages, but a free gift.”
[35] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 340.
[36] The amount of sheer space that Locke gives to 1 Corinthians 15 merits its own independent treatment, and I regret not being able to do justice to it’s totality. The footnotes are also extensive, taking up whole pages, and his paraphrase is deep and compelling.
[37] Locke’s footnote, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 187: “The first fruits were a small part, which was first taken and offered to God, and sanctified the whole mass, which was to follow.”
[38] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 187.
[39] Ibid, 187.
[40] Ibid, 187-188.
[41] Ibid, 189.
[42] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 191. First, what is raised (v43) is resurrected in glory, and the wicked aren’t raised in glory. Second, “we” means those who “bear the image of the heavenly Adam.” Third, the dead “in Christ” includes only Christians, as pointed out in 1 Thess. 4:16-17. Fourth, the victory of God over death includes the removal of all wicked from creation.
[43] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, 191 “So that from the 23rd  verse, to the end of the chapter, all that [Paul] says of the resurrection, is a description only of the resurrection of the just, though he calls it here, by the general name of the resurrection of the dead.” Every verse, according to Locke, from v41 onwards, proclaims this.

John Locke & Sacred Scripture

The posts that I will be setting up over the course of ... however long it takes ... will be about the Father of Classical Liberalism, as he pertains to theology. As my few readers know, I'm quite interested in the topics of theological anthropology and the debate about final punishment. Locke talked about both ideas and I wrote a paper about it. Its limited and fairly short, but I find Locke to be continually fascinating. 

So, here is to those posts. Whenever they appear.

Written in 1695, Locke’s The Reasonableness of Christianity offers us a glimpse into his perspective regarding the nature of final punishment. He begins with the assertion, “If upon a fair and unprejudiced examination, thou findest I have mistaken the sense and tenour of the Gospel, I beseech thee, as a true Christian, in the spirit of the Gospel, (which is that of charity)…set me right, in the doctrine of salvation.”[1] As with his political and philosophical concepts, Locke models charity over and against dogmatism. Indeed, Locke appears to affirm the “divine inspiration of the New Testament, [which] is matter of faith, and necessary to be believed by all Christians…”[2] When he offers his paraphrase and exegesis of St. Paul’s epistles[3], he believed that they appear to him “very plain, intelligible, and instructive”[4] though Locke is certainly quick to admit when he doesn’t understand St. Paul’s work. He confesses to not understanding 1 Cor. 11:10, a passage that many today still do not comprehend. Because Locke is acutely aware of his own limitations, he can acknowledge that Greek is “a language dead many ages since.”[5]  

He calls Paul “a man of quick thought, and warm temper, mighty well versed in the writings of the Old Testament, and full of the doctrine of the New.”[6] Curiously, he has some insightful awareness of textual criticism in the Pauline epistles, noting with disdain that the division of chapters and verses has rendered Paul so “chopped and minced, and as they are now printed, stand so broken and divided, that not only the common people take the verses usually for distinct aphorisms; but even men of more advanced knowledge, in reading them, lose very much of the strength and force of the coherence…”[7] In stating that he has “sought the true meaning [of Scripture], as far as my poor abilities would reach,”[8] Locke continually emphasized his limitation, and didn’t desire to be exalted beyond his own status. His commitment to Scripture is not to be underscored nor dismissed. Within evangelicalism, there is a spoken acknowledgment that divergent views can fall within the family of beliefs, with respectful disagreement hopefully being triumphant over sectarianism. As evangelical Christians, our commitment is to Scripture.[9]  

Indeed, Locke expressed a similar view when he said “For if I blindly…take the Pope’s interpretation of the Sacred Scripture, without examining whether it be Christ’s meaning; it is the Pope I believe in, and not in Christ.”[10] Because Christ has given John Locke the bible, Locke can then believe in Christ. Scripture and that which is contained within are therefore reasonable in the eyes of the Father of Classical Liberalism. 

[1] John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, 7.
[2] The Reasonableness of Christianity, 191.
[3] Locke’s exegesis of St. Paul was published after his death. His writings cover Galatians, 1-2 Corinthians, Romans and Ephesians. He doesn’t address Colossians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philippians or Philemon. While the authorship of several of these epistles is debated, Locke doesn’t comment on their exclusion nor does he provide reasons for accepting the Pauline authorship of Ephesians.
[4] John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, iii.
[5] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, iv.
[6] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, v.
[7] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, vii.
[8] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, xxi
[9] Cf. The Evangelical Theological Society (partial) statement of faith: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.” See also Fuller Theological Seminary: “Scripture is an essential part and trustworthy record of this divine self-disclosure. All the books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, are the written word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. They are to be interpreted according to their context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through them in living power” and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School: “As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”
[10] A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul, xxii.