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.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eschatology Decompressing: Some of the Best Books on Hell

There is something of an inner-family debate going amongst the evangelical family. At the moment, the traditionalist father is somewhat uneasily passing the potatoes to the conditionalist mothers, who is eying both the father and the kids, who are patiently waiting for the aforementioned potatoes because, well, it will get to the end eventually.

You see, the debate has become far more interesting and respectable as of late, what with the father being will to pass the now cooling potatoes to the mother and all. The mother, bless her strong heart, is happy to pass the dish either way, but she is more likely to double check with the father because...

Okay this analogy has become significantly less funny to me so I shall move on. Thanks for humoring me. Anyway.

There is an abundance of materials out now concerning the evangelical debate on the nature and duration of final punishment. While it is easy to simply google the various phrases (and if you did and ended up here, welcome!), I figured it would be helpful to simply list the various texts that have some significant pull in the world between the Church and the Academy.

I shall start with universalism, mostly because Universalism hasn't gotten a fair shake amongst many evangelicals. For good reason or not, one ought to engage with the best texts on the topic and I have listed them below:

Thomas Talbott's The Inescapable Love of God has just been released and has been quite influential in some parts of the evangelical world. It even has some traditionalist scholars praising it such as Jerry Walls.

For a broader view of the family dynamic, see Universal Salvation: The Current Debate. Reasonably respectful, though there is some sniping as to be expected, since the potatoes by this time have gotten quite cold.

Robin Parry, who is a lovely fellow, has written a book on the topic that I find quite attractive--though not enough to be an Evangelical Universalist (again). I found it far more persuasive than Talbott's and it merits some consideration.

For the traditionalist side of the family table, there are many books and a few of them are helpful. That may sound like a bit of a snipe, and it is. Unlike God, I'm allowed to not play favorites.

The singular best text that was written to explicitly defend the traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment is Hell Under Fire. That said, there are issues within and the best chapter is Douglas Moo's contribution on Paul. The chapters that object to annihilationism and universalism likely won't change the mind of either party, and we're inclined to keep those potatoes at our end of the table thank you very much.

However, if one is a philosophy nerd, Jerry Walls' Hell: The Logic of Damnation is helpful. It is not the kind of book you break out at the dinner table (none of these are), but if one is partial to C.S. Lewis, one might find it attractive.

Judith Gundry-Volf's contribution (entitled "Universalism" pgs956-961) in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters directly tackles the topic of Pauline Universalism. She concludes that, “universalism may perhaps be best defended as an implication of some statements in Paul.” I found her case remarkably compelling. 

For those of us who prefer large books that are heavy enough to beat a goat to death with, Edward Fudge's The Fire that Consumes (edited by Robin Parry) is the standard weapon of choice. He tackles both Testaments and does so in a persuasive manner. Richard Bauckham notes that the book "is likely to remain a standard work to which everyone engaged with this issue will constantly return."

Hans Schwarz, Eschatology, is a helpful survey of the relevant biblical, scientific and theological terrain of the current landscape. Some may bristle at his rejections of both AN and UR, and many Dispensationalists will take offense as well, but its a great text. I reviewed and praised it here.

Samuele Bacchiocchi is a 7th Day Adventist (and pretty shockingly conservative, even for many conservatives) and he defends a synthesis of physicalism and annihilationism. I find some of his work a bit too general but his larger arguments are helpful and its a free pdf. Enjoy.

Oscar Cullmann is always awesome. I recommend him highly too, even for such a slim book its quite potent. Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection from the Dead?

For a great site dedicated to the topic of final punishment, enjoy the Rethinking Hell site.

I write this post mostly due to the fact that I just finished a research paper for Dr. Oliver Crisp, and I'm so full of hell that I need to write this to decompress. Now, where are those potatoes?


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Fathers on Philippians 2:6

I was combing through some of my notes for patristics, and Philippians 2:5-11 is a fun passage to see them wrestle with. This is no way to suggest that all Fathers thought the same things about Jesus, but I found these to be most interesting. So here are some interesting quotes:

Epiphanius, Ancoratus 4.4:
"You see that he reveals Christ to be a man but not merely so, since he is the mediator of God and humanity... He is trueborn God by nature with respect to his Father, but with respect to humanity he is Mary's trueborn son by nature, begotten without the seed of a man."
Gregory of Nyssa, Antirrheticus Against Apollinarius:
"He did not say "having a nature like that of God," as would be said of [a man] who was made in the image of God. Rather Paul says being in the very form of God. All that is the Father's is in the Son."
Origen of Alexandria, Commentary on John 20:18:
"First one may contemplate him existing in his primary form, that of God, before he emptied himself. One will then see the Son of God not yet having come forth from him, the [incarnate] Lord not yet having proceeded from his place. But then compare the preexistent state of the Son with that which resulted from his assuming the form of a slave when he emptied himself. You will then understand how the Son of God came forth and came to us and as it were became distinguishable from the One who sent him. Yet in another way the Father did not simply let him go but is with him and is in the Son as the Son is in the Father."
Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 5:
"God who is eternally wise has with him his eternal Wisdom [the Son]. He is not in any way unequal to the Father. He is not in any respect inferior. For the apostle too says who, when he was in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God."
Lucifer of Cagliari, On Dying for the Son of God 12.16:
"It was he who was and is and always shall be in the form of the Father, the true Son, immutable and unchangeable because he is God and the all-powerful Son of the Almighty, who nonetheless deigned to lower himself for our salvation, so that he might cause us to rise even as we lay prostrate."
Ambrosiaster, Epistle to the Philippians 2.6:
"Knowing that he is in the form of God, he committed no theft .... Rightly, then, he equaled himself with God. For the one who thinks robbery is the one who makes himself equal to another whose inferior he is."
Eusebius of Vercelli, On the Trinity 3.4, 7:
"You must choose one of two paths. Either there is a single inequality in the two [divine Father and divine Son or there is a single equality in the glory of divinity itself. For no one is either greater or less than his own form...This singular equality is seen not only in the concord of their willing together. It is rather in their very deity, since the form of equality is in no way divided into parts. Where there is one equality there is no discord. Where there is one equality neither is prior to the other. Neither is posterior nor subordinate, since there is no distinction in the united equality, which is the fullness of divinity."
These can all be found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Paul's epistle to the Philippians.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Egalitarian Resources on Ephesians 5:21-33

I confess, I was both bothered by and loved Ephesians 5. Specifically, I was bothered by the seeming patriarchal undertones of Paul's language in v22-24, but loved how the husband was told to act in a way that seemed to defy his own interests. In other words, even when I thought this text enforced a patriarchal model for marriage (and this is different from the issue of women's ordination -- and I'm a firm supporter of both mutual submission and the ordination of women), in the applicative side of the equation, the man's 'headship' looked like he got the short end of the deal. I mean, the husband is told to give his life for his wife, where all she has to do is submit to ... letting him die for her.

Granted, my former interpretation was silly and once I examined the passage a bit more closely I changed my mind, but the point was still immensely interesting. The man is told to act in a way that a wife was expected to act. Paul, in my own opinion, is telling the husband to submit, though he does not use the specific word.

Anyway. Just a bit of back story on my thoughts. On to the real reason why you clicked the link.

Philip Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ tackles the text in his usual masterful manner. While the chapter on Ephesians 5 is shorter and less in-depth than his treatment of other texts (though you can't really complain given that he spent more than 100 pages on 1 Cor. 11!), it is still meaty and offers several key exegetical observations such as the appositional phrasing of v23 and his treatment of that obnoxious word kephale. For a meta-study of kephale, see Alan F. Johnson's helpful (and up to date until 2009) article found in the Ashland Theological Journal.

I. Howard Marshall's contribution to Discovering Biblical Equality is surpassed by Payne, but Marshall offers several interesting theological and hermeneutical observations regarding trajectories and the issue of slavery.

Gordon Fee's Priscilla Paper's article is still a gold mine of historical insight, and I commend it to you. Its free, so that should help. The same should be said of Lisa Baumert's wonderful article as well, where she investigates the nature of biblical interpretation. Quite good!

As for commentaries, there are some. Walter Liefeld's IVPNT commentary is helpful. If one is able to get themselves past Andrew T. Lincoln's denial of Pauline authorship, his WBC commentary is helpful on a textual level (its a personal favorite commentary of mine). His commentary is the standard in the more broadly evangelical sphere.

F.F. Bruce also offers a generally egalitarian interpretation in his NICNT commentary on Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians. He affirms Pauline authorship, though Bruce can never be said to be dogmatic about something for which there is some tension. An affable, able and solid commentary. You also can't go wrong with Ben Witherington III (BW3) and his socio-rhetorical commentary series. For a more expositional commentary, see Klyne Snodgrass.

For a lighter and personable post, see "Becoming an Egalitarian" from The Junia Project.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Review of Hans Schwarz's "Eschatology"

This is my second assignment for ST503 and Dr. Crisp. Its an early draft so be nice. Its my second paper to ever make it to the graduate level.  Enjoy!
A highly recommended book.
In the multifaceted world we inhabit, eschatology can encompass a multitude of disciplines: philosophy, science and theology. Hans Schwarz has offered the world an exceptionally readable volume that attempts to synthesize the best of all the aforementioned disciplines into a broad survey of the last things. He treads where many systematic theologies do not, especially in exploring various secular and progressive worldviews, seeking the truth in all of them. He largely succeeds and offers the reader his findings in three major parts.
Part one engages with the diversity and unity of both Testaments as they relate to eschatology. The historical background of the Old Testament “…was basically a death-driven culture” (32). As is often the case, existentialism and the knowledge of death are never far from each other where “…the living know that they will die but the dead know nothing” (Eccl. 9:5). Schwarz notes the heightened “emphasis on the this-worldly aspect of life” (36) and because of this reality, to live seventy or even eighty years was desired above all else (Ps. 90:9-10), though these years were still a breath. Though his survey is expansive, Schwarz could have shown that the Old Testament attests to a longing for justice and that punishment of the wicked (Ps. 110:6; 139:18-20) does not happen in this life (Job 21:7; Jer. 12:1). Because of the lack of justice in this earthly existence, YHWH will act in the next life to bring judgment upon Israel’s oppressors, thus suggesting Israel and the world’s need for cosmic justice and the possibility of resurrection of the righteous and the wicked (Dan. 12:2; Isaiah 66:15-24).
Based off Schwarz’s findings in the Old Testament, he moves on to show that the New Testament has a more developed outlook on the question of eschatology with special attention placed on fulfillment in Christ. For example, Matthew “wants to show that the Old Testament promises have found their fulfillment in Jesus” (84). Schwarz then rightly insists upon continuity between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as both Testaments testify to Jesus and his mission and exaltation, though this was not as developed because the importance of Second Temple Judaism is left largely unmentioned. In regards to Jesus’ messianic understanding, Schwarz correctly claims that, “[Jesus] never delineated a chronology of life eternal nor a geography of the beyond” (80); this biblical obscurity has resulted in over two thousand years of speculation on the part of the Church, and it is indeed the most troubling aspect of Christian eschatology; especially since it lacks any sort of future details and relies on fragments to paint a broader picture. In sum, the biblical portraits are fractured and leave us to gather up the various portions. However, for Schwarz the biblical tensions are less worrisome because “Christ anticipates the resurrection of the dead through his own resurrection, thus providing us with a foundation for hope” (96). The resurrection of Jesus is paradigmatic of our future experience and this is congruent with Paul and John’s teachings regarding this matter (1 Cor. 15; John 5:29).
The End.
Part two reflects the larger debate between science, secularism and philosophy as they all relate to eschatology. Schwarz covers discussions over various theologies including process, feminist, liberationist and pluralism: the advocates comprise Wolfhart Pannenberg, John Cobb, Jürgen Moltmann and Leonardo Boff among others. Each theologian’s perspective is examined and given a place at the table for a fair exchange, though not without critique. Process theology is specifically singled out and one must ask to what extent Christian doctrine is maintained amongst a pluralistic worldview—a point of view decidedly not shared by the New Testament. Because of this, Schwarz notes “Cobb’s proposal seems more akin to the Hellenistic striving for oneness as demonstrated by Platonic and Aristotelian ontologically grounded philosophy. The Christian faith, however, is characterized by individuality in unity” (169-170). This is a successful critique and could be pressed further to include the imagery of incorporation of human beings into Christ’s body, his Church (1 Cor. 12:12-28), illustrating the necessity of all Christians, American and other, citizen and immigrant, and male and female, to be one in status in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Individuality is maintained and corporatized, allowing personality to thrive within community. It is also worthy to note the claim that Scripture appears soteriologically exclusive rather than pluralistic, as the famous Shema  (Deut. 6:4) proclaims a strict Jewish monotheism. Paul also affirms (and expands) this famous text in 1 Cor. 8:4-6 to include Jesus (see Gordon Fee, Pauline Christology, Hendrickson, 2007, 88-94), making pluralism (and subsequent process thought) difficult to accept on the basis of biblical texts as the exclusive divinity of Christ is attested above all other faiths (John 14:6).
With his mind tuned to environmental concerns, Schwarz adds to the discussion concerning the ecological crisis, where “life is sustained only be exploiting the inanimate world” (195). Life feeds on life, and this appears to be an apocalyptic outcome of consumerist exploitation (196), which compounds the problem of the greenhouse effect (196-199) and overpopulation (201-202). The issue is that “humanity elevated itself into God’s place…and ‘for the glory of God’ was replaced by the glorification and deification of humanity” (205). We live in a seemingly limited creation and this brings up an ominous question: was earth meant to sustain human life forever? Human progress has taken a left turn in the dark and Schwarz thankfully recognizes that without hope, humankind has nothing left for itself: “…what can we, as Christians, actually offer in terms of the content of hope?” (243). Schwarz does not despair, and pushes on with the task of offering hope to a dying world.
In the final part of his work, Schwarz covers four controversial areas of Christian eschatology: setting an actual date for the end of all things, the millennium and its various flavors, universal salvation and purgatory. Schwarz flatly rejects any attempt to place a time to the coming of Christ as “not about outguessing the Lord but being faithful to the call” (321), and like many church fathers (Luther, Augustine) he discards the timetable method and opts for hope. In doing so, his points stands well under scrutiny as the New Testament never set a date to the return of Christ. As regards the millennium, He takes the greatest exception with dispensationalism and concurs with Dale Moody; “we could simply discard these [end times] theories as ‘undue speculation over highly symbolic teachings’” (335). The damage done by this apocalyptic teaching is not glossed over by Schwarz and it has no doubt “been misused for political and religious purposes” (336), especially within the context of modern fundamentalism which misses the purpose of apocalyptic imagery: to bring hope to those who are oppressed, “not…in a triumphalistic manner, but as a pastoral comfort” (337). Schwarz is certainly on point with this admonition, and those of us who have come out of fundamentalism will resonate because of the entrenched emphasis on the rapture and fighting culture wars instead of the necessity of justice for widows and orphans (James 1:27).
Oh Camping.
Considering the doctrine of universal salvation, Schwarz pointedly concludes “we have little biblical ground to go on for a universal homecoming or a restoration of all things to God” (337). In light of the numerous judgment texts in Scripture (Isaiah 66:24; Matt. 10:28; 25:41-46; Jude 7), one would concur that universal salvation is indeed a difficult theological proposition to embrace. However, Schwarz does not engage the strongest Universalist arguments from the basic proof texts (Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:10). This reveals a missed chance to answer lingering questions in the minds of many evangelicals who opt for universalism on the basis of such verses.
Because of his his rejection of universalism, Schwarz is committed to the two-fold outcome of human destiny. Unfortunately, Schwarz leaves himself open to criticism from another side in the Christian debate as Annihilationists (or Conditionalists) would affirm the twofold outcome of eternal judgment and share his views of an eternal punishment. However, Schwarz rejects annihilationism in favor of eternal conscious torment (395-97; 402) by means of a question: “how can there be an annihilation of anybody if there is no escape from God, since God is everywhere, even in death and beyond death?” (396). The question is a non sequitur and one could answer it this way: as it took a divine act of creation to impute life into that which was lifeless (Gen. 2:7), so it is also a divine act of destruction when God destroys both body and soul (Matt. 10:28). Human finitude is evident in that only God is immortal (1 Tim. 6:16) and any life given to us is derived from the Creator, a sentiment that Schwarz explicitly affirms (257). Thus any eternal life, a phrase that seems restricted solely to the elect (e.g. Matt 19:16; 25:46; John 3:15-16, 36; 10:28; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 6:23; Gal. 6:8), is denied to those not in Christ.
Curiously, while Schwarz mentions Oscar Cullmann several times throughout his book (73n, 119, 140), he betrays no awareness of the annihilationist arguments in Cullmann’s Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? (Wipf & Stock, reprinted 2000). Cullmann’s words are powerful: “For Christian (and Jewish) thinking the death of the body is also destruction of God-created life. No distinction is made: even the life of our body is true life; death is the destruction of all life created by God” (Immortality, 11). Scripture seems to suggest death (Ps. 68:2; Is. 66:24; Luke 13:3,5; John 3:16; Rom. 6:23) and eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:9) as the end result of the wicked—not their eternal torment.  To suggest the traditional doctrine of eternal torment seems to promote a vision of final eschatological dualism, one that does not seem to fit comfortably into Schwarz’s theological vision of “the completion of the universe” (404).
@thenakedpastor. Wonderful art.
Eschatology must be seen not as despair, but as hope. Proleptic anticipation, which views the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the commencement of the event of new creation, is the operative lens by which Schwarz concludes his volume. We see everything in light of Christ, and we “anticipate proleptically this future along the avenue which the Christ event provides” (407). Schwarz has written a truly magisterial book and there is much to commend. His depth is illustrated by his familiarity of diverse theologians and his ability to faithfully represent their perspectives even though he may passionately disagree is a model of charity. The chapters relating to science, ecology and scientific reason were especially insightful, bringing material to light to readers who otherwise would not have known about external worldly developments. Because of this inclusion, theologians will now be able to further benefit the church, allowing us to both engage and learn more as we progress in mutual respect towards the future. While a reader may dispute his interpretation on certain doctrines (such as his lack of engagement with annihilationism and universalism), his irenic tone epitomizes Saint Paul’s admonition in Rom. 12:9-21, especially since we are called to “love one another with mutual affection” and we “extend hospitality to strangers.” 
It took everything in me to not jump back to old habits by giving this 4.5 stars.