Telling Our Story – The Story of Jesus (RJS)

This last week I (RJS not Scot) have spent my commute listening to the audio from the Wheaton Theology Conference: Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright. This is fascinating stuff – I recommend it highly. I put up a post in dialogue with the speakers at the conference on Tuesday, and want to think about this a bit more today. Tuesday we discussed history as apologetic,  but there is another facet to this discussion of Wright’s work – the gospel vision.

The power of our ability to convey the gospel is intimately connected with our ability to cast the gospel as story. It is hard to develop passion for – or even intellectual belief in – a series of facts and propositions. All good politicians and all good pastors know this. The conflict between science and faith is, I think, at root a conflict of story. The conflict of fact, empirical observation, is purely secondary. This goes beyond the typical science vs. faith discussion though – it isn’t primarily an issue of evolution, creation, or Intelligent Design. In our increasingly educated and secular world we do not present the story in a fashion that makes sense, that captures heart, mind, and imagination.

We discussed the importance of telling our story in a couple of posts lately – Telling Our Story and Telling Our Story – The Story of Genesis. Today I would like to consider Wright’s work on Jesus in the context of story, and the impact that this telling of the story has on our ability to present the gospel.  The questions today are simple:

How important is story in the presentation of the Gospel?

What is the story we have to tell?

I will discuss Elaine Howard Ecklund’s book Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think starting next week – but as a teaser, she reports that something like 65% of the social and natural scientist surveyed reported themselves as atheist or agnostic, 54% directly – but of the 16% who reported themselves as Jewish, 75% are atheist or agnostic.  There is a common sense view among many within our society, or at least within our Universities, that religion is an idea whose time has come and gone. With either bemusement or downright incredulity, they wonder what value an ancient myth could possibly have in the modern world. Religion is a supernatural explanation for things not yet understood. We can construct theories of the past, we can learn lessons from the past – but a narrative story? No such luck.

I submit that we must learn to tell our story – to do so in a fashion that both takes the evidence seriously, evaluates and analyzes, contextualizes and interprets. We need to do so in a fashion that captures heart, mind, imagination and compels action. This story won’t be a monotone presentation. The gospels are stories of Jesus — they frame evidence, events, etc. into a coherent picture of Jesus. They are not simply itineraries or compilations of propositions or pithy sayings. The four gospels give different angles on a three dimensional story.

In the church we will also have different ways of framing the story of Jesus. The call of Christian scholars is not simply to pass on received knowledge, nor to invent new knowledge, but to help the church interpret, understand, and retell the story. This brings me back to the Wheaton Theology Conference. This conference, available for download, is a powerful resource. This isn’t a “how to” on practical ministry, a guide for the CEO pastor, or a presentation of clear answers. It is an entree into thinking about the story we tell and how we tell it. We need this in our church.

N.T. Wright frames the story of Jesus in terms of return from exile, the return of YHWH to Zion, and the defeat of evil. He gives us a vision of Jesus situated in time and place – suitable to that time and place. He gives us a picture of Jesus with a vocation to do for Israel what Israel’s God had promised to accomplish. A Jesus who accomplishes this through his life, death, and resurrection. Return from exile becomes – (and he may over do this) – an overturn of empire and a declaration against Caesar as Lord. The teachings of Paul fall into line with the overall theme.

The papers presented at the conference invite us to think more deeply about the story, fleshing out other aspects, bringing out critical differences.

Marianne Meye Thompson highlights the importance of John, neglected in much of Wright’s work.

Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmat, in an entertaining conversation, suggest that Jesus is interested primarily in economic justice – and that this is the message we need today – with a rather interesting recasting of the parable of the talents.

Kevin Vanhoozer suggests that Piper and Wright are perhaps in disagreement over the spider in the room – not the elephant.

Jeremy Begbie played a musical piece to capture Wright’s impact. Far from monotone.

Edith Humphrey in her paper “Glimpsing the Glory–Paul’s Gospel, Righteousness and the Beautiful Feet of N.T. Wright begins with an observation particularly relevant to the idea of telling the story of Jesus, its relevance to the entire New Testament text as a coherent whole, and its value for the church, not just the guild of scholars:

There are many who would disagree with the recent indictment of John Piper that ‘the Bishop’s biblical analysis’, here I’m quoting, ‘leaves many ordinary folk not with the rewarding aha experience of illumination but with a paralyzing sense of perplexity.’ On the contrary, I’ve discovered that when we begin with Wright’s presentation of the gospel, and I discover this in talking to students, when we center upon God’s action in Jesus, then the teaching on righteousness falls into place without vulnerability to this charge of abstruseness. To be sure, those with a particular formation find themselves perplexed since they applaud the Bishop’s trenchant critique of certain liberal or revisionist arguments, but they find themselves challenged in matters that contradict their earlier education. (4:13-5:03)

This leads me to a final reflection – we need to tell the story with and to each other as well as to the world. We need to learn and wrestle together. New expressions or insights are hard to take when they challenge some aspect of our story, but this is the beauty of the process. Some expect the gospel to be monotone – of unvarying quality with a lack of variety in color, expression, or style, to be nailed down concretely, … different views suspect, even unwelcome.  But is this really what we have? Perhaps from the canonical gospels on through the church and continuing today we a polyphonic expression – with several melodic lines, parts, or voices that sound simultaneously and flesh out a whole. We need to be in dialogue with each other. But we need to frame the story.

What do you think? What is the story we have to tell? Is it monotone or polyphonic?

Why is Wright’s story of the “end of exile” (vs. Messiah, Son of God, Kingdom, Church, Salvation) such an appealing story? Is the strength of his portrayal the end of exile theme – or is there more than this?

What is missing from this story – what would you add?

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  • Rodney

    If we could rediscover the beauty of how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell their story–and this is one of the critiques of Wright’s work–then we might be inspired to locate ourselves within the biblical narrative.
    As much as I admire Wright’s scholarship, I share some of Richard Hays’ concern of the homogenization (my word) of the canonical gospels into one, grand narrative. Tatian tried to pull this off years ago, and no one “bought it” (literally). To be sure, Wright’s grand narrative derives from the gospel story in its first-century context, but one has to wonder about the implications of ignoring John.

  • John W Frye

    Imagine “Ben Hur” like this:
    1. Ben Hur was a good Jewish aristocrat.
    2. Ben Hur was betrayed into Roman slavery.
    3. Ben Hur saved and became “the son” of a Roman General.
    4. Ben Hur defeats his enemy.
    Do you believe this? Then, you know Ben Hur.
    See the movie “Ben Hur” starring Charleton Heston.
    Is there any comparison? We’ve done to the Gospel Story what I did to the Ben Hur story above.

  • MatthewS

    I submit that we must learn to tell our story – to do so in a fashion that both takes the evidence seriously, evaluates and analyzes, contextualizes and interprets. We need to do so in a fashion that captures heart, mind, imagination and compels action.
    I agree.
    Acts provides precedent for this as well. Luke introduces Acts itself as a narrative in chapter 1. In ch 2, Peter addresses the crowd at Pentecost, ch 3 Peter addresses the onlookers to the healing, ch 7 Stephen tells recounts major points of their history, linking it to Jesus. I would appreciate being corrected if I’m wrong but it seems that there is a recurring theme of storytelling, of someone being able to recount their own story and the story of their people and how Jesus connects to it.
    We were listening to a gifted preacher visiting our church last week and my 11 year old son was enjoying it. I leaned over and asked him if he thought he might be a preacher some day. “Oh no, I could never do that!” Would you enjoy being able to tell a story to a group of people? “Oh yes, I would love that!”
    Knowing our story and being able to share it, not merely recount facts and not try to win at verbal combat – but tell a real story – I think this is a liberating, exciting thing to do.

  • Polyphonic is a good word. The fact that we have four gospels should tell us that multiple points of view on the same story is a good thing.
    I’m not sure I understand the “fifth gospel”/”homogenization” charge. I don’t think Wright is setting up his work as any kind of alternative to the gospels. And any kind of telling of the story of Jesus is going to homogenize or combine the various stories to some extent. Or are we just supposed to parrot what’s in the text, rather than recombining it and recontextualizing it, as a someone who brings out treasures old and new?

  • Rodney

    Travis #4,
    To respond to your question, I’ll offer an answer to RJS’s question re: Wright’s grand narrative. What’s missing? Belief in Jesus for eternal life (a la John).

  • Jesus is the answer but what is the question?
    The typical Evangelical response is that we each have sinned. We are separated from God. If we want to know God we must repent from sin and come into a personal relationship with him. Then, when the space-time material reality is destroyed we will go to be with God in an ethereal existence.
    Wright writes in “Jesus and the Victory of God,” “There was, then, no such thing as a pre-Christian Jewish Version of (what we know think of) as Pauline Atonement-theology.” (592) Second Temple Judaism saw Israel (at lest figuratively) in exile, the Temple diminished, and themselves subjugated by Gentiles, when they were supposed to be God’s people. Their story saw Israel’s return, restoration of the Temple, and subjugation of the Gentiles. The question was what did Israel need to do in response to their dilemma. Jesus was the answer but in some wildly unexpected ways. Only post resurrection is it possible to reflect back on Jesus teaching and get something like Pauline Atonement-theology.
    This helps us understand how Jesus was the answer to Israel’s question but how is Jesus the answer for us gentiles? Jesus comes to redeem the call of Israel but what exactly was Israel’s call in the first place? We can say they were to be a light to the gentiles or priests for humanity. But that begs the question of the state darkness the gentiles are in and why we need intercession. What is the nature of our darkness? Jesus came to redeem and restore but restore to what? Many Evangelicals have shrunk the gospel to personal sin and pursuit of eternal life. If this is the shrunken version, what is the more holistic nature of our darkness and how is Jesus the solution?
    I don’t think you can have an effective story until you can succinctly state the answer.

  • Rodney

    Michael (#6),
    Forgive me for trying to answer a question that is directed to Wright, but in light of what he’s already written (Climax of Covenant, Paul in Fresh Perspective, etc.) I would expect him to argue in his forthcoming volume that Paul answers your excellent question (What’s the problem for Gentiles?) by asking: how do the Gentiles “get in” the covenant blessings of Abe? (in other words, the problem is they are further removed from the promise of God’s blessing). The answer: inclusion via the “faithfulness” of Jesus Christ. In other words, the “gentile” problem is the same for Paul’s kinsmen–it’s just that the Gentiles are twice-removed exiles. Thus, Paul’s atonement theology is “born” in response to the problem of the curse/exile for Jews and Gentiles. This, I think, is why Wright has been wrongly accused of holding to a supersecessionist view (and therefore has no place for “Israel” in his eschatology).

  • John L

    “she reports that something like 65% of the social and natural scientist surveyed reported themselves as atheist or agnostic”
    RJS, does she cite a source? The most comprehensive recent survey I’ve seen (40,000+ faculty / 400+ colleges and universities), paints a different picture. The UCLA religion survey shows that 81% of professors considered themselves a “spiritual person” and 70% describe themselves as “religious.” About 61% pray or meditate, and just 37% say they are “not at all religious.” This is roughly equivalent with the general / non-academic population.
    A Univ of Chicago study (2005) shows that nearly 80% of Medical Doctors maintain an active spirituality and 90% said they attend religious services at least occasionally.
    At one time, Scot had a 2006 Harvard study on line, but it seems to be gone. It concluded that professors at elite doctoral-granting schools were seen to be more skeptical of spirituality than professors at other schools. But even among the most elite academies, over 60% affirmed a personal faith or active spirituality (belief in God, a higher power, etc..).
    While a person gifted with greater reasoning capacity may exhibit finer nuance in their understanding of spirituality, there’s strong evidence that elevated intellect and advanced academic training has little influence on a persons religious/spiritual inclinations. Spiritual belief and practice, as abstraction, remains generally constant throughout the intellectual spectrum.

  • Rodney #7
    I think you are right that Wright is saying Gentiles need to be brought into the covenant. But I’m looking at this from an average Joe or Jill perspective. Why do I care about being included in Abraham’s covenant? How is that a answer to any question I have as 21st Century irreligious American? If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?

  • nick gill

    Hmm… I think Begbie’s contribution was far more valuable than a one-line blurb about the song.

  • RJS

    John L (#8),
    This is from her survey of ca. 1600-1700 faculty in natural and social sciences at 21 “elite” institutions. She also interviewed 275 of the respondents in greater detail.
    I will comment on the book in greater detail in a series of posts, probably once a week starting next week.
    Medical doctors – and even engineers – are shown in a number of studies (not dealt with in Ecklund’s book) to have a much higher level of “spirituality.” This fits with my anecdotal information.
    I will find it interesting to interact with Ecklund’s book as I am one of the 1600-1700 who responded to her survey, and these are my peers and colleagues she interviews.

  • RJS

    nick gill,
    So do I – but I couldn’t do justice to all of the talks in a couple of posts.

  • Norm

    The message of the Bible is basically simple from my evolutionist point of view. God picked the time of His determination to interface with man to bring him into a higher plane of existence. The mortal or natural plane was to prove insufficient as man could not get it right. There became the need for what is called the Spiritual existence which is contrasted as from above (God) instead of from below. Life through the Spirit from above is the simple answer to begin and end with. Philosophy and humanism however are attempting to fill these mortal moral vacuums but have never proven capable historically of handling the job that God the Creator felt was needed for optimal existence and communion.
    Telling this story in a vivacious manner is what is needed by our preacher boys out there. They know how to do it somewhat already and so it is just a matter of them letting go of some misconstrued baggage that keeps them from including the science crowd. I’m watching the “Truth Project” with some friends now and that series means well but is an example of why baggage needs to be cleaned out first to be effective. I can barely sit through these episodes and hold my tongue and would never introduce my science minded friends to them.

  • Rodney

    Michael #9,
    Good point. Is this why evangelicals (of which I am one) have latched on to John, i.e., “you need Jesus in order to live forever”–with which we’ve gotten bored, and therefore are intrigued by Wright’s powerful metanarrative? But, to make your point . . .
    Recently during a lecture on Paul and Galatians, I had a student ask: “What’s the big deal? Why can’t I simply believe in Jesus without worrying about what Abraham did or believed?” To which I replied, “But didn’t you sing the childhood song, ‘Father Abraham, had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham . . .'” At which point the class joined in ” . . . I am one of them and so are you . . .”

  • Travis Greene

    Can’t pull up a quote right now, but I think Wright talks at length in various places about being “in Christ”. That “in Christ” (Paul’s oft-used phrase) all of the stuff he talks about is happening. How is one in Christ? By believing in him, a la John. But this belief isn’t (just) cognitive, it’s a full-person orientation of life.
    Now, Wright may be guilty of neglecting the Gospel of John in his portrait of Jesus, but it’s no news that John is different than the other gospels. I myself think of it as a sort of midrash of the gospels, written expressly in order to illuminate theological points (in order that we may believe and have life, not in order to present an orderly account a la Luke). So, for a project interfacing with modern historical methods, it wouldn’t be as appropriate to go to John, even while fully affirming it as a gospel full of stuff about Jesus that we need.
    Dopderbeck and others have argued that the entire project is suspect to start with, but I think I’m with RJS: we need Wright interacting with the Jesus Seminar types, for reasons of both mission and our own edification. Modern historical methods are not the apogee of human knowledge, but they are also not nothing, and there’s lots we can learn from, say, Crossan or Marcus Borg (even while rejecting their ultimate conclusions).

  • Rodney

    I agree. We need Wright et al. (Hays, Witherington, McKnight [!], Bock) to engage Jesus scholarship from our confessional perspective (I often tell my students, “This is the absolute best time to be a student of the NT and hold dearly to our faith.”).
    Indeed, this is not an “all or nothing” approach for me. Historical critical method is not mutually exclusive to redaction/literary criticism (even though some try to make them out to be enemies).
    Since I only occasionally engage in the conversation I here, I’m ignorant of the larger context of this blog. But, I must say, Hays’ critique of Wright is–IMHO–dead on. When I read Wright (for all of his brilliance!), I keep hearing the individual gospel writers say “from the great beyond”, “Yes. Tom, I see what you’re saying. But, that’s not what I said. You’ve taken what we’ve written and compressed it into your own version of the gospel.”
    In other words, rather than create another gospel narrative (patch-worked from the evangelists), why not try to locate ourselves within the rich tapestry of the individual stories of the gospels as they are. That has been a much richer experience for me in trying to follow Jesus.

  • RJS

    I can see your point – and some of it is a matter of perspective. Wright’s synthesis was and is powerful for me because it pulls together pieces that always confounded me in the “one line proposition” version of the gospel story. At this point I tend to view Wright’s insight as one melodic theme in what is really needs to be a polyphonic piece. But I dare say it is a far better approach within the church to take the gospels as they are and use them to tell the story – still polyphonic.
    But – and this is really my main point here – we need to preach the story from the gospels as different views of Jesus and his mission and as coherent stories, not extract isolated verses, bits and pieces. Wright may run the risk of producing a Tatian-like synthesis, a fifth gospel, but the evangelical church has done so in a different fashion for decades. John Frye in his comment #2 uses Ben Hur to make a point about the sketches sometimes given within our churches. This is far too common – and will not reach those who think seriously. More importantly, it presents a view that is easy to dismiss out of hand without serious consideration.

  • Rodney ” I keep hearing the individual gospel writers say “from the great beyond”, “Yes. Tom, I see what you’re saying. But, that’s not what I said. You’ve taken what we’ve written and compressed it into your own version of the gospel.”
    In other words, rather than create another gospel narrative (patch-worked from the evangelists), why not try to locate ourselves within the rich tapestry of the individual stories of the gospels as they are.”
    I think we need both. I absolutely agree we shouldn’t try to replace the gospels, and that Christian formation involves constantly reorienting ourselves in the scriptural narrative, but we also do have our own “versions” of the gospel, ideally ones that we are sharing with each other all the time, that form the “tradition/community” quadrant of the Wesleyan quadrilateral that always keeps Scripture as its center. I’m not sure how else we can talk about Jesus, unless we literally only recite verbatim from the Bible, which would be an interesting spiritual exercise, but not very effective IMHO for engaging missionally in the world.

  • Here is one thought I toss out that I’ve been thinking about.
    We usually talk about the consequence of sin is that we are separated from God. Yet when I read Genesis 3 I see nothing that directly suggest we are separated from God. God is still conversing with the folks at the beginning of Genesis 4. So what is the nature of the tragedy that unfolded in Genesis 3.
    First, it seems there is clearly the sense of being sent in exile from the garden. In some sense it seems we should expect to be returned from exile back to the garden. But her is the interesting part: What was the nature of our existence in the garden?
    Channeling John Walton here, we look at the earth as God’s temple. Genesis 1 is God’s ordering of creation, placing humans as image-bearing functionaries who will fill the earth … his temple … and bring creation (his temple) to its fullness. Then look at the nature of the curses that befall Adam and Eve. While it says the experienced shame the curses focus on their function which has now been frustrated. It isn’t until we get to Cain that we get into separation from God.
    Seems to me you could say that God created the earth as his temple with us as his functionaries. We rebelled. That led to exile from the temple, loss of our functionary status, and separation from God. The good news for us gentiles is that our lives and work have eternal value. That what now is, is not what one day will be. That one day separation from God will end, our functionary role will no longer be frustrated, and we will return from exile back into God’s temple, the new creation. We can be a part of the story or new creation.

  • DRT

    I am going to need a week of study before I can respond to this post.
    The following clearly does not apply to all, but I thought it was worth considering.
    Wright has woven a new set of clothes for the Emperor. It would be nice if we were able to get to the part about whether the coat is too long or a different shade of color. Instead, we have the debate of whether the Emperor is nekkid.
    He looks like royalty to me.

  • Norm

    Michael K.
    Here is how I would frame some of the questions you bring up.
    I believe the issue is that we are already back in that Temple. It is not some off in the distance aspiration that we look to but the realization that the Garden Temple has been restored for communion with God for the faithful. The Temple is through the heart and circumcision of the heart is required for Temple worship. If we are in Christ we are back in the Garden as I understand scriptures.
    Again I remind that Adam is a Hebrew account of their origins (the faithful to God that is) and so Cain was expelled from the Covenant people as a historic example to the Jews who murder the faithful brother. The tragedy of the fall was that God established a man to bring order to the pagan world at large but it could not be sustained through human effort and so that establishment struggled onward with ineptitude (thorns and thistles) bearing the “promised seed”. The fall means that it would require a supernatural Heavenly effort instead and until that time the chosen people (lineage of Adam/Israel) would still be in communion with God albeit with a less than desired approach through animal sacrifices, imperfect priest and manmade Temples.
    I believe part of the story that must be emphasized is the reality that eternity starts now and focusing on our post mortem eternal existence may not be what the Good Lord wants us to be primarily concerned with although it is a reward for faith. I believe some ministers call it the “abundant life now” although may I qualify that it is not the prosperity gospel. 😉

  • Thoughtful dialogue among the comments… thanks.
    Travis Green #15 mentions the importance of being “in Christ.” I think this too often gets left out of conversations about NT Wright’s presentation of the gospel, which leads people to think that there’s no place for faith in Christ in Wrights gospel, and that he is therefore neglecting John. Sure faith in Christ could be more pronounced, but that’s where we come in, in presenting the gospel story.

  • Norm #21
    I would disagree that we are back in the temple. I’d say the foundation stone has been laid and construction has begun but we haven’t moved into the temple yet.
    I’ve been listening to these accounts that early Genesis may actually be about Israel’s mission versus being about human mission. I haven’t dismissed it but I’m not yet persuaded either. While I know there were variant forms of Judaism prior to Christ, I wonder how pre-Christian Judaism interpreted Genesis 3 and 4. It is something I have never investigated.

  • Norm

    Michael K.
    We obviously have to prove these things for ourselves. What I intended was to put forth what I believe amounts to the early first century Christian view which was heavily influenced by second Temple Judaism.
    Michael I’m big on scripture so I’ll just leave you with some that resonate with an indwelling Temple understanding in which God indwells the faithful.
    1Co 3:16-17 ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (17) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
    1Co 6:19 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
    2Co 6:16 ESV What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    Eph 2:20-22 ESV … Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
    Rev 21:3 ESV And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

  • AHH

    RJS #17 hints at something that also came to my mind.
    Wright is criticized for venturing too close to creating a “fifth gospel”.
    But is not “Four Spiritual Laws” a “fifth gospel”? And, in a more sophisticated way, any of the many systematic theology books?
    For those of us with roots in US evangelicalism, a major plus of Wright’s work has been to bring us back to Jesus, and the Gospels, and Paul, to get us looking at the stories the Scriptures are telling without having to view them through the spectacles of the often distorted Evangelical fifth gospels we were raised on. To see the gospel as story rather than as a set of modernist propositions has been very helpful to myself and others. Not to mention having greater appreciation for what the stories in Scripture say in their context.
    We probably do need the warning not to identify the story as Wright tells it as THE gospel. But to the extent his telling of the story points us to the words and deeds of Jesus, I see it as elevating the stories of Scripture rather than demoting them — what it mainly demotes is some of the systems (from Charles Hodge to Chick tracts) that Evangelicals have sometimes replaced the gospel stories with over the years.

  • #24 Norm
    I’m writing quickly and not being as clear as I should be. What I’m specifically angling for is the “already/not yet” aspect of the Kingdom. Yes, we are the living temple and we are here now. But not everyone who will be a part of the temple is yet a part of it. None of us who are a part of the living temple have been made completely new. The temple has been inaugurated but its completion comes only at the new creation. That is my point.

  • Norm

    I’ll take a little time at the chance of presenting more than you might require but this is not a simple subject.
    The already but not yet issue is probably best framed in the contemporary times of the establishment of the New Covenant. The Pentecost event appears to have kicked off the beginning of what may be called the New Exodus occurrence for the New Covenant. There has been plenty written on that subject in which the spreading of the Gospel begins and ends in a 40 year time frame from the Cross to the demise of the Jewish Temple worship system at Jerusalem’s fall. This period of time was framed by the NT writers as a period of sojourning until the apostate Jewish persecution was removed through Judgment for their spilling the blood of the martyrs and bringing to an end that persecution. This sojourn thus ended with what was considered the consummation of the New Covenant as the old was brought to an end officially. This new Exodus thus was the time of fulfillment of the new Temple indwelling the faithful progressing forward toward fulfillment. The New Covenant has now been fully established and there is no more waiting to enter into its blessings. Thus I would state that we have been made new when we enter into the New Covenant by faith. It was the faithful who resided in the old covenant who were expecting to be made new as the old faded from glory and is now gone. That is in a nutshell the backdrop of the discussion of the NT already but not yet experience.
    I’ll refer you to Rev 22 in which people mistakenly think that this is a picture of Heaven when in reality it is simply apocalyptic language lifted from Ezekiel 47 demonstrating the reality of the New Covenant. This River represents Christ as the water of life in which the healing of the Nations are available through him (the healings takes place here and not in Heaven). In the previous verses it was again reiterated that the Temple was not a structure but was through the indwelling of God and the Lamb.
    Rev 22:1-2 ESV Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (2) through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree WERE FOR THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS.
    Rev 21:3 ESV And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD IS WITH MAN. HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. … 22 And I saw NO TEMPLE in the city, for ITS TEMPLE IS THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY AND THE LAMB.

  • #27 Norm
    So it is your understanding that there is no future critical turn in history at which God enters the picture and redeems creation and those who have died in him? There well be no resurrection and no transformation of the created order? Is the New Creation is completely and utterly finished?

  • Norm

    The critical turn in history happened at the time of Christ and He did not fail to complete it. Hope that doesn’t disappoint you. Creation was the process from Adam until the new creation was fulfilled. Those in Heb 11 who had died in faith in hope of him have been redeemed and were brought into God’s full presence when the Old Body of Death was redeemed into the new Body of Christ. We in faith join into that body of the redeemed by our faith in Christ to eternal life everlasting. No longer do we have to sleep in the Dust post mortem awaiting that redemption as the worthies of Old did. Redemption of the old covenant church (Israel) was the resurrection and the Life into the new covenant church. The old Covenant order has been transformed and we have been partaking of it as the body of Christ for over 1900 years and counting. The New Creation has been finished unless one subscribes to a dispensational version in which Christ has to come back and straighten out unfinished business and create a shiny new planet as the Young Earth Creationist think preceded the Fall.
    Michael, I’m an evolutionist and don’t subscribe to any of that literal nonsensical misreading of Genesis and Revelation that the YEC and Dispensationalist get all wrapped up in. I know it sells lots of exotic left behind books and Global flood mixed with Dinosaur museums but it’s not based upon sound biblical Hebrew theology.

  • Michael W. Kruse

    Norm #29
    That’s helpful Norm and know I’m not disappointed. You’re entitled to be wrong. 😉
    Seriously, my take is that the Jews (of Second Temple Judaism) expected the restoration Israel, the reestablishment of the Temple, and the vanquishing of the Gentiles. This transformation would happen under the leadership of a messiah. Signs and wonders, as well as resurrection of the dead, would coincide with this. God would reign over the earth from his temple and while creation would be transformed our existence would still be a material existence on the earth.
    Jesus came to fulfill Israel but in unexpected ways. Israel would be expanded to include all humanity and all the earth. The temple would cease to be a building but now be a living temple with God’s law written on our hearts.
    Who was right? Jesus (an the early church) believed he would be vindicated within a generation. At that time he would be vindicated, final judgment would occur, and the newly created order would be complete, with resurrected faithful inhabiting this transformed material existence. The new Kingdom would be consummated.
    The vindication did indeed occur in 70 C.E. but not the the return of Christ, the final judgment, the resurrection of the dead, and the consummation of the Kingdom. What was not perceived was that God apparently God planned to evolve and grow his church from the time of vindication until the figurative “other shoe” would drop.
    I’m an evolutionist. I’m not into a YEC literal Genesis either. I’m hardly dispensationalist (no raptures). I suspect most of Revelation is about 1st Century events written to encourage the saints. But the final couple of chapters of Revelation have not occurred. Jesus has not returned as he promised in Acts. Other NT passages speak of a his coming and events that are not addressed by the events of 70 C.E. I believe the Early Church was pretty settled on this.
    The Kingdom of God is here. Jesus has been vindicated. But the New Creation has yet to be consummated. It will be in some ways both continuous and discontinuous with what came before. Figuratively speaking, per 1 Thes 4, Jesus will come to the clouds above the earth, dead will rise to meet him, the living will join them, and just as with a king approaching a village, they will usher him into his throne on earth.
    My understanding is the idea that we die and then enter into some disembodied ethereal state with God would have been foreign to the First Century Jews and Christians.
    On a completely other note, one of the issues I have with seeing early Genesis as purely about is Israel is that it this would mean the Israel was given a mission, rebelled, and must be redeemed. They needed to repent. The NT says to preach the good news to the Gentiles and call on them to repent. If early Genesis is not part about all of humanity that what is that Gentiles need to repent of? They weren’t given the mission so they could not have rebelled and would not be in need of repentance.

  • keo

    AHH #25, I would agree that the 4 Spiritual Laws is a “5th gospel.”
    I was at a wake tonight and examined another gospel in a tract I found on a table. I was amazed — not by how conventional the presentation was (sin –> hell –> Jesus, etc.) but by how broadly this author had to reach within the scriptures to patch together this supposedly simple gospel, and by how little each passage contributed to the final product, sometimes as few as two words from a particular verse. There were something like fifteen different books of the Bible needed to accomplish this little 500-word tract, and the reader would have to flip back and forth between the OT and NT to follow it. If my students turned in a research paper written like this, I would seriously doubt that they had gotten the correct sense or the intended context of the many, many quotations.
    Can we really not find the gospel presented more succinctly in a single passage, by a single author? Acts 2 is the closest thing I can think of, but I have never seen that story used in salvation tracts (… perhaps because it doesn’t warn of hell?). Isn’t that odd if we can’t find it in the Bible? I’m not saying that the gospel should be twitter-able, just that I would be more confident about my definition of gospel if I could read it in a single passage, written by one author, and clearly in a context of summarizing the gospel. As opposed to Jesus’s “I am the way” answer to Thomas’s non-what-is-the-gospel? question, by the way.
    What do we imply about the scriptures when we have to do so much cutting and pasting to create the gospel we want to share?

  • DRT

    #29 Norm,
    Another way to interpret is we are still living in the 7th day when God rested. There was never morning then evening, the 7th day.

  • DRT

    er… evening the morning. So much for me trying to quote the bible.

  • Norm

    Your idea of the church continuing to look for Christ to return and do something he left unfinished is of course classic with as many variations one can imagine. What in essence your idea leaves us with is the church still wandering in the 40 year desert wilderness never entering into the Promised Land or reaching the Sabbath Rest that Christ promised within their Generation. I realize that many Christians like to embrace this suffering mode of existence but it’s not taught as lasting past the Generation that lived during that period.
    Heb 4:8-11 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. (9) So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, (10) for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (11) LET US THEREFORE STRIVE TO ENTER THAT REST, SO THAT NO ONE MAY FALL BY THE SAME SORT OF DISOBEDIENCE.
    Judgment occurred through Christ coming in righteous vindication for the faithful at AD70 as He stated he would. This was the time of the separation of the sheep and the goats in which the apostate Jews were judged and cast out of God’s presence of Covenant life and blessings as was Cain their example. This fulfillment of Christ vindication coupled with the removal of the Temple, animal sacrifices and human priest was the effective end of the Old Covenant from a biblical view. The Jews knew what this judgment upon them and their Temple implied and thus a remnant believed and entered the Promised Land and the rest fell in the Desert wilderness. We see this idea all throughout the NT if we pay attention to the context.
    2Th 1:4-10 … we ourselves boast about you … in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. … since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to GRANT RELIEF TO YOU WHO ARE AFFLICTED AS WELL AS TO US, when the LORD JESUS IS REVEALED from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, INFLICTING VENGEANCE on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) THEY WILL SUFFER THE PUNISHMENT OF ETERNAL DESTRUCTION, AWAY FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD and from the glory of his might, (10) WHEN HE COMES ON THAT DAY to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, BECAUSE OUR TESTIMONY TO YOU WAS BELIEVED.
    Michael the early church became Hellenized quickly and soon lost touch with their Hebrew roots and ability to properly discern Jewish literature correctly. It has been a circus of interpretations throughout our history and especially when the reformation came about and every man started interpreting scripture any way they could imagine bringing us today’s American Evangelical messes.
    Finally I would point out that when we old Earth adherents start to realize that early Genesis is not a literal rendition of physical and biological literature we will be on our way to understanding Hebrew literature properly. What will happen is that one day later on one will wake up and it will dawn on them that maybe they should take another gander at Revelation and start applying the same hermeneutic principles to it that they do to Genesis. That will be an aha moment for many. Rev 21-22 is simply the good and happy reconciliation of what occurred in the Garden. It’s not about Christ coming back again and frying all the unfaithful like ants on planet earth or establishing Shangri-La here on planet earth as that is what Heaven is for.
    Michael there has been plenty written on these subjects if people want to understand these things better. Revelation is not a mystery to those who read it through Hebraic eyes of messianic fulfillment. The simple answer regarding Israel is to think of her as the church in need of redemption and that is what Christ did but the Gentiles were grafted in while branches were cut off. This cutting off of the unfaithful at judgment left the church as the pure body of Christ where there dwells none with sin as the blood of the Lamb has cleansed the faithful.
    Rev 22:7 “And behold, I AM COMING SOON. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” … (15) Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
    That is about all I need to get into at the moment and tackling the Gentile issue of Genesis will probably blow your mind anyway. 😉 I’ll leave you with this hint; think about Peter’s vision of the animals and remember the apocalyptic nature of much of early Genesis literature.
    By the way since we are posting about NT Wright, it might interest some to know that Wright thinks we die and go into suspended animation and then return to a shiny new planet when the earth is reworked. His view is a hybrid form of dispensationalist and YEC literalism gone amok.

  • Norm

    That is correct.

  • Norm, ” it might interest some to know that Wright thinks we die and go into suspended animation and then return to a shiny new planet when the earth is reworked. His view is a hybrid form of dispensationalist and YEC literalism gone amok. ”
    Wright’s eschatology is hardly novel. The whole point of his work is that resurrection and new creation is the traditional Christian view, whereas the “float off to Heaven as a disembodied spirit” view, which you seem to advocate if I’m understanding you correctly, is the innovation. And not in a good way.
    I think large parts of Revelation can be read in a preterist manner, and I agree that Genesis and Revelation have some similarities, genre-wise, that might make the same hermeneutical tools useful. But not by allegorizing them into meaninglessness.

  • Norm

    Your over stating what I’m presenting and framing it in concepts like “disembodied spirit” which is your definition and not mine. Here is an excerpt from ABC news who interviewed Wright a couple of years ago on this subject. The bottom line is that Wright thinks that a physical new Heaven on Earth will sometime materialize. This idea could be taken straight out of a Ken Hamm novel regarding a paradise here on earth before the fall and is just another case of convoluted manipulation of Hebrew symbolic literature. The difference is that Hamm applies the literalizing in Genesis while Wright applies it to Revelation; both get it wrong. If one is going to take this hermeneutic of a hybrid literal reading of scriptures then it behooves them to be consistent like the YEC and Dispensationalist. Trying to keep one big toe in that hermeneutic is not intellectually consistent.
    By the way large segments of American Evangelicals hardly consider YEC as novel either. We Old Earth adherents are hardly in the mainstream of American Evangelical thinking regarding Genesis. So I say get used to being in the minority.
    Begin excerpt of Wright interview.
    In a radical departure from traditional belief, Wright says that Christians are not ultimately destined for a spiritual place called heaven. He says that at the end of time as we know it, God will literally remake our physical bodies and return us to a newly restored planet.
    “Heaven is important but it’s not our final destination,” he explained. “If you want to say that when someone dies they go to heaven, fine. But that’s only a temporary holding pattern that is life after death. And what I’m much more interested in, or the New Testament is much more interested in, is what I’ve called life after life after death.” …
    Wright hopes that his new book will revive belief in the prospect of a new, physical heaven and earth, which he says will somehow materialize when God decides to rebuild and restore the universe — “Heaven and earth joined together in a new reality.”

  • You seem to think I’m a YEC. I believe the earth is billions years old and the human beings are the product of evolution. I believe Genesis 1 and 2 are genres similar to Ancient Near East literature that describe, not creation, but the purpose and function of the things in the world around us. I don’t emphatically rule out a historical Adam and Eve but I don’t think their historical existence as essential. So I bit perplexed as to why you think I’m YEC. And frankly, I don’t think my views here are dissimilar to Wrights and don’t understand why you perceive him as YEC.
    Yes, I agree that the church became Hellenized. But as Travis notes the Hellenization was in the direction of matter/spirit dualism where, when we die, our spirit is “released” from our body into a higher perfect state. In “Heaven: A History,” by Collen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, they note three views about resurrection among the Jews at the time of the Resurrection. The Sadducees and their followers did not believe in the resurrection. The Pharisees believed that there would be a resurrection of the faithful at the time that God restored the Kingdom of Israel who be returned to life among the living here on earth. There is evidence that the Essenes may have had a something more akin to the Hellenized version. It appears that the most widely shared view was view of the Pharisees. Certainly this is view in Scripture.
    1 Thess 4:13-18
    “13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 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. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
    Verses 16-17 draws on the imagery of the arrival of a dignitary where the village goes out of the city to greet the dignitary and usher him into the city. Metaphorically, the dead and the living go out of the city into the clouds to usher the King to his earthly throne.
    2 Peter 2:3-13 talks about a fire that will consume the heavens and earth and a new heavens and earth will be left in its place. In 1 Peter 1:7 is the idea that we are being refined by fire and it appears that refinement is mind here, not annihilation. 2 Peter 2:6-7 makes this comparison:
    “6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
    A first refinement was made water with Noah’s flood. This one will be as if by fire, leaving only what is pure behind.
    Furthermore, 2 Peter 3:10:
    10 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.
    2 Peter was written after 70 C.E. and it is speaking of these events as future expectations.
    I agree that Revelation is hebriac apocalyptic literature about Jesus as messiah and his triumph. But to whom was it written and when? I think it is widely accepted that it was written well after 70 C.E. to encourage people who were enduring persecution. The whole point is that the final couple of chapters are yet to unfold, so take courage and have hope. Furthermore, the hope is not one of ascending into heaven. God and the New Jerusalem comes down to a new earth.
    Rev 21:1-4
    21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. [Not “Now the dwelling of men is with God, and we will go to live with Him.] They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
    At Jesus Ascension, the angel said in Acts 1:11
    11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
    That has not yet happened
    Yes. Wright does believe in life after life after death on a new earth. So do I. I have no clue why you think this is somehow tied to YEC or dispensationalism. Your view is the one influenced by Greek matter/spirit dualism. Not mine.

  • Dana Ames

    Traveling, unfortunately not going to be able to check in much for the next couple of days. I apologize, but have to comment anyhow 🙂
    “eternal life” is not about duration, it’s about quality. As D. Willard says, “the eternal kind of life”. In translation from Greek it can also be rendered “the life of the Age to Come”. Wright describes what that would mean to Jesus’ hearers in the big books. Not about duration.
    what you’re talking about when you say “spiritual” sounds quite dualist to me. Wright rejects dualism and believes that the Jews did so too. He believes the whole kosmos will enjoy restoration when Jesus returns, because God values the material world he made. In EOrthodoxy, the view is that God created the kind of universe into which the Second Person of the Trinity could be incarnate, in the fullness of time. You would disagree with Wright about exactly how much fulfillment there has been, as Michael Kruse has written. I also think that Wright wouldn’t describe the state of waiting for Jesus’ return as “suspended animation”. People are aware, and already enjoy some measure of more fullness of the Resurrection Life, if they are in Christ.
    the exile in the Garden is death. When we sever ourselves from trust in God, that topples the relationship, and when we are severed from the Giver of Life, we become dead men walking. It’s being “in Christ” as was commented above that our connection with the source and sustainer of Life is restored. This goes for Gentiles as well as Jews. Jesus is/was not only the Faithful Jew, he was the Faithful Adam/human.

  • Norm, I don’t mean to overstate your position. If you think a recreated/restored physical earth is as foolish as a recently created one, and that our true destiny lies in heaven, can you explain what you mean by that?
    Besides, it’s not literalizing to say that Revelation metaphorically describes future events as opposed to metaphorically describing past events. Literal reading has nothing to do with it.
    Michael expresses much better than I could why I find your position lacking (again, if I understand it correctly, and if I don’t please tell me).

  • Norm

    Let me make sure that you understand that I probably agree with a large portion of your ideas but these forums are to discuss some differences and to explore why they are there. We like to tackle issues that may need some more illumination to help the faith community to better understand the scriptures. Gen and Rev both have myriads of misunderstanding applied to them and there is still a need IMHO for clarification for the body of believers.
    I’m using the YEC parallel as an obvious foil to get folks to back up and notice the similarity with the YEC physical and literal reading of Genesis and a physical and literal reading of Revelation. I know you’re not a YEC but I don’t think you have fully grasped the similarity of the two hermeneutic approaches to arrive at a previous paradisiacal earth with Adam and the desire like Wright for an ending paradisiacal one as well. Both approaches although on separate ends of the bible are two peas in the same pod hermeneutically and methodologically speaking and if we are going to discard the one in Genesis then under what hermeneutic rule do we reinitiate it for only parts of Revelation?
    By the way I would say that none of the scriptures including Johns were written post AD70 as many of those later dates are merely speculation and are helpful only to a Hellenized presuppositional view. There is much debate on those subjects out there with plenty of good strong refutation against Rev being written post AD70. Check it out 😉
    I want to now address this idea of Dualism regarding the biblical understanding of “Spiritual”. Christ made it plain to the Jews that His Kingdom would come: but not with observation as seen in Luke 17.
    Luk 17:20-21 ASV And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God COMETH NOT WITH OBSERVATION: (21) neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.
    Also Christ made it manifestly clear to Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this physical world to the consternation of the Jews who would have liked to have had a physical ruler.
    Joh 18:36 ASV Jesus answered, MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: BUT NOW IS MY KINGDOM NOT FROM HENCE.
    Christ states that His Kingdom would grow into the largest of Garden Trees in which the Birds of Heaven would find rest. Surely we recognize the application of these symbols that the faithful will be finding rest in the Spiritual nature that Christ brings to us.
    Mat 13:32 YLT which less, indeed, is than all the seeds, but when it may be grown, is greatest of the herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven do come and rest in its branches.’
    The Spiritual nature of the Kingdom is thus foundational to a Christian understanding as it is the very fabric of what indwells a faithful believer to bring them in harmony with God. We can see the importance that Paul stresses in its significance throughout his writings.
    2Co 3:17-18 ESV Now THE LORD IS THE SPIRIT, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (18) And WE ALL, … ARE BEING TRANSFORMED INTO THE SAME IMAGE … For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
    Are we going to now state that the recognition of the Spiritual indwelling of Christ in the faithful is somehow Gnostic or dualistic in nature? Randomly applying the recognition of our Spiritual indwelling by the Holy Spirit to an offense of some magnitude is careless and provocative and really has no grounds. Trying to ascribe some random idea of dualistic spiritual thinking needs to be dropped as it has no basis and is simply a feigned spook attempt.
    In regards to the Sadducee and Pharisee differences regarding resurrection Paul famously used their differences to throw them into disarray in Acts. The Pharisee’s initially sided with Paul until they discovered that His understanding of resurrection did indeed differ from their physical messianic aspirations. They wanted nothing to do with resurrection lifting Israel out of Spiritual Death but wanted a Physical version to get rid of the Romans bondage. Are we still falling into the same physical resurrection trap of the Pharisee’s by wanting their same physical resurrection to this shiny new planet some day? Do we realize the same ground is being desired again as Satan offered Christ the Land and the Nations but He would have nothing of it. Why do we continue to go down the same physical storyline that was corrupt and put to bed by Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
    Guys I have never ever hinted to what our existence will look like in our Heavenly abode. Your speculation about my belief is interesting considering I’m not spoken toward that idea. What I do see in scriptures is that we will live eternally with God in Heaven and will not be transported back down here after God does a fixit job on the ole earth. So I see no basis for pointing toward God renovating the earth back to the YEC view of paradise lost and us all lying down with the lion and the lamb and the child playing over the vipers nest. If you think Isaiah 11 is a picture of that shiny newly renovated planet where we will all congregate then I’ve got some confederate money stashed away that I’m willing to let go for a good price. After all the “South shall rise again”. 😉 But keep in mind you will have to get in line behind Ken Ham.
    Just having a little fun there at the end guys after all it is getaway Friday. 🙂
    Thanks though for the interfacing and I’m sorry I can’t address everything that came up.

  • Travis Greene

    So Norm, if our resurrection isn’t physical, was Jesus’s? I’m not trying some gotcha game, I’m genuinely curious about what you think.

  • Norm

    Why would we not expect our resurrection to be similar to Christ? The difference is that we are not required to come back from our resurrection to earth to demonstrate for the rest of humanity that Resurrection is a reality. I assume from scriptures that we will join Christ in the Heavenly abode directly. Now if we all coming flying out of caskets at the end of time motoring up into the wild blue yonder then who exactly is that vision supposed to be for? I believe since it is the end of the world (depending upon which version of millennialism you espouse) that a demonstration of a visionary resurrection would be a complete moot point concerning the circumstance of the end times occurring. Why would we not be like Christ in Heaven? I am really anxious to see Christ there but of course not too soon yet?
    Michael quoted 1 Thess 4:13-18 and spoke of how when Christ arrived to them that it was in the mode of going forth to meet an important King and then to usher him back into the City to reside and feast with the subjects and that is indeed correct.
    What is important to understand is that to meet them in the air represents meeting Christ in the Heavenly Spiritual realm upon the full establishment of the New covenant. At that time Christ would come and sup with the faithful eternally through His Spirit confirming and strengthening us daily in our walk. It is the same message spoken in other scriptures most notably in Rev 21. His abiding Spirit dwelling in us is the healing of the Nations as it perfects us in His desired Spiritual Image.
    Rev 21:2-3 ESV And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD IS WITH MAN. HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God….
    7 THE ONE WHO CONQUERS WILL HAVE THIS HERITAGE, and I will be his God and he will be my son. …
    10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the HOLY CITY JERUSALEM COMING DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN from God, …
    22 And I saw no temple in the city, for ITS TEMPLE IS THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY AND THE LAMB. …
    Those above verses are similar to the literature of Ezekiel which prophesied the time of the messiah and they reiterate what 1 Thess 4 states about Christ coming down as the conquering King to be with His subjects. Now if we jump to the next chapter of 1 Thess 5 we see that they are to be diligent for that day which will be like a thief in the night to those unprepared such as the doubting Jews who had no faith in Christ. He reminds them that they have been warned and prepared for that upcoming Day of Judgment and are not the ones who are going to be caught off guard. This was especially important for those who lived in Jerusalem and cities of Jewish rebellion to the Romans. They were to flee to the mountains when they see the armies surrounding Jerusalem and hope their flight would not occur on the Sabbath as the City doors could be locked and delay them.
    1Th 5:1-5 ESV Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. (2) For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (3) While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (4) BUT YOU ARE NOT IN DARKNESS, BROTHERS, FOR THAT DAY TO SURPRISE YOU LIKE A THIEF. (5) For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

  • Norm #41
    A couple of things. The idea of a fall from a perfect garden and restoration at the end as a theme that long predates the rise of dispensationalism a couple of centuries ago. See the Westminster Confession, Thomas Aquinas, on back to the early church … see Zorosterianism . This is hardly a recent development. Because one aspect or another happens to agree with YECers or dispensationalists isn’t relevant to its validity.
    You seem to use spirit as or spiritual as antithetical to material. Paul writes in 1 Cor 10:1-4”
    10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
    Were these immaterial drinks and rocks? Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:42-45
    42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
    The spiritual body is still a body that is somehow transformed. Jesus had a resurrected body and could apparently walk through closed doors. He said there would be no more marriage. Paul says there will be not more eating in our resurrected existence. There will be something both continuous and radically discontinuous between our natural body and our spiritual body. In 2 Cor 5:1-10, Paul figuratively writes of his body as a tent wanting to shed his “earthly dwelling” (his body) and be clothed with his “heavenly dwelling” … but there is a dwelling.
    Elsewhere Paul writes:
    Rom 8:23-24
    “23 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.”
    Phil 3:20-21
    “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
    I’ll also add that he Apostle’s Creed like dates to at least the early second century. In it we aver:
    “I believe in the Holy Ghost;
    the holy catholic church;
    the communion of saints;
    the forgiveness of sins;
    the resurrection of the body;
    and the life everlasting.”
    We also need to recognize, as learned in a lengthy discussion here at Jesus Creed, is that “heaven” is less a specific place and more the general sense of “where God is.” The “Kingdom of Heaven” is used interchangeably with “Kingdom of God” because heaven is essentially God’s presence. In Revelation, the veil between heaven and earth is torn. The two become one as God make his presence with us in our new spiritual bodies in purified and redeemed world.
    The ancient Jews appear not to have believed in an afterlife. Zoroasterianism had the idea of bodily resurrection, judgment, and cleansing of the earth to a restored original state of perfection, by the mid-Second Century B.C.E. Some have speculated that the Jews picked up these ideas while in exile in Babylon, Zoroaster’s home. Who knows who influenced who. The Greek influence, probably felt more in the Great cultural centers like Alexandria than in Palestine, was the separation between soul and spirit. Philo of Alexandria, contemporary to Jesus, believed souls existed prior to birth. They inhabited bodies and then became souls again at death … all in keeping with certain Greek traditions. Meanwhile, traditional Jews did not use cremation or embalming … orthodox Jews don’t cremate even today … in anticipation of the resurrection.
    If there was Greek influence it was away from bodily resurrection toward a dualistic departure of the spirit from the body, reading back Greek notions on to Paul’s writing and on to the N.T. That is what you are doing.
    The Scripture teaches bodily resurrection into a transformed world. That was the view in the early Creeds. It was the few of early church fathers. Despite various departures into dualisms (like yours) at various times the church has held to this.
    So you can denigrate me as ignorant Ken Hammite, and make cute snarky comments about shiny new worlds all you want. These are the tactics I find most people revert to when they can’t substantiate their position.

  • Norm

    Yes there are numerous examples of ANE garden stories that lay outside of Hebrew literature and I’m sure the influence is pervasive. However it is what the Hebrew have accomplished theologically with their Garden Story that sets it apart from the others. So yes there are similarities but there are important and “radical” differences as well. I don’t think we should be inclined to go back to the ANE writings and try to reincorporate them into the fold now as some long lost first cousin seeking inclusion. The idea that Zoroasterianism theology should be considered as influential is speculative and basically irrelevant in the long run. The Hebrews under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God spit out the bones of ANE paganism and we as Christians are the recipients of that Godly purification.
    Many rational scholars today are coming to the conclusion that the rise of Ellen White, George McCready Price, Henry Morris and Tim Lahaye vision for Genesis has been a huge mistake even though it permeates contemporary American Evangelical thinking like none other. Might does not make right and Mark Noll has addressed the dangers of these mentalities that come out of a wooden literal hermeneutical approach to scripture. What I am attempting to illustrate is that we science types also like to point out the misguided application of their hermeneutic to the origins story because we know it is farcical in reality and ultimately in scriptural exegesis as well. Because we recognize it steps on reality we have investigated their premise and found it wanting. Now turn that around to the end time’s discussion and we find that many science types are shape changers hermeneutically speaking. What was determined to be hermeneutically untenable in Genesis is now acceptable in the NT and Revelation. Some how that Shangri la idea of planet earth that has been rejected from the YEC crowd has now become acceptable as the end game. Now it might make perfect sense for the YEC dispensationalist crowd to embrace that standard but it makes no sense in the world for those opposed to them in Genesis to now fully embrace their exegetical standard in Revelation. Especially since Rev 21-22 is the good ending of story gone bad in the Garden in which there is no more curse for God’s people. If the Genesis Garden story is not what the YEC want to portray then it’s also not to be expected when the Garden becomes restored in Revelation. In other words you can’t have it both ways and be intellectually consistent with scriptures.
    Now concerning your application of several scriptures dealing with the “Body” (Greek soma) let me point out some issues that you need to be aware of when applying those scriptures. A. T. Robinson perhaps the NT Wright of his day delves heavily into Paul’s usage of “body” soma in his book called simply “The Body”. In it he lays out and clarifies that Paul’s usage of Body reflects a “corporate” understanding of that term. The clearest example I can think of is Paul’s defining of the Body of Christ in 1 Cor 12 as the body of believers. This collective application is used by Paul to also expand upon the concept of Israel as the “Body of sin and Death”. In other words Israel is the church of antiquity portrayed as a corporate body in need of redemption. In fact that is the entire premise of 1 Cor 15 that you quote. Israel finds her corporate head as Adam in regards to Law and commandment. Adam represents the body Israel just as Christ represents the church or Body of Christ. Just as Israel retained the Image of Adam the earthy so shall the faithful remnant Israel put on the Image of Christ the Spiritual as His body becoming the church.
    1Co 15:48-49 ESV As was the man of dust, so also ARE THOSE WHO ARE OF THE DUST, and as is the man of heaven, so also ARE THOSE WHO ARE OF HEAVEN. (49) Just as WE HAVE borne the image of the man of dust, WE SHALL also bear the image of the man of heaven.
    In Rom 7:24 we think Paul is speaking about himself but if one studies carefully the context of Paul’s Romans 5-8 we see that he is speaking of the corporate body of Death. Paul is seeking freedom from the corruptible body of sin and death that holds Israel prisoner until Christ.
    Rom 7:24 YLT A wretched man I am ! who shall deliver me out of THE BODY OF THIS DEATH? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    Your quoting of Phil 3:21 is a perfect example of the corporate application of the two collective bodies or modes of existence. The Old corruptible Body of faith is being raised into the new and glorious Body of Christ. It’s a corporate recognition not singular except that we individually come into the corporate body of Christ and have our being through putting on Christ.
    Php 3:21 YLT who shall transform THE BODY OF OUR HUMILIATION to its becoming conformed to THE BODY OF HIS GLORY,
    You have to be careful with the translators as they are all over the field with this translation of “soma”. An example again is you’re quoting of Rom 8:23 which had plural “bodies” when it should have been singular “body” meaning our/their collective group “body”.
    Rom 8:23 YLT And not only so , but also we ourselves, having the first-fruit of the Spirit, we also ourselves in ourselves do groan, adoption expecting–the redemption of our BODY;
    Let me point you to a contemporary author on the works of Paul. Tom Holland examines this corporate view of Body much as Robinson has and helps put the context in a Jewish viewpoint that oft escapes us. His book “Contours of Pauline Theology” is available on Amazon and can be viewed and downloaded from his web site as well. You should make yourself familiar with these works for foundational exegetical proposes which helps understand Paul even more thoroughly than even Wright brings to the table. I’m going to quote an excerpt from his book to give just a taste of the corporate understanding of Israel and the church as the Body.
    “It is most clearly seen in that Romans 6 has developed out of the argument
    expanded in chapter five of two communities bound in solidarity with their
    representative heads. To establish the freedom that the people of God have
    been brought into, Paul is now forced to demonstrate that the believer is no
    longer part of the old solidarity of Sin and death and has to show that a new
    solidarity now exists. In this discussion he has explained how this new
    freedom has been achieved. The whole of the argument of Romans is not
    related to the believer as an individual, but to the community of believers, the
    church (see my commentary on Romans for how this works out throughout
    the letter). This perspective in no way alters the need for personal repentance
    and regeneration, but it puts the individual response in the context of the
    covenant community, as it was in the OT.”
    Finally let me again address your trying to pin some form of Greek thinking on the spiritual fulfillment that Christ brings to the church. I’m not presenting the Spiritual application of the Holy Spirit upon the faithful outside of how scriptures present it. Notice Michael I use scriptures to illustrate the application of the Holy Spirit. This idea was bound up heartily in the OT and Ezekiel presents through figurative language that the Dead Bones of Israel will be raised up and life will come on them when the Holy Spirit comes through the Messiah. This is a corporate application of National Israel being redeemed from their body of Death as Paul would put it. It is not literal but figurative language illustrating their plight as prisoners of Adamic spiritual Death.
    Eze 36:26-27 KJV A new heart also will I give you, and A NEW SPIRIT WILL I PUT WITHIN YOU: and I WILL TAKE AWAY THE STONY HEART out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
    Eze 37:10-11 KJV So I prophesied as he commanded me, and THE BREATH CAME INTO THEM, and they lived, and STOOD UP UPON THEIR FEET, an exceeding great army. (11) Then he said unto me, Son of man, THESE BONES ARE THE WHOLE HOUSE OF ISRAEL: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and OUR HOPE IS LOST: we are cut off for our parts.
    Eze 37:13-14 KJV And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, (14) And SHALL PUT MY SPIRIT IN YOU, AND YE SHALL LIVE
    Rev 11:11-12 KJV And after three days and an half THE SPIRIT OF LIFE FROM GOD ENTERED into them, and THEY STOOD UPON THEIR FEET;
    2Co 3:6-8 ASV who also made us sufficient as MINISTERS OF A NEW COVENANT; not of the letter, but OF THE SPIRIT: for the LETTER KILLETH, but THE SPIRIT GIVETH LIFE. (7) But if the MINISTRATION OF DEATH, written, and engraven on stones,
    But no the scriptures do not teach a physical bodily resurrection into a new transformed world where literally wild and domestic animals coexist peacefully together. Just as they do not teach that Adam lived in a Garden in which animals do not eat and kill or die until the fall. If one is going to subscribe to one version of paradise then there is no reason not to subscribe to the other. I would be interested in how one might embrace the future paradise of Earth but reject the YEC version of its original state. There is an elephant in the room that needs to be dealt with hermeneutically.
    Michael don’t take my “snarkiness” personal as I used it to drive home a point that folks don’t typically think about.

  • Norm #45
    I’m saying the early Genesis passages is not a “reporter-on-the-scene” account. I’m saying it theologically captures something profound about our human condition. In some sense there was disruption between between God’s plan and humanity’s behavior for which redemption is needed. ANE cutlure communicated truths through metaphor and story. I’m not saying that it the scientific sense there was never a pristine perfect world. But in some metaphorical theological sense there was ordered world that was marred.
    You wrote:
    “Many rational scholars today are coming to the conclusion that the rise of Ellen White, George McCready Price, Henry Morris and Tim Lahaye vision for Genesis has been a huge mistake even though it permeates contemporary American Evangelical thinking like none other. …”
    I understand all that but you aren’t seeming to get (or at least acknowledge) my point. This notion of a humanly corrupted order long predates White, Price, Morris, Lahaye, et al. They certainly added their own bizarre twists to the creation, fall, redemption, new creation storyline but the storyline is there all the way back to the Jews. It is in error to keep applying a critique of dispensationalists to story elements (ex. fall or new creation) I use simply because they talked about them. They appropriated the traditional Christian storyline that preceded them by millennia. Debunking dispensationalists doesn’t undo this long history.
    Holland’s work looks interesting but I can’t speak the validity of what his work says. I can tell you that apparently most Jews believed in a personal bodily resurrection and anticipated a pivotal change in the future order of things … to the point they didn’t believe in cremation or embalming. I can tell that the Apostles Creed, emerging no later than the early Second Century explicitly affirms bodily resurrection. Were these folks somehow corrupted by White or LaHaye? How about the early Church fathers? If you are going to make the case against the narrative I outlined, then you will have to respond to this multitude of voices her were there at the beginning.
    No, I don’t believe the wolves and lambs will literally lie down. Isaiah and Revelation, as with Genesis, are using metaphorical language to talk about something that may not be logically comprehensible. They speak of a radical disjuncture in the time line in which something profound will happen. The dead will rise and there will be new order that will in some ways be both continuous and discontinuous with the past. Specifics are absent as they are with most such prophecy. The early Christians expected this to happen in conjunction with Jesus’ vindication and I suspect Jesus did too. But they didn’t. There is more to come. This understanding did not originate with White, LaHaye at al. It was there at the beginning. And I deeply suspicious of hermeneutics that postulate the entire sweep of Christian History simply misunderstood what biblical words and passages meant and we now know better. That is how I perceive you argument.
    Creation and New Creation are metaphorical parts of a storyline, not scientific literal descriptions. And we can enter the story and appreciate its truths without having to confuse it with scientific description. Something significant changed in the past that is veiled in metaphor to us. I so no inconsistency whatsoever with the idea of radically new order just because metaphorical language is used to describe it. The new order in some sense includes resurrected bodily existence.

  • Norm

    The Church is all over the board historically concerning end times scenarios. Which of the various Millennialism approaches do we want to choose from? All of these variations started popping up as I mentioned in an earlier post with the loss of a Hebraic understanding of the literature to be replaced with a Hellenized viewpoint. Undoubtedly the church became influenced by the Jews themselves who entirely rejected the Messiah during the 70th Generation. By the time of the 3rd or 4th century the church disqualified previous writings such as Enoch and Barnabas which contributes to the AD70 fulfillment of all things. They almost rejected Revelation as well. During the time of the reformation it became quite popular even to tie in the last days around the supposed apostasy of the Catholic Church itself which still finds traction out there among some evangelicals floating around.
    Michael to be frank with you if we don’t relearn to read Hebrew literature properly from the theological mindset of the NT writers then we are doomed to keep perpetuating imaginative viewpoints concerning eschatology that was never intended. I repeat that a pick and choose approach to literalizing scriptures is where all the messes have come from and will continue to come from. The story is much simpler than we might suppose because it is masked in symbolism and apocalyptic language whose definitions have to be fought over constantly for clarification. The baggage that hangs over Catholic and Protestant interpretations is entrenched and has taken on lives to themselves. Once paradigms like the left behind rapture mentality take hold in movements they perpetuate themselves by sheer cultural appropriation. That is what happened with the loss of the fulfillment of the completed process by the early church. They got off track with many different roads and are still speeding down those variant avenues.
    We are living in the fulfilled times that Christ brought to the faithful church and it is an everlasting age. Heaven (Life) starts now for those who embrace Christ and live life through His Spirit which he said would be with us forever.
    Joh 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, TO BE WITH YOU FOREVER,
    18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I WILL COME TO YOU. (19) Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. BECAUSE I LIVE, YOU ALSO WILL LIVE. (20) In that day you will know that I AM IN MY FATHER, AND YOU IN ME, AND I IN YOU.
    The discussion with His apostles during the last time before His death is clear that Christ equates the coming Holy Spirit that will indwell believers with Gods and His Spirit. If you are in Christ then you are in the Father as Christ is in the Father and the Holy Spirit is Christ coming down from Heaven to make His Home in our hearts forever.
    23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and WE WILL COME TO HIM AND MAKE OUR HOME WITH HIM.
    Christ did not fail in anything that He said would be accomplished in the upcoming generation including His coming in judgment to finalize the end of the Old Age thus firmly establishing the New forever. We are not still wandering in the desert wilderness as the Promised Land and Sabbath Rest has been fully established.
    Michael the reason the Dispensationalist has concocted their Christ do over is because they depend heavily upon taking Ezekiel literally. They think that the redemption of the dead bones of Israel and the raising from their graves and being brought back into the Land is a literal reading. By appropriating similar language to get a new and reformed planet earth you are basically kissing cousins hermeneutically speaking with them. Instead of realizing that the dead bones and being raised from their graves is speaking of Spiritual Dead men they literalize it to be a physical Bodily resurrection. Makes for good entertainment and speculation but has no reality in what Ezekiel is putting forth there.
    So in conclusion Michael I am not interested in the various historical misapplications of end times scenario’s that have been broached and adhered to down through the last 1900 years as it’s a mess and that mess speaks to its own poor record. End times rationalizing is simply a plaything that waste people’s time and energy and takes away from their being able to often live in the reality of the power of the Holy Spirit in their present lives. How many lives have been ruined because of an obsession with end time’s fallacious thinking? I say come back down to earth and let that search for the Holy Grail of end times go.
    Thanks for the discussion

  • #47
    Okay Norm. Whatever. I’m not sure its been much of a conversation.
    Your reasoning makes clear to me that your measure of theology is dispensationalism. Except in your case it is to be contra-dispensational. Therefore, anything that at any point might seem to line up with dispensational theology is verboten. And any theology at any point in history that seems to line up with dispensational theology emerged from the events set in motion by Ellen White in the 19th, even if the theology point under conversation was contemporary with Jesus and the early church.
    I keep expressing my views and responding to yours, while you keep having a conversation with some imaginary dispensationalist. Not a very productive conversation in my book.

  • norm

    Yes I am being contra dispensational which is nothing more than pointing out a poor biblical hermeneutic and its consequences. I’m not the first nor will I be the Last. The point of Ellen White and modern dispensationalist is a contemporary affair that people can relate to. Historically similar episodes have happened in various shades often and so this observation is nothing new to write home about. This would be in opposition to your point that just because it’s historical doesn’t imply its correctness.
    I realize you might want me to follow your lead in these postings but I don’t have the time nor is this the place to debate the full ramifications of your implications so I present instead a logical mini narrative for consideration. My points have been established and I’ll let the curious inclined take from it what they desire.
    You do realize that it is probably a moot point whether God establishes a place for Jesus and Us in Heaven or back here some future time upon renewed planet Earth. The bottom line is that God has a dwelling place for us all and He will provide. I think we can both get our heads around that. We will just have to see won’t we? 😉