Thursday, May 05, 2011

We too shall be raised (Easter, Day 12)

It is standard Easter fare to point out that our hope for resurrection is tied up with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that is so, then it seems to me that more sustained reflection on the original Easter event might have something to say about us and our destiny too.

For example, I said earlier that, in the first instance, the Son only receives new life from his Father. Jesus Christ was raised by God the Father. If our resurrection hope is tied up with his resurrection, then it seems that, in the first instance, we will receive our new life from God. In other words, our final resurrection will be an act of God upon us, an act of sheer grace.

At a minimum, this qualifies our talk of human persons as in some sense naturally immortal. We tend to think of life-after-death as a foregone conclusion, with the only question being where each of us will end up. But the grammar of grace indicates that immortal life is itself a gift to be received rather than a possession to be taken for granted.

It seems to me that this adjustment in our conversation about human personhood and human destiny would have some significant impact on how we live our lives, especially with reference to how we face death. I'd love to explore those with you in the comments, or perhaps in further posts. For now I will just leave you with the thought: if even Jesus was the one who received his resurrection life, then who are we to think that our resurrection is an inevitability or personal possession. It is a gift. Our hope for it is secure in Jesus. But it is nevertheless hope, and so is the openness to receive rather than the certainty of possession.

Any thoughts?


Phil said...

John, thanks for the good reminder of God's work in our resurrection. When we look at resurrection as another waypoint in our journey through the salvation story, we also highlight God's grace. If the work of salvation (from first awakening to final consummation) is all of God (i.e. all of grace), then it only makes sense that resurrection would be a work of God, a work of grace.

I think it's interesting to view bodily resurrection as a definite "work of grace" in the ordo salutis.

Hmmm... never really thought of that until tonight! I've always known God to be the agent of our resurrection, but never viewed it in the context of soteriology and grace. Very insightful.

π² said...

I adjusted my thinking to the mortality of humans several years ago, but I hadn't gone as far as to call the resurrection an act of grace. I see the tree of life, both in Eden & the Kingdom as grace for sure, but if we call the resurrection an act of grace, what is it to those who are raised "to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2)?

JohnLDrury said...

Oooh. Good point, Paul. Here's my struggle: most of the time the New Testament speaks of "resurrection" as a positive rather than neutral thing. So when it gets to speaking of those who are raised unto destruction, it seems odd to me. I think we should let the oddness stand, instead of too quickly resolving it by turning resurrection into a neutral category, the value of which is determined solely by the situation into which one is raised. Leaving the tension unresolved underscores the tragic character of eternal death, i.e., that there will be those who participate obliquely in the grace of resurrection but without enjoying the glorious fellowship of the risen resurrection which is its means and purpose.

I dunno. Just a thought on the fly.

π² said...

Ah. I think I could get into this really deep, but I'll lay it down for now. (I have sermons to write and a semester to complete.) Maybe I just found a topic for a PhD dissertation.

Phil Carder said...

hmmm.. Might we go so far as to say that even being raised "unto destruction" is an act of grace? Can't we say that God allowing the unrighteous to be full persons (soul AND body) would be grace, even if that full existence subsists in an eternal hell?

I just keep hearing Chris Bounds in the back of my mind whispering that even existence in hell is a demonstration of God's grace, for even a damned existence is better than no existence at all. We could also add that damned existence as a soul and body would be better than a partial existence as merely soul. Thus, even bodily resurrection of the unrighteous would seem to demonstrate God's grace.

Is this close to what you are getting at, John, with "participating obliquely in the grace of resurrection"?

π² said...

Phil, I understand your answer conceptually (better to have a bad life than no life), but I think this is where annihilists get some ammo, because I don't think there is agreement that eternal torment as a demonstration of God's justice is more gracioius than ceasing to exist. Also, the argument sounds Buddhist to me. For example, in Buddhism it is better to have a short life as a human than a long life as a bug, or a hungry ghost. Our version would be "better to live in hell and know who God is than to not exist at all." Conceptually true, but not the least bit comforting.

Life is a gift from God, and so is resurrection. We could list many things that are God's gifts, but all all His gifts a result of grace?

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