Category : Eschatology

(FT) Britain’s burial crisis – and how to solve it

On a wet, windy Thursday in December, Bicester Village swarms with shoppers. The Oxfordshire retail complex receives about seven million visitors a year, lured by designer clothes at discount prices.

Across the road, there’s a sports field. Beyond that, in view of the shopping centre, is Bicester’s cemetery. It’s a pleasant, simple space: a long path runs through it, flanked by lines of trees. The oldest of the weathered gravestones I saw dated back to 1865.

Above ground, at least, the cemetery doesn’t look particularly crowded. But almost all the 5,000-plus plots are occupied. When it ran out of space in the past, it just kept growing. It took over one field, then another. To clear space for more graves, workers removed benches and dug up trees — a practice known in the burial industry as cramming.

Now, however, the cemetery has expanded as far as it can. As of last April — the most recent date for which Bicester council provides figures — it only has 36 unreserved burial plots left, and another 23 for cremated remains. In a town of 30,000-plus, that’s enough to get it through the next couple of years, provided there aren’t any severe flu outbreaks.

Bicester is not alone. At a time when, each year, 140,000 people in the UK still choose to be buried, cemeteries around the country are running out of space. In 2013, a BBC study found that a quarter of England’s local authorities — which oversee the overwhelming majority of cemeteries — expected those they managed to be full by 2023.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Religion & Culture

(CT) David Briggs–Who Worries About Hell the Most

Hell matters to a lot of us.

About half of Americans are absolutely sure of their belief in hell, while the percentage who believe rises above two-thirds when some degrees of uncertainty are included.

[Editor’s note: Last year, a LifeWay Research survey similarly found that just 45 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place. The Pew Research Center reported that a vast majority of highly religious and somewhat religious Americans (at least 8 in 10) believe in hell, while barely any non-religious Americans do (fewer than 5%). In the Pew study, each group was more likely to profess a belief in heaven than hell.]

Earlier research into supernatural evil such as hell, Satan, and demons has found both positive and negative outcomes.

Belief in supernatural evil has been linked to results such as increasing religious resourcesand promoting greater cooperation and less selfish behavior.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, Religion & Culture

(NYT) When Religion Leads to Trauma–Some churches “weaponize scripture and religion to do very deep damage on the psyche,” one pastor says.

Brett Higbee, a retired land surveyor who attended the ranch during the late 1970s, said that he was routinely beaten for religious infractions like failing to memorize Bible verses. These experiences made him religion-phobic for years, he said, his pain triggered by entering a church or even hearing Christmas music on the radio.

The gap between religious teachings on compassion and the ways that faith sometimes gets misused inspired Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a psychiatrist, and his colleagues at Duke University to develop “religious cognitive therapy” in 2014. The therapy uses “positive scriptures that focus on forgiveness, God’s love and divine mercy to challenge the dysfunctional thoughts that maintain trauma,” says Dr. Koenig.

The Duke team has developed workbooks that accentuate this positive content for each of the world’s major religions. Clinical trials, published in 2015, showed that religious people who received the therapy had lower rates of depression and reported more positive emotions like gratitude and optimism than those who did not receive it.

The best cure for religious trauma may be a deeper dive into the spiritual core of religious teachings, Dr. Koenig says.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(CC) Nicholas Wolterstorff–On grief, and not theologizing about it

When Eric died, a big part of my own self was ripped out. My desires with respect to him, my commitments, my hopes, my expectations—they were no more. My expectation that he would be home for the summer was no more; my plan to attend his graduation was no more. For a month or so I caught myself still planning to do things with him, still expecting him to call. Eventually, the realization sunk in, all the way down, that he was dead. I had to learn to live around that gaping wound and with that grief. Grief was not just an additional component in my life. I had to live a new kind of life, one for which I had no practice.

When someone to whom we are attached dies or is destroyed, we are cast into grief. That tells us when grief befalls us, not what the thing itself is. Grief, I have come to think, is wanting the death or destruction of the loved one to be undone, while at the same time knowing it cannot be undone. Grief is wanting the loved one back when one knows he can’t come back. Tears and agitation are typical expressions of grief, but they are not the thing itself. My grief was wanting intensely for Eric to be alive when I knew that could not be.

It has to be wanting, not wishing. When I was a teenager, I wished to become a major-league baseball pitcher—one of the very best, a 20-game winner. I fantasized about it. But the fact that I have not become a baseball pitcher has caused me no grief whatsoever, since it wasn’t something I really wanted. I had no talent for baseball, and I took no steps toward becoming a pitcher. I wished, but I did not want. And one has to know, or be convinced, that what one wants is impossible. Otherwise, it is hope rather than grief that one experiences—perhaps worried, anxious hope, perhaps hope against hope, but hope. Grief is wanting with all your heart what you know or believe is impossible. The more intense the wanting, the more intense the grief.

In grief, wanting collides with knowing. I desperately wanted Eric to be alive, but I knew he was dead and could not be brought back to life. Grief is banging your head against the wall. If you are frightened, you can run away or hide; if you are angry, you can vent your rage. When you are in grief, there is nothing you can do, other than altering yourself by getting rid of the frustrated want or by repressing your awareness of it.

By virtue of wanting what you know or believe to be impossible, grief is irrational: it makes no sense to want what you know cannot be. In this way, too, grief is different from fear and anger. Some fear is irrational, as is some anger; but fear and anger are not inherently irrational. It makes good sense to be fearful when you are in danger; it makes good sense to be angry when you are insulted. Grief, by contrast, is inherently irrational.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ACNS) Interim Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome rebuffs “resurrection” criticism

“Christ is Risen!”, Dr Shepherd said in response to widely reported criticism about his appointment. “There has been speculation in the press and on social media about my views on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Part of this is based on a sermon I preached in 2008.

“It is my faith that Jesus rose from the dead and I have never denied the reality of the empty tomb. The risen Christ was not a ghost – he ate and could be touched – but at the same time he appeared in a locked room (John 20: 26) and vanished from sight (Luke 24: 31) and he was often not immediately recognised.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Eschatology

(1st Things) John Wilson–the Faith of PD James

That project stalled, though it did prompt a re-reading of the Dalgliesh series to date, with many Post-it notes and scrawled observations. And it led me to re-read the Paris Review interview with James that appeared in the Summer 1995 issue (issue number 135), conducted by Shusha Guppy, the Paris Review’s London editor. There are some very interesting bits in the conversation, but this extract will allow you to understand why I felt like flinging the magazine across the room:

Interviewer

I believe you are religious, so perhaps you believe in an afterlife?

James

I certainly believe in God. As a Christian one is supposed to believe in “the resurrection of the body,” but I don’t think I do. I hope the soul is eternal. I am rather attracted to the Buddhist idea of reincarnation, that we are on the up and up!

Oh, dear. I re-read the interview earlier this week, for the first time since 2001. What struck me as before was not merely the feebleness of the response, but how incongruous it seems coming from James, whom I have admired greatly for her tough-mindedness. But reading the interview in the first week of 2019, I was no longer inclined to throw the magazine against the wall. Alas, it was old history.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(David Ould) New Head Of Anglican Centre In Rome Is Denier Of Jesus’ Resurrection

In a move that can only further raise concerns with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership, the Anglican Centre in Rome (essentially, the “embassy” of the Anglican Communion to the Roman Catholic Church) have announced their new Interim Director….

John Shepherd was previously Dean at Perth Cathedral for many years where he gained a reputation for regularly challenging Christian orthodoxy. Most famously, in his 2008 Easter message he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus, stating….

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop of Canterbury, Australia / NZ, Ecumenical Relations, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Kristen O’Neal–Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”: A Carol for the Despairing

Like we do every year, my parents took my brother and me to see “A Christmas Carol” on stage to get everyone into the Christmas spirit (which is no small feat at the end of November). The story is familiar and heartwarming, but the song they ended their production with struck me: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Set to music a few decades later, this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was written over Christmas of either 1863 or 1864, in the middle of the bloodiest war in American history.

The carol is not cotton candy; it is a beating heart, laid bare in seven stanzas with simple language. At the second-to-last verse, I noticed dimly that I had begun to cry; by the end of the song, my face was wet with tears.

“And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’”

It isn’t quite right to call this a cynic’s carol, but in this verse it is a desperate and bitter one. It’s a carol from a man who has had the nature of the world uncovered before him. It’s one of the only carols that still rings true to me in 2018.

Like all good poets, with “Christmas Bells” Longfellow reached out across almost 155 years of history to take my hand.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christmas, Christology, Church History, Eschatology, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Poetry & Literature, Theology: Scripture

John Stott–‘there are many deceivers in the world, and even in the church…their words are empty and their teaching deceitful. Universalism…is a lie’

Let no one deceive you, the apostle continues. He has himself urged them to acknowledge the truth of divine judgment (be sure of this); now he warns them of the empty words of false teachers who would persuade them otherwise. In his day Gnostics were arguing that bodily sins could be committed without damage to the soul, and with impunity. In our day there are many deceivers in the world, and even in the church. They teach that God is too kind to condemn everybody, and that everybody will get to heaven in the end, irrespective of their behaviour on earth. But their words are empty and their teaching deceitful. Universalism (i.e. universal final salvation) is a lie.

–John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Bible Speaks Today) [Downer’s Grove, Ill. IVP Academic, 1984), p. 114, to be quoted in my morning adult ed class

Posted in Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Hour of Death) Five Insights On Death And Dying From J. R. R. Tolkien

Tolkien describes the feeling the story of a boy’s miraculous healing at Lourdes gave him, and then says that for this unique feeling he coined the word “eucatastrophe.” He explains that the word means the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears. . . . And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives . . . that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest “eucatastrophe” possible in the greatest Fairy Story — and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorry because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.

— From a letter to his son Christopher, who was serving with the Royal Air Force in South Africa (1944)

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology

Richard Baxter on his Feast Day: the Nature of the Saints Everlasting Rest in Heaven

What this rest presupposes…. 5. It contains, (1.) A ceasing from means of grace ; 6. (2.) A perfect freedom from all evils ; 7. (3.) The highest degree of the saints’ personal perfection, both in body and soul ; 8. (4.) The nearest enjoyment of God the Chief Good; 9-14. (5.) A sweet and constant action of all the powers of soul and body in this enjoyment of God ; as, for instance, bodily senses, knowledge, memory, love, joy, together with a mutual love and joy.

The Saints Everlasting Rest (1652)

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

Saint Ephrem–Keep watch: he is to come again

To prevent his disciples from asking the time of his coming, Christ said: “About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments.” He has kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savour: it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly.

Though the Lord has established the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfilment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. His final coming is like his first. As holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would reveal himself in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own day, because Christ has not made plain the day of his coming.

He has not made it plain for this reason especially, that no one may think that he whose power and dominion rule all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming; how could what he has himself decided be hidden from him? Therefore, he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day forward all generations and ages might think that he would come again in their own day.

Keep watch; when the body is asleep nature takes control of us, and what is done is not done by our will but by force, by the impulse of nature. When deep listlessness takes possession of the soul, for example, faint-heartedness or melancholy, the enemy overpowers it and makes it do what it does not will. The force of nature, the enemy of the soul, is in control.

When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity. As Scripture says: “Wake up, you just,” and “I have risen, and am still with you;” and again, “Do not lose heart. Therefore, having this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

–From a commentary on the Diatessaron (the single gospel harmony of the early Syriac church), by St Ephrem (ca. 306 – 373)

Posted in Christology, Church History, Eschatology

A Fleming Rutledge Sermon on Mark 13 (the Synoptic Apocalypse) for Pre-Advent and the First Sunday of Advent

Let me illustrate this sequence by quoting from the memoirs  of Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the famous Scottish-born tycoon who made his fortune in America.[2] Raised as a Presbyterian, he became suspicious of religion. When he read Darwin’s theories of evolution, the great philanthropist received what he thought was a revelation.[3] In his memoirs he wrote (this was during the Gilded Age, before the world wars):

…I remember that light came as in a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth…“All is well since all grows better,” became my motto, my true source of comfort. Man…has risen to the higher forms [and there can be no] conceivable end to [man’s] march to perfection.

I don’t believe anyone can read that with a straight face today. And indeed, as it happens, those were not the last words from Mr. Carnegie. The last paragraph of his autobiography was written as World War I broke out. He reread what he had written earlier, and here’s how he responded to it:

As I read this [what he had previously written] today what a change! The world convulsed by war as never before! Men slaying each other like wild beasts! I dare not relinquish all hope.

The manuscript breaks off abruptly.[4] He never finished the autobiography.

In a certain way, this illustrates the turn in biblical interpretation that I’m describing. The horrors of the two World Wars caused a widespread change in the way that serious people understood history. For biblical interpreters, it caused a change in the way the apocalyptic passages in the Bible were read. It was noted that Jesus said, “Behold, I have told you all things beforehand.”

Apocalyptic writing came out of a catastrophe. The Hebrew people—the Israelites—were the people of blessing. They were the people favored by God, who had promised them a future of safety and prosperity. But then they were overwhelmed and conquered and forced into exile in the far distant, pagan Babylonian empire.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

CS Lewis on his Birthday (II)–On Hope

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ”˜thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.

–C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper, 2001), p. 134

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

(CEN) Leading theologian NT Wright says the ‘Rapture’ is not biblical

A leading evangelical theologian has said the idea of the ‘Rapture’ is not biblical and is a misinterpretation of what the Apostle Paul said.

The concept of the Rapture became popular with the JN Darby version of the Bible, but in recent years has achieved new popularity because of the best-selling ‘Left Behind’ series of books.

But NT Wright, former Bishop of Durham, told a Premier Radio podcast that the idea had not been part of his theological thinking.

“I never heard about The Rapture until I got married. My late father-in-law was an old school Elim Pentecostal, with his Schofield reference Bible and the whole thing was mapped out.

Read it all (may require subscription).

Posted in Eschatology, Evangelicals, Theology: Scripture

(CT Pastors) Tim Keller: Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age–Clarity and compassion on Christianity’s toughest doctrine

My heart sank when a young college student said, “I’ve gone to church all my life, but I don’t think I can believe in a God like this.” Her tone was more sad than defiant, but her willingness to stay and talk showed that her mind was open.

Usually all the questions are pitched to me, and I respond as best I can. But on this occasion people began answering one another.

An older businesswoman said, “Well, I’m not much of a churchgoer, and I’m in some shock now. I always disliked the very idea of hell, but I never thought about it as a measure of what God was willing to endure in order to love me.”

Then a mature Christian made a connection with a sermon a month ago on Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11. “The text tells us that Jesus wept,” he said, “yet he was also extremely angry at evil. That’s helped me. He is not just an angry God or a weeping, loving God—he’s both. He doesn’t only judge evil, but he also takes the hell and judgment himself for us on the cross.”

The second woman nodded, “Yes. I always thought hell told me about how angry God was with us, but I didn’t know it also told me about how much he was willing to suffer and weep for us. I never knew how much hell told me about Jesus’ love. It’s very moving.”

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

(AAC) Mark Ellredge–Are you a Functional Universalist?

Somewhere in the midst of the presentation outlining some of the various reasons why Hell is often not talked about, even in our Biblically faithful churches, the term “Functional Universalism” was mentioned. I immediately thought, that is one of the saddest yet most accurate descriptions of many – not all, but many – Anglican churches.

Universalists don’t lead people to salvation through Jesus because they don’t believe people need to be saved through Jesus. If we, as Bible-believing Anglicans, don’t lead people to salvation through Jesus because maybe we’re too embarrassed to share, or too afraid to invite someone to pray a prayer to repent and believe in Jesus, or any number of other excuses, what is the difference? Isn’t that just functional Universalism? We’re achieving the same results, right?

It is particularly sad because so many of us are Anglicans specifically because we didn’t want to be a part of the Episcopal Church that largely adopted Universalism. As Anglicans, we actually believe all of the Bible is true. We believe where it says that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through” him. (John 14:6) Jesus is not “a” way but “the” way to salvation. Yet are unbelievers being saved in our churches? Are we bringing unbelievers into an eternal relationship with the Father through Jesus in our churches? Or do we just talk about local mission and evangelism and feel good about ourselves for not being those bad Universalists?

Now I’m not suggesting that we all start talking about Hell all the time and try to scare people into Heaven (although I personally have always held that I would rather be scared into heaven than blindly walk into Hell). However, I am suggesting that if we took the truth that Hell is real more seriously and that Jesus suffered Hell for us so we don’t have to, maybe we’d overcome our fear of evangelism and start doing it….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Eschatology, GAFCON, Theology

Saturday Food for Thought–Augustine on Heaven

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

Wednesday food for Thought from Max Lucado

Heroes in the Bible came from all walks of life—rulers, servants, teachers, doctors—male, female, single, and married. Yet one common denominator united them. They built their lives on the promises of God. Noah believed in rain before rain was a word. Joshua led two million people into enemy territory. One writer went so far as to call such saints “heirs of the promise” (Hebrews 6:17).

As God prepared the Israelites to face a new land, he made a promise to them, “Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you” (Exodus 34:10). God’s promises are unbreakable. Our hope is unshakable!

–Max Lucado Unshakable Hope

Posted in Books, Eschatology

(JE) Jeff Walton–“Cross the Pain Line” in Preaching on Hell advise Harmon, Tice

That real possibility has an effect upon how Christians view evangelism, Tice explained.

“We need to cross the pain line in our preaching,” Tice advised, where Christians see that “I am an offense to God.” Tice said Christian must both call people to repent and simultaneously make clear that “I am for you.”

Tice offered three questions about Hell: “Do you believe it? Do you love people? Will you warn them?”

Harmon offered the scenario of a sign warning of a bridge out on a road ahead, where you see the sign but another family does not.

“What do you do?” Harmon asked. “Warn them of what is ahead.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Eschatology

Diocese of South Carolina Canon Theologian Kendall Harmon to speak at GAFCON 2018

From here:

Canon Theologian Dr. Kendall Harmon has been asked to speak at the upcoming Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), in Jerusalem, June 17-22. Nearly 2000 Anglican delegates – laity, clergy and bishops are expected at this the third GAFCON gathering.

Dr Harmon will be presenting a seminar entitled “understanding the Christian doctrine of Hell” along with Rico Tice, Senior Minister at All Souls, Langham Place, in London (UK). Tice will be interviewing Harmon about the issues around hell in church history and today and will then be giving a short talk as an example of how he preaches on hell. The two of them will explore both the theological underpinnings of hell in Scripture as well as providing practical applications for this doctrine in the ministry of those attending. GAFCON, whose mission is “to guard the unchanging, transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ and to proclaim Him to the world,” is founded on the Bible, bound together by the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration of 2008, and led by a Primates Council which represents the majority of the world’s Anglicans.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Eschatology, GAFCON

A Prayer from the Altus of Saint Columba for His Feast Day

O Lord Jesus Christ, before Whose judgement seat we must all appear and give account of the things done in the body: grant, we beseech Thee, that, when the books are opened in that day, the faces of Thy servants may not be ashamed; through Thy merits, O blessed Saviour, Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Church History, Eschatology, Spirituality/Prayer

[The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record] Cremation gaining in popularity fast as burial costs rise

Fred and Margaret, of Clifton, N.J., died one month apart during the winter.

The couple, whose last name their children asked not to divulge, met in high school and were married for 69 years. They were inseparable.

Death was not about to change that.

They made arrangements years ago: Margaret, 87, would take the last grave in the family’s plot at St. Nicholas Cemetery in Lodi, N.J. Fred, 88, a devout Catholic who was born some 30 years before the Vatican lifted its ban on cremation in 1963, decided his ashes would be buried by her head.

Perhaps, if there were space, Fred would not have chosen to be cremated, his daughter Donna said. But there was room for only one.

“I think he just wanted to be with my mom and that’s what he had to do in order for him to be with her,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

N.T. Wright on the Ascension and Second Coming of Jesus

Additionally, early Christians were not, as is commonly assumed, bound to a three-tier vision of the universe, i.e., heaven, hell, and earth.

[W]hen the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time.

So heaven and earth, understood in this way, are two dimensions of the same reality. They “interlock and intersect in a whole variety of ways even while they retain, for the moment at least, their separate identities and roles.” Combine this with the doctrine of the ascension and we do not have a Jesus who floats up into a heaven “up there” but disappears into a reality we cannot yet see. Because heaven and earth are not yet joined Jesus is physically absent from us. At the same time he is present with us through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments, linkages where the two realities meet in the present age.

Read it all.

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Eschatology

David Murray–Reflecting on Failure and Disappointment in Scripture

No matter how much we confess our failures, are forgiven for our failures, and exchange our failures for Christ’s righteousness, as long as we are in this world we are going to fail. Again and again and again. This keeps us humble, keeps us dependent, and keeps us looking to Christ. But, above all, it keeps us looking toward heaven, the place where failures will never be known again. Will we remember our failures there? Yes, but not with any pain, only as covered by Christ’s pardon, and only to turn up the volume of our praise:

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 1:5–6)

We will also see our failures from a whole new perspective, not just our moral and spiritual failures but also our relational and vocational disappointments. We will see God’s wise providence in allowing that relationship breakup, that interview disaster, that lost job, that failed exam. When God reframes our failures by putting the golden frame of His wise sovereignty all around them, they are transformed from ugly abstract randomness to beautifully crafted designs.

Will we experience any failures there? No, never. We will not fail, and neither will anyone else. The tears of disappointment will be part of the deluge wiped out of our eyes (Rev. 21:4). Heaven will be one great and long success story: moral success, spiritual success, intellectual success, physical success, relational success, vocational success, ecclesiastical success.

So, yes, our present failures should drive us to Christ, but they should also make us long for heaven, to hasten the day when the pain of failure and the torture of disappointment will be gone forever.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

(1st Things) Abigail Rine Favale–Evangelical Gnosticism

I teach in a great books program at an Evangelical university. Almost all students in the program are born-and-bred Christians of the nondenominational variety. A number of them have been both thoroughly churched and educated through Christian schools or homeschooling curricula. Yet an overwhelming majority of these students do not believe in a bodily resurrection. While they trust in an afterlife of eternal bliss with God, most of them assume this will be disembodied bliss, in which the soul is finally free of its “meat suit” (a term they fondly use).

I first caught wind of this striking divergence from Christian orthodoxy in class last year, when we encountered Stoic visions of the afterlife. Cicero, for one, describes the body as a prison from which the immortal soul is mercifully freed upon death, whereas Seneca views the body as “nothing more or less than a fetter on my freedom,” one eventually “dissolved” when the soul is set loose. These conceptions were quite attractive to the students.

Resistance to the idea of a physical resurrection struck them as perfectly logical. “It doesn’t feel right to say there’s a human body in heaven, when the body is tied so closely to sin,” said one student. In all, fewer than ten of my forty students affirmed the orthodox teaching that we will ultimately have a body in our glorified, heavenly form. None of them realizes that these beliefs are unorthodox; this is not willful doctrinal error. This is an absence of knowledge about the foundational tenets of historical, creedal Christianity.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Theology

(Wash Post) I have no fear of death’: Barbara Bush on faith and finality

Barbara Bush had spent an hour talking about legacy and family — about the Christmas dance where she met the man who’d become her husband, about being “the enforcer” of a family that included two former U.S. presidents.

Then, in a flash, she was talking about death.

It was 2013 and Bush was 88 at the time of the interview, part of a C-Span series focusing on first ladies. She wore a pink blazer and her trademark faux pearls — and spoke with a mixture of grace and bluntness that her family and the American people had come to instantly recognize over the past four decades.

“I’m a huge believer in a loving God,” she said. “And I have no fear of death, which is a huge comfort because we’re getting darned close.

“And I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Office of the President, Religion & Culture

The Bishop of Sheffield’s Easter 2018 Sermon

We’ve just heard how, when the women arrive at the empty tomb, early on the first day of the week, hoping to anoint the dead body of Jesus, they’re shocked to find the tomb open and a young man sitting inside, dressed in white.  This angel speaks to them: ’Do not be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised.  He is not here: look there is the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples – and Peter – that he is going ahead of you to Galilee: there you will see him, just as he told you’.

Go and tell his disciples, and Peter.  It’s those two words ‘and Peter’ that catch my attention.  Why are they added?  You won’t find them on the lips of the angel in the version of this story told by Matthew, Luke or John.  Why do they matter to Mark?  Well, I think there are two reasons, both of which might encourage us this morning as we celebrate afresh our Lord’s resurrection from the dead: the first reason has to do with what the Risen Lord wants for Peter; the second, with what he wants from Peter.

Let me say something about what the Lord might want for Peter to start with.  This is the first reference to Peter in the Gospel of Mark since the moment about 48 hours before, when the cock had crowed a second time and he had broken down and wept.  Our last glimpse of Peter is of his sobbing remorse at the realisation that he had indeed denied Jesus, as his Master had prophesied that he would.  This is a more catastrophic fall from grace than that of any Australian cricketer: as the curtain falls on his active participation in the Gospel story, Peter has failed.

So those two words ‘and Peter’ on the lips of the angel are full of hope.  They suggest that the Risen Jesus, far from having given up on Peter, far from having written him off, is intent on // re-establishing // a relationship with him.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Easter, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

Albert Mohler–The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Reality of the Gospel

As the disciples preached in the earliest Christian sermons, “This Jesus God has raised up, of whom we are all witnesses . . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:32,36].

The Resurrection was not a dawning awareness of Christ’s continuing presence among the disciples, it was the literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. The Church is founded upon the resurrected Lord, who appeared among His disciples and was seen by hundreds of others.

The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrected Lord gave the Church a sacred commission to take the gospel throughout the world. As Paul made clear, the resurrection of Christ also comes as a comfort to the believer, for His defeat of death is a foretaste and promise of our own resurrection by His power. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].

So, as the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should look backward in thankfulness to that empty tomb and forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promises in us. For Resurrection Day is not merely a celebration”“it is truly preparation as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of our resurrection from the dead, and of Christ’s total victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very center of the Christian gospel. The empty tomb is full of power.

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Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology

Karl Barth for Easter-‘the proclamation of a war already won’

[Easter]…is the proclamation of a war already won. The war is at an end ”“ even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation. The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves. Actually he is already mated. The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. It is in this interim space that we are living: the old is past, behold it has all become new. The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them anymore. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humourless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. A seriousness that would look back past this, like Lot’s wife, is not Christian seriousness. It may be burning behind ”“ and truly it is burning ”“ but we have to look, not at it, but at the other fact, that we are invited and summoned to take seriously the victory of God’s glory in this man Jesus and to be joyful in Him. Then we may live in thankfulness and not in fear.

–Karl Barth Dogmatics in Outline (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), p. 123

Posted in Christology, Church History, Easter, Eschatology