Category : Eschatology

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Of what does the Hope of Heaven Consist (Isaiah 2:1-5)?

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

(America) Collin price–The church forbids ‘human composting’ at death. But what about ‘green’ burials?

According to Brian Pham, S.J., professor of law and canon law at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., the church considered anything besides a “regular” Catholic burial to be a pagan ritual until the early 20th century. Cremation was a practice most commonly used in religious traditions that believe in reincarnation. These religions often see the body as merely a vessel; once the soul leaves the body, the body no longer serves a purpose. For them, cremation hastens the process of the soul entering a new body because it gets the old one out of the way. Such beliefs go against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The church teaches that the body is an integral part of the human person and that the glorified body will someday be rejoined with the soul in the resurrection. Cremation was forbidden for most of the last two millennia because its association with reincarnation and the negation of the body seemed in opposition to Catholic beliefs. But by the mid-20th century, cremation was being paired with traditional Christian funeral and burial practices. So the church updated its teachings in the 1983 Code of Canon Law to allow for cremation “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine” (Canon 1176.3).

In an effort to clarify what that means in practical terms, in 2016 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published instructions for handling cremation in a Catholic context. The document clarifies the church’s theological teachings about the body after death and applies them to acceptable burial practices. The church prefers whole-body burial but allows cremation as long as it is done in the context of church teaching about the body after death. “By burying the bodies of the faithful,” the document states, the church affirms the “great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person.” Any burial practice must honor the body as part of the human person and cannot consider death to be “the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the ‘prison’ of the body.” In other words, the intent of the practice may not be to destroy the body after death and must show the body honor and respect.

Scattering ashes, for instance, is unacceptable in the Catholic Church because the body is dispersed across the water or land where it is scattered. Human composting, which turns the body into fertilizer that is then scattered over a garden or around a tree, is also unacceptable. In California, a recently passed bill legalized human composting in the state, beginning in 2027. The California Catholic Conference expressed strong opposition to the bill. And the New York Catholic conference has expressed opposition to a similar bill in New York. The church forbids human composting because the body is treated as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

Father Pham summarized the theology underlying the church’s canon law about burial practices: “The primary focus has to be honoring and continuing to honor the person, which includes the body.” For the church, honoring means keeping the body together, putting it in a sacred place and marking the sacred place with the person’s name. “Canon law does not say a whole lot, other than that cremation is allowed but burial is preferred….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Parish Ministry, Theology

(Hedgehog Review) Tara Isabella Burton–On Hope and Holy Fools

What if the truth of our lives lay not in our self-separation from the sheeple but in our embrace of the fact that the life we live with one another is the truest expression of who we really are: that there is as much weight to our kid brother kissing us, gently, in the middle of our existential crisis, as there is in the substance of the crisis itself?

Such a reading of our lives demands humility. It asks that we envision ourselves not as special or distinct but as ordinary human beings, those shepherds and butlers and housemaids, whose ordinary lives are as worthy of attention as those of tragedy’s kings and warriors. It insists, as a moral and philosophical duty, that we take ourselves not more seriously but less, that we learn to laugh at ourselves. It demands that, instead of aestheticizing our foibles—raising our sins to the substance of high art—we see ourselves as, well, a little bit silly, perhaps well intentioned, but constantly getting in our own way: Gilligans failing in every single episode to get off the island. To accept grace—the undeserved happy ending—demands that we see our lives as a comedy (as Dante indeed understood). In order to accept our lives as a comedy, we must accept that none of us are the heroes we imagine ourselves to be.

This is the truth understood by Dostoevsky’s Alyosha and by the wider Russian tradition of the “holy fool”: the innocent whose faith in God causes him to appear stupid, if not mad, in the eyes of the world. To hope is a kind of foolishness. It is, too, a kind of refusal of the aesthetic, at least of the sophisticated aesthetic stance that rejects such populist kitsch as Hollywood happy endings. To hope is, necessarily, to hope for a narratively unsatisfying ending: to hope for an unearned joy that changes the entire genre of our lives, that brings comedy from ruin. It is to refuse the red pill or the black pill, to refuse any narrative of ourselves as uniquely heroic or uniquely brave, because we can withstand the wickedness of the world. It is a quieter kind of bravery: the conviction that, one day, we might not have to. It may not be narrative. But it remains, instead, poetry.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Eschatology, Russia, Theology

Rest eternal grant unto her

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Politics in General

South Carolina Anglican laywoman Julie Grant’s new book on grief

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Laity, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Saint Ephrem for his Feast Day–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

(CT) Mark Fugitt–Pastors in the Valley of Death Row

In 2015, The Week highlighted the psychological impact of witnessing executions. They profiled reporter and spokesperson Michelle Lyons, who spent a decade watching 278 executions. Lyons reported a wearing down over time as she got to know the inmates.

In their survey of San Quentin State Prison employees, many reported anxiety and said they “felt estranged or detached from other people.” Data published by The American Journal of Psychiatry also showed that witnessing an execution had a strong psychological impact on journalists—and could “cause symptoms of dissociative disorder… in the weeks following.”

These journalists often had no close connection to the condemned and actively tried to remain detached throughout the process. They also had no physical contact with the individual, and yet they still showed the same signs of social detachment afterwards.

This means that without the proper care, spiritual advisers will see an impact in the very area that is most required of their ministry: connecting with people. Ironically, that sense of human connection—which causes them pain in watching their parishioner executed—is the very thing that could undermine their ability to be effective in that role in the future.

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Posted in Anthropology, Capital Punishment, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Theology

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.

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Posted in Ascension, Eschatology

(WSJ) George Weigel–The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World

This remarkable and deliberate recording of the first Christians’ incomprehension of what they insisted was the irreducible bottom line of their faith teaches us two things. First, it tells us that the early Christians were confident enough about what they called the Resurrection that (to borrow from Prof. Wright) they were prepared to say something like, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened.” And the second thing it tells us is that it took time for the first Christians to figure out what the events of Easter meant—not only for Jesus but for themselves. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly, as Prof. Wright and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI help us to understand in their biblical commentaries.

The way they thought about time and history changed. During Jesus’ public ministry, many of his followers shared in the Jewish messianic expectations of the time: God would soon work something grand for his people in Israel, liberating them from their oppressors and bringing about a new age in which (as Isaiah had prophesied) the nations would stream to the mountain of the Lord and history would end. The early Christians came to understand that the cataclysmic, world-redeeming act that God had promised had taken place at Easter. God’s Kingdom had come not at the end of time but within time—and that had changed the texture of both time and history. History continued, but those shaped by the Easter Effect became the people who knew how history was going to turn out. Because of that, they could live differently. The Easter Effect impelled them to bring a new standard of equality into the world and to embrace death as martyrs if necessary—because they knew, now, that death did not have the final word in the human story.

The way they thought about “resurrection” changed. Pious Jews taught by the reforming Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed in the resurrection of the dead. Easter taught the first Christians, who were all pious Jews, that this resurrection was not the resuscitation of a corpse, nor did it involve the decomposition of a corpse. Jesus’ tomb was empty, but the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples in a transformed body. Those who first experienced the Easter Effect would not have put it in these terms, but as their understanding of what had happened to Jesus and to themselves grew, they grasped that (as Benedict XVI put it in “Jesus of Nazareth–Holy Week”) there had been an “evolutionary leap” in the human condition. A new way of being had been encountered in the manifestly human but utterly different life of the one they met as the Risen Lord. That insight radically changed all those who embraced it.

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Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) James Martin SJ–Celebrating Easter: Why a Watered-Down Resurrection Doesn’t Work

…particularly when we look at the disciples, the watered-down resurrection doesn’t seem credible at all. Remember that the Gospel of John (whose author had little to gain by making the disciples, future leaders of the early church, look bad) notes that the disciples were so frightened that they barricaded themselves behind locked doors after Jesus’s death. They had good reason to be. “If the authorities dealt that way with Jesus, who had so many people supporting him,” they must have thought, “what will they do to us?” Even before the crucifixion Peter shrank in fear from being identified as a follower of Jesus. Imagine how their fear would have intensified after witnessing the Romans’ brutal execution of their master.

With one exception, all of Jesus’s male followers were so terrified that they shrank from standing at the foot of the cross, unable to accompany Jesus during his final hours. Their reluctance may have stemmed from an inability to watch the agonizing death of their friend, but much was out of fear of being identified as a follower of an enemy of Rome. (The women, showed no such fear, though the situation may have posed less danger for them.)

The disciples were terrified. So does it seem credible that something as simple as sitting around and remembering Jesus would snap them out of their abject fear? Not to me. Something incontrovertible, something undeniable, something visible, something tangible, was necessary to transform them from fearful to fearless.

This is one of the most compelling “proofs” of the Resurrection.

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Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

At the Center

Without a doubt, at the center of the New Testament there stands the Cross, which receives its interpretation from the Resurrection.

The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which “destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand”, which “is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles”. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).

Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith.

–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen

Posted in Christology, Church History, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Bono for Easter–The Day Death Died

Take the time to watch and listen to it all.

Posted in Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, Marriage & Family

JRR Tolkien for Easter–Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?

Sam believes that Gandalf has fallen a catastrophic distance and has died. But in the end of the story, with Sam having been asleep for a long while and then beginning to regain consciousness, Gandalf stands before Sam, robed in white, his face glistening in the sunlight, and says:

“Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?”

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”

“A great shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from bed… “How do I feel?” he cried.” Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel” –he waved his arms in the air– “I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”

— J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), The Return of the King

Posted in Easter, Eschatology, Poetry & Literature, Theology

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Easter

“Without Easter, Good Friday would have no meaning. Without Easter, there would be no hope that suffering and abandonment might be tolerable. But with Easter, a way out becomes visible for human sorrows, an absolute future: more than a hope, a divine expectation.”

–Hans Urs von Balthasar To the Heart of the Mystery of Redemption (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), p.39

Posted in Christology, Church History, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

AN HOMILIE OF THE Resurrection of our Sauiour Iesus Christ. For Easter Day from the Book of Homilies

For then he opened their vnderstanding, that they might perceiue the Scriptures, and sayd vnto them: Thus it is written, and thus it behooued Christ to suffer, and to rise from death the third day, and that there should be preached openly in his name pardon and remission of sinnes to all the Nations of the world (Luke 24.45-47). Yee see (good Christian people) how necessary this Article of our faith is, seeing it was prooued of Christ himselfe by such euident reasons and tokens, by so long time and space. Now therefore as our Sauiour was diligent for our comfort and instruction to declare it: so let vs be as ready in our beliefe to receiue it to our comfort and instruction. As he died not for himselfe, no more did he rise againe for himselfe. He was dead (sayth Saint Paul) for our sinnes, and rose againe for our iustification (1 Corinthians 15.3-4). O most comfortable word, euermore to be borne in remembrance. He died (saith he) to put away sinne, hee rose againe to endow vs with righteousnesse. His death tooke away sinne and malediction, his death was the ransome of them both, his death destroyed death, and ouercame the deuill, which had the power of death in his subiection, his death destroyed hell, with all the damnation thereof. Thus is death swallowed vp by Christs victory, thus is hell spoyled for euer.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Christology, Church History, Easter, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology

The Eucatastrophe

The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy.

— J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Spring has sprung in #Summerville! #FlowertownInBloom

Posted by Visit Summerville on Friday, March 25, 2016

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Truth of Holy Saturday: Only the wound is there

Suddenly all of them standing around the gallows know it: he is gone. Immeasurable emptiness (not solitude) streams forth from the hanging body. Nothing but this fantastic emptiness is any longer at work here. The world with its shape has perished; it tore like a curtain from top to bottom, without making a sound. It fainted away, turned to dust, burst like a bubble. There is nothing more but nothingness itself.

The world is dead.

Love is dead.

God is dead.

Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell. One has penetrated the other perfectly. The nadir has reached the zenith: nirvana.

Was that lightning?

Was the form of a Heart visible in the boundless void for a flash as the sky was rent, drifting in the whirlwind through the worldless chaos, driven like a leaf?

Or was it winged, propelled and directed by its own invisible wings, standing as lone survivor between the soulless heavens and the perished earth?

Chaos. Beyond heaven and hell. Shapeless nothingness behind the bounds of creation.
Is that God?

God died on the Cross.

Is that death?

No dead are to be seen.

Is it the end?

Nothing that ends is any longer there.

Is it the beginning?

The beginning of what? In the beginning was the Word. What kind of word? What incomprehensible, formless, meaningless word? But look: What is this light glimmer that wavers and begins to take form in the endless void? It has neither content nor contour.

A nameless thing, more solitary than God, it emerges out of pure emptiness. It is no one. It is anterior to everything. Is it the beginning? It is small and undefined as a drop. Perhaps it is water. But it does not flow. It is not water. It is thicker, more opaque, more viscous than water. It is also not blood, for blood is red, blood is alive, blood has a loud human speech. This is neither water nor blood. It is older than both, a chaotic drop.

Slowly, slowly, unbelievably slowly the drop begins to quicken. We do not know whether this movement is infinite fatigue at death’s extremity or the first beginning – of what?

Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.

It trickles, lost in the chaos, directionless, without gravity. But more copiously now. A wellspring in the chaos. It leaps out of pure nothingness, it leaps out of itself.

It is not the beginning of God, who eternally and mightily brings himself into existence as Life and Love and triune Bliss.

It is not the beginning of creation, which gently and in slumber slips out of the Creator’s hands.

It is a beginning without parallel, as if Life were arising from Death, as if weariness (already such weariness as no amount of sleep could ever dispel) and the uttermost decay of power were melting at creation’s outer edge, were beginning to flow, because flowing is perhaps a sign and a likeness of weariness which can no longer contain itself, because everything that is strong and solid must in the end dissolve into water. But hadn’t it – in the beginning – also been born from water? And is this wellspring in the chaos, this trickling weariness, not the beginning of a new creation?

The magic of Holy Saturday.

The chaotic fountain remains directionless. Could this be the residue of the Son’s love which, poured out to the last when every vessel cracked and the old world perished, is now making a path for itself to the Father through the glooms of nought?

Or, in spite of it all, is this love trickling on in impotence, unconsciously, laboriously, towards a new creation that does not yet even exist, a creation which is still to be lifted up and given shape? Is it a protoplasm producing itself in the beginning, the first seed of the New Heaven and the New Earth?

The spring leaps up even more plenteously. To be sure, it flows out of a wound and is like the blossom and fruit of a wound; like a tree it sprouts up from this wound. But the wound no longer causes pain. The suffering has been left far behind as the past origin and previous source of today’s wellspring.

What is poured out here is no longer a present suffering, but a suffering that has been concluded-no longer now a sacrificing love, but a love sacrificed.

Only the wound is there: gaping, the great open gate, the chaos, the nothingness out of which the wellspring leaps forth. Never again will this gate be shut. Just as the first creation arose ever anew out of sheer nothingness, so, too, this second world – still unborn, still caught up in its first rising – will have its sole origin in this wound, which is never to close again.

In the future, all shape must arise out of this gaping void, all wholeness must draw its strength from the creating wound.

High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.

–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), Heart of the World (San Francisco: Ignatious Press, 1979 E.T. of the 1954 German original), pp.150-153

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week, Theology

Eugene Peterson on Holy Saturday

Yet, there was one large omission that set all other truth dangerously at risk: the omission of holy rest. The refusal to be silent. The obsessive avoidance of emptiness. The denial of any experience and any people in the least bit suggestive of godforsakenness.

It was far more than an annual ignorance on Holy Saturday; it was religiously fueled, weekly arrogance. Not only was the Good Friday crucifixion bridged to the Easter resurrection by this day furious with energy and lucrative with reward, but all the gospel truths were likewise set as either introductions or conclusions to the human action that displayed our prowess and our virtue every week of the year. God was background to our business. Every gospel truth was maintained intact and all the human energy was wholly admirable, but the rhythms were all wrong, the proportions wildly skewed. Desolation””and with it companionship with the desolate, from first-century Semites to twentieth-century Indians””was all but wiped from consciousness.
But there came a point at which I was convinced that it was critically important to pay more attention to what God does than what I do; to find daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get that awareness into my bones. Holy Saturday for a start. And then, times to visit people in despair, and learn their names, and wait for resurrection.

Embedded in my memory now is this most poignant irony: those seven or eight Indians, with the Thunderbird empties lying around, drunk in the alley behind the Pastime Baron Saturday afternoon, while we Scandinavian Christians worked diligently late into the night, oblivious to the holiness of the day. The Indians were in despair, religious despair, something very much like the Holy Saturday despair narrated in the Gospels. Their way of life had come to nothing, the only buffalo left to them engraved on nickels, a couple of which one of their squaws had paid out that morning for four bony ham hocks. The early sacredness of their lives was a wasteland; and they, godforsaken as they supposed, drugged their despair with Thunderbird and buried their dead visions and dreams in the alley behind the Pastime, ignorant of the God at work beneath their emptiness.

Take the time to read it all.

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week

In the End A Sort of Quietness

I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been, if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you, you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.

–C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in Church History, Eschatology, Holy Week, Theology

(Tish Warren via NYT) Tim Keller for Holy Week–How a Cancer Diagnosis Makes Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Mean More

How has cancer and this encounter with your own mortality changed how you see your life and how you see death?

On an emotional level, we really do deny the fact that we’re mortal and our time is limited. The day after my diagnosis, one of the words I put down in my journal was “focus.” What are the most important things for you to be spending your time doing? I had not been focused.

The second change was you realize that there’s one sense in which if you believe in God, it’s a mental abstraction. You believe with your head. I came to realize that the experiential side of my faith really needed to strengthen or I wasn’t going to be able to handle this.

It’s one thing to believe God loves you, another thing to actually feel his love. It’s one thing to believe he’s present with you. It’s another to actually experience his presence. So the two things I wrote down in my journal: one was focus and the other one was “Know the Lord.” My experience of his presence and his love was going to have to double, triple, quintuple or I wouldn’t make it.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Holy Week, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(First Things) Algis Valiunas–Nihilism For The Ironhearted

For Leopardi, unlike Shelley and Keats, nature provoked no ecstasies, so he might seem an Olympian mind of an antique cast, icy, sublime, and forbidding. Yet in a crucial sense he was a Romantic rather than a Classicist. Whereas Sophocles saw the world steadily and saw it whole, Leopardi beheld his own pitiable self wherever he looked. What he touted as the rarest magisterial vision of the world exactly as it is was in fact the special pleading of an unfortunate whom nature had selected for a very hard time. Rather than a disinterested neo-pagan sage, he was a soul in torment, who could not forgive the Creator for his deformity and loneliness, and therefore preferred to cut God out of the picture altogether, replacing him with immemorial philosophic abstractions such as cruel Nature and inexorable Fate.

This does not mean that Leopardi was not a great artist and an intellect to reckon with. His principal artistic persona, the spirit who negates and who takes pity on human beings for the agonies they must suffer, is the most straightforward of nihilists, alluring in his clarity of vision and unwavering fortitude. In the closing lines of Leopardi’s best-known poem, “La ginestra, o il fiore del deserto” (Broom, or the Flower of the Desert), he addresses the only plant to grow on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and praises its good sense as against human folly: “Far wiser and less fallible / than man is, you did not presume / that either fate or you had made / your fragile kind immortal.” Men choose to live within reach of the volcano’s devastating eruption because they are foolish, whereas the broom lives and dies there because it can’t do otherwise. “And unresisting, / you’ll bow your blameless head / under the deadly scythe” of the lava flow. To know your place in the world is to recognize that nature can snuff out your life in one terrifying instant, and when that time comes, men are as helpless as the broom. Acceptance—of sorrow, boredom, failure, and death—is the hardest part of wisdom.

It is of course Nietzsche who urges his readers to build their houses on the slopes of volcanoes, to live dangerously and say yes to life no matter how awful it gets. Leopardi’s is the more honest nihilism, the purest distillation of nothingness. Accepting one’s own particular portion of the universal lot is a far cry from love of life. Whereas Nietzsche preaches the supreme wisdom and moral excellence of amor fati, loving your fate so intensely that it seems entirely the working of your own will, Leopardi sees nothing to love even in the fate of the man who is clear-sighted and strong enough to gaze imperturbably upon life and death stripped to their hideous core. Leopardi’s is the more severe teaching, offering no hope of transcending Christian transcendence (in Erich Heller’s phrase) as do Nietzsche and his acolyte Rainer Maria Rilke in their glamorous prospectus of free-spirited modernity. One sees in Leopardi what godless life really is.

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Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Eschatology, History, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Theology

(CT) Russell Moore–Ash Wednesday in a Time of War

The church prays with Ukraine because their cause is just and because they, like we, are vulnerable and imperiled, and they know it.

Ash Wednesday is about remembering that we will die, and that’s important. We are told to “number our days” (Ps. 90:12) and to remember that life is a vapor soon to vanish (James 4:14).

But it is also about how we died. Joined to Christ, we have died with him—in the most humiliating and shameful way possible. The way to glory is not the way of Rome, of Russia, or of our own desire to exalt or protect ourselves. The way to glory is the way of the cross.

In wartime, dictators should remember that, win or lose, they will die and that there will be no invading or conquering the kingdom of God. At Ash Wednesday—and all year round—we should remember this too.

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Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Lent, Theology

(CT) Syntyche D. Dahou–French’s Two Words for ‘Hope’ Helped Me Endure the Pandemic

Unlike English, which uses the word hope broadly, the French language uses two words that derive from the word espérer (to hope): espoir and espérance. Both can first refer to something hoped for. In this sense, the word espoir usually refers to an uncertain object; that is, someone who hopes for something in this way does not have the certainty that it will happen (“I hope the weather will be nice tomorrow”). On the other hand, espérance describes what, rightly or wrongly, is hoped for or expected with certainty. It often refers to a philosophical or eschatological object (“I hope in the goodness of human beings”; “I hope for the return of Jesus Christ”).

When we speak of espoir or espérance, we then have in mind different types of objects hoped for. This difference matters, because both terms also commonly refer to the state of mind that characterizes the hopeful. And this state of mind will be different precisely according to the object hoped for.

Having espoir for an uncertain yet better future in these difficult times may be a good thing, but it is not enough. Such hope can be disappointed and easily fade away when our wishes and expectations (our hopes) do not materialize.

The opposite is true with espérance, which is deeper than our desire and wish for an end to a crisis or a future without pain and suffering. To face the trials of life, we need peace and joy in our hearts that come from expecting certain happiness. This is what espérance is: a profound and stable disposition resulting from faith in the coming of what we expect. In this sense, it is similar in meaning to the English word hopefulness.

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Posted in Eschatology, France, Health & Medicine, Theology

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, Theology

(PRC) Latest Pew Survey Includes American’s Views of the Afterlife

The new survey also asked about views of the afterlife, finding that many Americans believe in an afterlife where suffering either ends entirely or continues in perpetuity.

Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. adults (73%) say they believe in heaven, while a smaller share – but still a majority (62%) – believe in hell. Both figures are similar to what the Center found when it last asked these questions, in 2017. Among Christians, overwhelming majorities of all major subgroups express belief in heaven, but Protestants who belong to the evangelical and historically Black Protestant traditions are more likely than mainline Protestants and Catholics to express belief in hell. Meanwhile, roughly a quarter of U.S. adults say they believe in neither heaven nor hell, including 7% who believe in some other kind of afterlife and 17% who do not believe in any afterlife at all.

Americans who expressed belief in heaven and hell were asked several questions about what they think those places are like. The vast majority of those who believe in heaven – which is most U.S. adults – say they believe heaven is “definitely” or “probably” a place where people are free from suffering, are reunited with loved ones who died previously, can meet God, and have perfectly healthy bodies. And about half of all Americans (i.e., most of those who believe in hell) view hell as a place where people experience psychological and physical suffering and become aware of the suffering they created in the world. A similar share says that people in hell cannot have a relationship with God.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Peter J. Leithart–Systemic Evil And The Justice Of Advent

Advent commemorates, celebrates, and kindles hope for the justice of God. King Jesus has come and his Father has raised him to Zion’s throne to reign with a rod of iron until his enemies are made his footstool (1 Cor. 15:25; cf. Ps. 110). The promise of Advent is the promise of public justice. Advent announces the coming of the Lord who breaks the arms of the sex traffickers, the drug lords, the arms dealers, and all their respectable collaborators. It’s the hope that God will overturn worlds built on oppression and violence, and will rescue and raise up their victims.

The only good news that meets the needs of the world is the good news of God’s judgment. That’s the gospel of Advent, the joy to which the angels of Advent summon us: Rejoice! Shout joyfully! For the Lord comes to judge the earth. He has come; he will come; he will judge the world in justice and all the peoples with equity.

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Posted in Advent, Eschatology

CS Lewis (2) on Hell for his Feast Day

‘I told Lewis about that newspaper column that was very popular when I was growing up. It was called Ripley’s “Believe it or Not,” and I told Lewis about the grave of an unbeliever whose epitaph was, “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up but with nowhere to go.” Lewis replied, “I bet he wishes that were so.”’

–Walter Hooper as cited in K. Alan Snyder, America Discovers C. S. Lewis: His Profound Impact (Eugene: Wipf+Stock, 2016), p.58

Posted in Eschatology

Thursday food for Thought–J I Packer on the New Testament Theology of Hell

“The same traumatic awe, or awe-filled trauma, will strike the soul of every thoughtful Christian with unconverted relatives and friends who takes seriously the promise that Jesus the Saviour will one day return to judge the living and the dead.”

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Posted in Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

Church of England Evangelist Rico Tice on what is the gospel

It starts at about 32:15 in and is worth its weight in gold.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Soteriology, Theology

A Prayer of John Donne in the Evening

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end.

Posted in Eschatology, Spirituality/Prayer