Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, August 23, 2010

If There Is No Life After Death, Are We To Be Pitied?



I have been thinking again.

That's a problem.

I have been thinking about life after death. The Apostle Paul wrote:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
I wonder if most people feel that way (regardless of their religion). I wonder if most people think that it is pitiable if there is no life after death. If it is true that my consciousness is wed to my body and when my body dies so will "I" is that a bad thing? Does that make my existence pitiable?

If most people believe that what does that say about the human race and our future on Earth? I wonder if we have reached a point in human consciousness of incredible despair because we cannot face the inevitable void. I wonder if there is a collective drive toward human extinction because we have not adequately been able to come to terms with mortality.


It seems to me that the task of religion, at least for some of us, is not to hide from the void but to embrace it. I think there is only this life. But we don't need pity. We need to embrace our mortality.


There are a few things of which I am not convinced:



  1. I am not convinced that anyone's consciousness will survive or ever has survived death. This goes for immortal souls, resurrection of bodies, reincarnation, you name it.
  2. I am not convinced that humanity or any other species is "to be pitied" for our mortality.
  3. I am not convinced that believing we are immortal in some form or another will make us more loving, happier, and kinder.
  4. I am not convinced that religion must promote theories of immortality in order to help people live meaningful and productive lives.
I also have a few hunches:
  1. I have a hunch that traditional religious language can be helpful when understood as a metaphor for the quality of life. (Resurrection becomes a symbol for the serendipitous joy of being able to start over, discover a new lease on life, affirm hopefulness in difficult situations, etc.)
  2. I have a hunch that religious bodies (such as churches) would be more helpful and more healthy if they allowed for open-ended questioning among leaders and participants (as opposed to expulsion, fear of being called a sinner, heretic, and in some cases fear of being sent to hell for openly questioning and doubting cherished beliefs).
  3. I have a hunch that we will need more and more thinkers, ritualists, community-builders, therapists, and ministers to help people embrace their mortality rather than put hope in an afterlife as traditional religious dogmas become increasingly incredible for more and more people.
  4. I have a hunch that if we developed a religion that helped people to embrace their mortality rather than deny it, we would become healthier in mind and in body and appreciate more the sacred quality of life.
That is all. Carry on.

176 comments:

  1. I think they got it right here:

    "Angel" Epiphany (2001)

    "If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters... , then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today. . .

    . . .Because, if there's no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world."

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  2. I've been thinking of this too, as I preside at more and more funerals and memorials. Some with people who hold tightly to the hope of immortal life with God, some who believe this is all there is. And always a mix of these persons in attendance at funerals and memorials.
    And, what, pray tell, is the role of a minister in these situations?
    The pastoral care answer is to give comfort in the crisis, and discussion/education well in advance or later.
    I'm starting to wonder though, if it is true comfort if you don't believe what you're saying...

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  3. I have subscribed to your 4 points my entire life. It is very helpful to have company and not be alone in my beliefs at last.

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  4. Thanks, Meghan, love that quote.

    Thanks, Deborah, I have the same issues. The role of the minister is a challenge. I keep voting for honesty but it is easier said than done.

    Thanks, Bill, that is exactly why honesty from our clergy is important!

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  5. I think resurrection is a core tenant of the Christian faith. This doesn't mean we know what is beyond (or that we haven't faced our own mortality because we affirm resurrection - not sure where John makes that connection) but simply means we believe the first sermon ever preached, by a woman no less, "I have seen the Lord."

    My question is: Why NOT believe in resurrection? Why should I believe John's hunches over St. Paul's testimony? I find the arguments that resurrection are purely metaphorical very untenable in light of both the testimony of Scripture and church history and teaching. So if Paul says we are most to be pitied if our hope is for this life only, who am I to say he is just a sentimental loon? It requires more faith for me to believe the hunches of our enlightened minds then it does for me to place my faith in 2000 years of Christian teaching.

    But seriously, what is the pay-off for rejecting the orthodox view here? Granted, some have historically used resurrection as an excuse to do nothing in this life and to treat creation and others and self carelessly. But that, too, is just poor theology in practice and shouldn't be the standard by which we make our "hunches." N.T Wright has done some great work in this regard, forging a third way above all that mess which both affirms physical resurrection while rejecting present-day apathy. I find that route far more compelling and robust then a thin hunch that assumes to know better then the story we inherited.

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  6. I just don't think it is true, Chad. I find no reason to believe something that I don't think is real.

    The challenge for me is how to be gracious to folks like yourself who do believe in it while at the same time being honest about my own position.

    My hunch (yes another!) is that many people probably have similar doubts to mine but have found difficulty within the religious setting being open about them.

    Thus the reason for this blog post and others like it.

    Peace...

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  7. I liked this post and your honesty. So, I started thinking too. Paul seems to indicate that what to be pitied it is not lack of resurrection of Christ (that is a given in Paul's thought, not a question) but the lack of resurrection of all (which is yet-to-be-seen).

    Just curious: what is Paul's understanding of the resurrection of all?

    Given his other work, it strikes me that he believed that the end was very nigh (i.e., don't marry!!!), which would result in the resurrection/end of persecution, etc. If he is as apocalyptic as Jesus ( i.e. followers won't taste death before end times, etc), perhaps he is to be pitied because that vision of the end and the resurrection of all didn't come true.

    Just thinking out loud...

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  8. In other words, Paul believes that the resurrection of Christ is linked to his followers, and if his followers will not be raised then Christ wasn't either, which Paul already believes to be fact. He has created a circular argument to prove his point that followers are to be resurrected.

    "Christ is raised, so we will be, too. If we aren't Christ wasn't raised, but we already know he was, so there."

    But if his view of the end times and corresponding resurrection are understood from his context (which assumed a very-soon-end-times as did Jesus), then Paul did get it wrong.

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  9. John,
    That's fine, but may I ask, why?

    You didn't answer any of my questions. I'm simply wanting to explore your hunches


    thanks.

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  10. by the way, i appreciate your attempts to be gracious to crazy people like myself! :)

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  11. I agree with your post in one sense: the hope of resurrection, a better existence that somehow resides beyond this world of suffering, is often used to reinforce the status quo, especially in third world situations where such logic is clearly used as a cop out for doing the real work of justice and opposing oppression. Apart from that, however, the resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

    With that said, I find it difficult to believe that a Christian pastor would find it necessary to confront such a core belief. Forgive my harshness, but there are many faiths out there that do not believe in any kind of life after death, or at least, not in the sense indicative of a traditional Christian faith. Perhaps, your clerical expertise would be better suited for such a setting. And, please, I am sorry if I sound crass here. I'm in some pain at the moment but I felt the need to respond.

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  12. @ChrisK

    You are not the first to offer this career advice. I have been fairly open about what I believe and don't for some time now. For some reason my denomination has not yet defrocked me. I certainly would have been in many others. Why is that? It could be because there are many people in my denomination who believe/doubt like I do or it could be that many even though they don't agree with me still find me valuable to have around. Just a hunch.

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  13. @David Yes, I think that is what Paul is saying, lack of resurrection of all.

    Good points about Paul. Part of the reason I think many of us are doubtful these beliefs will carry water much longer.

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  14. Sorry, Chad, don't mean to be obtuse or avoid your questions. I thought I did answer. I don't believe in life after death because:

    1) No evidence.
    2) It appears to me to be little more than fear of death.

    As I look at the universe there seems to be no reason why homo sapiens should be different than any other species. I don't think any other species lives after death either.

    A reason for why I don't believe in life after death is really not that necessary. I don't believe in all kinds of things.

    A question for you. If you, like me, didn't think there was such a thing as life after death, would you think you should believe it anyway?

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  15. John,
    Would I be right to conclude that you not only doubt the resurrection but really don't care to believe it and even go so far as to renounce it? You seem almost hopeful that these beliefs will soon fade away and carry no more water, replaced, I assume, by your hunches, yes?

    I feel sorry for you, to be honest. It must be miserable to dedicate so much time and money and education to give your life to a profession that is part of a story you don't believe. You cite two reasons for rejecting resurrection:

    1. No evidence.

    Wrong. There is evidence, you just reject it.

    2. It appears to me to be little more than fear of death

    A baseless assumption which again denies that very testimony of that which proclaims resurrection ("Death, where is your victory, death, where is your sting?" etc).

    I wouldn't hold out too much hope that orthodox beliefs on this point will just fade away anytime soon, especially when the apologists for such a move, like yourself, seem incapable or unwilling to actually talk reasonably with people like myself (or ChrisK) but rather brush them off as though your hunches are beyond reproach or critique.

    If this were just a matter of doubt, it would be different. I doubt things all the time. I'm grateful, however, for a long line of witnesses and saints who are faithful when I am not. Your post, and your subsequent comments, however, smack of a denial and willful arrogance on the matter, which begs the question Chris asked and you dodged: Why be a Christian? There are plenty of other faiths or non-faiths that you wold probably feel far more comfortable in, where you don't have to believe anything - in fact, you can make up stuff as you go along (Tom Cruise is recruiting, I hear).

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  16. Sorry, didn't see your question until after I posted. You asked:

    A question for you. If you, like me, didn't think there was such a thing as life after death, would you think you should believe it anyway?

    Nope. But I doubt I'd call myself a Christian and I certainly wouldn't have spent 3 going on 4 years at Duke Divinity. I'd put my money elsewhere - invest it in treasures on earth, since that is all there is to look forward to.

    Eat, drink and be merry, folks, for tomorrow we die.

    Question for you: Why shouldn't I, or you, or your congregation, be hedonists? If today is all we have, why not live it up? Heck, Hugh Hefner seems like he has a blast.

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  17. John, I apologize for the spirit of my post. God knows, I've suffered my own crisis of faith over the years. I am grateful that your congregation and denomination allows you the freedom to explore these issues. And I do not begrudge you for doing so.

    There are many things I do not believe in anymore: virgin birth, hell, etc etc. And, in terms of resurrection, I do not think we have a clue what it ultimately means. Furthermore, I do not think that having such a belief should be the sole motivation for being "human" to our fellowman and doing what is right, just because it is right and not because we think we are going to get some kind of "reward" if we do. That's a great fallacy that needs to be debunked, in my opinion.

    But, I do also believe that there is something fundamentally different between humans and other animals. In fact, I think humans are imbued with a soul, higher reasoning capacities, things that make us unique within creation. Christ could of come as an elephant, but I don't think he would of had much of an impact on the world. He came as a man. And, as such, his humanity showed to us what a "good" life is all about. Not so much for the purpose of some ambiguous reward, but for the sake of knowing God and pleasing Him.

    Paul said what he did for a reason. He marked what is truly the fundamental issue of the Christian faith. Yes, it does confer responsibility. But, having a state driver's license does as well. The living experience of Christ within us is what makes us different, resurrection is that which makes that possible. To me, its not some pie in the sky supposition. It's simply, in the words of an old hymn, "because he lives, I can face tomorrow."

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  18. Chad,

    I am happy to answer your questions.

    Why be a Christian?

    I like it. I think it can be and is a helpful life philosophy.

    I have answered more than one of your questions. Here is mine again:

    "If you, like me, didn't think there was such a thing as life after death, would you think you should believe it anyway?"

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  19. I'm reminded of the time John Wesley said to his friend, "I don't have faith, what should I do?" His friends advice, "Preach faith till you have it, and when you have it, preach faith."

    The difference I see in someone like Wesley and yourself, John, is Wesley had doubt whereas you seem obstinate. Wesley wanted to believe the story he was entrusted with, you hope it fades away into nothing.

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  20. This is an interesting point. I've always wondered, is it really true that life has no purpose if there is no life after death? It seems that too many assume that to be true, and that's an assumption that needs to be examined more.

    However, I have to say that I agree with some of the other people posting here in questioning your dismissal of life after death.

    I can't tell from this post what it is you're rejecting: Heaven, Hell, angels with wings and harps, the Rapture, etc....the whole concept of "life after death" is fairly broad, and I'm not sure what exactly you have in mind.
    It reminds me of a story that NT Wright tells, how when Oxford students came to him and told him they didn't believe in God, he'd ask them which God it was they didn't believe in.

    The more I read about religion the more I realize that one can come at it from many different directions. I get as concerned when I hear all or a part of religion dismissed as "obvious nonsense" as when I hear someone defend some literal interpretation as "obviously true".

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  21. John

    A question outside the debate: I believe that are at least forms of Hinduism and Buddhism that believe the individual ultimately sort of dissolves into the divine. One could say that some forms of Gnosticism believed the same.

    If the spirit or soul of the individual no longer exist individually do you think that this also is a form of fear of the unknown of death?

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  22. @Alan

    This is not about resurrection per se. I rather like Easter and everything resurrection symbolizes. I am talking about my consciousness surviving my death.

    I am doubtful that "I" will exist in any form after I die (save my body parts decaying and becoming food for other critters). "I" may exist for a small amount of time in others' memories. Perhaps my deeds good and ill will have effects.

    I see no reason to believe that my consciousness will exist after the death of my body.

    I don't know, of course. It is possible that I could exist. But I see no reason to believe it. I don't think believing it is better than not believing it.

    (Although, I guess for Chad, if believing it keeps him from doing bad things, then I hope he keeps believing it).

    I think most folks when they face their mortality (without expecting a prize to follow) seem to do OK.

    What I am really doing with this post is:

    1) Trying to be honest about what I believe or don't believe.

    2) Fishing to see if there are others out there like me (esp. church folks) because my hunch is that more and more people think along similar lines.

    3) Wondering if Christianity can or is moving toward a more this-worldly type of religion.

    All that said, it is important to me to be in relationship with those who do believe in life after death--of course not at the expense of not being able to be honest. I am really not sure if that can happen.

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  23. @Chris I also think there are differences between human beings and bonobos. But I don't think the difference has to do with humans having souls and bonobos not having souls. We definitely have a lot, especially language which has helped us understand our consciousness and fear of death and various beliefs to cope with that fear. Our capabilities,it seems to me, are the product of evolution as opposed to a supernatural gift.

    I am an Earthling. I am happy to be one until I am not one. Then I won't know whether I am happy or not as I won't be.

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  24. John,
    Belief in life after death is not what motivates me to do good vs. evil. Full disclosure, I'm a Christian universalist.

    But even so, I believe we live in the already-not yet (thus the title of my blog). There is more to come, a kingdom yet to be established by the eternal reign of Christ. This gives me great hope in the midst of the shit storm we humans have the capacity to create (despite all our enlightened ideals and efforts for peace, the last century has seen more carnage and destruction of the earth's resources than all previous centuries combined). So forgive me if I am skeptical of our own human efforts.

    I don't always believe the story I have been handed and called to proclaim. But that does not mean I get to change it to suit my whims whenever I like, not if I can live with any sense of integrity within my vocation as a pastor. I have no problems with people having doubts - it's when those doubts move to a willful, nearly gleeful hope that your doubts will one day comprise the new "faith" or the newly structured "religion" that I feel a need to speak up a bit more strongly.

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  25. @Chad

    I am not sure what you mean by faith. I see no reason to preach something I don't think is true. To be totally forthcoming, I probably have told white religious lies so people have been comforted. Not blatantly, really, just repeating the liturgy without comment.

    I think a case can be made for a religion without any supernatural belief including a belief in an afterlife.

    Not only that, I think Presbyterianism can become that religion!

    I am happy to have Presbyterians who DO believe in an afterlife to be in communion with me. But I will not stop saying what I think in order to maintain that communion.

    I will try my best to be gracious.

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  26. @Bob

    I would call that pantheism which is probably a sexed-up atheism. All is divine or nothing is divine. Not much difference is there except that one sounds more spiritual.

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  27. "I think a case can be made for a religion without any supernatural belief including a belief in an afterlife."

    That religion already exists.

    It's called atheism.

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  28. @Chad

    Atheism or naturalism or humanism. Maybe Earthism. I am for a Christian Earthism.

    To anticipate your next question, what would be "Christian" about it, I would say that the stories, the symbols, the teachings and integrity of Jesus, would help shape it.

    Many of us are already there. It is one form of many different progressive Christianities.

    I don't think it is such a big deal that religions change. We are always changing. I advocate for a religion without life after death or a need for the supernatural.

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  29. Then how about just calling it what it is - atheism, humanism, deism, - whatever ism floats your boat.

    Just not Christianity.

    When you hijack Jesus to use him as you see fit, to that which suits your needs, you deprive him of his title as Lord. In the words of C.S. Lewis, Jesus was either who he is said to be or he is the most insane lunatic the world has ever known (and so are we for using him as some ethical guide).

    Why not Ghandi, or Mother Theresa? At least you know they really lived - we have video footage.

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  31. @ John: You, John Wilde and a bunch of others had a to do a while back about how to define the word Christian. As we didn't get anywhere back then I don't intend to reenter the fray. Call yourself what you like. If there is an afterlife and if Jesus is Lord (as I believe) in Christ's Kingdom he gets to decide who is what and who gets in. If there is no afterlife the argument is a waste of time. I don't think people come to a particular faith by logic and reasoning in any case.

    As long as we can all agree that there aren't any vampires, werewolves and zombies despite the current TV/movie/book craze. Life is complicated enough without worrying about being bitten by supernatural creatures if I go for a walk.

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  32. "....naturalism or humanism. Maybe Earthism. I am for a Christian Earthism."

    John, I would say that in many ways, I am all of the above. Although, I am not familiar with the last term.

    However, I am also a Christian. I do not believe we can arbitrarily define Christianity as we choose. It has been tried many times throughout history, and while it may mean different things to many, I would venture to say that belief in the resurrection and an acknowledgment of the divinity of Christ, thus his supernatural quality, is irreducible to the Christian faith as a whole.

    I am reminded of the "death of God" argument that flourished post enlightenment philosophy/theology. It wasn't successful then, and is not practical now.

    I don't need a Jesus who is just a good example. I had a grandmother who sufficed in that capacity. I need one whom I believe can change my life in ways only God can.

    I've been out of work due to a back injury. Last night, someone who I do not know, knocked on my door and handed me two checks; a total of 500 dollars. You can call it luck, but I call it God. Robbing God/Jesus of his supernatural qualities leads to the dissolution of hope. And a life without hope is miserable. We all have great minds, but our mental faculties are no match for the world we live in. Jesus, on the other hand, is. And his resurrection and ongoing presence in the life of the church/people, is what makes the gospel story as relevant today as it was the very first time it was uttered.

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  33. @Chad At least not your version of Christianity.

    One of the challenges of this post is that it seems we are mixing a number of questions. Allow me to line them up:

    1) Is life after death true?

    2) Regardless of how we answer question 1 is it better or not for humanity to believe life after death is true?

    3) How do we respect and tolerate others who disagree on 1 and possibly 2?

    I suppose there is another question regarding the clergy since it always comes up:

    4) Should clergy who no longer believe in life after death quit their jobs?

    My responses:

    1) No it is probably not true. I can't know for sure, but the burden of proof would fall on those who believe it is true. I tend to think life after death is a comfort belief and not based on anything except tradition.

    2) No, I don't think there is any advantage to believing it (or trying to believe it or faking belief in it) if it isn't true. In fact, affirming things that we don't think are true is generally a bad thing. I don't think believing in life after death is an exception to that bit of common sense.

    3) I don't know exactly. I think we speak as clearly as we can, try to hear criticism, accept that we could be wrong.

    4) Not necessarily. I think that the Christian faith is always in flux. I think that what some think are absolute essential beliefs are not necessarily so for others. I think honest searching is more valuable than repeating formulas. All that said, clergy who push buttons should expect to get some hell.

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  34. As long as we can all agree that there aren't any vampires, werewolves and zombies despite the current TV/movie/book craze. Life is complicated enough without worrying about being bitten by supernatural creatures if I go for a walk.

    : )

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  35. @Chris

    I do not believe we can arbitrarily define Christianity as we choose.

    Why not? Who made the rules? We have over 30,000 Christian denominations in the world. Obviously, some folks are defining it as they wish.

    I made up "Earthism" -- although I probably didn't. I guess we could google it and see if it appears.

    You are pretty good-natured so I am going to push a little bit. You wrote:

    I don't need a Jesus who is just a good example.

    OK, but is there a difference between what we need and what is true? You may need Jesus to be a supernatural figure, but your need doesn't make it true or not true.

    Could you if you discovered that Jesus was not divine or supernatural still be OK? If you lost your belief in an afterlife would you still make it through the day? I am guessing that you would. It could be lonely, devastatingly so, to lose a cherished belief, but after a while you would get past that and find that you didn't need it after all. In fact, you might embrace this contingent precious life as it is with a new awareness. Yes?

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  36. Great post. I've added you to my RSS reader.

    I'm struck by how much stock is placed in belief in these sort of discussion. I hope that is a problem that theology will soon overcome, or at least mitigate against. From a purely phenomenological perspective, belief doesn't have as much to do with problematic of the resurrection as does what we might call "fidelity to an event" (which is exactly how some constructive theologians and continental philosophers of religion are beginning to situate Paul, by the way).

    To continue with Paul -- I was incidentally reading Catherine Keller's review of one of Jurgen Moltmann's books just now and ran across her gloss on a famous Pauline text which seems apropos: "Perhaps it is not death itself that can or should be overcome, but the sting of death." Quite different from the usual dogma.

    It seems to me that that is what you are getting at. And, to me, what is infinitely more important (and interesting) than belief or speculation about the supernatural or the afterlife, is how such revolutionary ideas as the resurrection function in the structure of religious experience. That is very different than retreat into modern skepticism and entrenchment into new atheism; it moves beyond that into the realm of something like Paul Ricoeur's second naiveté -- where I take modern criticism very seriously but return to the structure of religious experience after the death of ontotheology (to which much theologizing around the resurrection is hopelessly beholden). Positivistic debates just get boring and circular, but a phenomenology of the hyperreal, now that opens up some really rich discussion!

    Keep it up!

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  37. 1) Is life after death true?

    2) Regardless of how we answer question 1 is it better or not for humanity to believe life after death is true?

    3) How do we respect and tolerate others who disagree on 1 and possibly 2?

    I suppose there is another question regarding the clergy since it always comes up:

    4) Should clergy who no longer believe in life after death quit their jobs?

    My responses, while you walk and hopefully avoid vampires... LOL

    1. Absolutely! We are still talking about Jesus 2000 years later.... I think the presence of your church speaks definitively to this reality.

    2. Absolutely! Whether our life continues in the form of a remembered legacy or in some physical altered state, the belief in the afterlife breeds hope in such a way that nothing else can.

    3. We love, tolerate, and pray that they do NOT meet vampires on their walk!

    4. I think this is up to them. Personally, I could not continue to be a Christian if I had to arbitrarily define it in such a way that makes its suitable for me. Sure, my faith is always evolving... but, the fundamentals of who Jesus is, his life and resurrection, etc, are not up for negotiation. Leading a Christian congregation when you doubt the very foundations of your faith is suspect at best (no offense meant).

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  38. Hey Blake, welcome!

    "Perhaps it is not death itself that can or should be overcome, but the sting of death." Quite different from the usual dogma..

    Yes. That is it. We don't necessarily need to believe in an afterlife to mitigate that sting. That is why I am not throwing out the symbolism, especially resurrection. It functions for me within this life to take out the sting of death, among other things, I suppose.

    That is why I keep hanging on to Christianity and not jumping into secular atheism. The symbols still speak.

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  39. @Chris

    Thanks for stating what you think!

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  40. I, for One, Do Not need the Resurrection to indicate to Me "How to Live"!!! All I, for One, need is the Life of Jesus...His Blood on theCross...For Me. What comes 'after' - I will leave the GodAlmighty.

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  41. Oh oh, somebody mentioned the word "fundamentals." Now we are in trouble!

    As to glosses I thought textual criticism was invented to deal with those.

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  42. I do not believe we can arbitrarily define Christianity as we choose.

    Why not? Who made the rules? We have over 30,000 Christian denominations in the world. Obviously, some folks are defining it as they wish.

    I made up "Earthism" -- although I probably didn't. I guess we could google it and see if it appears.

    You are pretty good-natured so I am going to push a little bit. You wrote:

    I don't need a Jesus who is just a good example.

    OK, but is there a difference between what we need and what is true? You may need Jesus to be a supernatural figure, but your need doesn't make it true or not true.

    Could you if you discovered that Jesus was not divine or supernatural still be OK? If you lost your belief in an afterlife would you still make it through the day? I am guessing that you would. It could be lonely, devastatingly so, to lose a cherished belief, but after a while you would get past that and find that you didn't need it after all. In fact, you might embrace this contingent precious life as it is with a new awareness. Yes?


    The existence of divergent denominations, most of which do not differ essentially on who Jesus was, but rather how he is to be worshiped, liturgy, etc.

    In the word of John Macquarrie, in a book entitled Jesus Christ in Modern Thought, there is reasons why the Christ of faith is important:

    "...does it matter whether these savior figures ever existed (Jesus, among others) or not? Yes, it does matter, and for the same reasons that we took into account when we saw that it is important that Jesus Christ existed in history, and is not only a mythological figure. These savior figures are figures of hope because their appearance from time to time on the face of this planet and their achievement in nudging the race forward toward a new and better humanity is a source of confidence in the worthwhileness of human life. And they gathered around them followers who have continued to pursue their goals in communities of faith. Must we not say then of these founders that they had received in some measure the Word or Logos of God and had been to that extent vehicles of God's self-communication and agents of his in the salvation or making whole of mankind? In some cases, indeed, especially that is Krishna, there is something like a belief in incarnation, and this could be a helpful subject for dialogue among the religions. At least, it could be so long as incarnation is not supposed to ab isolated even in Jesus Christ alone, but is seen to have been a continuous process of incarnation that began with creation, reached its climax in Christ and continues even today.

    As for my belief in the supernatural Christ, it is largely based upon my ongoing experience with Him. Thus, another proof for his resurrection. While this may be subjective, I trust my experience.

    It is, however, his humanity that I most identify with. The idea that God so intertwined himself in human flesh, making himself my kin and brother, feeling my pain and understanding my weakness is what makes Christ appeal the greatest for me.

    As for life after death, Christ lives on. How and in what form is perhaps a matter of debate. But, I attend church every chance I can and as such, I affirm his ongoing life in the community of faith.

    As for waking up one day and realizing that my faith was a hoax, I see that as a circular argument. He is Christ to me and as such, that will not change.

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  43. So sorry for all the duplicates. My browser kept saying the file was too large. I didn't realizing it was re-posting it every time I tried to amend it.

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  44. Wow! Lots going on in a short time here!

    John, you said I don't know, of course. It is possible that I could exist. But I see no reason to believe it. I don't think believing it is better than not believing it.

    Isn't that the real issue? Rather than having a tit-for-tat about who's belief is right (there is life after death! No! There isn't! Yes, there is! No! There isn't!!), isn't the question really about who's belief is more valuable in THIS life?

    And really, isn't that ultimately a very personal question with an even more personal answer?

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  45. Oh, and by the way, I'm sure this post has Viola all atingle tonight. ;^D

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  46. @Chris

    Blogger is a pain, but it's free. I have cleaned up the extras.

    We have had wars between Christians regarding beliefs. Christians in the same congregation think their own sisters and brothers aren't Christian.

    If anyone talks to someone else long enough about religion, both will find reasons why the other is going to hell. I'm only half-kidding.

    You have my permission, Chris, to invent your own religion and call it whatever you want.

    Chris, in the spirit of tolerance and graciousness, I appreciate you and affirm your freedom to believe what you want to believe.

    As far as life after death, I remain unconvinced. :)

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  47. @Snad

    Yes, I agree. My question is how do we manage the contingency of this life? How do we manage the reality that one day we will not be?

    It is a private matter and as such we should let people be. On another hand, it does become a question of philosophical interest and sometimes political interest, certainly church politics.

    I do think religious beliefs were easier before science. I think our understanding of the universe, and Darwin's glorious work has tended to make religious beliefs less and less credible.

    That makes the question of how we deal with the contingency of life more pressing.

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  48. Truly, John -

    My question wasn't meant to suggest that the question is irrelevant. Quite the opposite. Bertrand Russell said that "grappling with the universe is ultimately a private affair." Science has answered qualitatively and quantitatively many questions with which religion had previously been tasked, it seems.

    Perhaps it is appropriate to grapple with the notion of the afterlife of belief, as opposed to the belief of afterlife!

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  49. Ha! Well said. Love that Bertrand Russell quote.

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  50. Russell also said: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

    He also predicted the dawn of a Golden age, where the "dragon" of religion would finally be slain. I do not think he got that one right, in the least. If anything, the world is more religious than ever before.

    And, John, thank you for your grace and tolerance. I have an MRI scheduled this AM. I've been in allot of pain of late and so perhaps some of my meanderings were less than gracious. I have read your blog for a long time and been provoked to think about things that I would of probably rather not...LOL But, keep on blogging and I will keep on reading! Blessings!

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  51. @Chris you have been great. Please come and comment any time. My thoughts and prayers are with you today.

    Be well my friend.

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  52. Yow! I almost hate to add to this string . . . maybe you should post another blog on this so we can continue with a new page!

    I will weigh in with my own thoughts – this is where I am now:

    Look at 1st Corinthians 15:35-58. Read it with this in mind: Paul was a mystic, living in the 1st Century, before we knew anything about physics and quantum theory. What Paul is really talking about in 1st Cor. 15:50ff is transformation. “”I will tell you a mystery,” Paul writes. “We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet . . .” Then he gets wound up in his passion for what death in Christ means: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is your victory? Where O Death is your sting?” It’s the crowning affirmation of Christian belief. But it is NOT literally true. We can’t photograph transformation. We can’t follow our loved ones past the threshold of consciousness.

    OK, this continues in the next comment.

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  53. Part 2:

    Paul was not speaking literally, but metaphorically. 1st Century folk were quite capable of metaphor, and Paul’s interpretation of the meaning of Jesus’s death is probably the epitome of poetic metaphor. What Paul did not know is the basic law of physics, which is that nothing can be created or destroyed, but only transformed. More, consider that it is only our own perspective that provides us with any solid reality at all. The entire Universe is alive and moving at the sub-atomic level and beyond. Look at Paul’s words – they are basically the same as those we are hearing from quantumm physics. At death we are transformed. For 1st Century Paul, we are transformed into an “imperishable body” because the “perishable cannot inherit the imperishible.” Our eyes glaze over at this, but consider the metaphor. We do not go physically into the realm beyond life and consciousness. We are transformed. Physicists tell us we are transformed from matter into energy. Where our personal consciousness goes is for us the ultimate mystery. But as Christians, we must listen to Paul’s continuing metaphor: At the end of Romans 8 he says, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

    The secret is to trust the laws of physics – the Universe – God, if you like. Meanwhile, “my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

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  54. It's interesting how some folks approach this... eg. I don't believe in X, Y, or Z, but I still call myself a minister. Yet to not believe in Q means you're not a minister.

    Everyone wants to draw lines, I guess.

    -- alan (the other Alan)

    If there is an afterlife, and I think there is, you don't get kicked out for being skeptical about its existence.

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  55. BTW, I agree with Snad, I'm shocked and outraged that the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds have not yet posted dire warnings to their sheep and their very deep *concern* for your immortal soul, John. Oh the humanity! Think of the children!!

    Who, O Lord, will protect us if the busybodies and friends don't warn us about such heresy? Clearly they're falling down on the job.

    Either that, or they got distracted by something shiny.

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  56. Again, the post was not, as I understand it, a survey to see who believes in an afterlife. Rather it was a study on the way belief adds or does not add meaning to this life.

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  57. "Rather it was a study on the way belief adds or does not add meaning to this life."

    I've always thought the notion that without an afterlife, this life is meaningless to be awfully Skinnerian.

    Punishment/Reward....is that really what those people are saying about themselves? That the afterlife is just about conditioned response?

    Kinda dire, if you ask me.

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  58. Apparently, Alan! Talk about someone to be pitied!

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  59. @Alan

    If there is an afterlife, and I think there is, you don't get kicked out for being skeptical about its existence.

    That is another question I wanted to throw out. If our consciences do survive our deaths is there anything anyone can do now to make any difference?

    The question does become (for me at least) how religious affirmations affect us in the present.

    and...

    I've always thought the notion that without an afterlife, this life is meaningless to be awfully Skinnerian.

    Yep.

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  60. Again, the post was not, as I understand it, a survey to see who believes in an afterlife. Rather it was a study on the way belief adds or does not add meaning to this life.

    Yes. It is interesting how so many practitioners of Christianity think that Christianity is about life after death.

    I think life after death is

    1) not central
    2) misses the point of doctrines such as "resurrection"
    3) can be a dodge for dealing with our mortality

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  61. Thanks, John, for some early inspiration:

    http://chadholtz.net/?p=1484

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  62. @Chad

    All right, buddy, you go defend those mysteries. God can't do it without you.

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  63. John,
    It's not about defending anything but about being found a faithful steward of something we do not own or get to manipulate simply because we have "hunches." Why the extremes with you? As though it must be all or nothing?

    You say "God can't do it without you" but where is there even room for God in your philosophy?

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  64. @Chad

    If you don't like what I write then don't read it or make a federal case of it. Whatever. Peace be with you.

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  65. shuck and jive is such an appropriate name for your site :)

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  66. @Chad

    My last comment wasn't clear.

    Either

    1) Don't read my blog if you don't like it. Or...

    2) Go ahead and make a big deal about it. Or...

    3) Do whatever you want...

    It's all good.

    Glad you like the blog title.

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  67. Ha! So, John, it seems that "hunches" are unGodly now, too. Add it to the ever-lengthening list of "Things you CAN'T be a Christian and be a ..."

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  68. somewhere in one John SObrino's books he makes a point about this question that has stuck with me. he said that life after death is easily parted with by well to do enlightened westerners but for many in the 2\3rds world it is eschatological transformation that enables them to believe that the Creator could be good. as a Process type I am less inclined toward a normal vision of the eschaton but Sobrino pushed me to think things through from a different angle. Marjorie Suchocki does this in a process form with her eschaotlogy in 'the end of evil.'

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  69. "for many in the 2\3rds world it is eschatological transformation that enables them to believe that the Creator could be good"

    Yes, and that has been exploited horribly by those in control to keep people "in their place" for millennia. That's one of the biggest issues I have with the concept of afterlife. It ranks higher to me than the heaven/hell argument. I know there are individuals who suffer because they think their unbaptised husband is in hell, or their gay son will go there. But there are whole populations of humans who have been made to suffer great predations by others in order to keep them enslaved or impoverished, leave their land, exploit their own resources, and more.

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  70. Snad,
    The misuse and abuse of a belief is not evidence that it is untrue. In fact, it could mean just the opposite.

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  71. Ya know folks the whole be good and you will go to heaven and be bad and you will go to hell really isn't a Christian viewpoint. Christianity talks about grace for sinners. And we Reformed types go even farther by talking about predestination (which raises all kinds of questions about God's fairness and goodness.)

    It would be very nice on this question if we all would start what we say with "this is what I think or believe (or experience). From a perspective of faith I know I am correct. From any other perspective I have to say who knows?"

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  72. Straw man, Chad. You seem to keep coming back to the same thing: wanting to convince someone that there is an afterlife.

    News flash: I don't care! If there is, there is. Great! The idea that I would live my life any differently if I knew there was a "heavenly reward" is appalling to me - and it should be to anyone who considers him or herself a follower of Jesus.

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  73. It would be very nice on this question if we all would start what we say with "this is what I think or believe (or experience). From a perspective of faith I know I am correct. From any other perspective I have to say who knows?"

    Absolutely Bob.
    "I" statements.
    "I think this..."

    That is how I started this post.

    "I am not convinced..."
    "I have hunches..."

    My statements. No one owns them but me.

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  74. Personally, I don't think that my consciousness surviving my death is even a desirable thing.

    "When we've been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun..."

    --I'll be ready to check out.

    Why don't you run over to your blog and quote that one, Chad?

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  75. Snad,
    How is that a strawman? Perhaps you don't know what that means?

    John,
    You aren't being very gracious :)

    Bob,
    Absolutely. Snad, what you are doing IS a strawman (just so ya know). It's easy to set Christianity up as ALL about some eternal destiny - but it's not. But it is disingenuous for any Christian to say that isn't part of the story at all.

    Ya'll keep wanting all or nothing. I wish it were that simple.

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  76. @Chad

    I think I have been more than gracious to you.

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  77. @Chad

    But I can't the same for your behavior toward me.

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  78. How so, John? Disagreeing with you and critiquing your hunches is ungracious? Come on - you went to seminary, right? Surely you can handle that. I'm just disappointed that you don't seem willing to actually defend your hunches but "shuck and jive" your way about.

    At least I have not mocked you or talked condescendingly to you, like, "run along now and write something about me on your blog" sort of nonsense. That's not very mature of you. Oh, I'm sorry - is that not very gracious?

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  79. Thank you, John. Your last comment reminded me of growing up in a Pentecostal tradition, listening to old men testifying about fishing on the banks of Jordan for a thousand years.... I could never get into that... while I enjoy fishing...1000 years of it? Nah... I want to be creating and flooding worlds... you know, the typical God kind of thing... lol

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  80. @Chad

    Your tone has been hostile or sarcastic or both in nearly every comment. I doubt that I am the only one to notice that.

    I have been writing this blog for over four years. None of this is new. This was my first post.

    I have been writing about these kinds of things for quite some time. I have received all kinds of criticism, both helpful and some just nasty. Sometimes I have behaved less than graciously to folks and sometimes I feel badly about that. For others, I think they deserved it.

    I can take it and dish it. I'm not objecting that you are behaving in a hostile manner. Fine. Be it. I am just pointing it out.

    I think I have answered all your questions, if not, please ask them again. I write what I think. I don't really care if you disagree with me. I have no desire to change your mind. In fact, you really don't rank that highly on my list of concerns.

    You are not the first who thinks that I am somehow bad for the Christian faith. Fine.

    Am I out to change the church? I have no such delusions of grandeur. Yet, for whatever its worth, I do my part.

    Peace...

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  81. It was a painful ordeal. 1mg of xanax made it tolerable though, thank goodness. I won't get the results for a few days. I already have rods and screws down there...hopefully nothing is wrong there. Thanks for asking. Take care, my friend!

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  82. @Tripp

    Thanks. The main thrust of resurrection theology was justice. It is the hope that despite the evils of the powers that be, it is worth to maintain one's integrity in the face of evil, even at the cost of one's life. That is living without being paralyzed by fear or disillusionment. That is the power of resurrection that takes away the "sting of death."

    However, I don't think that is the same as life after death.

    I have had people say to me that if "I really suffered" or when I get older I will believe in life after death. Well, there are a lot of old people and there are a lot of people who suffer who don't believe it. And there are a lot of well to do rich people who do believe it.

    Regardless, I cannot believe what I cannot believe. I see no reason to believe in something that is

    1) unbelievable and
    2) has really no value.

    This is it! By the power of resurrection, I give myself fully to it.

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  83. @Chris

    Ouch. Hope the results are what you hope for...

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  84. @Pastor Bob

    @Pastor Bob

    I guess you could say I am back from vacation! : )

    Thinking about this question in regards to predestination, there really is nothing on Earth that we can do to change our status in the afterlife, is that not right? Whether we are elect or damned, there is nothing we can do to make life better or worse for ourselves on the other side. The only thing we have is what we do in this life. Is that how you see it?

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  85. John,

    Haven't read all the comments in this thread but 84 comments,... whew, you must have struck a nerve.

    I think my only comment to your original post is that I think you are a spoiled rich American living in the 21st century.

    Let me explain.

    Jesus made the comment that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom if heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. When I read that, I used to wonder if it meant I should give my wealth away. But that is not what it means, I don't think. I think what it means is that for those of us who have so much, the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven can seem empty.

    I completely agree that for those of us who are fortunate enough to live into the promise of the Kingdom here and now, it is a sinful waste not to do so. In fact we are warned that to not do so (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be merciful, be just, care for the widows and orphans) will have negative consequences later.

    (We get to be goats in the next life)

    But the unfortunate truth is that for billions of helpless hopeless suffering human beings whose only lot in life is to be born, suffer and die, the promise of the Kingdom of God can only be fulfilled in the resurrection. And if there is no resurrection, then their empty false hope only makes them the more to be pitied.

    Paul spoke as if in the sandals of a homeless man living on a trash heap in Bangladesh. Not as a highly educated well fed well clothed healthy white male who can choose to not get a hot shower every day if he doesn't feel like it.

    It's not you (or me) who is to be pitied if there is no life after death. We are the rich of the world.

    (reminds me of a Simon and Garfunkel song...)

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  86. Jodie,
    Beautiful comment. I only wish I had said it :)

    John's post might be good news to his upper class, educated congregation, but it's no news, even bad new, for the majority of the earth. How would his post sound to the teenage girls in Darfur who only knew pain, poverty, torture, rape and an early death this side of....nothing? If there is a God, and if this God is good, that makes the Gospel (Good News) a mockery.

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  87. @Jodie and @Chad

    Really. So what gives you the reason to believe in life after death. Is it because you are poor and miserable?

    So I am supposed to believe that my consciousness will survive my death out of feelings of guilt for not being born in Darfur?

    I don't know how it is that you can speak for all of these people. I cannot speak for them or for anyone but myself.

    Frankly, I think it is obscene to pass of fantasies of heaven rather than justice in the present as hope.

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  88. "So what gives you the reason to believe in life after death."

    Well, for starters, because I am a Christian and that is one important facet, although not the only facet, of the sacred story that has claimed me.

    I choose to believe the story handed down to us - that Christ is risen - and he is the first fruits of what will be for all creation. That's good news, John. You aren't selling anything worth giving my life to, nor anything that deals justly with evil, even though you espouse that your way is the most just. It's not.

    "So I am supposed to believe that my consciousness will survive my death out of feelings of guilt for not being born in Darfur? "

    Nope. You can believe whatever you want to believe. But if you are a Christian, and a pastor at that, I'd expect you to at least give deference to the story that is not yours to rewrite or dismiss because of your own lack of faith.

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  89. The thesis that Jodie put forth is that rich people don't believe in life after death but poor people do. You seemed to agree. Either you guys are poor or you don't believe in life after death. Unless of course you two happen to be exceptions to the rule.

    You don't seem to think I am much of a pastor. That is fine. I don't think you have your head out of your ass long enough to look at your own ministry let alone mine.

    I have preached many a sermon on the resurrection. I happen to think it is about justice in this life not some fantasy bullshit opiate of the masses.

    This was my Easter sermon.

    This is what I had to say about the acclamation, "Christ is Risen":

    Jesus didn’t die of old age. He didn’t die of cancer. He didn’t get trampled accidentally by a runaway horse. Jesus was bullied to death. Not only Jesus, but thousands of people were tortured and executed methodically in a spectacle of brutality and control. We have covered over this story with so much theological gobbledy-gook that we miss the main plot. Jesus was a victim of imperial terrorism.

    The Easter acclamation, “Christ is Risen!” meant what? I think it meant that they, the people, those who told and wrote the stories about Jesus had had enough. They had had enough of Rome’s bullying. They said,

    “Every time we gather for a meal of bread and wine we will remember. We are Christ's body. Christ is alive with us. We will continue to remember and to resist. We will show hospitality to those who are victims of imperial bullying, to the outcast, to the slave, to the stranger. We will lean on and support each other. We will remember and tell the stories of the victims. And we will dream, hope, and work for the day in which the kingdom of God, the empire of God, the empire of justice and peace will be realized on Earth.”

    Obviously, Christianity evolved and moved in all kinds of directions and embraced many different mythologies and interpretations, and some of them quite good and helpful. But it is important not to lose sight of our roots. The earliest interpretation of the death and resurrection of Jesus is this:

    In Christ, Empire’s brutality is overcome by God’s justice.

    I wear this cross around my neck to remind me whose side I need to be on.


    There is a hell of a lot more that I personally need to do for my sisters and brother in Darfur and in my own neighborhood to live out my Easter faith.

    But promoting fantasies of afterlife is not one of them.

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  90. John,
    I invite you to reread Jodie's comment. While I am hesitant to speak for her, I would dare say that is not her thesis. Nor mine.

    Yet once again, you seem content to make polarizing remarks, setting up two extreme ends, as if those are the only two options available...

    "I happen to think it is about justice in this life not some fantasy bullshit opiate of the masses."

    That's just lazy theology, John.

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  91. That is what you said!

    John's post might be good news to his upper class, educated congregation, but it's no news, even bad new, for the majority of the earth.

    How would you know how "the majority of the earth" would view my post?

    Lazy theology.

    I admit and I have said this many times before on this blog. I am a crappy theologian. Most theology goes way over my head. So you got me there.

    I don't have whatever mojo it takes (you say it's faith--maybe you are right) to believe most of the crap that theologians say, especially fantasies of life after death and other superstitions that have nothing to do (that I can see) with real life.

    I do like what Jesus stood for, though. I wish I had more courage to be like him.

    But, hey, if you believe in life after death and believe that telling people that that is where they should put there hope, then by all means, go for it.

    You do what you need to do your way and I will do what I need to do my way.

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  92. I have a hunch - after perusing some of the comments on this post - that 'east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet'!

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  93. @Karin

    I think you are right and if I didn't keep thinking I needed to get in the last word I'd let those trains go!! Thanks : )

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  94. @Sea Raven

    Sorry it has taken me so long to get to your very nice comments. I am good with all the transformation of matter to energy.

    What do you think the central "meaning" of resurrection is?

    Do you think your own personal consciousness will survive the death of your body?

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  95. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  96. Chad, thanks for the compliment.

    John,

    I can't keep up with all the comments, but...

    I don't think you got my thesis quite right.

    Paul spoke of "hope", not "belief". He placed his "hope" in the resurrection, as if without it he had none. And I think that is what he meant by pitied. People whose only hope, ONLY hope, is in a fantasy such as the resurrection, people like that ARE most to be pitied.

    If indeed it is a fantasy.

    He said it in an argument for faith and hope that Jesus was only the first born of the resurrection, and that his resurrection was proof that the rest of us would also raise from the dead someday.

    He spoke of death as an enemy to be conquered.


    This could only come from a man who previously believed, and still struggled with, the finality of death.

    (note, by the way, the subtle omission of a high Christology. The resurrection of Jesus was proof that God was going to raise all of us from the dead. If he believed that the reason Jesus rose from the dead was that Jesus was God, he would not have drawn the conclusion he did. Jesus rose from the dead, he would have concluded, because being God, he couldn't stay dead. It would have said nothing about the possibility of you and me rising from the dead. We are not God. But because Jesus was human and God raised him, it proved that all of us would rise as well)

    People like you and me can and do have hope in many other things. And, in a way, I think that people like us are not supposed to focus on the resurrection, or on whether we need to "believe” in it. If there is such a thing, it is beyond our pay grade anyway. Our job is to trust and obey. If when we die that is all there is, then so be it. It is up to God, and part of placing our lives in his hands is to place our next-lives in his hands as well. We have been given a different mission. To us has been handed the wealth and power of the world. Ours is to bring peace and justice into THIS world.

    So I am with you in that in the place we have in this world, believing in life after death is not what has been asked of us. It's not what motivates us, and it is not what we need in order to have hope. And if we the rich and powerful forget our obligations in this life because we are obsessing on having the right beliefs in order to make it into the next, then we are the ones who are to be pitied.

    The parable of the sheep and goats is really interesting at this point. Both the ones who are invited into the Kingdom and those who are expelled are surprised. Those who are invited in are folks who spent their lives not worrying about what it took for them to enter the Kingdom, what creeds they professed, or whether religion was about the afterlife.

    They worried about treating the condition of their fellow human beings.

    My point is that we need to know who we are when we read the gospels and when we read Paul. As powerful wealthy Americans living in the 21st Century, it is not our place to preach for, or even against, the hope of the resurrection. Not to our fellow rich and powerful Americans.

    But when we preach to the poor, after we feed them and clothe them, we can tell them that God has not forsaken them. That we are offering our hand because he has not forgotten them, because he has sent us there to correct the wrongs. And that, if they find no justice in this world in spite of our best efforts, they will find justice in the next. That is the message we received and have been asked to pass along.

    The message should include that if God so loves the world that he gave it, out of his abundance, all that he had best, we too are asked to love His world and give it our best.

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  97. John, so very pleased you are discussing this. I (Tony) recall when I brought up this subject in the form of a question at one of our round-table discussions in Fellowship hall. I asked, "Does religion (any religion) exist because we, as humans, are simply afraid of death? It was not much of a discussion and I literally felt like I farted in church.

    Glad you're giving me the opportunity to explore this further.

    We missed you this summer!!! Looks as if you were very busy. Perhaps next year?

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  98. Well, now that we've hashed all this out, can someone please tell me what a glorified body is?

    More importantly, will my glorified body have the same waist and inseam as my current body, or will I have to get all new clothes? I'm not saying that's a deal breaker -- particularly if I get to go down a few inches on the waist -- but I've got a couple of favorite t-shirts I'd like to keep if possible.

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  99. Oh, and just to get the 100th comment, I'm wondering if I need to keep my winter coat, or will the new Earth be more temperate than Michigan?

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  100. @ Alan

    You are killing me! Thanks! I have really needed a laugh today.

    I'm not sure how we got to the whole new body, inseams, and waist lines, but God knows, if I have to spend eternity in this body, I pass as well!

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  101. Tony and Mike! Good to hear from you. I didn't even make it down to Billings this year. After the wedding I spent the whole time visiting with parents and family.
    Next time for sure!

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  102. @Jodie

    OK, I still don't exactly get what your saying, then.

    Maybe I misread Paul, maybe not, but Paul aside, in fact this particular Christian speculation aside, I do not think any living thing including human beings has something that helps them survive death. I don't think that speculation is true or real. I don't believe it, hope it, or wish it.

    I think it is actually a falsehood, a fantasy, and a pipe dream.

    I don't think the message of Christianity has to be or always has been in all places about surviving death. I think at best it is a life philosophy to do justice, live compassionately, and hopefully, this side of the grave.

    Because that is what I think is true, I see no reason, in fact, I think it would be wrong of me, to preach and teach otherwise.

    If my denomination decides that I am wrong, that the essence of Christianity is belief/hope/wish of a survival of consciousness after death and that I need to be removed from the pulpit, then I will shake the dust off my feet and move on. But until that time that the denomination has the conviction to do that I will remain teaching and preaching what I think is true. I further think that what I teach and preach is in accordance with the central message of Jesus.

    Further, I don't take stock in comfort beliefs. I don't think believing in belief is a good thing ultimately for us as a human race.

    The painful truth faced is better than a comforting falsehood embraced. Ultimately, even as it may be painful initially to accept one's mortality, it actually can serve to make life more precious and sacred and worthy of sustaining for all people.

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  103. @Alan

    I would like to permanently have the body I had at 21 (perhaps a bit more muscular and tanned).

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  104. "I do not think any living thing including human beings has something that helps them survive death. "

    John,
    Nor do Christians believe this. Resurrection is not something we do. Only God is immortal - not humans or any other created thing. Life after death is a gift from God, period.

    "I don't think the message of Christianity has to be or always has been in all places about surviving death."

    Nor does anyone else here. Again, you tend to over-simplify the possible outcomes and set up competing extremes that need not exist.
    The MESSAGE of the gospel is not about life after death. Granted, many make it to be about that and only that, but I think this is every bit as false and misguided as your post which denies life after death.

    The gospel message, as you rightly point out, is about today. In fact, the gospel of John's use of the "eternal life" (poorly translated) is really about a "life of the ages" - a life here and now - filled with God's justice.

    But even as we affirm this (as you and I both do) this is not to say that we are at liberty to dismiss or reject Scriptures other claims - that there is something beyond this present day. There is an eschaton yet to be realized, inaugurated by the future reign of Christ.

    And thank God that is part of the Gospel. Because if the only hope we have is inside you and I, then we are screwed, ultimately.

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  105. @Chad

    So we both believe the gospel is about how we live now. I agree.

    You think the message is also about life after death as well.

    I understand that. Great. Peace be with you.

    I understand that you think I am making competing extremes.

    No, I am saying simply that there is no life after death. There is no need for that hypothesis. I don't think it is essential for Christianity to have that additional life after death element. Obviously, you disagree.

    You do make an interesting statement:

    But even as we affirm this (as you and I both do) this is not to say that we are at liberty to dismiss or reject Scriptures other claims - that there is something beyond this present day. There is an eschaton yet to be realized, inaugurated by the future reign of Christ.

    And thank God that is part of the Gospel. Because if the only hope we have is inside you and I, then we are screwed, ultimately.


    We are screwed? That is where I disagree strongly. I don't think we are screwed. We simply cease existing at our deaths. We become as we were before our births. We live this life. Not screwed. Not pitied, but present.

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  106. "Because if the only hope we have is inside you and I, then we are screwed, ultimately."

    So much for the imago Dei, eh? I didn't think Wesleyans went for all that Calvinist "miserable worm" stuff. Even after the fall, and even considering the doctrine of total depravity, God never rescinded his declaration that we were made not just "good" but "very good."

    So, to quote Carl Spackler, "I got that goin' for me, which is nice."

    :)

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  107. John,
    To your last part, I defer to Jodie's comment.

    You may be fine and dandy with that as a rich American, but the majority of the world would snort to the suggestion that Jesus came announcing some "Good News."
    I happen to believe it's good news for everyone - not just those of us lucky enough to be born with silver spoons in our mouths and can afford to say, "If this is all there is, rejoice!"

    But you seem to want your cake and eat it to. You want the human Jesus who taught you how to live justly today and reject the divine Christ who will one day return to put the world to rights.

    I say, why not take both vs. rely on your hunches?

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  108. Alan,
    Wesley affirmed total depravity every bit as much as Calvin (http://chadholtz.net/?p=1416 )

    But that misses the point. How we may be seen in God's eyes (very good) is not how we behave. This "myth of progress" that we enlightened minds love to get behind has brought us a century past of the most carnage in all of human history combined. We ain't that good. Look around.

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  109. @Chad

    You quoted me:

    "I do not think any living thing including human beings has something that helps them survive death."

    And said that I have Christian theology wrong and it is a gift of God, etc. OK.

    But do cats, dogs, boll weevils also get resurrected or just humans? The point I was making is that Christian theology has reserved life after death for human beings because we are different than bonobos.

    What I was getting at is that evolutionary science seems to show that we have far more in common with other life forms than not. Our self-consciousness and symbolic language that creates religion appears to be a unique by-product of our evolution.

    That self-consciousness is part of our evolutionary development. That is all I meant by human beings having "something" that other life forms do not.

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  110. @Chad

    So you are interpreting Jodie as saying because I am rich I don't believe in life after death. Poor people do. Again, you must be the exception to that rule.

    I don't find that convincing. Nor do I find it particularly enticing.

    I don't how many times and ways I can tell you that I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not believe in life after death. I do not like it with a silver spoon in my mouth. I do not like it with no spoon at all.

    It isn't true. To say I should believe it anyway because it provides hope to poor people is truly bizarre. Telling people a fantasy is providing hope?

    If you don't believe it is a fantasy, that is one thing. I believe it is a fantasy, so why would I preach it?

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  111. John,

    Well, there has been a report throughout history that declares that it is not just humans who get resurrected but ALL of creation. John Wesley has a sermon, "On the General Deliverance" where he posits that every living thing will be restored. I concur.
    (for the sermon: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/60/ )

    Paul says as much in Romans when he pens, ALL of creation is groaning for the redemption of the children of God. And St. John envisions a day when dolphins and whales and birds will join the myriads of people around God's eternal throne.

    So I am with you on that - I reject this notion that it is just humans who will be raised. I think God is much bigger than that, and has quite an extraordinary final act in mind.

    I submit to you that this is GOOD NEWS - far better than the United Way you seem to be advocating the church to be all (and ONLY) about.

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  112. " I believe it is a fantasy, so why would I preach it?"

    Oh, gee, I dunno...cause you claim to be a Christian pastor?

    I don't believe it because it gives hope to the poor. I believe it because it is part of the Gospel story that informs me about who I am and whose I am.

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  113. Oh, gee, I dunno...cause you claim to be a Christian pastor?

    I only claim to be. You, of course, are the real thing.

    As a Christian pastor, I am not called to preach a fantasy. I am called to preach the truth. That is what I try to do. We may in good conscience disagree with what the truth is.

    As far as this new creation is concerned. Where is this new creation going to be? A new planet? In the same solar system or in a different one? Is every ant who ever lived coming back with a new ant body? What is the "throne" exactly?

    How literally do you take these metaphors?

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  114. "How we may be seen in God's eyes (very good) is not how we behave. "

    So then we're to dismiss how God sees us? (Note: Perhaps your Wesleyan emphasis on works may explain some of the disconnect between what you write and some of the other things written here by Presbyterians.)

    "We ain't that good. Look around."

    Speak for yourself. God declared us very good. I find it interesting *that* isn't a message that you also see the need to defend. But then, if they didn't convince people how crappy their lives are, pastors would be out of a job, eh? :)

    (Aside: So, wait... You're saying my cats will also be raised? As long as you're here to defend God, where is *that* in the Bible? Heh. So people can believe whatever they want about resurrection (zombie cats and dogs!) as long as they believe in the resurrection of the body? Kinda kills the whole "resurrection is a good doctrine for poor people" argument when you extend it to other species. What justice will cats and dogs see, I wonder? Cans of tuna and fire hydrants everywhere? Not so great for tunas, I guess.)

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  115. "I only claim to be. You, of course, are the real thing."

    No need to be snarky, John. I never said such a thing.
    I'm simply submitting to a story greater than I. I don't always understand or nor do I have all the answers, but it is anti-Christian to state there is nothing beyond our flash-in-the-pan time here or that Christ is not returning to judge the living and the dead. That's just bare bones Christian belief. If you don't like it, fine. Don't be a Christian.

    As far as HOW it works out, I don't know the answer to that any more than I know exactly HOW God created all that is (you do believe God created at least, right? Or is that, too, a fantasy?)

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  116. "So then we're to dismiss how God sees us?"

    No.

    "Speak for yourself. God declared us very good."

    Good for you, Alan. Who needs a savior, then? At least not you.

    Oh, but I guess that's just silly to believe Jesus is a savior of anyone or anything. We don't need Jesus - we are "good" already.

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  117. BTW, I love it when rich people tell other rich people what poor people believe. And then other rich people (as I am doing now) laugh at them for doing so.

    It's like an MC Escher print. :)

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  118. Chad: "No need to be snarky, John. I never said such a thing. "

    then...

    "Oh, but I guess that's just silly to believe Jesus is a savior of anyone or anything. We don't need Jesus - we are "good" already."

    Chad, if you're going to criticize others for 1) being snarky, and 2) making arguments out based only on extremes, it might be best if you didn't turn around and do both yourself immediately after.

    Also, just so know, in spite of the fact that you're a Wesleyan, I'm probably one of the most theologically conservative folks on here, with the exception of perhaps Bob. But in spite of the fact we probably agree on most things, please don't feel like you need to tame that bitchiness of yours on my account. I rather enjoy pointed back-and-forth, as long as you can bring the funny as well as the bitchy. Otherwise it just gets boring.

    Carry on. :)

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  119. "If you don't like it, fine. Don't be a Christian. "

    Le sigh.

    As Thomas said to Jesus, "Who died and made you God?"

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  120. Alan,
    Is that a funny way of avoiding the point I was making? :)

    That's not being snarky - it's being real.

    If you think you are already "very good", you don't need a savior. Or am I missing something?

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  121. "As Thomas said to Jesus, "Who died and made you God?"'

    You're not understanding, Alan.

    By definition, a Christian confesses at bare minimum a few things. I would tell the person who wants to be a Muslim yet denies that Mohammad is its true prophet that they probably don't want to be Muslim.
    The person who rejects Jesus or rejects the gospel he came proclaiming (which includes, but is not limited to, a future reign of God and resurrection), probably doesn't need to be a Christian.

    There are plenty of other faiths to be part of that allow you to make stuff up as you like - to follow your hunches without regard to a narrative that we inherited.

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  122. "As Thomas said to Jesus, "Who died and made you God?"'

    You're not understanding, Alan.

    By definition, a Christian confesses at bare minimum a few things. I would tell the person who wants to be a Muslim yet denies that Mohammad is its true prophet that they probably don't want to be Muslim.
    The person who rejects Jesus or rejects the gospel he came proclaiming (which includes, but is not limited to, a future reign of God and resurrection), probably doesn't need to be a Christian.

    There are plenty of other faiths to be part of that allow you to make stuff up as you like - to follow your hunches without regard to a narrative that we inherited.

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  123. "If you think you are already "very good", you don't need a savior. Or am I missing something?"

    Yes. Yes you are.

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  124. John asked me, What do you think the central "meaning" of resurrection is?

    The central meaning of resurrection – for me (and actually applies to all) is realized, participatory eschatology.

    In plain English, Jesus died because of his insistence on the possibility of living in covenant with God’s realm of non-violent distributive justice-compassion. “Resurrection” does not mean a resuscitated corpse, lurching out of the tomb on a Sunday morning and scaring the hell out of Peter. “Resurrection” happens whenever anyone, Christian or not, lives his/her life from non-violent justice-compassion. “Resurrection” for me is interchangeable in meaning with “incarnation.”

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  125. Part 2:

    John also asked, Do you think your own personal consciousness will survive the death of your body?

    I don’t “believe” or think that who I am today will be who I am in whatever form the next life takes. I have been playing in my mind with the idea of consciousness that “coalesces” again into a form that we might recognize on this Planet, but really, that’s a romantic thought with nothing to base in reality as we now know it.

    Regarding the “form the next life takes” – what I mean there is not reincarnation as it is classically understood by the ancient Celts or the Hindus or Buddhists, but the form my transformed energy assumes, whenever it appears – and wherever it appears. But “I” will not exist after this life.

    For me, what is needed in order to bring the Kingdom to Earth – to “restore” in my way of putting it the realm of distributive justice-compassion – is for us to learn to trust the universal scientific laws that we know now. In other words, trust God. I use “God” and “known Universe” as interchangeable concepts. When I read your sermons and your arguments, I hear you making much the same kind of connection.

    So trust the Universe, and work – for the night is coming. Whoever signs onto the great work of non-violent justice-compassion is participating in the Kingdom – whether it looks like it’s here or not.

    Any more, and you’ll have to invite me down to do a weekend seminar!

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  126. "Care to elaborate, Alan?"

    I would suggest you read Calvin's Institutes, if you want elaboration.

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  127. lol Alan

    Heck, maybe your friend John should read them again.

    I'll leave you all to it. John, you said earlier that theology was not your strong suit. I believe you, now. It appears you attract a good number of like minds :)

    peace.

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  128. Chad said: I'll leave you all to it. John, you said earlier that theology was not your strong suit. I believe you, now. It appears you attract a good number of like minds :)

    Heaven forbid (she said ironically) that people who don't have M.Divs be allowed in the church! Damned riff-raff, anyway.

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Chad. ;^D

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  129. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  130. "It appears you attract a good number of like minds :)"

    Actually the great thing about this blog, is that (if you'd bothered to read the comments) many of the folks commenting here don't necessarily agree with John (or each other). We're just not jerks about it. Or rather, we're usually not jerks about it. :)

    I don't agree with John on any number of topics, Chad but 1) I don't believe it's any of my business to scold him about his beliefs, 2) I don't believe that even if I thought it was my business to scold him that he'd have any reason to listen to just another random semi-anonymous stranger on the intertubes, and most importantly 3) I don't think one is saved through right doctrine anyway.

    But in one respect, you're right. I think many people who comment here are "like-minded" in respecting differences and not needing to always be right. And, I think we're like-minded in realizing that discussion is a good thing, that asking questions is useful.

    But, obviously, not everyone is "like-minded" in that regard. ;)

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  131. @SeaRaven

    “Resurrection” happens whenever anyone, Christian or not, lives his/her life from non-violent justice-compassion.

    Yeah, that is how I see it too!

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  132. @Sea

    Any more, and you’ll have to invite me down to do a weekend seminar!

    When are you free? I am serious. I want to connect you with a couple other Creation Spirituality folks here. We can chat "off-blog" via email!

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  133. Again, Alan makes a very good point. I don't think there is one person in any of the churches I have served including the present one, or anyone on the blogosphere who agrees with everything I say.

    In fact, many folks disagree with a lot of things of I say.

    And as Alan says, we are usually not jerks about it. Although, sometimes that's fun too.

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  134. On the behalf of the Adult Forum at 1st Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Sea Raven is warmly and enthuiastically invited!

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  135. John,

    Again, the responses are going too fast and furious for me to keep up.

    I am making a distinction between "belief" and "hope". It is one thing to 'believe' there is a resurrection. It's another to say, "I hope" there is a resurrection. It means I want there to be one. It means I pray for there to be one. It means that if there is one, then certain things that are hopelessly wrong with life, or in life, get another opportunity to be made right.

    I can't say I strongly believe in the resurrection. I do solemnly hope there is one. I think it would be cool. But it's not what drives my life. Furthermore, as an article of faith in God, of placing my life in his hands, I declare that I am ok either way.

    And I look up to the secular humanists and the bar they set as to what it means to live responsibly as if this is all there is. I think they are closer to the real gospel of Jesus Christ in their atheism than most Christians are in their doctrines and rituals.

    "what I teach and preach is in accordance with the central message of Jesus."

    Well, Jesus DID also teach that there was an after life. I take it that you renounce some of the things Jesus taught but not others? How far from the center is his belief in eternal life?

    Years ago when I deconstructed my own faith, I decided that I needed to hold on to the notion that Jesus did in fact raise from the dead. I am a fan of Paul's. For him that discovery changed everything. Without meeting the living Jesus he would have forever remained a spotless law abiding Jew. I could see what he saw, and pray to the same Lord and Savior he did. I have always FELT (subjective verb there) that when I pray, He at least acknowledges the prayer. Paul's description of the risen Jesus matches my own experience of Him. So I believe He lives. And because He does, I agree with Paul; I can hope there is a resurrection for all of us as well.

    But if I have hoped in vain, my life will not have been the object of pity. I will not have trusted God in vain. So as I look to my own faith, I have gone to a place where even if there is no resurrection I am cool with that. Whether I live or die, I belong to God.

    That's the difference between "believe" and "hope". (IMHO)

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  136. John,

    I was also thinking about your biological imperative that there be no resurrection.

    I would at least acknowledge the other side of that coin. How can a pile on inanimate atoms be organized into a living feeling thinking (religious) organism in the first place? A self-aware living organism at that? As we zoom in on a living organism, even a single cellular one, where does life end and inanimate matter begin? How and where do the building blocks become greater than the sum of the parts?

    Biology does not yet begin to answer that question. Life may just be an unavoidable property of nature, like say gravity, and be everywhere at some level. It could be that nothing ever really dies; it just gets recycled and reconfigured, and we are to all of nature what a single cell of our liver is to us – always dying, always being replaced, so that the greater whole may live. If our memories are just atomic structures, then maybe they get disbanded when those structures go away (some disband before we even die…). But what is it that accesses those memories? What is the 'me' that reaches into those memories and admires them? Biology has no answer for that just yet. And is it possible that said ‘me’ is detached from the structure of my body? A truly scientific explanation of death and resurrection, or the lack thereof, has also to explain life as well. Biology is not there yet. Maybe one day it will get there, and all of this will be as obvious as the Earth being round and not flat. But until it is, science does not and cannot reject (or endorse) “resurrection”. It is merely agnostic of it. As it is of God herself.

    (Yes, we can deconstruct science as well. It's part of the scientific process actually)

    Lastly, I applaud your passion to preach as you believe, but you are putting an interesting dilemma on the table. A minister of word and sacrament in the Christian Church who believes and preaches that there is no resurrection is a little like a pacifist marine.

    At some point isn't it going to become an oxymoron too obvious to ignore? At least give yourself an out in case you change your mind.

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  137. @Jodie

    Good thoughts. I always appreciate your contributions. I particularly like this one:

    A minister of word and sacrament in the Christian Church who believes and preaches that there is no resurrection is a little like a pacifist marine.

    I think we need a few more pacifist marines!! : )

    Foibles with my career aside, I do honestly think I am keeping true to the integrity of Jesus as I understand him.

    I think this odd business that ministers have to say the same old stuff we've been saying for the past 1900 years or whatever makes us little more than antiquities dealers.

    I think your statements are fine. I think we probably are on the same page regarding the things most important to each of us, even as we might say it differently.

    A couple things to comment upon. I see resurrection as a symbol for justice (as I have written about many times including in this post and the subsequent comments). I believe/hope in resurrection.

    I think we took the metaphor too literally when we (some NT writers and theologians ad infinitum) applied it to our consciences/bodies etc. coming back to life.

    The hope of justice, joy, and the inspiration to live justice and joy is resurrection for me. That happens before the grave.

    As far as Jesus is concerned, I don't think Jesus (at least the historical Jesus as I understand him) cared a hoot about surviving his own death or that of others. He didn't care about heaven, which is why he spoke about it in the present tense. K of G is within/among you. Whether or not he shared a common belief of some kind of life after death, I don't think it was central for him.

    That said, it is possible that Jesus shared the views of the Maccabees that resurrection meant that God was going to make it right with all the wrongly persecuted and killed coming back to life in some eschatological hoo haw. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. If he did, he was wrong.

    It didn't happen then, and as far as I can see it isn't going to happen in the next 4 billion years or so.

    That is of course the point of a modern view of the cosmos verses an ancient one. The dogmas of old simply don't and cannot correspond. At most we can use them as metaphors for the quality of life in the present. To try to make resurrected and ascended bodies fit our understanding of the universe turns it all into a caricature.

    The simple fact, as I see it, is that it is never going to be made "right". Life changes. We can only approach justice and have it approximated.

    So live today. Live with all you got. Stand up to the emperor and stand him down. If you get killed when you stand him down, at least you lived. Don't worry what you will eat or wear. Live with an intoxicated passion for compassion. If we can do that, we can face the Void without despair and we are living the resurrection.

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  138. "Stand up to the emperor and stand him down. If you get killed when you stand him down, at least you lived."

    Did that last week. Got fired. It's overrated.

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  139. Wow I don't go online for a day and you run up another 60 or so comments? Only you John.

    Before I get to predestination let me say that I don't think the NT deals with the whole question of life after death and what happens then univocally. Look at the parable of the sheep and the goats. Clear message: serve the poor or you are headed for the outer darkness. OTOH salvation is by grace alone.

    Anyway, on to predestination. One of my favorite games 15 years ago when I hung out in AOL Christian chat rooms was to upset the Baptists who would always ask when you were saved. I would say, "before the foundation of the world" and then sit back and watch the fireworks begin. The problem with their question was that they wanted me to say when I made a decision which is at least a form or Arminianism which is a kind of a work. I make the decision so I am responsible for whether I go to heaven or not. Which we believers in predestination think is foolishness. God chooses. And if we look at God's behavior through the Bible God doesn't seem to have a rational basis for choice. Predestination says in large part: God to humans: "You aren't in charge and you can't figure things out." Which tends to irritate humans to no end.

    Calvin says that the sole purpose of the doctrine of predestination is for the comfort of the saints. The predestined didn't do anything to get predestined so we don't have to worry when we mess up big time that we have somehow changed God's mind.

    So Christians don't worry about death or dying because we trust God to take care of things. It is, I think, the very opposite of saying that one believes in the Kingdom of God because one is afraid of death or dying.

    But that doesn't mean Christians sit back, have another beer and let the world go to hell either. Heidelberg says that life then is gratitude. We live our lives in service (that is worship and thanksgiving) to God not to earn God's pleasure but rather responding to God's love. We don't have to worry about death or dying so we can get down to it and serve God by serving other humans and (to the extent we can make any difference) the whole of God's creation.

    I think predestination is not so much about assuring me of where I'm going as saying that it isn't in my hands so I can go on and deal with stuff here. Or to quote Paul from Philippians "So whether I live or I die I am the Lord's." Living or dying doesn't matter. Serving God through our love for God does.

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  140. @ Alan Can't speak much about apparel in the Kingdom or bodies. I just want my hair back and be able to fit into my kilt.

    As for being very good, no we kind of lost that in the Fall, didn't we? Will get it back in the Kingdom and are provisionally declared so until then.

    Almost as conservative as I am? Yep. Alan is NOT a moderate. He's a conservative. And he is "probably" sometimes more conservative than I am.

    Glorified bodies? This is one of those places where ya have to wonder if Paul says, "Well that's right but I'm not exactly sure what it means." Maybe it will be like Jesus, being able to appear in locked rooms but still eat fish.

    My earlier point was that we can leave it all in the hands of God. We don't have to worry about death or dying or even what we will look like in the Kingdom. God's got that covered. Se we can get down to the serious business of glorifying and enjoying God, that is serving God by serving others!

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  141. "As for being very good, no we kind of lost that in the Fall, didn't we? Will get it back in the Kingdom and are provisionally declared so until then."

    Actually, Calvin says it's more than that, as I remember. That the process of sanctification is a remembering and then working toward the "good" we knew before the fall. Of course, it is God's work, not ours, just as it is His image not ours. But total depravity doesn't mean that there is no remnant of that image of God left either. And that's true regardless of the particular details of the afterlife.

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  142. A long time reader of my blog left a comment for me that humbled me, and reminded me that words can hurt. Below is my response to him, and I apologize to anyone whom I may have caused offense.

    peace,
    Chad.

    Thank you for your honest comment and for holding a mirror up to me. I need that, and I’m grateful for it (even if I don’t like it much).

    You are right. I was probably not my best self there. For whatever reason, John, a pastor, as they say down here in the south, “flew all over me.” Not sure why. Maybe it’s in part because he is a pastor and I talk more stridently within the “club” so to speak, sort of like how Jesus used some of his most harsh language for his extended family – fellow Jewish religious leaders.

    I don’t claim to be perfect, or, as one commenter over there said, “very good.” He may be, I’m not. I wish I could say to you that my ungraciousness that you saw there is the only time it has ever happened. But it’s not. And it won’t be the last, I’m sure. Perhaps this is but one more reason I feel the need to point to a Lord who stand over and above people like me, and the Church universal, because when we collapse the two – when we humans are all that there is – we discover that isn’t a whole lot. The best I can do is point to a God who is perfect and calls me to the same. On my best days you might see glimpses of that in me and others, and on other days you might see my eternal need for a Savior and for grace myself and for an eventual “glorification.” Until that day you will witness the tension of me living between the reality of the already and the hope of the “not yet.” Sometimes I do it well, sometimes poorly.

    But all that is me making excuses for my behavior. Bottom line: I’m truly sorry it acted as a stumbling block for you and caused you pain. The best I can offer, and I hope something you’ll accept, is that I promise I’ll learn from this, and try to be more mindful of that in the future.

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  143. @Chad

    No problem. You are welcome to comment at any time.

    This topic touches a nerve. I expect to take some heat.

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  144. John,
    I've only today read your post and skimmed through the myriad of responses to it. I'm wondering, out loud (so to speak) if we might also interpret Paul's words slightly differently (I'll offer my own paraphrase):
    "If (in our own mind) for this life we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."

    I guess what I mean (and not at all derogatorily) is that perhaps what Paul is saying is that while the truth is that there is resurrection from the dead, for people like yourself, there is no resurrection (not just life after death, but the glorious re-creation that the whole of Scripture dreams of) because you choose not to believe it, and perhaps you are most of all to be pitied. You have said that you follow Christ for the sake of this life only; perhaps you are to be pitied, in Paul's words.

    I think of the ending scenes of C.S. Lewis' "Last Battle," where there are dwarfs who, while everyone else is experiencing the green pastures, stumble along, blind to the full goodness that surrounds them. They refuse to believe/accept how good life could be, and would rather be left alone to their limited sense of what is real. For them, there could be no after life, nothing greater than what came before. They are most to be pitied, because they have been given the chance to experience goodness and refuse it.

    I imagine that for people like yourself, that is the unfortunate future that awaits you, not out of the condemnation or judgment of anyone else, but out of your own choosing to let the scales stay on your eyes. What's rational and tangible is preferable to what is yet to be revealed.

    The dream of resurrection is far more than just "life after death," but as NT Wright phrases it, "life after life after death."

    I mean none of this as condemnation of you (and hope that is apparent from my tone--I'm not sending you to "hell" or saying that God will) so much as out of sorrow for someone who as a pastor of a church has yet to catch on to the dream of God.

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  145. Great comment, Brian.

    A shameless plug, but one I think is fitting for this discussion, is a post I wrote a month back or so that got a lot of pushback, addressing what we have (or rather, GET) to believe as Christians:
    http://chadholtz.net/?p=1326

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  146. Brian,

    Welcome. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    Just so we are all on the same page. My thesis is this:

    I do not believe/hope/wish/affirm/imagine that my consciousness will survive my death (whether that is in the form of reincarnation, transmigration of an immortal soul, resurrection of my DNA. When I am dead, "I" cease. Not only for me but for everyone.

    I see no particular advantage in believing/hoping/wishing otherwise.

    As far as the Christian symbol of resurrection is concerned. It has been said of me that I don't believe in the resurrection. That is not true. In fact if you look at the comments or any myriad number of posts I have made or my Easter sermons (a part of my most recent I quoted in this very comment section) I affirm and place great hope in resurrection. If folks care what I actually think about resurrection they are invited to read what I have written.

    It is certainly anyone's prerogative to think I believe it incorrectly, but nevertheless I believe it.

    What I do NOT believe in is my consciousness surviving my death in any form that any tradition including aspects of the Christian tradition have variously claimed.

    Folks may pity me, and that is fine.

    Nevertheless, I saunter on.

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  147. @Brian,

    Nah. Nice try, but no cigar. The context of Paul's comments is quite clear. It is an argument for, and an exhortation to, faith and hope in the resurrection.

    John makes a distinction between metaphor and physical that is hard to follow. Could it be that "resurrection" is just as metaphorical as the words of the Lord's supper? Maybe. Jesus himself wove in and out of metaphor sometimes acting them out as well as articulating them, and from one to the next in the same fluid motion between word and deed.

    But if I get the meaning of Jesus in the parable of the goats and sheep, the joke is both on those who do not believe in a life after death (with memories of this one), and on those who do.

    According to Jesus it is not WHAT you say you believe in this life that matters, but HOW you live this life that does.

    (Gospel John's interpretation notwithstanding)

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  148. According to Jesus it is not WHAT you say you believe in this life that matters, but HOW you live this life that does.

    I definitely affirm that.

    As Alan said in an earlier comment, we don't get kicked out of the afterlife simply for not believing in it. That's nice to have that base covered. I have no care what happens after I am dead in regards to "my" future. It is totally out of my control no matter what I believe/hope.

    Jodie, you do bring up an interesting point. What did Jesus really think about resurrection? Also, what did early followers, gospel writers et al think about it? I think there was great variance and debate even within the writings that were eventually canonized. I think the views were fluid and changed over time. They still do.

    For me, yes, I am a non-realist. "God" for me is a symbol. "Resurrection" is a symbol. "Eternal life" is a symbol. I think that these 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century folks wrestled with all of that as well.

    I personally think my non-realism is a good response to the tradition in light of our unfolding understanding of the universe, human life, evolution, etc.

    I think folks should praise the fact that I like appreciate Christian doctrine metaphorically.

    The only other choice (for me and I'm not alone here) is to throw it all out as anachronistic. At least with my way the tradition is preserved and interpreted for our time.

    Further, I think Resurrection primarily in Jesus' time was about the hope of justice/compassion and the inspiration to live for justice/compassion.

    That is what I take for the present.

    For instance, I hope that human beings will live sustainably with Earth and its fellow creatures. I think that is a pretty darn good hope, worth living for. I certainly don't put hope for that in some place other than Earth. It is on this Earth in this time that that hope will be realized or at least approximated or humans and many other life forms will go extinct.

    This is where we are. We could be facing disastrous consequences in our own lifetimes. Resurrection hope is about action and moving our current lives toward a new vision of justice and sustainability and in particular, the avoidance of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) when civilization crumbles.

    That is real shit. If Christianity cannot speak to that then screw it. I give an ant's ass for the survival of my consciousness after death. It isn't worth my time.

    I (and others), however, think Christianity can be a source of hope as a life philosophy to avoid catastrophe or failing that, to help us navigate through it.

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  149. @Jodie-I quite agree that Paul is affirming, and exhorting, faith and hope in the resurrection. My paraphrase merely adapts the verse to say (more or less), "If you choose not to believe in the resurrection of the dead, then it doesn't exist for you--you will be allowed to continue on as if it doesn't--and for that you are to be pitied." In other words, you will allowed to make the choice to wander as the dwarfs in the example I gave.

    I understand what John means by resurrection, and I also realize the that it is possible for some people to see talk of resurrection as metaphorical. It's not hard to follow (though claiming Jesus' words at the Last Supper as metaphorical is a separate claim that I wouldn't share).

    And, while I agree that Jesus teaches us how to live full lives on earth, what you believe is always important--it's the lens that you use to interpret the rest of the world (not to mention Scripture) through (I think that's what Jesus is talking about in Matt. 6 with the Eye as the lamp of the body). I don't condemn John for not believing in a more orthodox understanding of the resurrection, I simply believe differently (and wouldn't call his belief Christian), and think that people who hold to that belief are missing out (and may eschatalogically) on something greater and truer.

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  150. @John: I do question, however, the correlation of your belief to the "progress" of modern knowledge. If you haven't, I'd suggest reading Wendell Berry's "Life is a Miracle," which is a critical response to the notion of unfolding knowledge about anything.

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  151. @Brian

    (and wouldn't call his belief Christian)

    Obviously, anyone can make any opinion they like to make. For one Christian to call another Christian not a Christian is about as common as dirt.

    And Christians wonder why those outside the faith don't come rushing to us. : )

    I really like Wendell Berry. I haven't read that book so I can't comment on what you think he says about what you think I think. A lot of room for error with that conversation.

    I am not sure I follow your criticism. Maybe you can clarify?

    Just to get on the same page. Do you not agree that we have learned things about the universe and we that we know more about it than they did in the 1st century because that is all I am saying there.

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  152. I heard a sermon many years ago by Gloria Albrecht, a local professor at Detroit Mercy and PCUSA minister, on the matter of the afterlife, and the 1Cor15 verses. I don't remember the exact phrasing, but she noted that when you look at a leaf in the summer, the red/gold/brown of the fall is already there, under the green. The green leaves contain the dead ones and already *are* them.

    A dichotomous key for the identification of plants or animals is useful for recognizing them, but they're simply a means of categorization that is artificial and imposed on them. The categories are not "true" in any real sense.

    Sometimes I think that the life/afterlife, life/death dichotomies are just as useless as the body/soul dichotomies we inherited from the Greeks.

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  153. John I think your statement that there was disagreement in the early church over what resurrection looked like has merit. There certainly is a tradition that Jesus rose in some kind of physical form because of the passages about touching him and asking him to eat.

    On the other hand there are those who believe that Mark was written to oppose such physical ideas of the resurrection. I have a book written by Willie Marxsen in the 1960s that makes this argument.

    Hebrew thought, at least through the OT is that humans are unitive beings. You can't separate soul or spirit from body. On the other hand the idea that there could be life after death is a late thought in the OT and seems to be a response to persecution. There is a Kingdom because life here sucks so badly. And God is going to get our oppressors.

    But when you speak or write in Greek you have to use a language that has unspoken assumptions built into it. So Paul uses sarx for one meaning of body and somos for another and psyxe in several different ways. All of which can add to the confusion. Does Paul think in Hebrew categories or did his upbringing in the Hellenistic community give him Greek ways of thinking about things?

    I suspect that the addition of Greek and Persian philosophies to Hebrew thought even during the first century and maybe before brought arguments over the meaning of the resurrection. Just how does one see the resurrection though Plato's philosophy that sees the ideal in the mind of God and this earth as a shadow of the ideal? (and who or what is God to Plato for that matter?) Is there a reflection of this in Paul's letter to the Corinthians? Is that part of the argument in Corinth to which Paul responds?

    There is also the argument on Mars Hill where Paul uses the word resurrection and when he explains himself he gets laughed out of town.

    What concerns me about all of this is that I think Aristotelian thought was still preeminent in the 1st Century, at least in Alexandria. I don't see how it plays in this argument unless it is seen as supporting Hebrew thought.

    Then you toss in Persian philosophy that contributes to Gnosticism which I think is the major controversy in Colossians and certainly part of the mix in John. And maybe an interaction between Hindu thought, Persian thought and Platonism (there was a lot more trade between India and the Roman empire than we usually consider and with goods come ideas) and the whole thing becomes rather messy.

    To argue that there is one line of thought in the Bible and the NT in particular is to forget or refuse to recognize the outside influences.

    I would argue that Hebrew philosophy tends to be preeminent in the NT but one can easily see other influences. Clearly you disagree. But I think we would agree that the people in the 1st Century we a lot more sophisticated than we usually give them credit for. Distinguishing between reality, metaphor and symbol was something they did all the time.

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  154. Alan I think the life/death dichotomy is useful for ethics. A life/death dichotomy for Christians is inaccurate. The appropriate dichotomy is death/life; that is dead in sins and alive in Christ. Thus alive begins in this world and extends beyond this world. Death is a quality only of this world.

    I HAVE to write a sermon on each of those dichotomies! While I knew about them I hadn't thought about them precisely this way before.

    THANKS John and Alan!

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  155. Just some random closing thoughts on this thread...

    @Brian, I guess you are Roman Catholic? (transubstantiation?) I think the Roman culture, as a culture, was a linear literal culture, whereas the Aramaic language and Middle Eastern Culture was all metaphorical in its reasoning process. In some ways more sophisticated in its metaphorical reasoning than we are today. It goes with technology. Rome, like America today, was a technologically advanced culture. Literalism and technology go hand in hand. Agrarian cultures, and hunter gatherer cultures are almost exclusively metaphorical.

    Jesus was living in a cross culture (no pun intended). The challenge the authors of the NT left us with is keeping up with their ebb and flow between literal and metaphorical reasoning.

    We tend to err on the side of too literal. I think IMHO, the John perhaps errs on the side of too much metaphor. But it is a valid and powerful approach.

    On your interpretation of Paul, I have a problem with you turning the arrow around on who is to be pitied. Paul is not saying the un-believer is to be pitied for not believing. He is acknowledging the believer is to be pitied if the believer has hoped in a fantasy.

    And he is using that acknowledgement to say "I Paul, being of sound mind and judgment, being highly educated in both Greek and Hebrew philosophy and a citizen of Rome, am going down this path willingly with eyes wide open by my own choice. If I am wrong I am to be pitied. I get that. But I am not wrong"

    @Bob, don't forget that before the Hebrews and OT times, life after death was highly prominent in Egyptian temple worship. As an act of liberation from Egypt, Judaism rejected temple worship (at first) and life after death.

    But temple worship was a necessary aspect of the monarchy, so with the monarchy came Israel's temple religion, based mostly on local fertility cults that emphasized the death and re-birth cycles of the seasons.

    So Hebrew religion lived in this tension between Temple Worship which emphasized the spiritual dimension of religion much as all the other religions around them did, and the prophetic tradition that emphasized the daily living aspect of religion, calling it "true" religion, with one of its finest expression in the "do justice, love mercy, walk humbly" passage.

    But the possibility of an afterlife is too compelling to reject or ignore. It keeps popping up in both places.

    Jesus was in the prophetic tradition AND, as I understand the gospels, he also believed in an afterlife.

    @John I'm cool with where you are going. It is going to draw the ire of people who say "oh shit, if he's right then I'm wrong, and I can't be wrong because if I was wrong then I'd be wrong and oh my God, what then?"

    They are like fire ants out there.

    But you are definitely right about Christianity needing to find something in its soul to help the modern world. And American escapist Evangelicalism aint it. We can't just say "beam me up God, this world sucks".

    This planet is the garden God gave us to care for.

    And Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life He planted in the middle of the garden. All who eat of that tree will never die. And all who drink from the waters of the river that flows from the tree will never thirst.

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  156. @Jodie Thanks!

    @Bob

    But I think we would agree that the people in the 1st Century we a lot more sophisticated than we usually give them credit for. Distinguishing between reality, metaphor and symbol was something they did all the time.

    Yes. Possibly a different range of choices available then and now. I find it incredibly hard to imagine being in a 1st century mind. But I can imagine that there were differences and conflicts within themselves and between each other in regards to how to approach many things, including stories.

    I have kind of a reverse CS Lewis thing going:

    We all know his thing:

    Jesus is either God, a liar, or a madman or whatever it was.

    My reverse CS Lewis (tongue in cheek):

    The gospel writers were either duped, metaphor makers, or liars out to dupe others.

    I have a tough time believing that Jesus rose from the dead (or in any of the other fantastic tales of ancient literature).

    When I say they were writing metaphorically, from my perspective, I am being kind.

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  157. While I don't think it is possible to think like a first century person (and I think their thinking varied according to location religion and philosophy) I think we can learn from them by reading them. There was certainly a range between the generally literal and the metaphorical. Certainly philosophy had an effect on that. Consider the use of Platonic and Neo Platonic use by some 4th and 5th century Christians.

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  158. @John-I guess I'm just noticing that your hunches,as you call them, correspond to enlightenment thinking--that if we can't prove it, it must not exist (we can't prove the resurrection, therefore it didn't happen, etc). I think Wendell Berry's essay questions that kind of thinking, that somehow more and more is knowable to the point that the concept of mystery/faith is lost on us. My own problem with such thinking is that it contains a certain amount of arrogance, that we're more intelligent not just in our scientific methods but as humans (similar to the kind of arrogance people exhibit over "uncivilized" cultures today). But, as the cultures of greed, violence, and evil that pervade humanity today prove, we haven't really "evolved" as humans. Our greater "knowledge" is not translated into better knowledge of what it means to be human. I think that calls into question the truth of a number of other things humanity has "learned," atheism being one of them.

    I didn't mean my comment about your belief not being Christian negatively; if someone told me that they believed that violence was in line with Jesus' teachings, I would also say that belief is not Christian. For me, the physical resurrection and the non-violent gospel of Jesus are fundamental to what it means to be Christian. You can believe otherwise, obviously, but that doesn't make your beliefs Christian beliefs.

    @Jodie- I'm in fact not Catholic. My understanding of the sacraments is probably closer to Orthodox (as in Eastern Orthodox) as mysteries of God. I find that to be a third way between metaphor and literal that gets closer to the experience of Eucharist.

    My paraphrase of Paul is not meant to be an exact exegesis of the passage--I agree more or less with the way you rendered it in context, I was trying to think of it another way for the sake of the present discussion.

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  159. @Brian

    I guess I'm just noticing that your hunches,as you call them, correspond to enlightenment thinking--that if we can't prove it, it must not exist (we can't prove the resurrection, therefore it didn't happen, etc).

    I didn't say that. I don't care if you believe in the resuscitation of the corpse of Jesus. It is simply not convincing to me.

    My enlightenment thinking causes all kinds of problems. I don't believe that the sun is a guy in a chariot. I don't believe that the underworld is the abode of demons.

    How do you decide then that reincarnation didn't/or doesn't happen? I can't prove the Book of Mormon wasn't written on golden tablets and that Joseph Smith had the final revelation from Jesus Christ. I can't prove lots of things.

    When I see stories of resurrection, reincarnation, and all other kinds of supernatural activities whether in my own religious tradition or another, my response is categorize them as such rather than assume they are factually true.

    The fact that human beings do all kinds of bad things doesn't mean that we would be better if we believed that supernatural things happened.

    You can believe otherwise, obviously, but that doesn't make your beliefs Christian beliefs.

    I guess that depends on who is making the judgment on what is Christian. Your statement says more about you than me.

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  160. @John,
    You mentioned in an earlier comment that you didn't find life after death convincing in part because there is no evidence.

    Not to be mean, but your trite responses to my serious questions about the manner in which you come to your conclusions about what is real/possible is a bit immature. I'm not questioning your reasoning out of spite, I'm trying to point out that your logic appears to be a reflection of a way of thinking that is quite problematic, and rather uncreative/unimaginative. It reduces human existence to the rational, a myth propagated by white Europeans. There is no room for divine mystery and revelation in your thinking. That's tragic, and probably the most disappointing aspect of any of your "hunches."

    Unfortunately, as is typical for many "progressive/liberal" people who identify as Christians, you throw the word "judgment" at me as a cop out for responding to critique. If anyone dares to suggest that we might make distinctions between what is and isn't Christian, they're branded a judgmental conservative. You profess belief in things that most Christians in the last 2000 years would not call Christian beliefs, and your response is to make me seem like a bad guy for reminding you of that. Your defensiveness around that subject suggests that you know it to be true in some sense, but you continue to forcefully defend yourself as a Christian, seemingly out of arrogance.

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  161. 1. I can't say anything about golden tablets but there is evidence that what Joseph Smith said was on the golden tablets was not in fact a language he called "middle Egyptian.

    2. I've used the word "Enlightenment to talk about John in the past too. I'm not sure it is entirely accurate. While I would not describe John as a atheist there have been atheists for a VERY long time. Read some of the Greek and Roman philosophers.

    Further we more conservative Christians keep jumping back to the Enlightenment. But a lot has happened since then. Higher criticism of the Bible was in its infancy in the 1600s and 1700s. And for that matter there was higher criticism of Roman Catholic documents during the Renaissance and the Reformation.

    There have been a whole series of philosophies that denied any possibility of miracles like the resurrection since then. Just take a look at Witgenstein. AND there have been theologies that have denied the possibility of miracles.

    So maybe John is defined by the Enlightenment. I prefer to think he is more modern than that. Of course I can't speak to whether he has read Hegel, Racouer Neitcshe Wigenstein (sp?) or any of the post Enlightenment philosophers. Maybe he will tell us and maybe he will tell us it is none of our business

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  162. Hey Bob,

    No I haven't read Hegel or Wittgenstein or remember them if I did.

    I don't know if what I am saying is that complicated that we need a lot of philosophers to talk about it.

    Belief in Resurrection is a matter of faith. Right? Only through the gift of faith can we affirm it, right? So by definition, you can't get there (or not get there) through reason (Enlightenment or otherwise). You have faith that Jesus rose from the grave or you don't.

    No matter how much Enlightenment philosophy I am tainted with or not, I cannot prove or disprove what is taken on faith. I am really not out to disprove anyone's faith. I don't care. I am out to say what I think about things.

    The more I look back and read whatever it is I have ever written, I find that I am probably a naturalist. At least a pragmatic one. Most of us are. We work from assumptions that events and so forth are explained by natural causes. Otherwise, we would be constantly taken in by anyone's claims to the supernatural.

    When I hear a story of someone rising from the dead, that is a bit unusual. It sounds made up to me. It would sound made up to you as well and it does, unless it is the story of Jesus rising from the dead. That one many Christians take on faith as being true. Other miraculous stories from other religious traditions, not so much.

    As I understand the Christian claim that some folks on this thread call orthodox, it isn't miracles in general that are being defended, but this particular one (and others more or less associated with Christianity).

    The beef with me isn't about the Enlightenment and whether or not it allows for the supernatural, it is about whether some certain supernatural events occurred or not. Their occurrence is a matter of faith.

    The issue with me is whether or not I have faith in these supernatural events occurring.

    I don't.

    Further, my "heretical" strand of Christianity doesn't require these supernatural events to have happened. I read them as stories (perhaps thought to be true at the time, perhaps not, hard to know) but stories that are interesting.

    Now I still claim that I have faith in the Resurrection. But I don't mean the way many folks on this thread want me to mean it. It is not (for me) belief/faith/hope/trust in a miracle--a supernatural event--Jesus literally coming back to life, as the first fruits of the general resurrection of the saints in the new creation.

    Again, for folks who believe that, great. Go for it.

    For me, faith in the resurrection has to do with more mundane, life in the present, kinds of things. I argue that that is not such a bad philosophy.

    Some don't like my view. What really bugs them is that I have this view while I am a Christian minister. I should give up the title Christian (and certainly minister) if I don't believe in the resurrection the way I am "supposed" to believe it. They think I am not a Christian.

    I have no argument, except here I am anyway. And...I am not alone. Christianity always changes, reforms, splits, combines, finds new allies, makes new enemies and on and on we go...

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  163. I admit that most of us who believe in a physical resurrection expect normal like to be regular. Flip the switch and the light should go on. I may not have have a perfect knowledge of electricity and the physics that goes with it but I still expect the light will go on. And I have flashlights and candles in case the power goes out.

    But I still believe miracles, particularly the resurrection.

    Two different levels I think.

    Sorry to hear you don't remember Hegel and Wittegenstein. I do. I never read them! LOL

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  164. @ Brian: one last completely non serious comment. I notice that you used the word myriad in connection with death. You probably didn't mean this but I would point out that the word myriad and death are also connected in "Heathers." :)

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  165. I always think it is rather problematic when Reformed Christians decide what should and what should not be matters of faith (ie. belief in the resurrection) and then decide they want to argue with someone who doesn't have faith in that particular doctrine.

    My problem with this is that I have always believed that Reformed Christians believe that faith is itself a gift. Yet, reading several of the comments herein by people who seem to be Christians, they appear to believe faith is something we do. Note the "seem to be Christians", because I've decided that if you don't agree that faith is a gift, you're not really a Christian. ;)

    So since faith is a gift, I wonder why the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds are so quick to condemn someone whose faith differs from their own. Seems to me if you've got a problem with it, it's God you ought to be haranguing. Good luck with that, BTW, it worked so well for Job, and even better for his orthodox "comforters."

    My question is not why do people who don't claim to be orthodox, like John, believe what they believe. My question instead is why those that call themselves "orthodox" so seldom actually believe what they claim they believe?

    Just wonderin'. :)

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  166. @Alan Synod of Dordt! Off with their heads! And all the Reformation and post Reformation confessions in the Book of Confessions except for maybe Barmen. And then there is Paul. And Calvin. And Kuyper. And predestination.

    Of course arguing with Arminians and semi Arminians is a waste of time both in and out of the PCUSA. I find a lot of church members and elders have no idea what the doctrine of predestination is all about. And unfortunately some pastors too.

    So why do these heretics jump up and down and criticize John? Of course they don't know they are heretics.

    Ever notice we agree on more than we disagree?

    :)

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  167. @ Alan and John and everyone else: No one is going to comment on my reference to "Heathers?"

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  168. "So why do these heretics jump up and down and criticize John? Of course they don't know they are heretics."

    Well, I'm certainly not to blame. I keep trying to tell them, but then they just ban me from their blogs. (Arguing for the doctrine of general revelation got me banned once too. So sensitive, these heretics. One would think damnable and pernicious heresy would yield a more thick-skinned people.) Alas they don't listen. Apparently God hasn't given them the gift of reason either, and the church no longer has quite the same sanctions to use to correct them, millstones and what have you.

    RE: Heathers. Sorry, I would have commented but I missed "myriad" on the vocab test two weeks ago, and it has become a badge for my failures at school.

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  169. @ Alan

    Well when one doesn't know enough to know what you are talking about what can you say? I would love to talk about General Revelation (Berkouwer's book is very good) but that isn't the subject of John's blog here. And I ain't going to write a blog on General Revelation. Too much work.

    Glad you got the reference to Heathers too. Just stay away from the drano!

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