October 15, 2012 by Jason Hood
In Eccl Hist 1.7, Eusebius cites from Julius Africanus on his reconciliation of Jesus’ genealogies and on the nature of genealogical tradition in Judaism. One of the interesting tidbits from that section is the understanding that resurrection was far from clear in the OT. Because “a clear hope of resurrection was not yet given they had a representation of the future promise by a kind of mortal resurrection, in order that the name of the one deceased might be perpetuated” (1.7.2).Given that evangelicals struggle with the relative lack of clarity on resurrection in the OT, it’s interesting that Julius and (perhaps) Eusebius take it at face value. Paul and the author of Hebrews both make a similar connection as they tie the promise of Isaac to resurrection in Romans 4 (especially 4:17) and Hebrews 11:11-12, 17-19.Consider Jesus’ logic against the anti-resurrection Sadducees in this light: if God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then he is the God of the living, and resurrection is secure . . . not least because Isaac and Jacob sprang from the “dead” bodies of Abraham and Sarah.1 Comment
July 16, 2012 by Jason Hood
N. T. Wright reframes the “heaven” discussion in terms of “life after life after death.” 2000 years ago, the NT framed the Christian life as “life after death before death.”
The disciples in John’s Gospel are far from ideal. Much of what Jesus says about himself confuses them (2:18-22, 12:16). Peter struggles with the concept of a crucified Messiah.
So in order for Peter or any other disciple to follow Jesus, understand his message, love one another, and sacrifice themselves for Jesus and the kingdom, a radical change in the disciples had to take place.
Jesus promises a solution. He and the father will send a Helper (7:39; 15:26; 16:7), and his followers will participate in his resurrection: “Because I live, you also will live” (14:19).
When Jesus returns to his disciples after his resurrection, he launches them out into a mission like his mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As he commissions them, he solves the problem of their pitiful state by breathing Holy Spirit life into them (20:22). John’s description reaches back to the original creation account and OT promises of New Creation. The same verb for “breathing into” is used in Greek translations of Genesis 2:7 in the same form (enephusesen) to describe God’s act of breathing life and spirit into Adam. John wants readers to see in Jesus’ action that the promises of new life and new creation in passages like Ezekiel 37 and John 3 are beginning to come true.
Here, as in Paul, we see a connection between the last Adam and the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45-47). The disciples are raised to new life, just as God gave Adam life. They are the New Humans, regenerated and alive in God’s world, and sent out just as the Last Adam was sent out, empowered by the same Spirit, for a similar (certainly not identical) mission.
And as if to underscore this gift of resurrection life, 20:19 tells us that this New Creation empowerment happens on a Sunday, the first day of old creation, now the first day of New Creation.0 Comments
April 7, 2012 by Gerald Hiestand
Good Friday and Easter belong together. Neither can stand alone. But they do not relate to each other as merely two sides of the same coin; rather they relate to each other as fruit to root, as faith to works; the former gives birth to the latter. As Athanasius reminds us, “The fruit of Christ’s cross is the resurrection [of the believer].” But this gets lost sometimes, because we too often think that “forgiveness of sins” is the primary (and sole) benefit of Christ’s passion. And while forgiveness of sins is indeed a great gift, it is not an end in itself. Forgiveness of sins paves the way for salvation; it is not in itself salvation.
This can be seen clearly throughout the Old Testament, most notably in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple. Sin results in God’s judgment (e.g., famine, disease, invasion of a foreign power). Forgiveness of sins is sought as a means of reestablishing a proper relationship between God and his people, with a view to God relenting in his judgment.
When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.
When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance. (1Ki 8:33-36 ESV)
What Solomon (and the psalmists) want is not mere forgiveness of sins, but rather forgiveness of sins with a view to God restoring Israel. Restoration of the nation is ultimate; forgiveness is pen-ultimate toward that end. This OT view of forgiveness as a means to salvation continues on into the New Testament and can be seen clearly in Romans 5:9-10, where Paul informs us that justification makes salvation possible, but is not itself the sum of salvation. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
The future salvation that Paul has in mind is, without doubt, the ontological renewal of the believer’s eschatological resurrection (as can be seen in the rest of chapter five and all of chapter six). All of this snaps into focus, of course, when we consider that humanity’s primary soteriological hurdle is not our mere legal debt, but rather our ontological corruption. Imagine a man who is terminally ill. There is a treatment for his disease, but he is too in debt to afford the cure. His lender takes mercy upon him, cancels his debt and credits him the money needed to buy the medicine (double imputation?). But now imagine that the sick man never actually buys the medicine. The canceling of the debt and the free gift of money is not, in itself, sufficient to save the sick man precisely because his dilemma extends beyond his financial debt. His most fundamental problem is that he’s dying. In the same way, the primary soteriological hurdle humanity must overcome is our ontological corruption — the destruction of the imago dei. Our problem runs deeper than mere behavior or legal debt; we are by nature children of wrath. Forgiveness of sins is not enough; we must be born again. Thus legal cleansing paves the way for ontological renewal (1 Corinthians 15, new creation, regeneration, etc.) – the ultimate telos of biblical salvation — but does not itself constitute our salvation.
So on this Good Friday, let’s remember what Christ died for. He died that our legal debt might be cleared, to be sure. But more than that. He died so that we might become partakers of his resurrection power. The fruit of Christ’s cross is not mere forgiveness, but resurrection.
Yet the recognition that the cross is pen-ultimate to an ultimate resurrection must not allow us to minimize the cross as the exclusive means by which we are saved. Resurrection only happens via the cross. And that’s why there can be no Easter without Good Friday. There is no new life without dying to the old man. The only true path to life is through death. The cross cancels the written code against us and opens the door for the renewing gift of the Spirit. Any soteriological system that focuses on the resurrection while forgetting that the cross is the sole means by which it is secured preaches a bloodless, vain, and powerless resurrection.
Praise God for the death of death in the risen Son of God!0 Comments
August 21, 2009 by Gerald Hiestand
I read John Piper’s book, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright a number of months back, and am now finally reading Tom Wright’s book length response, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision.
There’s a lot that could be said here (and I may say some of it later), but I’ll say this much now: both Wright and Piper have produced fine examples of ecclesial theology. I don’t agree fully with either theologian’s treatment of Paul, but it’s clear that both men are writing as Christians and as pastors. The subject matter is not mere academics for either of them. Further, these books are not pitched toward a lay audience, but to fellow theologians and thinkers who share their concern for the health of the church and the advancement of the gospel.
Piper and Wright may not have a common vision on justification, but they do share a common vision for theological reflection.0 Comments
August 14, 2009 by Gerald Hiestand
The kind folks over at Reformation 21 have posted my article, “Ecclesial Theology and Academic Theology: Why We Need More of the Former.”
The article briefly recounts the founding of the SAET, and is my latest attempt to flesh out a distinction between academic theology and ecclesial theology. If you read it and have thoughts, I’m interested to hear them.0 Comments
June 26, 2009 by Gerald Hiestand
As I was finishing revising my 2008 symposium paper on Athanasius’ soteriology I was also reading through Romans. Verse ten of chapter six brought me up short, “the death he died he died to sin…” What a remarkable thing to say about “he who knew no sin.” In what way did Christ die to sin? Paul seems to have in mind “the body of death” mentioned a few verses earlier. I was immediately reminded of Richard Gaffin’s, The Centrality of the Resurrection: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology.
The basic gist of Gaffin’s argument runs thus: Christ, in taking on fallen humanity, was in need of dying and rising just as much as the rest of humanity. For Paul, Christ’s resurrection was transforming in respect to his humanity—a release from the mortal flesh he incarnated. He writes,
For as 1 Cor. 15:45 and 2 Cor. 3:17 make clear, the resurrection produces a real transformation in the person of Christ, a change which is analogous to that experienced by believers (cf. esp. 1 Cor. 15:51 with vv.45 ff.). Christ’s resurrection is not evidential with respect to his divinity, but transforming with respect to his humanity (105).
Gaffin’s point here is not that Christ was sinful, but that Christ, in taking upon himself “the body of death,” was in need of release from the ravages of sin no less than we.
Along similar lines, Athanasius’ entire soteriological narrative points toward the need for resurrection and ontological renewal. In a telling passage Athanasius notes that even moral perfection cannot overcome humanity’s inherent ontological deficiency. Men such as Jeremiah and John, he writes, had been “hallowed from the womb” and were thus “holy and clean from all sin. . . nevertheless ‘death reigned from Adam to Moses even over those that had not sinned after the similitude of Adams’ transgression;’ and thus man remained mortal and corruptible as before, liable to the affection proper to their nature” (Third Arian Discourse, ch. 33). And speaking directly of Christ, “For while all humanity was perishing because of the transgression of Adam, [Christ's] flesh was the first to be saved and freed, as being the body of the Word himself” (Second Arian Discourse, ch.1)
What’s interesting in all of this is the idea that outward conformity to God’s Law/law is not sufficient for final salvation. Legal righteousness is not enough. If Christ, being without sin, was in need of a resurrection, how much more are we?0 Comments