Saturday, September 07, 2013

John Calvin on "Heaven", the Resurrection, and the Immortality of the Soul

As usual, Calvin has some helpful comments regarding the human "soul" and what happens after death. These days a number of people have high-lighted the fact that as Christians we often speak too much about heaven in a sense that is less than fully Biblical, with an emphasis on our disembodied spirits "going to heaven" immediately after we die. As Calvin reflected in his commentary on the parallel passages of Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-40, we see that this concern is not just novel for our times. This is what he says:
And, indeed, if we consider properly the doctrine of Scripture, the life of the soul, apart from the hope of the resurrection, will be a mere dream; for God does not declare that, immediately after the death of the body, souls live, — as if their glory and happiness were already enjoyed by them in perfections — but delays the expectation of them till the last day. I readily acknowledge that the philosophers, who were ignorant of the resurrection of the body, have many discussions about the immortal essence of the soul; but they talk so foolishly about the state of the future life that their opinions have no weight. But since the Scriptures inform us that the spiritual life depends on the hope of the resurrection, and that souls, when separated from the bodies, look forward to it, whoever destroys the resurrection deprives souls also of their immortality.
The apostolic church was captivated with the hope of the resurrection, at Christ's return. May that also be our hope, and may we not be so short-sighted, as to merely look forward to that imperfect, temporary state, in between the death of the body and the resurrection of the body.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

What are you enslaved to, Mr Rudd?

I was appalled when I heard the brief response of our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to a Christian Pastor on ABC's Q&A last night. The snippet is on YouTube here:

I don't want to have disrespect for our Prime Minister, but if he claims to be a Christian I wish he would show more respect for God and his word, and at least try to interpret the Bible more sensibly and responsibly. His comments regarding what the Bible says about slavery and homosexuality are at best very naive...

Kevin Rudd's reasoning was sound if he wanted to say things that many people like to hear, and that are in step with a non-Christian way of looking at things. But I think it would be very difficult to intelligently show how his words could really be consistent with what Christ intended (or his apostle Paul etc).

Not sure how to put this briefly. The PM's logic seems to be this:

1. Slavery is not a bad condition in the Bible.
2. Now we have advanced in Christian love to a changed view, understanding slavery is actually bad.
3. Homosexuality is a bad condition in the Bible.
4. Now we have advanced in Christian love to a changed view, understanding homosexuality is actually not a bad condition.
5. In both cases they follow the same pattern, and this is consistent with the central trajectory of the Gospel.

Non sequitur, Mr Rudd. Here a just a few of the problems with this logic:

1. In OT and NT freedom from slavery is one of the main motifs used, saying that slavery is a bad condition
2. As above, fighting against human slavery is actually consistent with what is seen throughout the Bible, not a surprising advance or change.
3. Homosexuality is not portrayed as a good condition in the Bible.
4. Nothing anticipates a future acceptance of homosexuality as being consistent with Bible teaching
5. The Bible does consistently teach freedom from both slavery and homosexuality as consistent with the central trajectory of the Gospel, which is about rescue by Jesus to free us from bad conditions so that we can truly and freely love others.

I think if one was to read through all the references to both slavery and homosexuality in all the Bible, and properly consider what each one says in context, I can't see how Mr Rudd's logic could honestly be justified as consistent with the Bible.

If the PM was merely making a naturalistic case concluding that homosexuality is just as valid as heterosexuality etc, ignoring the Bible, then what he said has some internal consistency and logic. My problem with Mr Rudd is that he didn't do that. He tried to say that his view was consistent with Christian teaching, aka the Bible. It makes no sense to say something is Christian which ignores or rejects the Bible. The Bible defines Christianity. It is like saying something is Moslem which ignores or rejects the Quran. Or saying something is socialist which really espouses capitalism. Or like the "atheist" I once met at a uni Atheist Society, who later told me he was really a pantheist. Etc.

And by the way, the Bible doesn't give "natural condition" as an "out" for immorality etc. The Bible also talks about people who have a tendency to be abusive and hot-tempered (or we could pick any number of other things). But the Gospel is about the possibility of being freed from such "natural conditions", and being forgiven and empowered to make a clean start. It really is good news :D

Okay, that wasn't brief. Oops!