Friday, 30 November 2007

Death, mortality, and badders.

The Bad man is going to think this is cheeky, but come on mate, we don't all have time to just sit around all day reading blogs. So for the non-bloggerati out there who want to suck the juice of deep thought from the mind of Baddeley without actually reading (much), here are a few choice quotes from today.

The question of the day is whether or not the death of humans is part of the created order.

Now frankly, you don't need to hear options 1 and 2, they don't actually match reality so why bother. But here we join MB at #3:

Third, Adam was mortal by nature but immortal by participation. That is, left to ourselves, death is as natural to human beings as it is for all other parts of the animate creation. There is nothing inherently immortal about flesh and blood—which is why flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God but must be put off for us to put on imperishability and immortality. What Adam and Eve were given was a source of life external to themselves that enabled them to enjoy a share in God’s own eternal life and so be kept from death. This was mediated through the Tree of Life.

On this view death is unnatural when at looked at from the point of view of God’s purpose in creating humanity. We were made to stay connected to God through trusting his word and obeying it and so stay in the realm of life by being caught up in something greater than ourselves. Yet death is natural when looked at from the point of view of humanity’s nature. Humanity was made mortal like all creatures and so once we were cut off from God, we faced death like every other animal.

It is the image of God that made the difference, and this worked dynamically, not statically. It related us to God through his Image, his only begotten Son and so we were partakers in Life.

It’s probably clear that I strongly favour this last view, despite the fact that, as far as I can see, it is a minority position within Evangelicalism.

Cop that! The idea is in the Bible, but in case there is any faint residue of powdery doubt gumming up the works, let's highlight a quote from the great man himself (I mean Athanasius), as supplied by Mark:

For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good. By nature, of course, man is mortal, since he was made from nothing, but he bears also the Likeness of Him Who is, and if he preserves that Likeness through constant contemplation, then his nature is deprived of its power and he remains incorrupt.

-De Incarnatione §4

Come on folks, you just know in your bones that this is the right way to think about death and mortality. And I know some of you skimmed that Athanasius quote, so let me just highlight this wonderful phrase: "[man] bears also the Likeness of Him Who is, and if he preserves that Likeness through constant contemplation, then his nature is deprived of its power and he remains incorrupt."


If you're still feeling a bit worried about that, skip everything I've just run through and have a read of this for a bit.


Bill Weber said...

This view makes sense, but what does it do to the doctrine of hell? Does it lead to annhilationism?

Bill Weber said...

Please let me know if you have thoughts on this question of hell/annhilationism.

Gordon Cheng said...

Hi Bill,

I don't think the view necessarily leads to annihilationism, no. Josh asked a similar question and I answered him here