Easter, New Creation, and Pro-Life

In the weeks leading up to Easter I like to set aside time to reflect on the resurrection of Christ, how it inaugurates the New Creation, and how this profound moment in cosmic history shapes all the Christian life and ethics. I’ll have more on this later (and an ebook to share on March 5th).

easter-bookFor now, here’s a gem from Russell Moore’s article, “The Gospel According to Jane Roe: Abortion Rights and the Reshaping of Evangelical Theology,” published in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 7.2 (2003): 44–45.

Evangelicals do not have biblical warrant to disengage from the life-and-death issues of the public square in order to pursue an “other-worldly” and “wholly spiritual” endeavor of rescuing souls from the created order. The Christian doctrine of salvation is rooted in the creation purposes of God, as well as in the eschatological telos of creation in the restoration of the image of God (Rom 8:29) and the regeneration of the entire cosmos (Eph 1:10).

The two come together in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the decisive act of redemptive history that confirms the Kingdom purposes of God for the whole of humanity, body and soul, as well as for the whole of the created order. The resurrection of Jesus, as the righteous human firstborn of the new creation (Col 1:18; Heb 5:7–9) along with the future resurrection of the Messiah’s joint-heirs is a resounding confirmation that God still deems His cosmos — including His justified image-bearers — as “good” (Rom 8:19–23).

This informs evangelical engagement on issues such as abortion because, as ethicist Oliver O’Donovan observes, the resurrection does away with any notion that Christian theology mandates a negation of the bodily and material aspects of created reality.

A creational understanding of the gospel as revealed in the new creation begun in the resurrection, therefore, demands that Christians embrace a holistic concern for humanity. By refusing to bifurcate the body from the soul, a Kingdom-oriented soteriology might have well served an evangelical theology taken off-guard by Roe.

By envisioning the mission of the Kingdom as encompassing concern for both body and soul, and by seeing Kingdom priorities as including both the justification of the wicked and justice for the innocent, evangelical theology might have been better prepared for the cultural upheaval that led to the debate over abortion rights.

This holistic interrelationship between creation and salvation would also serve as an impetus for evangelical theology to engage vigorously other matters of human dignity, which are mounting as reproductive and human cloning technologies proliferate.

Twitter Jokes, Hope, and the Resurrection

twitter

Sammy Rhodes serves as RUF campus minister at the University of South Carolina, and he moonlights as one of the wittiest comedians on Twitter (@sammyrhodes). He recently talked humor with Alex Early on the Acts 29 Podcast (MP3).

In the following transcribed excerpt, Sammy explains why he turned to Twitter and the redemptive value of laughter in the Christian life:

The way this started for me, trying to be funny on Twitter, was a dark time in my family. Our youngest daughter had a condition called Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a relatively new diagnosis, a rare brain condition where her cerebellum didn’t quite develop like it should, creating swelling and excessive fluid of the brain. Nobody knew what would happen. She could die soon after she was born. She would probably need a shunt to drain excess fluid, and she could live, and you wouldn’t even notice the condition for her whole life.

It was in this dark time in our family when humor was needed. I think if you listen closely enough to laughter you will hear echoes of hope. We didn’t know what God was going to do. We knew he loved us. We knew we could trust him.

There’s a hopefulness in humor that we needed — I needed, and I think my wife, too. . . . But that’s when I really started to try to be funny on Twitter, because I almost needed to laugh a little bit in the name of the hope that comes from trusting in Jesus and belonging to him.

There’s that scene in Lord of the Rings, the last book, after the ring has been destroyed, and [Tolkien] says, “Gandalf laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land.” That’s the image of laughter — it’s hopefulness.

God is on the throne. God has begun making all things new in the resurrection of Jesus, and that frees us up to laugh in hope, to laugh in the face of dark things and hard things, appropriately. . . .

There is a way of laughing to escape, but I think there is a way of using humor in dark times that is very healthy coping.

Laughter is a reminder to one another that it’s going to be okay, not because that’s a cliché thing to say, but because truly for us as believers we really do belong to Jesus. He really is raised from the dead. He really is taking us somewhere. And he really is using every hard, broken thing in our lives — even our own brokenness — to sanctify us and grow us and to bring good into our own lives and into the world.

Amen. This conversation with Sammy reminds me of a conversation over “jovial Calvinism” at the 2013 DG National Conference. I’ll post that tomorrow.

Regeneration to Resurrection and Holiness in the Middle

I find it tragically easy to dislocate my pursuit of daily holiness (spiritual disciplines and progressive sanctification) from the broader picture of God’s redemptive plan over my life in Christ. Our hope of future resurrection must not negate the value of our daily progress, just as our daily progress must not diminish our hope for the incredible transformation that must happen to us in resurrection. Murray J. Harris explains this well in his textual notes on 2 Corinthians 4:16 in his excellent commentary (page 360):

For Paul, the spiritual body was not simply the state of the renewed “inner self” at the time of the believer’s death, but it seems a priori likely that he saw a relationship between the two, that he regarded resurrection not as a creatio ex nihilo, a sudden divine operation unrelated to the past, but as the fulfillment of a spiritual process begun at regeneration.

The daily renewal of the “inward person” (4:16) contributed toward the progressive transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (3:18) in a process that would be accelerated and completed by resurrection. Paul does not explicitly say that his ἔσω ἄνθρωπος [inner being] is the embryo of the spiritual body or bears its undeveloped image, but the natural transition of his thought from 4:16 to 5:1–4 shows that this sentiment would have been congenial to him.

As a result of the final convulsion of resurrection, the butterfly of the spiritual body will emerge from the chrysalis of the renewed “inner person.”