Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Earth to Glory, by Jonathan Rainbow, 2003

I wish Rainbow was not dead so that I could talk to him about this book. In that one sentence, I get to the main point of the book. We don’t need to be happy when somebody is dead. We should not resist mourning.

Jon wrote, “ If I die before the trumpet sounds, I want a loud public funeral. I don’t want a quiet private exit. I don’t want them to think of me ‘as I was’. I want them to think that I am now dead. I want somebody to preach about the resurrection.” P77

Of course, when a Christian is dead, we still have hope. Rainbow and I differed about a secondary part of that hope. He still believed in a conscious “intermediate state” for the “souls”. And to avoid assuming that the trajectory toward truth runs in only one direction (my way), let me describe my position as Rainbow might: I still believe that there is no intermediate conscious state, and part of the reason I think that is because most everybody who teaches such a conscious state thinks that death is our friend.

But Rainbow and I agree: the body is not our enemy, and death is not our friend. There are many wonderful things in this book, and I am already hoping that Rainbow’s family will soon publish other parts of his work. I even hope for a sequel called Glory to Earth!

Revelation 21: 2-3 “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man…”

Let me list a couple of the topics Rainbow addresses:

If sickness is no longer a consequence of sin (as it was in the Mosaic covenant), why then must Christians experience physical death? P40 In what sense can sin be a punishment for sin?
Why are Lutherans wrong about the communication of attributes and ubiquity, and why is Christ present here now only in His deity but not in His humanity? P64

Rainbow does a good job of showing the problems not only with Platonism but also with materialism. As he warns, “The materialist thinks that what is not public is not sin.” p83 And then Rainbow attempts to steer a middle way between Platonism and materialism.

As he points out, at least Pharisees were not Platonists: but as those who believe in material resurrection, the Pharisees often became legalists, imposing extra-biblical rules on people. They were not Gnostics, not antinomians.

If I could talk with Rainbow today, as a fellow “Anabaptist”, I would argue that he does not go far enough in warning Christians about killing other bodies. He not only does not say anything against military “service”, but tends to assume its legitimacy. He is far more concerned about us not killing ourselves with immoderate drinking and eating.

Sometimes Rainbow sounds like my mother! Can you do without it?

But he does ask thoughtful and important questions. He even dares to write about “freedom from marriage”. P129. That is not something you hear very often from those who practically equate the family with church, either by baptizing infants or by teaching parenting instead of the gospel.

Yes, we want a loud funeral where people are sad and not fake, where people are angry at our “last enemy, death”. Because Jesus Christ is risen, and we comfort one another with these words: we shall always be with the Lord.

As his daughter writes in the appendix about his recent death: we are waiting. One day the Lord shall always be with us.

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14 Comments on “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    hy, then, with death passé, would resurrected saints need to eat? Or why would they need to breathe? If they’re invested with immortality, death won’t be able to touch them, so eating or not eating and breathing and or breathing should be matters of indifference. What could be the purpose, in an immortal state, of organs that evolved in the struggle for survival, organs designed to keep us alive on earth for a few decades?

    Gregory of Nyssa inferred that, when Jesus rose, he didn’t take his intestines with him and that, in the world to come, we won’t need ours either. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:13: “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other.” Gregory, like so many after him, answered the obvious objection—Doesn’t Jesus, in Luke 24, eat a bit of fish after rising from the dead?—by arguing that the act was one of condescension, for the sake of the disciples, so that they’d know he wasn’t a ghost.

    It takes only a little reflection to hollow out resurrected bodies entirely.[9] If, as Jesus teaches, we’ll neither marry nor be given in marriage but will be like the angels in heaven, then we won’t require ovaries or fallopian tubes, prostate glands or seminal vesicles. And if, as 4 Ezra avows, illness will be banished, we won’t need white blood cells, antibodies, and the rest of the immune system. And if, as Revelation promises, we’ll neither hunger nor thirst any longer, then we won’t require kidneys to reabsorb water. Nor will we, if immortal, need blood, veins, arteries, and a pumping heart to circulate nutrients and remove waste products. One understands why Calvin proposed that plants in the world to come won’t be for food but for pleasantness in sight, and why the eighteenth-century preacher, Samuel Johnson, argued that Jesus, after he lost all his blood on the cross, didn’t need it back

    • markmcculley Says:

      Dead bodies often pass out of existence. For example, some dead bodies decay completely; others are cremated; some are even eaten by wild animals. But, given the
      doctrine of the resurrection, even those bodies that have gone out of existence will one day rise—and so will one day exist—again. Thus the doctrine of the resurrection implies
      a “temporal gap” in the career of many bodies. To better understand what a temporal gap is supposed to be, consider the following story. You build a time machine that can send you—and your body—to “the future.” You push the start button. You disappear. You then reappear at some later date. That is, this machine sends you to some future time, allowing you to “skip” all the times between now and then. Thus this machine causes a temporal gap in your life, and also in the career of your body. Or consider a watch that is disassembled, perhaps for cleaning. Assume that, as a result, it ceases to exist. Assume further that when its parts are reassembled, the watch comes back into existence. If all these assumptions are right, the
      watch “jumps” a temporal gap via disassembly and reassembly.
      The doctrine of the resurrection implies a temporal gap in the career of many bodies. So objections to a temporal gap in a body’s career are thereby objections to the
      doctrine of the resurrection.

      Another objection to resurrection as reassembly trades on the many ways in which the small parts of one body can end up as parts of another body. The most sensational
      versions of this objection involve cannibalism. A cannibal eats me, incorporates parts of my body into his, and then dies. So some of the small bits that composed my body at my
      death also composed the cannibal’s body at his death. As a result, when Resurrection Day arrives, God cannot (totally) reassemble both the cannibal’s body and mine. So—given
      resurrection as reassembly—God cannot resurrect both my body and the cannibal’s body. But, again, every body is supposed to be resurrected.
      In the second century, Athenagoras replied to this objection by insisting that human flesh is not digestible. As a result, he would have maintained, the very small bits
      that compose my body at death never could become parts of a cannibal’s body. So on Resurrection Day my body shall be the only one with a claim to those bits, even if a
      cannibal ate me and then died (Bynum, 1995, 33). Unfortunately for Athenagoras’s bold reply, human flesh is (so I understand) digestible.

      Bones perish when a body is cremated. But some smaller parts of a body do not. For example, an electron that is now part of my body would not perish if my body were now cremated. Thus one might suggest that there is some very small part—a certain electron, say, as opposed to a very hard bone—of each body such that that body would come back into existence, if a resurrection body were constructed around that electron.
      This suggestion is afflicted by analogues of the problems that afflict resurrection as reassembly. First, that electron itself might go out of existence, precluding resurrection of the relevant body. Second, that electron might become part of another body, as a result of (e.g.) cannibalism; this demonstrates, among other things, that having that electron as a part is not sufficient for being the body that originally had it. Third, human bodies are constantly changing their very small parts, including the electrons that compose them; so it seems mistaken (if not positively bizarre) to say that bodily identity across a temporal gap could be entirely a matter of having a single special electron as a part.

    • markmcculley Says:

      I asked one colleague— a Texan who grew up summering with grandma in Ohio, educated in Virginia and North Carolina, and now living and working in Pennsylvania—and he instantly responded, “Oh, my spouse and I are going to be cremated.” (Nota bene, he thought this was an adequate answer to my question.)

      “Cremation?” replied I, just short of exclamation. “But cremation is not Christian.” It should be stated that this conversation had as its prevailing tone casual disinterest—about an eventuality in the distant future. But the bravura, the cocksure assertion in such black and white terms that something not even mentioned in the New Testament could be dismissed outright as not Christian stunned our would-be cremationist.

      A back-and-forth ensued about dust versus ashes, God’s omnipotence, the nature of the resurrection and of the incarnation, scripture v. tradition, soul and body, secularization, materialism, sacramentalism. Christians cremating themselves is only a recent post-Protestant phenomenon! What follows is a hack job, er, careful revision, of what took too long to prove in print, so I’ve reduced my argument against cremation to mere assertion for your convenience.

      Naturally, as is our wont here on the Front Porch, I applied the tried and true formula suitable for any ethical dilemma: WWWD or What Would Wendell Do? Berry, however, does not mention cremation anywhere that I recall. Burial on the other hand figures prominently in some of his fiction. In his greatest novel Jayber Crow the eponymous narrator, as many of you remember, becomes Port William’s gravedigger as well as its barber, and it is a job and a duty of increasing significance to him. The long short story or novella, Fidelity, has as its climax the death and burial of Burley Coulter. Perhaps it is enough to say that since burial is conventional, traditional, the-way-its-always-been-done then the burden of proof is on the proposed innovation, in this case cremation. Certainly aproper accounting of cremation’s pros and cons is in order. But the way Berry dramatizes the significance of burial reveals a greater network of virtues than a mere reflexive balk against a new trend.

      This new trend of modern cremation requires a bit more introduction. Most of you consider cremation a legitimate option of disposing with the dead. This according to experts in the industry. And half of you, they predict, will choose to be cremated (unless Porchers for some reason buck the current trend). The current trend is even more interesting.

      Cremation is cool, hip, and on the rise. So much so, the way of the urn is becoming the endgame of choice for the boomer generation[1]. Cremation, furthermore, is cold, godless, and the preference for the secular-minded of whatever professing faith or denomination[2]. As one theologian notes, “From its inauspicious and controversial beginnings, the practice of cremation in America has grown into, for the most part, a perfectly acceptable, barely controversial, religiously sanctioned method of disposing of human bodies”[3]. Not only are more and more deceased being cremated, more and more professing Christians are reducing themselves to cinders. You can almost hear Peters quip, “everyone is burning to do it.” Graveyard humor, however, is out of the question here because, of course, cremation is burying the very need for the cemetery.

      Cremation is an increasingly popular option but it is neither a Christian nor an agrarian option. That more and more Christians opt to incinerate themselves does not necessarily make that option Christian. A Christian who defends cremation more than likely appeals to utility or to what the poet Scott Cairns calls “gnostic bullshit.” As if upon death we are done with our bodies. Christianity has a long tradition regarding the dead, and cremation has no part in it. Cremation is a sign of our time, and it is ultimately a sign of our culture of death—the post-Christian regress of western civilization.

      We no longer kill for our suppers, know where are food comes from, tend to our elderly, or bury our kin. Catherine Pickstock notes how the modern polis is designed accordingly: “this evasion of the dead and dying is manifest in the extradition of the dead to a position at the margins of the city during the Industrial era, the removal of the dying to the functional space of hospitals, in the discreet elimination of corpses, and in the domestication and beautification of death”[4]. The dexterity with which Pickstock in one fell sentence accounts for several different cultural phenomena—the preference of more Americans to die, or have their family members die, in hospitals rather than at home, the rise and popularity of nursing “homes,” the default expectation of embalming in the funeral “home” industry, as well as the design, marketing, placement, and procedures of abortion clinics. “The discreet elimination of corpses,” moreover, particularly and aptly describes the modern practice of cremation.

      It is the ultimate mystery of our redemption that He will call us back from the grave. Burial, therefore, is the final way in which we can live into our baptism. It completes the typological imagery in our own mystical Passover. It is the culmination of our faith. By sowing this seed of a natural body into the soil we will bear fruit in fields of glory. By commending this image of God to the earth we will be raised up in heaven. This is the sacrament of death and burial.

      In case I have not made my point bluntly enough: cremation in terms of the advancement of Christian truth is a step backwards. A desecration. A form of apostasy. I do not think that Christians today who are considering cremation choose it as the fiery means to release the immortal soul from the body as ancient pagans saw it. Nor on the other hand is cremation preferred in the light of any precisely Christian theology or tradition. Rather they are motivated by a heterodox view of the body or of death, a kind of latent Gnosticism that assumes the immortal soul will have no more to do this body. Such heterodoxy is more in line with our Progressive Age’s own heady mix of necrophobia, necrophilia, and the myth of an end of suffering through advancement of medical science. But the cult of this life is precisely what our Lord chastises as the path of nihilism: he who seeks his life shall lose it, and he who loses it for my sake shall find it. Rather if we are to reject this culture of death and the cult of this life, we must cultivate life, an abundant life that transcends the fear of our own mortality. One way to celebrate this proper culture of life, counter-intuitively, is to cultivate our bodies in death.

      Andrew J. Harvey teaches English at Grove City College

      • markmcculley Says:

        Considering all the different ways the people of the biblical cultures dealt with their dead, it seems certain that if God had a particular way He wanted us to dispose of the bodies of our loved ones, He would have said so, if not in the Old Testament, certainly in the New, when cremation was much more widely practiced.

        Why does it not seem to matter to God what we do with our dead? Although we may never be completely sure, one thing we do know: it places great emphasis on what we do while we are alive. The words of Ecclesiastes might ring in our ears: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecc. 9:10).

        Furthermore, no matter how dead bodies are handled, eventually they go back to “dust.” God said that to Adam some 6,000 years ago, and it is quite true: “for dust you are, and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). The Hebrew word translated “dust” is aphar, which is translated a number of ways in the Old Testament: dry earth, dust, powder, ashes, earth, ground, mortar, rubbish. There are a number of ways this decomposition back to dust can happen. A person could: 1) be buried, and slowly decompose underground; 2) be burned up in a fire, and thus decompose quickly; 3) drown, and eventually decompose under water; 4) die unattended and be eaten by animals and insects. Eventually, no matter how we die or what happens to our bodies afterward, we will end up as “dust.” Apparently from God’s perspective, in terms of how to dispose of a dead body, there is no right or wrong way for that to happen.

        Personally, and practically, we think cremation makes sense in many cases. Though most Christians have been taught that death is only “separation from God,” and that a “dead” person is “alive” in some incorporeal form, Scripture says that death is the end of life. Therefore, the person who died cannot know what happens to his body. And those who are responsible for its disposal will save a lot of money by having it cremated rather than spending a fortune for a fancy casket that will be buried and eventually rot away.

        Jesus said that knowing the truth will make one free (John 8:31 and 32), the obvious converse to that is believing error puts one in bondage to some degree, whether he knows it or not. The erroneous teaching that only the body of a person dies, while his soul or spirit lives on somewhere, opens up all kinds of problematic ideas for his loved ones who are still alive.

        In regard to the subject of this article, survivors may think that their dead relative is able to see how they dispose of his body. They may also think that the dead one now has the power to affect their lives either positively or negatively. Those beliefs may lead them to take on a large amount of debt in order to buy an expensive casket rather than one more reasonably priced, placing a financial burden on the family, which is a very sad situation.

        To us the message in the Bible is very comforting, because it means we do not have to be consumed with grief about what has happened to the bodies of those we loved, no matter how or where they may have died. Biblically, there is no “right thing” to do with a dead body, which, from God’s perspective, makes perfect sense. Death was never in the plan of God to begin with, and it is not permanent. Death is an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), and those who sleep in death will be raised from the dead, no matter how their body retuned to dust, or how long they have been dust.

        A point that is worth considering when it comes to the treatment of dead bodies is that after God raises the dead and judges them, each person will have one of two fates: live forever with God in a body that will never die and thus never need to be buried or cremated; or else be thrown into the lake of fire where the person will at some point be completely burned up, cremated by God.

        Although there is no correct way to deal with a dead body, there is a right thing to do with your living body: get saved, come unto a knowledge of the truth, and serve God. If you get saved, you can be assured that if you do “fall asleep” before Christ comes for the Church, no matter when or how you die, you will be raised to everlasting life in a new body, never to die again. Every Christian will one day live again when the Lord Jesus comes to raise all dead Christians and take us up to meet him in the air, forever to be with him (1 Thess. 4:16 and 17).

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Ecclesiastes 7 A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
    2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
    for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
    3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
    4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

    Jesus wept

    Christians are not commanded to not be sad
    we are commanded to not be sad like the pagans are sad
    and also to rejoice
    because one day
    we shall be together
    and together with the Lord

  3. markmcculley Says:

    At least in Paul’s case, death was not his “deliverance”. But in his case, Paul’s coming to them was for Christ’s glory.

    Philippians 2: 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I REJOICE. Yes, and I will REJOICE, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death…. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary ON YOUR ACCOUNT. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will REMAIN and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to GLORY IN CHRIST, because of my coming to you again.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    n context, Matthew 22 is about the resurrection of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, not about their not dying

    William Tyndale, 1530—- “Nay, Paul, thou art unlearned; go to Master More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again. And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had known it.” An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (Parker’s 1850 reprint), bk. 4, ch. 4, p. 180

    William Tyndale—“When More proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, “If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead;” there he stealeth away Christ’s argument, wherewith he proveth the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that souls were now living hell or in purgatory or in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. With that doctrine More taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ’s argument of none effect.”

    The God of the Living” (Matt. 22:32. Mark 12:27. Luke 20:38). In these scriptures it is stated that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” But Traditionalists, believing that the “dead” are “the living,” making God the “God of the dead,” which He distinctly says He is not.

    Interpreting the words in this way, they utterly ignore the whole context, which shows that the words refer to the RESURRECTION.. Notice how this is emphasized in each Gospel:

    (i) “Then come unto Him the Sadducees, which say there is no RESURRECTION” (Matt. 22:23. Mark 12:18. Luke 20:27).

    (ii) The one issue raised by the Sadducees was the question, “Whose wife shall she be in the RESURRECTION?” (Matt. 22:28. Mark 12:23. Luke 20:33).

    (iii) The answer of our Lord deals solely with this one issue, which was RESURRECTION. Hence He says:
    Matt. 22, “as touching the RESURRECTION of the dead” (v. 31).
    Mark 12, “as touching the dead that they RISE” (v. 26).
    Luke 20, “now that the dead are RAISED, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, for he is not a God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto him” (v. 38).

    These words were spoken by the Lord Jesus in order to prove “that the dead are RAISED.” Traditionalists use them to prove that the dead are “living” without being RAISED!
    The Sadducees may have denied many other things, but the one and the only thing in question here is RESURRECTION. Christ’s argument was:

    1. God’s words at the bush prove a life for the dead patriarchs.
    2. But there is no life for the dead without a resurrection.
    3. Therefore they must be RAISED FROM THE DEAD; or “live again” by Him. This argument held good, for it silenced the Sadducees. For if they are “living” now, and not dead, how does that prove a resurrection? And, moreover, what is the difference between them and those who are in “the land of the living”? For this is the expression constantly used of the present condition of life in contrast with the state of death.

    Psalm 27:13
    “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

    Psalm 116:9
    “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

    Psalm 142:5
    “I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.”

    “And as they came down from the mountain, He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).

    Luke 9:32– “But Peter and they that were with him, were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake [no trance], they saw his glory, and the two men[Moses and Elijah] that stood with him.

    Matthew 17 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 He was transformed in front of them, and His face shone like the sun. Even His clothes became as white as the light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here! If You want, I will make three tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud coveredthem, and a voice from the cloud said:
    This is My beloved Son.
    I take delight in Him.
    Listen to Him!
    6 When the disciples heard it, they fell facedown and were terrified. 7 Then Jesus came up, touched them, and said, “Get up; don’t be afraid.”8 When they looked up they saw no one except Him[—Jesus alone. 9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them,“Don’t tell anyone about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.

    Romans 14—Therefore, whether we live or die, we Do belong to the Lord

    traditionalist—“In one sense, no human being really dies, for God is not the God of the dead but the living.”

    If no human ever really dies, and if Jesus is really human (which is what we seem to be really talking about, is Jesus still human, or is Jesus now something which is not completely human, not in a place, not there instead of here, not coming again but always here), if Jesus is really human and humans don’t really die, then Jesus did not die, then we have no gospel and no hope. But then again, if humans don’t really die, then there is no real enemy Death, and no need for a gospel…

    It’s a denial of the resurrection, a denial of even the need for the resurrection. Because if no human really dies, then no human ever needs to be resurrected. In context, God is God of the living is not at all about Abraham never dying. it’s about God raising Abraham from the dead

    Matthew 22: 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

    Romans 6: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin would be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

    Romans 8: 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

    I Corinthians 15: 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

    my brain
    is always ticking
    cool little cluster
    steady working
    flustered, losing power
    1200 neurons every hours
    getting pounded
    pretty soon i’ll be dumbfounded

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Don Fortner’s false doctrine
    When I have breathed my final breath
    And dropped this robe of flesh in death,
    When my appointed work is done
    And my allotted time is gone,
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    I’ll not be there. I did not die.

    My Savior came to call me home,
    And I with Him to heav’n have gone!
    Now I am free from sin and pain;
    And with the glorified I reign!
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    I’m glorified! I did not die!

    Seated with Jesus on His throne,
    Glorified by what He has done,
    I am a trophy of His grace.
    Rejoicing, I behold His face:
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    I am with Christ! I did not die!

    My body lies beneath the clay
    Until the resurrection day.
    In that day when Christ comes again,
    Body and soul unite again!
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    Rejoice with me! I did not die!

    Don Fortner–So it is with all God’s saints who have left this world. They are not dead, but living

    Mark McCulley—God’s grace does not save Christians from dying, but after Christians are dead, then God saves them from death. First dead, then saved from death.

    God’s grace does not save Christians from repenting from Arminianism. God does not leave justified people in Arminianism. When the elect are still Arminians, they are not justified yet . God gives life to these dead elect and saves them from Arminianism. First Arminian, then justified. Not justified while still Arminian.

    God does not justify Christians but then leave them not yet born again. God will not leave Christians in death. God will not save Christians from dying. God does not ask us to believe that the dead are still living, God by resurrection will save Christians from death, so that they will not be dead anymore.

    • markmcculley Says:

      Paul certainly doesn’t suppose tha the dead proceed straight to the ultimate future, being as it were fast-forwarded straight from bodily death to bodily resurrection. Since the new world is to be a creatio ex vetere, not a fresh creatio ex nihilo, it doesn’t make sense to think of the new world as already in existence, and certainly Paul seems not to think of it like that.

      Paul never names the psyche as the carrier of n intermediate existence. Actually, though the question ‘where are they now’ is of course a common one at funerals, the New Testament remains largely uninterested in it, and Paul himself only mentions it in passing, once to refer to his own future ‘being with the Messiah, which is far better’ (Philippians 1.23) and once to refer to those who have ‘fallen asleep through Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 4.14). The rest of the NT is likewise reticent: there are the famous ‘many dwelling-places’ of John 14, and there is the equally famous ‘with me in Paradise’ of Luke 23.43. But in none of these passages is there any mention of the psyche.

      There is no sense, anywhere in the NT, of people who are now humans having had a life prior to their conception and birth. There is no pre-existent soul. Jesus himself is the only exception in the sense of having existed prior to his human conception and birth (1 Corinthians 8.6; 2 Corinthians 8.9; Philippians 2.6-7; Colossians 1.15-17) – but Paul does not say that this pre-human existence was that of Jesus’ ‘soul’. When 1 Timothy 6.7 says ‘we brought nothing into the world, and will not be able to carry anything out’, I regard this as a rhetorical flourish, not as indicating a hint towards a pre-existent soul. (Indeed, it might be taken as a denial precisely of our ‘possession’ not just of any material wealth but also of any ‘immortal part)

      et’s run through these types of dualism or duality, beginning with four types that would be comfortably at home within ancient Jewish thought:

      a. a heavenly duality: not only God exists, but also angels and perhaps other heavenly beings;
      b. a theological or cosmological duality between God and the world, the creator and the creature;
      c. a moral duality between good and evil;
      d. an eschatological duality between the present age and the age to come.

      All of these dualities a first-century Jew would take for granted. But none of them constitutes a dualism in the any of the following three senses:

      e. a theological or moral dualism in which a good god or gods are ranged, equal and opposite, against a bad god or gods;
      f. a cosmological dualism, a la Plato, in which the world of space, time and matter is radically inferior to the noumenal world; this would include, perhaps, dualisms of form and matter, essence and appearance, spiritual and material, and (in a Platonic sense) heavenly/earthly (something like this would be characteristic of Philo);
      g. an anthropological dualism which postulates a radical twofoldness of soul and body or spirit and body (this, too, would be familiar in Philo).

      Then there are three more which might be possible within ancient Judaism:

      h. epistemological duality as between reason and revelation – though this may be problematic, since it’s really the epistemological face of the cosmological dualism which I suggest ancient Jews would mostly reject;
      i. sectarian duality in which the sons of light are ranged against the sons of darkness, as in Qumran;
      j. psychological duality in which the good inclination and the evil inclination seem to be locked in perpetual struggle, as in Rabbinic thought.

      As I say, faced with this range of possible referent it seems to me hopeless simply to say ‘dualism’ and leave it at that.

      Though there have been age-old debates about whether Paul’s anthropology was bipartite or tripartite (with the famous 1 Thessalonians 5.23 – spirit, soul and body – being cited in favour of the tripartite view), both of these seem to me to miss entirely what’s actually going on with Paul’s anthropological terms. Paul uses over a dozen terms to refer to what humans are and what they do, and since he nowhere either provides a neat summary of what he thinks about them or gives us clues as to whether he would subsume some or most of these under two or three heads, it is arbitrary and unwarranted to do so on his behalf or claim his authority for such a schema. In particular, I note that three terms commonly used interchangeably to refer to the non-material element within dualist anthropology – mind, soul and spirit (nous, psyche and pneuma), are emphatically not interchangeable. Paul urges the Romans to be transformed by the renewal of the mind, not the soul or the spirit. Jesus warns against gaining the whole world and forfeiting the psyche, not the mind or the spirit

      • markmcculley Says:

        Most of the ‘works of the flesh’ in Galatians 5.19-21 could be practised by a disembodied spirit (jealousy, etc.). When Paul thinks of the pneuma at work Paul does not restrict its operation to non-material activities.

      • markmcculley Says:

        What shall it profit, asks Jesus, for you to gain the whole world and forfeit your psyche? What will you give to get that psyche back? Clearly this implies that the psyche is something that can be gained or lost; but what does the sentence mean? Who is this ‘you’, this person who might lose or gain a psyche? What’s left when that psyche is lost? I’m not sure that these questions necessarily make much sense. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount challenges his hearers not to worry about their psyche, what they shall eat or drink, or about their soma, what they shall wear. This distinction is clear, and has nothing whatever to do with Platonic or quasi-Platonic dualism. The body is the outward thing that needs clothing; the psyche is the ongoing life which needs food and drink (Matthew 6.25 // Luke 12.22.)

  6. markmcculley Says:

    is death not really death but separation from God–“going to the other place”
    passing away

    passing from one place but still living in the bad place?

    Adam did not die but was sent into exile east of Eden

    but the New Testament assumes that exile (diaspora) is a good thing. because it means that Christians are not trying to take over or influence any nation-state

    does death mean “cease to exist”?

    does resurrection mean “recreated”?

    does death mean “living somewhere else but not in the presence of God”?

    Milton–Satan, at least I have a place of my own away from God

    Job 34: 14
    If withdrew the spirit and breath He gave,
    15 every living thing would PERISH together
    and mankind would return to the dust.

    but since we have “immortal souls”, perish does not men destruction but instead we think it means going to a place where there is no presence of the Holy Spirit in us, and where God will punish and torture forever without ever being satisfied by it

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