Friday 14 December 2018

'Following' Jesus to Life Eternal': the good news of the Fourth Gospel

Modern people assume that death is the end of everything personal, the destruction of the self; they assume that when the body dies then nothing is left.

The ancients, before Jesus, also believed that death was the end of everything personal, and that there was destruction of the self - but the difference was that after the body has died, they believed that something was left: that the soul remained.

The soul minus the body wasn't any use, it lacked self-consciousness, it could not help-itself... but the soul remained alive, like a witless 'ghost'. (The Underworld/ Hades/ Sheol was populated by such ghosts; left-over after death of the body.)

Before Jesus only a perfectly divine-aligned Man could become fully-divine; because being divine means to join with God in the creative work of the universe. To join in the work of creation, one must wholly embrace that work and its aims; to have something distinctive to contribute to creation, one must have free will, must have agency.

Therefore one must have 'a body' because the body is what enables us to have divine free will: it is incarnation that separates our will from that of God.

So resurrection - with an immortal, indestructible body - is necessary for us to become divine agents. 

In sum, before Jesus divinity was not possible to a Man unless one was already fully divine-aligned. However, Jesus was a perfectly divine-aligned man, and therefore Jesus could and did become fully divine (at his baptism by John).  

And that event changed everything.

After Jesus, who began as a Man, had become fully divine; then it was possible for any other Man to become fully divine, simply by following the path that Jesus had made. In other words, one needed to love Jesus, to have faith in who Jesus was and what he could do; and then anyone could follow Jesus to full divinity - but only after death, only via death.

Why only after death? Because we are not perfectly-aligned to God during our mortal lives (that is, because we are all sinners) our body must first die, before our soul can be resurrected. Our personal self must be ended before it can be remade (from the remnant soul)

This process began before Jesus himself died, with the resurrection of Lazarus. What we know of Lazarus is the mutual love between him and Jesus. Lazarus was the first Man to die who had faith in Jesus, and Lazarus was therefore the first Man to be resurrected by Jesus - but uniquely Lazarus was resurrected back into earthly life, as a miraculous sign of the new dispensation.

Lazarus then went on to write the Fourth Gospel as the 'beloved disciple', being the best possible witness to the reality of this new dispensation; and the Man who best knew the nature of Jesus and what gift he brought. 

So, now, after Jesus - the Good News is that we can each and all have life everlasting and the resurrection that entails; no matter what our state of sin or how far from being God-aligned we may be. We may have resurrected life everlasting after we have died; 'simply' by loving and trusting Jesus to lead us, and by following the same path to full divinity that Jesus first took, and which (by taking) he made for us.


Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, there are theological errors in that, but as long as one is content with the practical core of it, that we must love Jesus and trust His offer of life after death, the theological errors are unimportant.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Not errors, but different assumptions; based on the primary assumption of the Fourth Gospel being correct.

And my background assumption is the pluralist metaphysics of Mormon theology.

Given those assumptions, this argument is coherent.

Furthermore, this is more coherent (internally, and with other Christian primary assmptions - especially God as loving parent) than is mainstream/ classical theology.

Andrew said...

I've tried but I can't yet get on board with the Lazarus as John idea, nor that he was raised from the dead into a resurrection body. I'm convinced by the view that Jesus had to be the first person to be transformed into a resurrection body because his death, crucifixion and ascension to the Father after three days was what enabled the New Jerusalem Glory of the Father to be released (He alone, as the Lamb of God, was worthy to unseal the scroll of God's plan in Daniel and John's visions) which is what makes the resurrection life possible.

Seijio Arakawa said...

I do find the idea of immortals among us fascinating. It’s to my mind more plausible than the far more popular conspiracy theories about lizard people / aliens / etc.... and far more Hopeful.

Of course, identifying specific resurrected people is a difficult endeavour. Any people who understood enough to do this for certain would not share their findings in public either. However, we can ask in general, what kind of resurrected person is still around and why?

The picture that seems to transpire is that Jesus decided to resurrect certain people early and give them the choice of remaining on Earth, or (if they did not want to do that) to decamp to Heaven but with the option-of intervening with some Earthly affairs.

A straight reading of Gospel of John makes an obvious case for Lazarus choosing to remain on Earth. There is also a case for John the Baptist, or some of the Old Testament prophets.

For example, according to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Mary has been resurrected but is not on Earth (only appearing on occasion via hologram). I’m not so sure... as she has real estate on Mount Athos, and the place seems to be defended against intervention in subtle but effective ways. I can’t help but connect the Russian Empire’s heavy-handed 1913 military intervention into a petty theological controversy on the peninsula (the Name Worship incident) with the final disintegration of the Russian Empire... I can only assume they were warned and there were choices that would lead to a different outcome. There was plenty of rot in the Empire that could have caused them to ignore such a warning, with the clerics of the Church essentially reporting to a bureaucrat in an office, with a bureaucratic title (Ober-Procurator of the Synod). Another interesting thing: I don’t fully understand the motivation (from Mary’s point of view) of the rule behind not admitting other women to Athos, but it seems both flexible (flouted when actually necessary e.g. in times of war) and non-negotiable in principle. At one point in 2003 the EU put pressure to rescind the rule, then there was a great silence. I can only assume they were warned as well. It seems unusual for such a mass media campaign to just vanish into nothing. Although now the question has come up again as an implication to a new Greek law permitting recording a sex change in official documents....

The Repentant Thief is another candidate.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seijio - I don't have any solid opinion on this - Lazarus/ Beloved Disicple was a one-off. The Book of Mormon - which I regard as valid overall - has other examples.

To be resurrection the individual would need to have an immortal body. But I *think* it is likely to be rarer than reincarnation - that is, a great-soul reborn with a different and mortal body, but in some sense having benefitted from previous incarnation.

I think even Christians must always take reincarnation seriously, since it seems to be the spontaneous and most widespread human belief - although very varied in its specifics. Taking this at face value, one might suggest that reincarnation was normal before Christ, and afterwards became very rare/ specific.