The Meaning of “Paradise” in the Bible

My fourth and final blog post in the weekly series “Beyond the Book” was just posted by Baker Academic. Each of my four posts during March have focused on some point of interest that I learned about eschatology while working on A New Heaven and a New Earth. The latest post, called The Meaning of “Paradise” in the Bible, explains that this term is not equivalent to “heaven,” contrary to the assumption of many Christians.

Baker is giving away three copies of A New Heaven and a New Earth. You can sign up for a copy here, until midnight tonight (March 30, 2015).

If you want to read the four posts in order, here are the other three:

My first post, Preparation in Heaven for Revelation on Earth – The “Apocalyptic” Pattern, focused on the underlying pattern I came to discern in many “heaven” passages in the New Testament that seem to be associated with the Christian hope.

My second post, The Meaning of “Heaven” in the Bible, explained that “heaven” is not thought of in the Bible as an immaterial, uncreated realm, but rather as the cosmos beyond the earth, which can stand symbolically for the realm inhabited by God and the angelic host (and angels are often identified with stars in the Bible).

My third post, The Stars Will Fall From Heaven, discusses the origin of this image in extra-biblical literature and its meaning, which has to do with judgment on corrupt angelic powers and not the literal destruction of the cosmos.

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The Intersection of Evolution and the Fall

I am about to head off to a conference at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago called “Re-Imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall,” to present a paper on Genesis 3 in light of evolution. This three-day conference (March 26-28, 2015) grows out of a research group I’ve been a part of for the past two years that has been tasked with addressing how orthodox Christians may think about the origin of human evil (the “Fall”) in the context of what we know about the evolution of humans on this planet.

The group has two biblical scholars (myself included), along with scholars specializing in theology, philosophy, biology, ethics, and history. Many of the scholars have expertise in more than one discipline, and many have previously written on this topic.

Here is the lineup of the research team, in alphabetical order, along with their disciplinary specializations:

  • William Cavanaugh (theology, political theory)
  • Celia Deane-Drummond (theology, biology)
  • Darrel Falk (biology)
  • Joel Green (New Testament, theology, neuroscience)
  • Peter Harrison (history of science)
  • J. Richard Middleton (Old Testament, theology)
  • Aaron Riches (theology)
  • James K.A. Smith (philosophy, theology)
  • Brent Waters (theology, social ethics)
  • Norman Wirzba (theology, environmental ethics)

Here is a list of the bios for each person on the team.

Each of us will be presenting our findings in plenary sessions at the conference. You can access the conference schedule here and you can read a brief summary of the content our our presentations here.

A more detailed summary of my own paper can be found here.

Beyond the plenary presentations, there will be multiple sessions of concurrent presentations by other scholars (twenty-two in all); some of these look very interesting. I even know some of these presenters; one of them is Matthew Hill, who has been an adjunct professor at Roberts Wesleyan College and now teaches philosophy at Ann Arbor University. A book based on his dissertation, called Evolution and Holiness, will be published by InterVarsity Press next year.

The papers from the conference (both the plenaries and possibly some of the concurrent papers) will be collected in a volume published by Eerdmans, scheduled to appear sometime in 2016. The volume will be edited by William Cavanaugh and James K. A. Smith, who are the co-chairs of the research team.

I’ll post some reflections about the conference when I get back.

The Stars Will Fall from Heaven

Today Baker Academic uploaded my third weekly blog post in their series “Beyond the Book.” Each week during March I will be discussing something I learned about eschatology while working on A New Heaven and a New Earth; in each case, it will be a topic I haven’t explicitly blogged about before.

My first post, Preparation in Heaven for Revelation on Earth – The “Apocalyptic” Pattern, focused on the underlying pattern I came to discern in many “heaven” passages in the New Testament that seem to be associated with the Christian hope.

My second post, The Meaning of “Heaven” in the Bible, explained that “heaven” is not thought of in the Bible as an immaterial, uncreated realm, but rather as the cosmos beyond the earth, which can stand symbolically for the realm inhabited by God and the angelic host (and angels are often identified with stars in the Bible).

This week’s post (my third) is entitled The Stars Will Fall From Heaven. It discusses the origin of this image in extra-biblical literature and the meaning of the image, which has to do with judgment on corrupt angelic powers and not the literal destruction of the cosmos.

Even though this post is a bit longer than the first two (and the second was longer than the first), it is still only a summary of the topic. Hopefully, the post will generate some discussion, which would allow me to get into some of the related issues that I had to omit.

Baker is giving away three copies of A New Heaven and a New Earth. The winners will be announced at the end of March and you can sign up for a copy here.