What Happens between Death and Resurrection? A Symposium on the Intermediate State

On January 17, 2019 I will participate in a Symposium on the “intermediate state.” This Symposium will explore the question of how best to think about what happens to a Christian between death and resurrection.

Symposium on the Intermediate State: J. P. Moreland and J. Richard Middleton

The Symposium is sponsored by the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in Deerfield, IL.

My dialogue partner will be philosopher J. P. Moreland, a famous supporter of “substance dualism” (the view that a person is composed of an immaterial soul and a body). He will argue for the traditional view that our souls go to be with God (in heaven), awaiting the resurrection.

As a biblical scholar, I will present my position that the Bible doesn’t teach substance dualism, but rather a holistic view of the person, and that Scripture doesn’t clearly explain what happens between death and resurrection. I am therefore agnostic about the intermediate state.

I plan to do some biblical exposition of these themes.

In the end, I don’t believe that we need to have an explanation of what happens between death and resurrection. It is sufficient to trust that God, who is faithful, will bring those who are in Christ to the resurrection.

Our Focus Should be on the New Creation

I don’t think that the intermediate state should be the focus of our faith at all. Rather, biblical hope is for embodied resurrection life in the new heavens and new earth.

This is a point I made in my book on eschatology, A new Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic, 2014). In one of the chapters I included an excursus on the intermediate state (it was not central to the book’s argument), and I intended it merely as an exploration of the biblical evidence, not as an argument for a particular viewpoint.

Yet it is interesting that some reviews of my book brought up this excursus, often claiming to disagree with my position, even though my point was simply that there isn’t enough clear biblical evidence for me to affirm an intermediate state. Sometimes I wish  hadn’t put that excursus in at all, since it seemed to sidetrack some readers.

The Henry Center’s Exploration of Theological Anthropology

I was invited to participate in this Symposium on the intermediate state not primarily because of my work on eschatology, but due to my prior involvement in the Henry Center’s three-year Creation Project.

Each summer the Center has had a conference (the Dabar Conference) on some aspect of the theme of Creation, and I have been involved every year.

In the first two years I was a paper respondent, in 2016 to Old Testament scholar C. John (“Jack”) Collins and in 2017 to philosopher-theologian William (“Billy”) Abraham, two very wonderful scholars, both of whom I was delighted to get to know.

This year I wrote a keynote paper for the Dabar Conference (June 2018), entitled “Death, Immortality, and the Curse: Interpreting Genesis 2–3 in the Context of the Biblical Worldview,” with two respondents (one a biblical scholar, the other a theologian).

The theme of the Creation Project (and thus of the Dabar Conference) this year (2018-19) is Reclaiming Theological Anthropology in an Age of Science.  But the Project extends beyond the Dabar conferences, and involves numerous other events.

It was because of my analysis of human mortality expressed in the Dabar paper (and a shorter version called “Humans Created Mortal, with the Possibility of Eternal Life,” which was published on the Henry Center website) that I was invited to present my views at the upcoming Symposium.

This is the description of the Symposium (along with presenter bios) on the Henry Center website:

The resurrection of the body is one of the central doctrinal claims of the Christian faith. It is also the source of Christian hope when faced with the death of a loved one.

But what happens between now and then? When a child asks their parent where a departed loved one is “now,” how should Christians respond?

Do the souls of those who have died in faith go to be with the Lord now, awaiting to be reunited with their resurrected bodies?

Or are traditional Christian beliefs in an immaterial soul that is separable from the body misplaced—an unscriptural incursion of Platonic metaphysics that has misshaped our expectations of the afterlife?

The discussion will be followed by a pastoral response and extended audience Q&A on the theological and pastoral implications of the different views.

J. P. Moreland (PhD University of Southern California) is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books, including The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It MattersThe Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, and Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.

J. Richard Middleton (PhD Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam) is Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary. He is the author of A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, and The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1.

Date Thursday, January 17, 2019
Time 11am — 12:30pm CST
Location Main Campus

Hinkson Hall

This lecture is free and open to the public.
Follow online at stream.tiu.edu.

This event is made possible through the support of a grant from Templeton Religion Trust. The opinions expressed in this lecture are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton Religion Trust.

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5 Common Misconceptions about Heaven and the Afterlife

A couple months back I was asked to write a guest blog for the Gospel Relevance website on the topic of five common misconceptions about heaven and the afterlife.

This is part of a series on “5 common misconceptions” on a variety of topics by guest authors.

The five misconceptions I addressed are as follows (these are five things that the Bible does not teach):

1. That Christians will live in heaven forever.

2. That the earth will be destroyed in the judgment when Jesus returns.

3. That the new heavens and new earth will be a replacement cosmos.

4. That the new heavens and new earth will consist of a never-ending worship service.

5. That the way we live now doesn’t affect the afterlife (and vice versa).

You can now read the blog post online here.

Or you can download a PDF of the post to read later.

You are invited to leave comments and questions here or on the Gospel Relevance website where the blog is posted.

Jesus Is Risen! So What?

As we enter Holy Week, culminating in Easter this coming Sunday, BioLogos is publishing a number of short online articles about the resurrection of Jesus under the general rubric of “Resurrection: Answering the Skeptics.”

Resurrection.” Giovanni Bellini (1479)

I have contributed a couple of these articles, both of which have been published today.

Why Is the Resurrection of Jesus Important?

The first one is called “Why Is the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Important for Christian Faith?

My approach is to view the resurrection as testimony to God’s valuation of the embodied nature of reality, which is evident in creation, the incarnation, and the new creation. In connection with the new creation, I draw on Paul’s notion of the resurrection of Jesus as the “firstfruits” of a harvest that is to come.

You can read the article here, including the discussion that ensued.

What Do We Do with the Multiple Accounts of Jesus’s Resurrection?

My second piece is called “Why Are There Multiple Accounts of Jesus’s Resurrection in the Bible?” Here I’ve tried to explain why the various accounts of the resurrection in the Gospels (which don’t quite harmonize with each other) isn’t a problem for me, but actually makes them more believable.

Facebook Live Discussion of the Resurrection

These two articles, along with others, are meant to lead up to the Facebook Live event this evening at 7:00 pm EST that BioLogos is hosting. As I explained in my blog posted last week, I will be joining three other Christians (one philosopher and two scientists) to answer questions about the significance of the resurrection.

You can join the discussion by going to the BioLogos Facebook page.

Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?

In preparation for this event, you might be interested in reading some of the other BioLogos articles on the resurrection.

Yesterday BioLogos posted a two-part article called “Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?”

In Part 1 four scientists responded to the following question:

As a scientist, you are trained to be skeptical about extraordinary claims—and the Resurrection is definitely an extraordinary claim. On what basis do you accept this claim as true?

In Part 2 three scientists responded to a related question:

Is belief in the Resurrection unscientific? What would you say to someone who challenges your scientific credentials because you believe that a dead man walked out of the grave?

N. T. Wright on the Resurrection

On the topic of the resurrection, I especially recommend Jim Stump’s “Still Surprised by Easter,” in which he shares what he (the senior editor at BioLogos) learned from reading N. T. Wright’s book The Resurrection of the Son of God over the Lenten season a few years ago.

I myself found Wright’s book extremely helpful when I was working on A New Heaven and a New Earth.

More on Science and the Resurrection

If you want to read a bit more, there is an excellent article on the BioLogos website called “Does Modern Science Make Miracles Impossible?” The author clearly shows that it is entirely coherent to accept that God usually works through natural processes and yet sometimes (as a sign of the coming Kingdom) brings about events that cannot be explained by natural processes.

The implication is that David Hume’s famous argument against the possibility of miracles is not really an argument, but simply a disposition.

This is precisely the thrust of an older, but illuminating article on the BioLogos website by historian Rick Kennedy called “Did David Hume ‘Banish’ Miracles?” I highly recommend this article for anyone (not just philosophers) interested in the topic.

And BioLogos just reprinted a helpful piece from the Huffinton Post called “Does the Resurrection Contradict Science?

I wish you good reading.

And I look forward to interacting with anyone interested tonight on Facebook Live.