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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Future Conference on Science and Faith at Northeastern Seminary, Rochester, NY (October 25–26, 2019)

This is a heads up about a special conference on science and faith that will take place October 25–26, 2019 at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY.

Every other year Northeastern Seminary co-sponsors a Fall theology conference with the Canadian-American Theological Association.

In 2019 the conference will have another co-sponsor—the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation. Other co-sponsors might include the American Scientific Affiliation and BioLogos.

Keynote Speaker—William Brown

Our keynote speaker has already been booked—William P. Brown, professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Brown is an excellent biblical scholar and teacher, who has always had an interest in science. He is the author of many books on biblical interpretation that I have found helpful.

One of his best, which is directly relevant to the theme of the conference, is The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (Oxford University Press, 2010). In this book Brown examines seven different creation accounts in the Old Testament and imaginatively links them to his reflections on various aspects of the natural world that we have discovered through scientific exploration.

In my 2017 essay on the relationship of the Garden of Eden narrative to the evolution of humanity (“Reading Genesis 3 Attentive to Human Evolution: Beyond Concordism and Non-Overlapping Magisteria”), I cited Brown’s methodology in The Ten Pillars of Creation book as my model for how to think about the possible relationship of the Bible and evolution.

Brown and Middleton Essays for a Future Book

Brown and I are writing two chapters on the Old Testament for a volume entitled Christian Theology and the Modern Sciences, edited by John Slattery. I will be writing on Genesis 1–2, while Brown will write on the wisdom literature. We will each address how our assigned portion of Scripture relates to matters of ecology and science.

Interestingly, I was originally asked to contribute a chapter on the New Testament, based on a paper I gave in 2017 on the relevance of New Testament eschatology for ecology at the Society of Biblical Literature. When I explained that New Testament was not my primary expertise, I was offered a chapter on the Old Testament instead.

A tentative Table of Contents for the entire volume is as follows:

1. Introduction

Part 1: A History of Christian Theology and Science

2. Hebrew Bible (Middleton)
3. Hebrew Bible (Brown)
4. New Testament
5. New Testament
6. Augustine of Hippo
7. Cappadocian Fathers
8. Maximus and John of Damascus
9. Hildegard of Bingen
10. Francis of Assisi
11. Thomas Aquinas
12. Hesychast Controversy and Gregory Palamas
13. Post-Reformation Catholic Figure
14. Luther/Melanchthon
15. Calvin
16. Newman
17. Wesley
17. 20th and 21st Century Catholic Voices on Nature and Science
18. 20th and 21st Century Protestant Voices on Nature and Science
19. 20th and 21st Century Orthodox Voices on Nature and Science

Part 2: Reconsidering Theology and Science Narratives

20. HB and Race/Gender
21. NT and Race/Gender
22. Theological & Scientific Origins of Misogyny
23. Theological & Scientific Origins of Racism
24. Linnaeus and Human Stratification
25. Exemplar Chapter on Theology, Science, Race, Gender in 19th/20th/21st
26. Exemplar Chapter on Theology, Science, Race, Gender in 19th/20th/21st
27. Exemplar Chapter on Theology, Science, Race, Gender in 19th/20th/21st

Part 3: Broadening the Possibilities for Theology and Science

28. Physical Sciences
29. Biological Sciences
30. Medical Sciences
31. Social Sciences
32. Psychological Sciences
33. Environmental Sciences

Christian Theology and the Modern Sciences will be published in the “Companions” series by Bloomsbury / T&T Clark.

An Interview with Brown and Middleton

Back in May 2015 Brown and I were interviewed together in a live streaming event on Google Hangout by Matt Lynch of the Westminster Theological Center in the UK.

The focus of the interview was on themes arising from our most recent books, Brown’s Wisdom’s Wonder: Character, Creation, and Crisis in the Bible’s Wisdom Literature (Eerdmans, 2014) and my A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic, 2014), along with and my earlier book The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Brazos, 2005).

You can watch a recording of the interview here.

Don’t Forget the Science and Faith Conference

Remember to make a note to reserve October 25–26, 2019.

There will be a Call for Papers sent out from Northeastern Seminary and from each of the co-sponsoring organizations.

So stay tuned for more information about the conference as the time draws near.

 

Peace and Violence in Scripture and Theology (October 2018 Conference of the Canadian-American Theological Association)

The Canadian-American Theological Association is having their annual Fall theology conference at Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology, on October 20, 2018.

The conference, co-sponsored with Wycliffe College, will focus on the theme:

PEACE AND VIOLENCE IN SCRIPTURE AND THEOLOGY

Dr. Gordon K. Oeste will deliver the keynote lecture, Feasting with the Enemy: Redemptive Readings of Biblical War Texts.

Dr. Oeste, the Teaching Pastor at Cedar Creek Community Church in Cambridge, Ontario, is the author of Legitimacy, Illegitimacy, and the Right to Rule: Windows on Abimelech’s Rise and Demise in Judges 9 (Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2013). He is currently co-authoring a book on warfare in the Bible.

A panoply of papers will be presented from all theological disciplines on subjects related to Peace and Violence in Scripture and Theology, as well as other subjects that engage culture, the church, and various academic fields.

The conference runs from 8:45 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., and twenty-six papers are scheduled for presentation.

You may download the full conference schedule here.

For online registration, please go to: https://www.wycliffecollege.ca/cata

Our Fall CATA conference promises to be a very full and enriching day that  will offer new ideas and stimulating discussion with scholars,  students, and  laity.

For more information, please email mtaylor@wycliffe.utoronto.ca

Co-sponsored by: Wycliffe College and The Canadian-American Theological Association Location: Wycliffe College, 5 Hoskin Avenue, Toronto M5S 1H7.