living as if the dead are not raised

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15.32b)

I find it ridiculously easy for my horizons to shrink. The present — its successes or its challenges — tends to fill my vision and occupies me thoroughly. (I guess it’s the dark side of my very minor super power: my freakish ability to focus.)

It takes a lot to shock me, make me lift up my head and look around — looking out in particular to the eschatological horizon: our hope in Christ that death isn’t the end, that the dead will be raised.

But, as far as Paul is concerned, this kind of thing guts Christianity.

As Tim Chester puts it, “Without eschatology we are left with a limp Christian existentialism in which immediate experience is everything” (‘The Kingdom of God is at Hand: Eschatology and Mission’, page 7).

And lest we be tempted to shrug and say, “Yeah, yeah — that’s the prosperity gospel (which, of course, none of us buy into)”, Chester lays out three common varieties of this ‘limp Christian existentialism’:

  1. Charismatic existentialism — emphasising emotional highs, healing, etc.
  2. Conservative existentialism — emphasising freedom from guilt, a reassuring orthodoxy (in which I’m sure I’m right).
  3. Pietistic existentialism — emphasising God’s leading and peace in the heart.

Ouch! No-one gets out of that one unscathed.

The problem isn’t with any of the things we might emphasise. It’s with our horizons shrinking to the point where these things fill them instead of ultimate realities — like the dead being raised…

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2 comments

  1. Maybe. Living for the resurrection is kind of a goal. Certainly Paul seems to make it a personal goal in Philippians 3.

    But it’s not the kind of goal we can bring about by our efforts — it’s cause lies on God’s side, not ours (if that way of speaking makes any sense).

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