Thursday, March 11, 2021

Steve Hays' Contribution To Easter

"he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6)

When Steve went through last year's Easter season, he knew he was going to die soon. You couldn't tell from looking at how productive he was.

In a post about Steve last year, I mentioned that some of my earliest memories of him come from the context of working with him on This Joyful Eastertide, an e-book about Jesus' resurrection. Some of his other e-books and many articles he wrote over the years also addressed the resurrection. And he did it in a lot of depth. He often discussed the subject in private correspondence as well. He wrote a post in 2017 summarizing how he would make a case for the resurrection. Over his lifetime, he must have written thousands of pages of material on the subject, often interacting with the latest scholarship and skepticism.

He enjoyed light and often wrote about the subject. Thinking of his legacy in the context of Easter, I'm reminded of one of the great Old Testament passages about resurrection, with its reference to stars:

"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake…Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (Daniel 12:2-3)

This joyful Easter-tide,
Away with care and sorrow!
My Love, the Crucified,
Hath sprung to life this morrow.

My flesh in hope shall rest,
And for a season slumber;
Till trump from east to west,
Shall wake the dead in number.

Death’s flood hath lost his chill,
Since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill
My passing soul deliver.

Had Christ, that once was slain,
Ne’er burst His three day prison,
Our faith had been in vain;
But now hath Christ arisen,
Arisen, arisen, arisen!
(George Woodward, This Joyful Easter-Tide)

"Sunrise lies beyond the setting sun. It cannot be reborn in the east unless it dies in the west. And once it dies, there's nothing left to keep us here. Only darkness remains. Unbelievers rage against the dying light. But for the saints, our light must die below to then ascend to the zenith of meridian glory. Before we rise to light everlasting, our sun must set." (Steve Hays, A Backward Providence, 21-22)

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Pierce on Dr. Seuss

Jeremy Pierce:

Here is what I don't see a lot of people saying in response to the Dr. Seuss books that the publisher will no longer be making. Theodore Geisel was a very progressive, liberal-minded person, anti-racist in the most literal sense of that term. Yet he portrayed people in ways that we today recognize to be stereotypical and somewhat offensive. People have been calling him a racist for years, when his views were anything but. How could the author of the Sneetches, an explicitly anti-racist story in the literal sense of that term, be counted as a racist just because he had absorbed some of the stereotypical imagery of his day and brought it out in his depictions of people from around the world when wanting to expose children to multi-cultural stuff and to think more globally?

A Good Discussion Of First Clement

James White recently had a good discussion with Stephen Boyce about First Clement. They talk about the letter's significance with regard to Trinitarianism, the canon of scripture, justification, church government, and other subjects.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Easter Resources 2021

Last year, I wrote a short post about which evidence for Jesus' resurrection we should be most focused on. A few years ago, Steve Hays wrote a lengthier article about how to make a case for the resurrection. Those are a couple of places you could go to start the process of studying Easter issues.

And here are some examples of other relevant issues we've addressed over the years:

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Does everything we do have eternal significance?

What Really Matters in Life
James Bejon

What follows is an article written for my church newsletter. It is heavily influenced by thoughts prompted by David Field's "Not the Least Lash Lost", which I consider to be a simply superb and must-read piece of work.

Scripture does not provide us with many details about the afterlife, but it is profitable for us to think deeply about the fact and nature of it. Absent an afterlife, life is 'vanity'. The world goes round and round in circles, and who knows whether our brief lives' accomplishments will profit the wise or the foolish in the days to come? (Let us eat and drink, for 'tomorrow' we die.) Yet, as Christians, we have a sure hope. Our actions and their consequences continue on into the next world in some way. But in what way? Insofar as they are rewarded (or not) at the judgment seat? In part, no doubt. But might there not be more to it than that? Martin Luther is reported to have said, "If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree today". Would we? It all depends on how we view life's continuity-discontinuity questions.

Consider the flood. The flood was a major discontinuity in world history. But the people who left the ark were the same people who boarded it. Like every other man in history, Noah was a product of his past life and past decisions. What he did before he boarded the ark determined the kind of man he would be when he left the ark and stepped out into God's new creation. (People, after all, are not abstract entities; they are the sum products of their pasts and past decisions.) So, what about the day of the Lord's return and of the Resurrection? To what extent does our pre-resurrection life affect our post-resurrection life? Might not what is true of Noah be true of us? Let us put the question in more practical terms. Does everything we do have eternal significance? Or just some things? Cooking the dinner, disciplining our children, doing a good day's work, caring for a relative who may or may not be saved: Are these tasks ultimately irrelevant necessities? Or is there more to it than that? My suspicion is as follows: everything we do, in some way or other, reverberates on into eternity. At times, Scripture emphasises the discontinuity between the present world and the world to come (e.g., 2 Pet. 3), while, at times, Scripture emphasises the continuity between the two worlds. (At Christ's return, for instance, the kingdoms of the world become his kingdoms, and the deeds of the saints follow them into the heavenly realms and clothe in preparation for their return, and the kings of the earth thereafter bring their glory to the city of God: Rev. 11.15, 14.13, 19.8, 21.23-26.) Both sides of the coin are vital for us to appreciate.

Consider, by way of illustration, Jesus' resurrection body—a body whose appearance marked the genesis of a new age. Weren't the hands with which Jesus broke the bread en route to Emmaus in some sense the same hands which were nailed to the cross a few days before hand? And which fashioned wood in Nazareth? And which Mary and Joseph held as they walked Jesus as a young child? Wouldn't Jesus have looked like Mary and inherited certain traits from her? Didn't Mary's actions in that sense at least survive on into the resurrection world? (And might not similar things be able to be said of our own hands and what they have done?) Consider, in this connection, Paul's statements in 1 Cor. 15. The bodies which we commit to the earth when we die are the same bodies which are raised. (Continuity and discontinuity again.) Our bodies together with whatever has affected them are the raw materials of the resurrection. What grows in the resurrection depends on what seed is planted. And, as a result, Paul says, our toils are not 'in vain' (15.58). Now, does that word 'vain' remind you of our initial reference to Ecclesiastes (vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas)? The reminiscence, I suspect, is deliberate. Precisely those labours which are rendered vain by death—the labours of planting and plucking up, healing and punishing, keeping and casting away, weeping and laughing—are redeemed and preserved in value by the resurrection. As one writer puts it, "When we are raised,...the work we have done in the present, in the service of [our] new master, will, [no doubt to our great surprise], turn out to be part not only of who we are, but of the new world he will have brought into being".

But what about our sins? Well, we will not live in eternal regret at what we did or failed to do in the present life. (Our sins will not be 'remembered' against us.) Of that much I am sure. But just as, here on earth, our consciousness of our sins affects—and even heightens—our sense of gratitude as we worship (Luke 7.41-47), so too, I believe, they will do in eternity. When we sing, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain', we will know exactly what he was slain for, since the more we know about Christ's work, the more we will appreciate it. The nature of our failures will inform Christ's people of the scope and glory of Christ's work of forgiveness, just as the nature of our frailties and disabilities will inform Christ's people of the scope and glory of Christ's work of restoration. We may not all have the same ministries, bodies, or abilities as one another, but everything we do in life ultimately matters.