As you know, I am one of the owners of the TheologyWeb debate forum. I don’t get much time to actually join in many discussions, the time I spend there is more on giving input on administrative issues. But there was a thread in which some were discussing the nature of death with regard to the Fall in a non-Young Earth Creationist interpretation. The thread was an open thread meaning all were welcome to participate being atheist, general theist, b’hai, Christian, heretic, etc. I noted that some in the thread were very breezily dismissing the importance of the badness of physical death, so I felt compelled to step in with this:
Not that this may matter to some participants, but just to throw a splash of cold water here— any view that would claim that physical death is not the enemy referred to in 1 Corinthians is outright heretical.
I don’t expect the nonChristians to care so much about orthodoxy (or those who have already accepted other heresy— not saying anyone has, I only skimmed the thread but saw some question about denying the deity of Christ, don’t know if anyone does, but if they do, I doubt this additional heresy would bother them).
Yes, spiritual death is an enemy, but the “last enemy” is without a doubt physical death in Christian orthodoxy. The only reason I am butting in with a drive-by post is that this is a pet topic of mine dealign with it frequently with hyperpreterists who have deny that physical death is an enemy since they deny the physical resurrection, and sorry folks, denying that physical death is an enemy leads to having to be consistent to deny the necessity of a physical resurrection of all, and once you do that, well, you ain’t in Christianity any longer.
A Catholic member then asked me specifically what portion of 1 Corinthians I was referring to, and I posted this:
The entirety of 1 Corinthians 15, it is a unified whole so I would not just pick a verse or two as it is an extended argument of Paul speaking to the final consummation of all things. This subject (not the particular subject of the thread but of the subject of the general resurrection) has been the focus of my study for well over a decade, and it was a peculiar obsession of the early Church, which as a Catholic, I am sure you are well aware. Well before Christological heresy became a huge problem, spiritualizing of death and of the resurrection was, and it has been, and universally has been, declared that denial of the physicality of this is a potentially damnable heresy that places one squarely outside the Christian faith. I am using the word Christological heresy narrowly here as I believe and so does the Athanasian Creed declare, the denial of the last-enemy-ness of physical death to be a Christology heresy that place one outside the Faith.
Here is one representative mere sample of the type of rhetoric that the early Christians engaged in on this topic. (Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho)
“I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and (believe) that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shall record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines (delivered) by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this (truth), and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genistae, Meristae, Galilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews (do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are (only) called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, (as) the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.”
Yes Justin confirms things I don’t, such as a literal millennial reign, but he doesn’t condemn that as heresy, and in other writings admit that there are true Christians who disagree. But the Bible and the early Church, and the Nicene Church, and the medieval Church, and what’s left of the modern speaks with one voice on the physicality of the resurrection.
As N.T. Wright put it
You may be allowed to eat meat offered to idols, but you cannot deny the future bodily resurrection and claim that denial as an allowable Christian option.
I used to be much more interested in YEC than I am now. But when investigating into this area, I get very worried when I see people blithely (not talking about the nonChristians in this thread because they have their own worldview which I am not now presently critiquing, I am doing an in-house post) de-emphasizing the wrongness and enemy-ness of physical death in order to get a nonYEC reading of Genesis. I am not saying you have to do that to be a nonYEC. I am saying some nonYEC DO do that, and they gut the faith when they do so. That is why this issue is important, not because of the age of earth per se, etc etc etc, whether God used evolution, blah, blah, blah, but because this is where the Gospel story starts, and some don’t think twice about tinkering with it here and not seeing how it decimates it when it comes to the New Testament.
I ended with noting
And I realize I am sending the thread into somewhat of a sidetrack, but I wanted to answer Catholicity’s question. I will not sidetrack the thread further as such discussion more properly belongs in a theology section I suppose rather than Natural Science, I just felt it prudent to throw a cautionary note of exhortation to the brethren.
Here is the thread if you are interested
Note to hyperpreterists, if you think this is a perfect opportunity to jump and evangelize your heresy, nope. You certainly can promote hyperpreterism in the unorthodox theology section though if you wish. We have many heretical members. I am just noting that hijacking the Natural Science thread won’t be happening, and my posts were at the forbearance of the thread starter.