The New Earth for a Physicalist (Part 1)

One of the most fun and interesting things about being a Biblical Studies and Philosophy student is working with the problem of eschatology. Now I say “problem” because there are so many factors and unknown variables,  we cannot make any definitive theories for the end times. There are the millennialist theories, which argues that there will be a thousand year reign of the kingdom of God before the second coming of Christ (Pre-millennialist), the thousand year reign will be after this coming (Post-millennialist), or that there won’t be a thousand year reign (A-millennialist). This is just one small pocket of theories that try to work out what the end times look like and how they are going to occur.

I find it fun to work with these theories from a theological and philosophical stance. Mainly because there is no hard Scriptural proof for one view of the other. Thus, I see this problem as something that is paradoxical in nature; it both does not matter, because it is not necessary to a believer’s faith and salvation, and matters wholeheartedly, because it helps to form the praxis of a person’s life, which relates to how a person lives out her faith. Therefore, although these matters aren’t the crutch by which a person’s faith falls, working with the problem of eschatology will affect how a person lives and help to develop her overall theological paradigm.

Now, getting to the fun part for me is bringing some philosophical understanding and biblical theology to the table to form a theory of eschatology that goes against the modern day teaching. In part, I am a physicalist (1) or rather I hold to some form of a materialistic (2) view. I believe that the physical nature is all that amounts to an animal’s existence. This would mean that a human is solely physical. Yet, there seems to be something more to mankind. For the very fact that we  can have a personal relationship with God, a spiritual being. This seems to place some form of spiritual nature to mankind. Yet, there seems to be something more to mankind, for the very fact that we can have a personal relationship with God – a spiritual being.

Now we have to get off track for a brief moment and get into the doctrine of anthropology, but it will come back round. This idea of mankind having a personal relationship with God seems to place some form of spiritual nature to mankind. I would argue however that this does not entail a soul. At least not a soul that it so commonly expressed by today’s Christians. In the most common view of the soul is expressed as a separate entity of the physical body. “As human beings, we live eternally as a spirit, we have a soul, and we dwell in a body.” (3)

Now back to eschatology. When the soul is viewed as something that can be disembodied then it allows for a view of heaven that contains humans. Yet I would argue that this is impossible. We cannot dwell in heaven because we have no divisible soul, or rather we are not a soul that can be disembodied from the flesh and dwell in some spiritual realm. Honestly, if you think about it correctly for only a moment – you are placing yourself in an alternatively physical world with some “ghostly” figure which in itself is physical/embodied in some form. So you have replaced your flesh with something else.

This all makes no sense for someone who believes in the continuity of the coming age. The strong theological belief of the resurrection of the body of all believers would mean that we transition from this alternative state (a state that is discontinuous with our human nature – meaning we are not, technically, human for this time period) back into our fleshly, physical bodies. So the alternative idea is that we simply physical beings and when we die, we die. In the end, we technically cease to exist for a moment in time. Then, when the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ occurs we will be resurrected and given new, perfected bodies. The new heaven and the new earth means that we will be living here on earth in the physical.

Now this doesn’t affect my salvation, but it does affect my praxis. It affects my worldview and how I live out my daily life. I believe that I should do as much good work now in my life because when I die I will just be “waiting” for the resurrection of the body. I’ll “wake up” with the rest of humanity to see the glory of our Lord revealed to all the earth. A new life awaits me and all other believers in the end age. I believe that the mission of the Church is compelled to do its work to the maximum of its ability because there will be no second chance for unbelievers.

In the end, eschatology matters. It helps to form our worldview and how we live out our lives. These theories and views on matters of the faith that don’t seem to matter, always matter. It is because they help form our faith and faith is a matter of living. Leave your comments below and let me know what you think the new heaven and new earth will look like. Be sure to subscribe for next weeks blog and part 2 of this blog.


Footnotes

  1. Physicalismhttp://www.philosophybasics.com. Retrieved 01 May 2016.
  2. Materialism” http://www.philosophybasics.com. Retrieved 01 May 2016.
  3. What are the three parts of man?” www1.cbn.com. Retrieved 01 May 2016.
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