Monday, March 24, 2008

Reformed Chiliasm (Part 16)

But, lest anyone should scoff at these doctrines, a few more statements need to be brought into clearer focus. If the First Resurrection is the re-union of souls and bodies in the presence of God, and if it involves the restoration of man to his primitive condition, then it's obvious that no sinful conceptions may be attributed to the saints in that day. Remember, God instituted marriage while Adam and Eve were in a condition of blameless purity. Evil concupiscence came after the fall. For, man's soul was made rational accoring to the Divine image. The irrational element did not enter until after they yielded to temptation. Now, what do we mean by this?
We all know that man is composed of both body and soul. There is a higher part made after the image of God, which we term the soul; and a lower part fashioned from the earth, which we call the body. As it is the office of the heavens to govern the earth, so it is the function of the soul to govern the body. It is not natural that the body, or lower part of man, should rebel against the soul. And yet this is precisely what the present state of man is, due to his primal yielding to temptation. Prior to eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve had not yet experienced any warring of the members against their will. They stood clothed in a grace the loss of which they did not realize until "the eyes of them both were opened" (Gen. 3: 7). In fine, their wills were in entire subjection to God and to themselves.
But when they yielded to temptation, disgrace entered, and they became endued with a new knowledge. Pride, envy, lust, shame, and divers evils now attended their new condition. Not only was the soul divided against itself, due to an irrational element that entered from without, but the members of the body warred against the will of man. And that which was previously pure now becomes shameful and evil. I speak of the office of generation. Augustine writes: "Justly is shame specially connected with this lust; justly, too, these members themselves, being moved and restrained not at our will, but by an independent autocracy, are called 'shameful.' Their condition was different before sin. For as it is written, 'They were naked and were not ashamed,'-- not that their nakedness was unknown to them, but because nakedness was not yet shameful, because not yet did lust move those members without the will's consent; not yet did the flesh by its disobedience testify against the disobedience of man." (City of God, XIV. xvii).
So, the state of man today is much different from that in which he stood before the fall. Paul testifies to this when he writes: "For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is my members" (Romans 7: 22-23). That is, the body or lower part of man, now wars against the will, so that we "cannot do the things that we would" (Gal. 5: 17). But the blessed apostle says: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 7: 24-25). The Lord Jesus Christ ordained to annul this warfare; firstly, by purging our sins in His own blood, thus cleansing the conscience from guilt; then, by sending the Holy Spirit upon us to renew our wills, that we may follow that alone which is acceptable to God; and finally, when He comes again, to re-unite soul and body in their pristine condition. Until that time the warfare must continue. But, when it is ended, how will any man attribute to the saints the works of the flesh? Such an one must show his ignorance of the power of God.
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For, think ye, how does one suppose that sin is transmitted from generation to generation? We believe in the doctrines of Traducianism, that is, that sin is transmitted in the act of conception. Which truth is borne out by the Scriptures; as, for instance, when Job says: "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one" (Job 14: 4); or David, when repenting before God, he cries: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51: 5). From these texts, and from the teachings of the orthodox fathers, we rightly infer that sin is transmitted in natural generation from father to son. And anyone who disagrees must be willing to give their view of the origin of the soul--an important doctrine that mustn't be laid aside.
There are three views of the origin of the soul. The view which we hold, called Traducian, teaches that soul and body are conceived, formed, and perfected in element simultaneously. And this may be confirmed when we consider that no life can exist without the conjunction of the soul and body. Thus, in order for life to begin, soul and body must begin together. As Tertullian writes: "Now we allow that life begins with conception, because we contend that the soul also begins with conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does. Thus, then, the processes which act to produce separation by death, also combine in simultaneous action to produce life." (De Anima, xxvii). The two views which are opposed to Traducianism are respectively known as "Creationism" and "Pre-Existence." Creationism typically holds that the soul is created at some point after conception; whilst Pre-existence teaches that the soul exists from eternity.
Obviously, both of these opposing views are false. For the one implies that bodies are formed before souls, the other that souls are formed before bodies. The abortionists would have us to accept the former, whilst those who preach a Gnostic/ subjective salvation would necessarily incline to the latter. Regarding Creationism, let us hear from Gregory of Nyssa: "As man is one, the being consisting of soul and body, we are to suppose that the beginning of his existence is one, common to both parts, so that he should not be found to be antecedent and posterior to himself, if the bodily element were first in point of time, and the other were a later addition." (On the Making of Man, xxix).
Concerning Pre-Existence, it is enough to say that any soul which existed in past eternity would be unbegotten; and this would place souls on an equality with God Himself--an impious and irreverent absurdity. Then, too, such a view itself would cancel out any requirement of the soul's salvation, considering that the soul, existing as it did in past eternity, would only return to its eternal state after death. For, if some new thing should befall the soul, God's eternal purpose would be divided against itself. But, if no new thing can befall the soul, (and this affirms the immutability of the Divine counsel,) what need is there for salvation?
The concept of Pre-Existence, which can be traced back to Plato, has been refuted so eloquently by the fathers, that we need not dwell upon it much further. A single quote from Irenaeus will suffice: "But all things which proceed from Him, whatsoever have been made, and are made, do indeed receive their own beginning of generation, and on this account are inferior to Him Who formed them, inasmuch as they are not unbegotten. Nevertheless they endure, and extend their existence into a long series of ages in accordance with the will of God their Creator; so that He grants them that they should be thus formed at the beginning, and that they should so exist afterwards." (Against Heresies, II. xxxiv. 2).
What, then, may be infer to be the truth of the matter? Certainly that the soul, having no prior existence in eternity, is formed in the act of conception, by what precise means we do not know, nor do we think it wise to peer too closely into such matters. Again, that the body, in order to have life at all, must have its own soul, so that soul and body begin together. And if you think about it, you'll soon discern that Traducianism is the correct doctrine. For if it were false, what need would there be for an Immaculate Conception? But, Christ being sinless, it was first of all necessary that He should be born of a Virgin. Then it was needful that Mary should conceive, not by man, but by the Holy Spirit. "And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest should overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy thing that shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1: 35).
Where are we going with all this? We are saying, in the clearest terms possible, that the sinful condition brought upon the race by Adam's transgression, and which includes physical death, and the transmission of ills from father to son, will be removed and blotted out in the First Resurrection--and that not hypothetically or subjectively, but in a real and objective sense. For as the warfare between the spirit and the flesh is experimental, so it will be removed in an experimental sense. As shame and disgrace are moral experiences, they must be removed experimentally, and not hypothetically. But, first man must be melted down in the crucible of death, that, rising into life from the ashes of corruption, like the Phoenix of yore, he may attain to that blessed newness of the First Resurrection. [... edit]..

Perhaps Isaiah had regard to these things, when, in predicting the "new heavens and new earth," he wrote: "They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them" (Isaiah 65: 23). And elsewhere he writes: "And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed" (Isaiah 61: 9). And the Psalmist, as if envisioning this new and glorious race to come in the days of the Messiah, writes: "There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth" (Psa. 72: 16). [..edit...].

However, let those who yet stand in doubt as to non-resurrected Israelites bearing children in that age, only bethink themselves of the doctrines of A-Millennialism, and even Post-Millennialism. Now, the former holds that we are living in the Millennium today. And yet the saints continue to bear children. According to their scheme marriage is not taken away until the second resurrection. Then, also, the great majority of Post-Millennialists teach that the "thousand years" are still future. Now, we teach nothing at variance with either A- or Post-Millennialists. For Chiliasm holds that the Millennium is future, that the non-resurrected, but wholly regenerated remnant of Israel, shall marry and have children, and that after the age is finished they shall be made "equal unto the angels" (Matt. 22: 30). [edit...]

...Although Commodian holds the belief that the resurrected saints will marry, other Chiliasts hold that we shall be made "equal unto the angels" when the First Resurrection begins. And really, the distinction is probably not a very vital one. After all, so long as one believes that there must be a personal return of Christ to restore all things, he should not be far from the truth, no matter which opinion he adopts. But, as Christ's advent is still future, there are struggles to endure, and trials to overcome. First, there must be a gathering together of the elect from the four corners of heaven (Matt. 24: 31). Next, a destruction of the wicked must take place. After that, a marvelous regeneration of the whole fabric of the world will occur. Then shall commence an age of glory, the likes of which man has never seen before.
To be continued...

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