I have come across this, because it was brought to my attention by a Reformed brother who I met through a Reformed discussion board. He was concerned that this particular author (whom I will cite at length) simply did not believe in the Resurrection. Not the Resurrection of Christ, nor the physical resurrection of the body at the end of the age.
Here is a key passage from our author in question:
The foregoing reflections may have made a little clearer what is involved in the biblical pronouncements about the resurrection: their essential content is not the conception of a restoration of bodies to souls after a long interval: their aim is to tell men that they, themselves, live on; not by virtue of their own power but because they are known and loved by God in such a way that they can no longer perish.Now, this seems to me as a classic liberal re-definition of the physical resurrection, and a lot like a kind of pantheism. But I don’t want to rush to judgment. And of course, in the spirit of this blog, we of course intend to provide context, and lots of it.
In contrast to the dualistic conception of immortality expressed in the Greek body-soul schema, the biblical formula of immortality through awakening is trying to impart a collective and dialogic conception of immortality: the essential part of man, the person remains; that which has ripened in the course of this earthly existence of corporeal spirituality and spiritualized corporeality goes on existing in a different fashion. It goes on existing because it lives in God’s memory. And because it is the man himself who will live, not an isolated soul, the element of human fellowship is also part of the future; for this reason the future of the individual man will only then be full when the future of humanity is fulfilled.
My dilemma is that I have not read huge amounts from this author, though I likely will read more in the future.
But I do have one of the books in question, and so I want to back up from that previous paragraph, a few pages, and to provide, at some length, the “foregoing reflections” from this author, just to be sure we are not misquoting him, or misunderstanding him, or taking him out of context.
We have discovered anew the indivisibility of man; we live our corporeality with a new intensity and feel it as the indispensable mode of realization of the one being of man. From this angle we can understand afresh the biblical message, which promises immortality not to a separated soul but to the whole man. Such feelings have in this [20th] century made evangelical theology in particular turn emphatically against the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul, which is wrongly regarded as a Christian idea too. In reality, so it is said, this idea expresses a thoroughly un-Christian dualism; the Christian faith knows only of the waking of the dead by God’s power. But doubts arise at once here: the Greek doctrine of immortality may well be problematical, but is not the biblical assertion still more incapable of fulfillment for us? The unity of man, fine, but who can imagine, on the basis of our present-day image of the world, a resurrection of the body?“The unity of man, fine.” So this concept of “the indivisibility of man,” “the unity of man,” is what is established by this writer in what precedes. And then, he begins to discuss what implications this has for the Christian doctrine of “the resurrection of the body.” Continuing with this thought:
This resurrection would also imply – or so it seems, at any rate – a new heaven and a new earth; it would require immortal bodies needing no sustenance, and a completely different condition of matter. But is this not all completely absurd, quite contrary to our understanding of matter and its modes of behavior, and therefore hopelessly mythological? Well I think that in fact one can only arrive at an answer if one enquires carefully into the real intentions of the biblical statement and at the same time considers anew the relation between the biblical and the Greek ideas.Now this is an idea that we can all embrace. We must “enquire carefully into the real intentions of the biblical statement” no doubt mentioned above that immortality is promised “not to a separated soul but to the whole man.” Again, not having read this author, I’m not sure what he means by this statement, but if we assume his prior analysis about “the whole man” is correct, then what follows is certain to be understandable in that light. Right?
For their encounter with each other [Greek and biblical ideas about immortality of man and the resurrection of the body] has modified both conceptions and thus overlaid the original intentions of both approaches with a new combined view which we must first remove if we want to find our way back to the beginning. First of all, the hope of the resurrection of the dead simply represents the basic form of the biblical hope of immortality; it appears in the New Testament not really as a supplement to a preceding and independent immortality of the soul but as the fundamental statement on the fate of man.Amen and amen!
There were, it is true, in late Jewish teachings hints of immortality on the Greek pattern, and this was probably one of the reasons why very soon the all-embracing scope of the idea of resurrection in the Graeco-Roman world was no longer grasped. Instead, the Greek notion of the immortality of the soul and the biblical message of the resurrection of the dead was each understood as half the answer to the question of the fate of man and the two were added together. It was thought that the already existing Greek fore-knowledge about the immortality of the soul had added to it by the Bible the revelation that at the end of the world bodies would be awoken too, to share henceforth for ever the fate of the soul – damnation or bliss.So here we have from our author an articulation of “the Greek conception” of the immortality of the soul. This seems accurate enough. Now for his analysis of the biblical conception:
As opposed to this, we must grasp the fact that originally it was not a question of two complementary ideas; on the contrary, we are confronted with two different total views, which cannot simply be added together: the image of man, of God and of the future, is in each case quite different, and thus at bottom each of the two views can only be understood as an attempt at a total answer to the question of human fate.
The Greek conception is based on the idea that man is composed of two intrinsically alien substances, one of which (the body) perishes, while the other (the soul) is in itself imperishable and therefore goes on existing in its own right independent of any other beings. Indeed, it was only in the separation from its essentially alien body, so it was thought, that the soul came into its own.
The biblical train of thought, on the other hand, presupposes the undivided unity of man [there we have that idea again, from above]; for example, Scripture contains no word denoting only the body (separated and distinguished from the soul), while conversely in the vast majority of cases the word soul too means the whole corporeally existing man; the few places where a different view can be discerned hover to a certain extent between Greek and Hebrew thinking and in any case by no means abandon the old view. The awakening of the dead (not of bodies!) of which Scripture speaks is thus concerned with the salvation of the one, undivided man, not just with the fate of one (so far as possible secondary) half of man [italics and parentheses in original]. It now also becomes clear that the real heart of the faith in the resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of the body, to which we have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible. What then, is the real content of the hope symbolically proclaimed in the Bible in the shape of the resurrection of the dead? I think that this can best be worked out by means of a comparison with the dualistic conception of ancient philosophy [bold emphasis added].Aha, here is a reason to be cautious with this writer.
In conjunction with the statement approaching pantheism that I noted at the beginning, this statement too ought to raise some red flags, especially for our perceptive readers (Sean Patrick, Paul Hoffer, David Waltz) who do not tolerate “inconsistency”. (Of course, these guys, being as perceptive and as well-read as they claim to be, almost certainly have seen through my ploy by this point, and are ready with exceptions to their doctrine of “inconsistency”.)
Like the fabled Peter Lampe, who does not believe that Paul wrote the “Pastoral Epistles,” this writer says that “the hope of the resurrection of the dead” is only “symbolically proclaimed” in the Bible.
We should rightfully be cautious of this man who thinks of the resurrection of the dead as being merely “symbolically proclaimed in the Bible.”
More to follow.