Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Telos of Predestination

I've argued before that Romans 1:4 is exegetically determinative for 8:28-30 (but not necessarily for Eph. 1); that is, when St Paul talks about those "foreknown" being "predestined," that which they are predestined for is established by Christ's designation as the Son of God by the Spirit via the resurrection.  In other words, Christ is made publically known ("with power") as "Son of God" by virtue of His resurrection: we are assured of our status as "sons of God" in the present time by the same Spirit, even though we await our resurrection ("the adoption" of 8:23).  He is designated Son now, we are "pre-"designated, which is a better translation of proorizo than the Latin praedestinatus.  

The goal of this pre-designation (we might call it justification) is for us to "be conformed to the image of [God's] Son" (8:29), which, I wish to argue, is another way of speaking about the resurrection.  In 1 Corinthians 15, St Paul sets off on a complicated argument about the necessity of Christ's resurrection for our salvation.  In verses 47-49, he ends up making the same argument he made in Romans 8, albeit without the language of pre-designation/justification (which should make us wonder about whether or not the Apostle considered language about justification as important as we, post-Reformation, do).

"The first man: of the earth, earthly; the second man: the Lord, from heaven.  As the earthy, so also those earthy; and as the heavenly, so also those heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (translation mine-ish).

The Apostle's analogies are terse, which I've tried to reflect in the translation.  In the context of the whole passage, St Paul is saying that the image of the heavenly is the resurrection (otherwise the inclusion of this syllogism into the argument makes no sense).  Adam was an imperfect reflection of God's Image (Christ), especially as he abandoned likeness to God and fell into mortality ("for all have fallen short of the Glory of God"); Christ, as the Image and known now only "according to the Spirit" (the self-same Spirit that designated Him "Son" by the resurrection), grants immortality ("a life-giving Spirit") in the form of a share in His resurrection.

Here's where things get strange: all humans will partake in the resurrection, but the effects of it will be different based on their status before God while on earth.  In Romans, the Saint regularly uses language that can be interpreted in a universalist manner: "as through one man's offense death [cf. 5:12, 17] came to all through one Man's righteous act came righteousness to all men, resulting in justification of life" (5:18 -- v. 19 is curious here, as Paul changes from "all men" in both Adam's case and Christ's, to "many", yet is proving the same point).  That is to say, all through the resurrection of Christ participate in His resurrection, yet for some that will lead to further death ("the second death" of Revelation) for they will not be ready for the vision of the Glory of God.  This seems to be the reason that Paul can speak in such universalist and such exclusivist terms.  It also frees the predestination discourses from the impasse put on them by Augustine and Calvin, as the way we experience our common predestination ("to be conformed to the image of the Son" or resurrection) is not dependent on some secret, pre-historical decree of God, but rather on faith -- which St Paul is famous for saying is the way we get saved in the first place.

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