Thursday, May 14, 2020

Labor Pains

"[in Romans 8]  Paul wants to make clear, this side of the world to come, there are some things that have to happen, still.  And, one he says is that those who are sons are heirs.  Now, heirs of what?  Well I think, in light of Romans as a whole, heirs of the heavenly world to come, that through His death and resurrection Jesus has inaugurated, begun, a new world.  For Paul as a former Pharisee, as a Jew, ultimately I think as a Jew his hope is, as was the hope of many Pharisees, that there would be a resurrection of the just when a new heavens and a new earth would dawn in full. ... When Paul saw Jesus alive on the road to Damascus, it was not just a gamechanger for him personally, it was a gamechanger for the cosmos because that world is now inaugurated, it started right in the midst of human history. ... And, so, it changed everything for Paul and that's what he is saying we are heirs of.  And then he gives the proviso, provided that we suffer with Him in order that we might be glorified with Him.  And that is a comprehensive "provided"! ... He keeps going and further explains the rationale, he said that all creation now is groaning and he uses a term with rich significance for the faith of Israel, "labor pains", all of creation is in birth pangs.  There's a heritage, beginning in the book of Daniel and onward, in Jewish faith, not all of it but in certain segments of second temple Judaism, there was a hope that there would be a new heavens and a new earth dawns but only after a period of tribulation, great suffering.  Brant Pitre wrote his dissertation on this in the gospels, that the birth pangs are a great suffering before the dawning of a new world.  Brant shows that Jesus was inaugurating that, that He was the one going ahead as the son of Man.  Paul I think is cut from the same cloth, he is saying that this new world comes and has been inaugurated through Christ's suffering but here's the kicker:  all the rest of those who belong to Him continue to suffer and that constitutes the birth pangs of this new world.  And, so, through the suffering of the adopted children, this births the heavenly world to come.  So Paul can continue on and then say, the hidden purposes of God in predestination are to predestine all those to be conformed to the image of the Son, who is the first born of many brothers.  So He went and all the rest of the adopted son and daughters continue that work, and that work is through their sufferings, it's the birth pangs of bringing a new heavens and a new earth.  So our suffering is the necessary condition for birthing this new heavens and new earth. 

...What's interesting is that Ignatius of Antioch, in 110AD, doesn't seem to miss this kind of logic.  He doesn't use the language of birth pangs, to my remembrance, he talks about becoming the "wheat" of God, that he will offer himself up and he says that he's only begun to be a disciple and that he will only fully be a disciple when he is conformed to Christ crucified.  The trajectory of Ignatius' life was to be fully conformed to Christ crucified.  You can see this logic work itself out in many corners of the early church, that the call to full discipleship is the call to give themselves like the Master.  Whether or not they're thinking about say this book of Daniel and these other second temple texts that weren't necessarily canonical, they were living it.  That is, that they were looking to continue to birth this new world to come, which is why you could see this in the rise of the cult of the martyrs, that their deaths would be called their birth day.  And it's their birth into that world! "
Dr. John Kincaid, The Art of Catholic, podcast 99.

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