The Matter of This Age
How could such an antithetical message gain traction within the early Church?
Once again because there's a similarity to Biblical categories which not only differ from Gnostic impulses but from the Evangelical views of Reeves, ones he believes represent the Christianity of the New Testament.
In Romans 8 we read of the struggles of the flesh and spirit. As mentioned previously flesh is usually equated with the sinful nature and yet in this passage the interchangeability with 'body' or soma indicates the question is a little more complicated. Creation groans, and it's made clear the effects of the curse are such that there is no redemption to be found in this age. Redemption is Spirit-wrought, resting in hope... hope in the age to come when all will be reconciled and made new. Reeves as well as the New Testament Hellenistic-Judaizer reject the idea that the creation is subject to futility. They believe that through their own efforts they can effectively undo this reality and transform this age into the Kingdom of God.
Once again we point to the well known 1 Corinthians 7 passage and its exhortations regarding marriage, but not only marriage, rather our posture toward this world or age in general.
We are commanded by the Apostle to use the things of this world as a form which is passing away. In other words this world is temporary, an impermanent order. Once again this implies in philosophical terms that This Age is something less than true. It does not endure. It is not timeless, it is not permanent. Again this is not an attack on the notion of material creation but rather a broadside on this present cursed age/cosmos. This world, this creation is indeed under curse.
In this light, Paul suggests that it is actually better not to marry. He would that all were even as him. While Dominionists and most certainly modern Evangelicalism glorify conjugal relations, the New Testament does not. We might add for many of them the political aspect is of particular import, a notion not only outside Paul's teaching but opposed to it. The commentary on the world in 1 Corinthians 7 is built upon the sentiments expressed regarding the world back in chapter 5. Clearly the Apostle does not share either the vision of the Dominionist or his assumptions.
Again, here's the danger, the point of close contact with Gnosticism. The Gnostics tended to reject marriage because coitus produced a multiplication of matter, it perpetuated material creation. This is not the view of Paul or the New Testament and yet the Apostle clearly does not embrace the view of marriage now common in our contemporary circles.
Marriage is reckoned holy and covenantal when cast in terms of a Christian relationship. In that sense it is redeemed as a type of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
And yet in another sense it is clearly impermanent and temporary. Marriage does not continue into The Age to Come. In this sense the institution is ultimately part of the common order. It is a means and not an end.
As our Lord makes clear there will be no marriage in heaven and thus even conjugality is necessarily temporary. Assuming a role akin to or perhaps even higher than the angels such relations will also be forbidden to us.
This point in particular demonstrates the nature of the Age to Come vis-à-vis Eden and even necessarily adjusts our notions of heaven and the accompanying Biblical typology that echoes the Edenic narrative. While the image presented to us in Revelation reveals a repetition of the garden imagery and the Tree of Life, this New Eden as it were will be qualitatively different.
If one wishes to push the parallels we can be drawn to re-examine the nature of the so called Dominion Mandate and its command regarding multiplication and fruitfulness.
Did Adam and Eve fulfill this command in the way we would today understand? Did they engage in marital relations while in the garden? The fact that no children were produced, that we're told of, indicates that either we've misunderstood the nature of the Edenic order or perhaps it instead points to the brevity of their pre-lapsarian tenure in the garden.
The Bible certainly doesn't view creation as 'crude' or 'icky' to use Reeves terms. Its fallen status is not intrinsic or inherent, rather it's revealed as corrupted, polluted, cursed, dying and destined for destruction. In this light our attitudes as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are certainly affected and produce a life-focus and ethic that differs from the Gnostics to be sure but is also radically different from the transformationalist tendencies of modern Evangelicalism.
What is true and real? That which is eternal.
The Bible looks to the New Heavens and New Earth for true everlasting light, water and thus matter. This is why there is such emphasis in keeping one's focus on heaven, laying up our treasures there and living as those who already experience life and union with Christ.
The Gnostics and Hellenistic Judaizers perverted these doctrines by a process of philosophical syncretisation. Like all philosophical systems they sought to create a coherence that reconciled eternal truths (mostly speculations in their case) with physical realities. This generated a set of ethics. For the Gnostics the focus tended to be on a divine unity or what we might call in today's terms a singularity. The Hellenistic Judaizers took some of the concepts and depending on the school of thought mixed and matched them with visions of ultimacy and eternity found in sanctified creation and the permanence of a physical regulated order reigned over by them and the members of their sect.
Reeves and Dominionists seek in pantheistic fashion to reify and essentially deify creation in This Age. Their understanding of the division or break between This Age and The Age to Come is minimised and downplayed. They see it more in terms of a transition rather than a radical break with severe discontinuity. In this sense, in many ways and aspects they exhibit a resonance with the Hellenistic Judaizers. The form is not exactly the same but near enough and though our context is different the gravity and nature of the error are the same.
For them the Kingdom is present in This Age through the sanctification of the physical order. Quite literally the Kingdom is built through the sanctification of dirt, marital relations, art, politics and the like. By sanctifying, or holy-ising these things they make them part of the divine transcendent order (the Kingdom) and thus it is no great surprise to find that many of them (borrowing from the Dutch Reformed) embracing the notion that the cultural achievements of this age will be with us in the hereafter.
In other words we will in some sense take it with us.
On the contrary we through the Spirit, through Union with Christ we who live in the space/time of this creation participate in the transcendent, eternal, spiritual even Real Kingdom. The Kingdom is not here. This world comes into contact with it through the ministrations and presence of the Spirit. Like aliens, like the pilgrims and strangers we are, as Spirit-bearers we live in This Age as exiles awaiting our return. People encounter the Kingdom through our witness and testimony and through the power of the Spirit to transform lives. Our meetings are not artistic expressions of cultural affirmation and power but rather are transcendent gatherings and participations in the Divine Counsel. We are elevated as it were into heaven, meeting with the saints before the Heavenly Throne. Our worship takes us to heaven.
The Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2) speaks of a realm and existence that has not even entered our minds, it is imperceptible to this worldly epistemology. The New Age will be of such an order (Isaiah 65, 2 Peter 3, Revelation 21) that the former things will no longer be remembered. Even if this is taken to be hyperbolic it still defeats the Dominionist belief that culture survives the Eschaton.
The Dominionists would pull down heaven and unfurl it across the earth in the form of conquest and transformation. The implications of this doctrinal inversion are so profound as to completely transform the nature of the Church, yea the nature of our faith and how it is defined.
The Dominionist-Evangelical view advocated by Reeves is not specifically Gnostic but Judaizing and more specifically Hellenised-Judaizing for even the Dominionist view is riddled by and infected with Hellenistic notions with regard to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics. It represents a holistic philosophical framework that presents a coherence, but once again something other than what the Scriptures teach. The forms, methods, concepts and goals are different. Like the enemies of the Apostles, they appropriate New Testament concepts, pattern their language and even some of the ideas with that of the New Testament. But ultimately their form of Christianity is a deviation and has imposed another gospel on the Church.
Continue reading Part 4
Continue reading Part 4