Resurrection Ethics

Matthew Davis

Matt Davis is writing an M.A. thesis at Northeastern Seminary on the ethics of resurrection in the New Testament. He kindly agreed for me to post a recent email exchange we had.

Guest Post from Matt Davis—A Student’s Note after Class

I’ve been struggling with how my life should be reflecting my study of resurrection ethics. You write on the last two pages of chapter 7 (“Resurrection and the Restoration of Rule”) in your forthcoming book, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, that the “resurrection turns the world upside down.”

I have been trying to get a better understanding of turning certain habits in my life upside down. I have been thinking more about my income and where my money goes. How much I give, and where I give it, is becoming increasingly important to me.

Also, you say that the cultural mandate and the resurrection “cannot be separated” and I agree. Your understanding of the cultural mandate in association with resurrection (the notion that God will restore the righteous to earth-stewardship) has given voice to my recent interest in ecology and being a responsible person concerning the earth. After discussing the resurrection, Paul says that “in the Lord our labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). I see people’s everyday ecological choices as laboring in the Lord, knowing they are not in vain.

Using the language of “power” and our “misuse” of that power, I feel an increased responsibility to fulfill the cultural mandate, and, in doing so, “anticipate and embody God’s new world that is coming” (last sentence in chapter 7).

I feel like I’m thinking aloud and most of this is obvious, but thought I would send this off to you since I wasn’t able to speak to you after class Thursday.

Middleton Response to Matt Davis

Thank you so much, Matt, for sharing these profound thoughts with me. I’m glad to see you thinking about (and struggling with) these things.

I certainly don’t have full answers to all your questions. And I can’t say that I fully live out my own ideals. But I think it is important to continue on the journey, and keep on raising questions so we don’t become complacent.

I also don’t believe we should become guilt-ridden and paralyzed over these questions. For two reasons.

First, salvation (including resurrection and the restoration of rule) is God’s gift to us before it is a calling to fulfill in our lives. God is already at work in us by his Spirit before we even begin to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Second, we are part of a body/ community tasked with embodying God’s coming kingdom. Therefore, it is unrealistic to think that one individual could fully embody this kingdom. We are in process together with others, and should be encouraging each other and challenging each other to manifest the kingdom in more and more consistent ways.

One of the things I’ve said for a long time is that I need a church community that is aware they are trying to answer the question of what it means to be the church faithfully in the contemporary context. That I haven’t always found such a community has often been a source of disappointment for me.

As you know, the church I’ve been attending (Community of the Savior) was constituted formally as a Free Methodist Church this past Sunday (and I became a charter member). At that ceremony one of our pastors said explicitly that we are beginning to realize that we need to keep asking the question of how we are to be the church today (rather than just continue on our merry way in acquiescence with the status quo).

This awareness of the question helps me know that “in the Lord [my] labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

We should talk more about this face-to-face.