Friday, February 27, 2009

Already and Not Yet

The 'already / not yet' paradigm has been helpful, especially in the are of the theology of the kingdom. I wrote up the table above because I think it can be extended to salvation, and even to individual elements in soteriology. I would appreciate interaction on this.


eric O said...

I love the already/not yet system because of how much sense it makes of where we seem to be in salvation history. There are some major things that were promised in the OT that we are experiencing in abundance, while there are other things that are nowhere to be found. And, as your chart makes clear, there are a lot of things that we think are future which the NT says are present. But there are also things that we think are present which the NT emphasizes as future.

I remember a guy telling me that "salvation" is always future in the NT. It doesn't take too much digging to see that this isn't true but, to his credit, salvation is more often future than it is present. This should make us think a little more deeply about things.

What I think would be interesting is a list of things that fit the "already" category and not the "not yet" category and vice versa. What are those things that are fully and concretely ours now that we do not have to wait for? And what things is it wrong for us to want now because they are only future. Off the top of my head I'm gonna go with the presence of the Holy Spirit for the former (because I can't think of any references to that being future) and glorified bodies for the latter (because it's easy).

Donna said...

Thanks for the interaction. One of the challenges of talk about salvation is trying to distinguish between metaphor and reality. How can we be both born and adopted? In normal language you are either adopted into a family or born into a family. It seems like overdoing it to do both. Oh and making that transition also includes reconciling you because before your 'birth' you were God's enemy. And you were not only not born yet, you were dead. And so making that transition was also a bringing you back to life from the dead.

My point (and it is certainly debatable) is that I would like to not have items that only appear in one or the other column. I believe that every element listed has an already and not yet aspect to it. The glorified body I think in some sense begins with conversion. It is in no way complete, or even substantial, but to me 2 Cor 3:18 includes the body. It is a whole person experience, like 1 Thess 5:23. Also, there is an already aspect to the Holy Spirit's presence. He certainly is with us. But His presence is nothing now like it will be then.

My understanding of already / not yet is not "is" and "isn't", but rather "initiation and completion of process" and "initiation and fulness of experience".

Donna said...

Obviously the above post and comment are from Mark, not Donna (notice the picture).

eric O said...

First of all, your "voice" gives you away more than your picture so, don't think that I'll ever confuse you with your wife.

I see what you are saying about keeping these things out of categories like "is" and "isn't" but having something like a scale from "inaugurated" to "fully realized." And that seems a bit more theologically sound than the way I stated it.

But can we be categorically concrete about any of it?

I'm having a hard time seeing how bodily glorification has been actually inaugurated in me at all. My physical body is in a state of decay that is irreversible. Even my inner spiritual growth (heart, mind, soul) doesn't keep my physical body from falling apart. It is not until it is resurrected that it will be glorified (which includes a state of never decaying). Not that they—body and soul—are disjointed, distinct entities or anything like that. It just seems to me that bodily glorification is a solely future reality that I have assurance of (it is hard for me to say that having a hope makes something inaugurated - but I could be wrong here) but that is not in any way in process now. I'll look into II Co. 3:18 and see if I can get your point.

Matt said...

Mark (and Eric),

I've often 'joked' -- if/when you come across a phrase (or verse or section) in Paul that just doesn't seem to make sense, run it through the 'already/not yet' grid....and the problem will miraculously go away! heh...

Truth be told, NT exegesis isn't that simple. But in terms of understanding how Paul's theology unfolds, the 'already/not yet' is really important to understand to make heads and tails out of all of this!

One thing I would add -- the force of the 'already' in the scheme doesn't simply begin with its application to us but rather comes via the benefits antecedently true of Christ.

I Cor. 1:30 comes to mind -- "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." Notice Paul is not simply saying that we receive wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and reception from Christ....but rather he himself are these things for us! Hence the all-importance of 'en Christo' for Paul as the means whereby all of these soteric categories true of Christ become ours.

So take something like justification. Paul's 'already' for our justification doesn't strictly-speaking begin with us but rather begin with Christ (II Tim 3:16). The difficulty is that we're not use to thinking in those categories, precisely because we're so use to thinking of justification as that which happens to *sinners*...and of course Christ was no sinner. So we miss the connection that Paul makes.

But Paul's 'union with Christ' soteriology is chock full with this kind of stuff that's difficult to conceptualize. Romans 6:1ff. immediately comes to mind. Paul can say that we have (ALREADY) 'died to sin' (vs. 2), and yet in the same basic breath exhort us to let sin reign in our mortal bodies (vs. 12). Conceptually, that's difficult to grasp, precisely because 'dead to sin' sounds to us like a 'not yet' category.

Hence the reason why 'glorification' as an 'already' category sounds very strange to us, because we're so use to thinking of it purely in terms of final eschatological categories. But as Paul points out "the end of the ages has (ALREADY) come" (I Cor. 10:11). That's the force, I think, of the 'end' in II Cor. 3, that is something that has 'already' come! But of course, that's not the only 'end' (cf. I Cor. 15:24) that Paul speaks about. The 'end' is already, and not yet. And so the glory that Paul pictures in II Cor. 3:18 is both already and not yet...and it's predicated on the already reality of Lord-Spirit in 3:17, elsewhere spoken of in terms of "the last Adam becoming a life-giving Spirit" (I Cor. 15:45).

Ridderbos' Paul: An Outline of His Theology is absolutely marvelous on this stuff.