The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function (The Crack-Up, 1936).
Saturday, February 26, 2011
It occurred to me that my response to a comment here would be instructive for readers of this blog, given recent postings here and here. The portion of my response, which I post here with some additional material, concerns a quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote,
I regard Fitzgerald’s statement a classic example of denying the law of non-contradiction. Therefore, it hardly describes what I affirm concerning justification [eternal life, redemption, salvation, et al.], both already and not yet, in the blog entry to which the comment is attached. I do not "hold two opposed ideas in [my] mind at the same time" in any of what I posted in my blog entries linked above.
I firmly believe in the law of non-contradiction. I also believe that Jesus believes in the law of non-contradiction. I still believe that two antithetical propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. I still believe that Y cannot be non-Y. This is crucial for understanding what I am affirming in my blog entry.
As I state in my entry here, Christ’s first advent sweeps forward two correlated acts of God from the Last Day—resurrection and judgment.
Therefore, all the biblical imageries that portray salvation in Christ, whether salvation, eternal life, resurrection, judgment, justification, et al., have their framework of already come but not yet consummated fully oriented to the two-phase coming of God’s Son. Thus, his coming with two distinguishable phases locates, determines, and defines the already and the not yet aspects of salvation, of eternal life, of resurrection, of judgment, of justification, et al.
Christ Jesus is come already; not yet come is Jesus Christ.
It is self-evident that in order for these two statements, arranged in a chiasm, to be truthful, the second affirmation cannot mean that Jesus Christ is “not yet come” in precisely the same way and in the same sense that the first statement asserts that he “is come already.” Such an assertion would be irrational. The Scriptures are not irrational but they do present Christ’s two-phase coming in riddle-like form that beckons understanding that requires belief.
Jesus presents such a riddle when he announces, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).” Because, Jesus has “life in himself” and authoritatively claims, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 5:26; 11:25), he issues his riddle: Resurrection is come already; not yet come is resurrection. It is a riddle, but it is not contradictory. It is not contradictory because Jesus' second affirmation does not mean that resurrection is not yet come in the same way and in the same sense that his first affirmation declares that resurrection is come already. Jesus' riddle does not violate the law of non-contradiction. Contradiction is only in the mind of the one who accuses the riddle of contradiction. The mind that imputes contradiction to Jesus' riddle fails both to believe and to understand.
Jesus’ riddle calls for belief. Understanding comes through faith. Yet, many Christians find it difficult to hold in proper balance this biblical tension that Christ’s two-phase coming gives to the salvation that he has already inaugurated but has not yet consummated. Instead of reconciling their beliefs and thinking to Scripture’s portrayal of salvation as a single integrated whole that Christ brings to his people in two aspects or phases—already and not yet—because the tension seems unbearable, many Evangelicals adjust Scripture’s portrayal to fit their shrunken conception of salvation. They tend to grasp hold of the already aspect as from grace and exaggerate it out of biblical proportion. And they tend to recast the not yet aspect as a non-integrated and non-essential phase of salvation but instead regard it as a bonus earned by only some believers who through their own achievement merit a reward.