The last post discussed the universal effect of God’s work of glorification. All of creation will eventually be redeemed and brought into union with the Divine. This post will look at the culmination of that union. In order to do so we will revisit the crucial 1 Cor. 15 chapter.
Paul includes a very odd eschatological passage as a transition from his explanation of resurrection to glorification. This passage describes the end result of God’s activity. It provides a glimpse into the static state that everything will exist in.
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power.For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” (1Cor. 15: 22-28)
What is odd about this passage is its strong subordinationist message. The traditional way of resolving this is to attribute this event to the economic subordination that exists in the Trinity. The problem is that this implies an eternal subordination by stating that after the Son has performed all of His purposes, He will then be made subject to the Father.
Rather than economic subordination, this passage may actually be explaining the economic union that will finally exist in the Godhead. An ontological union has always existed, but the Father, Son, and Spirit have had different roles which creates the economic subordination. However, when these roles cease there will no longer be any subordination at all which will result in a perfect and complete union in the Godhead.
All means all
The event of the Son subjecting Himself to the Father will include the whole kingdom being handed over to the Father. The kingdom consists of everything that is a part of the King’s domain, His property so to speak. Everything that is a part of the kingdom will enter into union with the Father.
En route to this union, the Son will destroy all of His enemies. This is what will liberate creation from its futility (see previous post). The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. Through Christ’s resurrection power everything that is a part of His kingdom will be made alive. The purifying effect of removing Christ’s enemies will create the monistic union so that all that remains will be subject to the Son just as the Son will be made subject to the Father. Once this glorious union takes place God will be “all in all.” Everything will be a part of God. This is Pantheism.
The first post in this series provided a brief explanation of the difference between Pantheism and Panentheism. Technically, Panentheism is the view that nature is a part of God but that He is beyond nature. However, there is such a wide range of beliefs within Pantheism that it is too rigid to think that all Pantheists consider nature and God to be synonymous. The eschatological portrait that the scriptures create is that all of creation will become a part of God as it is united with Him. The specific title that one places on that is not really important. I believe it is fair to call it Pantheism.
The most dangerous tenet of Pantheism is it’s deification of man. To state that man is a part of God is not a far leap from stating that man is God. There is no doubt that a qualitative distinction exists between God & man, but will that distinction always exist? If so, how can all be one?
First, it seems just too heretical to believe that man will ever be equal to or synonymous with God. Certain Christian traditions have proposed doctrines that seem to indicate something of this sort (e.g. theosis), but have stopped short of the total deification of man. In order to remain orthodox we must maintain the infinite qualitative distinction, but dualism does not necessarily follow from that.
Distinction does not mean division. There is distinction in the Godhead, but God is still one. However, there is not a qualitative distinction amongst the persons of the Trinity like there is with man. This is why the view that God will be beyond nature is to be preferred. God will bring creation into Himself as a part of Himself, but a degree of transcendence will always exist. Thus, we will be in Christ, but we will not be Christ. The divine union will be complete despite our distinctions.
This is the mysterious picture of Eschatological Pantheism that I have attempted to construct. I do believe that it is a biblical portrait albeit quite speculative. I will post some concluding and practical thoughts in my last post in this series.