Monday, August 9, 2010

Donald Fairbairn on What is "Eternal Life"?

Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology With the Help of the Church FathersWe all know that Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in him. But what is eternal life? Most of us think of it either as a synonym for "heaven" or as meaning "living forever." But neither of these gets to the heart of what eternal life, in the biblical sense, means. "Heaven," the way many people use the word, means little more than the actualization of whatever a particular person happens to like. Heaven is the place where you never have to work or where you can play baseball all day long or where you can eat whatever you want and not have to worry about your cholesterol level. The word heaven has been trivialized so much that it is almost meaningless today. And "living forever" can be misleading as well. According to Scripture, all people are going to live forever, in one way or another. One of the marks of the significance God has given to every human being is that all will live forever, either with God or apart from God. But that is not what Jesus means by "eternal life" here. Rather, the phrase translated "eternal life" means "life of the age." It is referring to a future age, to the new kind of life that God will establish at the end of history, a life that will be shared by all those who believe in Christ and follow him. Eternal life is not just living forever; it is living in a certain way, having a certain quality of life that is available only to those who have faith in Christ.
Donald Fairbairn, Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers. IVP Academic, 2009, p. 29 (emphasis mine).

I would like to thank the kind folks at IVP Academic for the review copy of this book.  I would also like to thank Giotis Kantartzis, pastor of 1st Greek Evangelical Church of Athens, for his hearty recommendation of this book.  So far, this has been a challenging and thought-provoking read!