Bringing Biblical Studies, Theology and the Life of the Church Together
A Review of
Jesus and the Demise of Death: Resurrection, Afterlife and the Fate of the Christian
Hardback: Baylor UP, 2012
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Reviewed by Nick Jordan
Matthew Levering is the Director of the Center for Scriptural Exegesis, Philosophy, and Doctrine at the University of Dayton, and so it is no surprise that scriptural exegesis, philosophy, and doctrine are the approaches he takes to each of the enormous questions he tackles in his Jesus and the Demise of Death: Resurrection, Afterlife, and the Fate of the Christian.
Levering’s book does not read so much as a monograph but as a connected series of essays. Part I, “The Passage of Jesus Christ,” explores Christ’s descent into Hell, his Resurrection, and the Ascension. Part II, “The Passage of Christ’s People,” speaks to the nature of the Church, the language and reality of “meriting” eternal life, the nature of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the beatific vision. And this is all accomplished in 129 pages.
In regard to Levering’s attention to Scripture, it is incredibly refreshing to find a theologian who chooses to converse with contemporary biblical scholars. (Some Protestant readers, however, will have difficulty with a heavy reliance on the witness of deuterocanonical books in some sections). In regard to philosophy and doctrine, Levering engages with a broad array of theologians and other thinkers, but from early in the book to its end, Thomas Aquinas repeatedly emerges as the voice which is most persuasive to Levering on every topic which he covers.
This points toward something which must be said of this book: it is unapologetically a work of academic theology. Those unfamiliar with Aquinas in particular will struggle through parts of the book, and the length of the text is nearly matched by the length of its Notes and Works Cited. This is also not the text for those looking for a pastoral resource in times of grief and loss, despite the hope which it proclaims for Christ’s total victory over sorrow, suffering, and death.
Levering’s Jesus and the Demise of Death is recommended for those interested in its subject matter and possessing the tools for reading academic theology. It is highly recommended for those among us who believe that the faithful way into the future for followers of Christ requires deep conversation and communion among the habitually separated spheres of Biblical studies, theological studies, and the life of the Church.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
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