Eternal God, Eternal Life

This project involves an international team of theologians in sustained collaborative investigation of the following interrelated questions concerning the concept of human immortality:

• First, what is the significance and consequence of conceiving of immortality first and foremost as an attribute of God and an aspect of the divine life, and only thereafter and derivatively of human existence?

• Second, what are the consequences for the present life of conceiving of the reality of the future promise of human immortality as an eschatological gift of God?

First, in the Christian theological tradition, immortality and concepts closely related to it (i.e., eternity, infinity, incorruptibility, immutability, etc.) are first and properly predicates solely of God. This means that immortality may only be predicated of creaturely life analogously on the basis of the outworking of the history of salvation through which humans are graciously given to partake in something of the character of the divine life itself. Our understanding of the meaning and promise of human 'life everlasting' will therefore be determined decisively by our understanding of the immortal and eternal character of God's own life, as well as our conception of how it is that this ineffable divine life establishes and gives rise to human immortality. Debates about how best to understand the eternal life of God are thus directly significant to how we can imagine the promise of eternal life.

Second, immortality is generally conceived to be a future qualification of human reality. Yet precisely as such it is also of crucial present importance. Theological approaches to the question of personal immortality must investigate the difference that the hope and promise of such eternal life makes in the living of present-day spiritual life as well as in our common moral and political existence. To understand immortality as an eschatological gift of God requires that we take account of it as a formative factor at the foundations of Christian ethics and political theology. Our project's second main concern is therefore to explore critically and creatively the question of the formative significance of the doctrine of immortality as an element of Christian hope for the shaping of human moral existence in the here and now.

In sum, the project investigates the concept of immortality as it emerges from its natural home within the doctrine of God and goes on to find its telos as an eschatological qualification of human life that presses even now in a determinative way upon all aspects of contemporary existence. While historically informed and responsible, the project is one in constructive Christian theology whose aim is to pursue these distinctive lines of inquiry in order to significantly enhance, complicate and deepen the overarching research ambitions of the Templeton Foundation Immortality Project.