Since 2007, Brian Blount has been the president and professor of New Testament at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, VA, and Charlotte, NC. Before that, Dr. Blount was the professor of New Testament Interpretation at Princeton Theological Seminary for 15 years. In this interview, we focus on his most recent publication Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrection (2014).
RD: What led you into researching and writing Invasion of the Dead?
BB: I initially wanted to write about our contemporary understanding and misunderstanding of apocalyptic literature. I was very interested in trying to help the church read apocalyptic literature in the context of the 21st century, particularly in light of the way contemporary popular culture was reading apocalyptic language and imagery. This concern developed because of my sense that popular culture had really taken a liking to material that the church had given up on, even though apocalyptic imagery is a part of Christianity’s birthright. The more I worked on it, the more I realized that there were many persons, like my former teacher, J. Christiaan Beker, already speaking to this issue. What they were not speaking to more specifically was the language of resurrection, which is consummate apocalyptic language. As I focused more and more, my interest went more and more to reading resurrection as an apocalyptic theological reality.
RD: You write that we are living in a time of the “walking dead?” What do zombies have to do with our Christian faith?
BB: Well, of course, zombies don’t have anything to do with our Christian faith. As popular culture describes them, they are a counter to, perhaps even a critique of our Christian faith, particularly that part of the faith that deals with resurrection, with living again. Here is one place where popular culture has taking our language and misshaped it and we’ve not responded to that mis-shaping, I don’t think. My concern is that there is a component of zombie thinking, though, that does have meaning, even if popular culture doesn’t see it. That is, the general idea of how “the living dead” generally develop: a virus or cataclysmic event that causes persons to take on this reality. Theologically, following Paul, we believe that in Adam’s trespass in the Garden, a virus of death was let loose in a world designed for life. That virus has trapped all of us. Paul calls it being a slave to sin and death. Until Christ’s death and resurrection, and without the impact of that gracious gift, we are living trapped by death, a slave to this virus still. With Christ’s death and resurrection, that enslavement is broken. Still, however, even those of us who participate in the Lordship of Christ and are bound to that Lordship (and not the lordship of death) live in a reality of deadness. Until Christ returns, this world, from an apocalyptic standpoint, is still a world that has been invaded by Death. God has invaded it once to break the power of Death, in terms of its ability to enslave us. God will invade completely in the second coming of Christ where Death will be obliterated. In that age, both those who are the living dead (separate from Christ) and those living in deadness (following Christ, but still in a world invaded by Death) will be transformed.
RD: You also proclaim that “resurrection is a weapon.” How so?
BB: I allude to that above. With Christ’s resurrection, God broke the power of Death to enslave human kind. With Christ’s return, and the resurrection of ALL the dead, the power of Death will be completely destroyed. (Resurrected) Life destroys Death.
RD: How do you weigh in on debates about the “bodily” resurrection versus a more metaphorical understanding?
BB: Well, I follow Paul, that there will be a spiritual body. So, I take 1 Corinthians 15 as the blueprint. I don’t think it will be a body like the one we now inhabit, but I do believe it will be bodily, as in a spiritual body as Paul talks about there.
RD: How would you describe a community of faith that reads this book, discerns its implications together and then lives it out?
BB: That we should live as though God has invaded this world on our behalf, and now our task is to become agents of that invasion, restaging it in our ministries and our lives, in anticipation of the final invasive act that will be the resurrection of ALL the dead.