While I do not foresee myself sitting down with Thom Stark over a cup of coffee anytime soon this does not mean I cannot be thankful for his brash disregard for most of my attempts to present a hermeneutical approach to Ecclesiastes from the perspective of one who affirms inerrancy. As we went back and forth over whether or not Ecclesiastes 9.2-6 fits into the inerrancy paradigm it became painfully obvious that I have a knack for presenting fringe arguments that are more captivating than my primary argument which in turn detracts from what I really wanted to say. I have decided that I would simplify my approach to Ecclesiastes here in order to avoid adding to the confusion that has occurred in the comments section of James McGrath’s blog.

Why have I argued that Ecclesiastes 9.2-6–which blatantly denies the concept of resurrection–ought to be seen as an important canonical voice that presents truth that is not in contradiction with the rest of Scripture. For better or worse here are my three proposals:

(1) The content of Ecclesiastes is written “under the sun”. It is short-sighted focusing on the fact that this life comes to an end for the good and the bad. No one escapes death; no one lives life over. Once you are dead there is no coming back for another round.

(2) Nevertheless, the redactor/commentator of Ecclesiastes in 12.13-14 says that there may be more to this than what the Preacher has said. Therefore, the duty of humans is to “fear God and keep his commandments”. While this is a blind assertion with no promise of resurrection and/or eternal life it does assume something when it ends with “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” In context this does not seem to be a reference to this life though we must admit he does not expand any further.

(3) Therefore, it is true that death is the end all. But this does not contradict later teachings regarding resurrection. Instead, it assumes no knowledge of such a thing. When we speak of being resurrected we do not speak of coming back to this life. We speak of new life. Resurrection does not give you a second chance in the sense that the author of Ecclesiastes is critiquing. In fact, this life determines the nature of your resurrected existence.

So the author of Ecclesiastes is right: once dead, you are dead, there is no “coming back”. Resurrection is still true and compatible since we do not “come back” to this life but we are renewed to a new one.