A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Resurrection Is About Bodies

David F. Watson nails it! If Jesus' resurrection does not include his body, I have no idea what to preach this Easter Sunday. Without a bodily resurrected Jesus, the message of the gospel goes from Christ crucified and risen to humanity enlightened and now improved. I don't find that "gospel" to be very interesting.
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As we enter into Holy Week, there will be a number of posts in social media about how the resurrection of Christ is a metaphor for liberation, anti-imperialism, compassion, or something else, along with the claim that this metaphor, rather than the raising up of Jesus' body, is what truly matters. You will read people who say that they do not understand the resurrection to be the "resuscitation of a corpse," or vaguely reference other ancient Mediterranean myths in which venerated figures rose from the dead. There will be articles in the various newsweeklies with headlines like, "Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?" There will be "documentaries" on the History Channel purporting to investigate the reality of this claim.


Of course, no orthodox Christian believes that the resurrection was the resuscitation of a corpse. Rather, those who read the Bible and have taken the time to learn and understand the doctrine of the resurrection will know that it refers to the transformation of Jesus’ body into something that is continuous with, but still different from, the body he had before his death. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, there are both heavenly and earthly bodies. He is clear that the heavenly body is in some way similar to, but in important ways different from, our earthly bodies. In the way that various types of bodies on earth differ from one another (say, bodies for birds, fish, and people), so the heavenly body will be different from the earthly one.

Resurrection is about bodies: no body, no resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is the raising and transformation of a body, the "first fruits" of what is to come (1 Cor 15:20). "First fruits" is an agricultural metaphor. At the time of the harvest, one would gather a small portion of the crops on the first day and gather the rest subsequently. That, says Paul, is what the resurrection of Jesus is like. Christ has been gathered in first, but we will also participate in the same kind of transformation. Our eternal life with God will be embodied, but differently from the way we experience embodiment now.

There is, of course, much that we cannot know about the resurrection body. Like other great doctrines of the faith, the resurrection is a mystery. To be clear, to call something a "mystery" doesn't mean that we can know nothing of it. It means that there will be much we don’t understand. Understanding incompletely is different from a total lack of understanding. We can know certain things about God and make certain truth claims about God because we have received these through divine revelation, and even though God's being vastly surpasses our ability to understand, we can still hold as true that which has been revealed.
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David's must-read post is found here.

1 comment:

bthomas said...

Thank you for the post. And thank you for the link.