May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will leave the world a little better for your having been here. -- Ronald Reagan

Monday, January 11, 2016

Resurrection-Body or Spirit?

I had always understood that resurrection meant bodily resurrection. One of those things obvious to me like the Trinity; Father, Son, Holy Spirit. In early Christianity, there were a lot of debates about the latter. How could three things exist in one thing simultaneously? For me, it just is, I just accept it and understand, mind to heart to soul, this is true.

The Gnostics posited that Jesus was a spirit body manifesting itself in the material world. To me, that makes no sense. To make the idea even more incomprehensible is the spirit body of Jesus imparted some kind of esoteric knowledge, gnosis (Greek). What that secret knowledge leads to is a way out of the material world.

Once accomplished, according to this idea, you become a spirit body, you escape the physical, material world. The physical world is evil, the spirit world is good. The Church Fathers found this heretical. I agree. It’s clear to me Jesus is exactly what He said He is. What He said is clear and means exactly what He said. No big secret here.

When I said I had always understood that resurrection meant bodily resurrection means just that, I’m surprised to find out that a majority of Christians believe, like the Gnostics, that resurrection is spiritual resurrection, the body is separated from the spirit. I’m thinking, really? How did that happen?

It’s been infiltrating Christianity for a long time. For about a hundred years, give or take, the idea that being resurrected means leaving matter/material/physical behind, separating from it has been growing. It’s an escape from materiality. From Houston Baptist University, a guy named Arthur Travis, in 1974 wrote: “The fact is, we shall not live in physical bodies after death…we shall not need or desire the things associated with our present physical bodies, simply because we shall not possess physical bodies in heaven.” So seriously wrong. 

In the late 1990’s Time Magazine had an article stating a finding the two thirds of Americans did not believe they would have bodies after they were resurrected. It wasn’t clear to me if that was just Americans or American Christians, but either way, it’s disconcerting to me. There was a poll, Scripps Howard/Ohio University of “born again’ Christians, about 60% answered a question about resurrection, stating that it was a bodily resurrection. The rest, just a spirit was resurrected. It should be 100% of Christians should know beyond a shadow of a doubt resurrection is bodily.

It turns out many if not most of congregations are not taught about resurrection; the fact of resurrection has devolved into a belief like that of the Gnostics. Of course Secularists point out that Christians have “evolved” and don’t believe in bodily resurrection any more. From a book by Brian Innes Death and the Afterlife: “…current orthodox Christianity no longer holds to the belief in physical resurrection, preferring the concept of the eternal existence of the soul, although some creeds still cling to the old ideas.”

Of course the old ideas are traditional, orthodox Christianity, and any way to diminish those ideas is a good thing. Sadly, many people claiming to be Christians agree more and more with Secularists, and are less and less aware of scripture and the insights of the church fathers. 

Yet, in the face of all evidence. We celebrate Easter, that  there was the bodily resurrection of Christ. After His resurrection people touched Him, He talked, ate, drank, and on the road to Emmaus, Christ walked with the two men and was obviously at least semi-corporeal. We will have bodies like that when we are resurrected. 

There are a lot of ancient Greek words that were misunderstood or mistranslated that have (partially) led to this confusion of what resurrection entails. Words meaning the soul, and not the body, got mixed up. For example “psychikos” was translated to mean physical when in fact ancient Greek speakers understood it to mean soul. It just became a mess.

I had read that at one time Pastors were more local theologians, personal theologians to their congregations. It got to be the Pastors ended up doing a lot of home visitations, taking care of church business and the like, that they were having to keep paring back their religious studies. That was the main contributor to the formation of the Diaconate; to free up the Pastor for the important thing, the religion. Keep the main thing the main thing if you will. Would that Pastors could go back to being local theologians, and maybe we wouldn’t have guys like Baptist Arthur Travis giving out wrong information. I hear what a lot of Pastors are saying and doing, and just get flummoxed. I’m just a layman, and good grief, there are so many Pastors violating scripture in deed and speech and what they teach.

Between incorrect translations, secular influence, congregations that have not been correctly taught, the pressure on Pastors, what resurrection really is has been distorted so much it doesn’t bear much resemblance to what it really is.

When I look at the bodily resurrection of Christ, and all the things Paul said about resurrection, it cements absolutely that we have a body after death. Heaven is a place God has designed, not for just spiritual beings to float around, but there still are challenges and growth, always growing closer to God, but when bodily resurrected, we will be in His presence. There is a plan and a purpose in heaven, and resurrected bodies to accomplish God’s purpose, joy and glory for all eternity. 

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