Friday, September 14, 2007

Soul Survivor or Body Believer?

Its relatively easy for most people to accept that they have a soul that will survive death and go to heaven - who wouldn't want to believe that? And after all, the animating energy of life itself is a great mystery that keeps us guessing about where it comes from and where it goes when glowing flesh becomes rotting corpse. But for the evangelist concerned with communicating the original Christian hope (rather than its modern Gnostic variant) it's a hard sell to persuade people that our present bodies will at some unknown future moment be reconstituted to enjoy a new eternal life in a renewed cosmos. Perhaps that's why I don't think I've ever, in 30 years of being around a whole range of church meetings and evangelistic events, heard an evangelist promise resurrection. Yet I hear them promise eternity in heaven all the time.
Related to this I wonder if hope may instead be found in the practice of full immersion baptism. Above all else it's a statement about the death, burial and resurrection of the whole body. Let's get real, if we believed that the body is just a temporary shell we could indicate the presence of a soul waiting for collection in other ways, such as a sign on the forehead, a cross would be appropriate. But the authentic Christian hope is not that we will be soul survivors, rather the body is of great and lasting value in God's eternal order. But like I say, it's a hard sell.

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Jon Hares said...

Hmmm... Matt a question for you... do you think that "Heaven" as in the Heaven we subscribe to when we say "when I die my soul will go to be with Jesus in Heaven" is a biblical proposition... I'm not sure what I think... Jesus doesn't talk a lot about heaven, but there is a clearly defined theology of resurrection at the second coming (though he says to the theif on the cross "later you will be with me in paradise".) Thoughts?

Matt Wilson said...

Hi Jon,
Rather than responding to your comment here I'll blog about it a bit more as its a bit subject.

Glen Marshall said...

Amen but - I reckon at its most fundamental baptism is to do with cleansing (the water is a bit of a give away).

Not so much souls going to heaven as resurrected beings as part of an all new God-filled heaven-earth cosmos.

mj82 said...


Interesting topic...way beyond the scope of a paragraph to cover it all I believe!

It is something I have often wondered about...heaven on earth, a New Jerusalem, resurrection bodies. However I have also come to realise that although interesting, relevant and scriptural it is not a topic that is going to make me turn on my faith. At the bottom line I am more looking forward to fulfilling my full potential as a created being by dwelling with my creator than I am to discovering what shape or form that may take.

I think you make a good point by saying that it is easy to believe in a soul and the resurrection body has been somewhat overlooked but perhaps for good reason. I would not want to authoritively state what exactly is going to happen post physical death. I mean a resurrection body is fine...but if it resembles at all the human form then at what age and stage does it resemble? Is it the case that Jesus had a resurrection body and that is why some people didn't recognise him? How does God the Father relate in heaven to a physical resurrection body if He himself is not in that form? And as you state yourself how does a rotting human corpse somehow become the resurrection body?

I know these points are slightly off track on your blog (in that the main point is that it is not the soul alone that survives death) but I think it is questions like these that stop people 'selling' the idea of a resurrection body. At the end of the day I believe that as humans we can only glimpse a small vision of heaven (we are temporal beings in both dimension and thought) and to grasp the full outworking of the resurrection is probably beyond most of us.