What Can/Can’t Christianity Exist Without?

My post asking a “what if” question about the Talpiot Tomb sparked some comments about what Christianity does or does not require in order to “survive.” Having just visited Israel, I have fresh in my mind the fact that, while some Jews are persuaded that some or all of the claims in the Bible and other sources relevant to their faith are literally true, many others (including most famously Reconstructionists) are persuaded that not only a literal Exodus can go but even the traditional depiction of God.

The Israel Museum includes display cases full of evidence that challenge what the Bible and traditional beliefs say on various subjects.

Is there any reason why Christianity could not only survive but thrive while evolving in similar ways to more progressive forms of Judaism? Is there anything inherently different about Christianity, especially given that Christianity itself emerged as a form of Judaism? If you think there is something, or nothing, without which Christianity would lose its reason for existence or its intrinsic nature, please say what it is and why.

  • Brian

    I don’t think it’s very wise for us to go the same route as Judaism went. In the sense that we are only Christians for cultural reasons. As for what I think Christianity can go without, I say a lot. I accept most of the conclusions of historical-critical scholarship and I can accept that the gospels are not strict historical accounts. But I do believe that the belief in the Resurrection is necessary. I said so already why I think this is so. A resurrection would show a good God, and it would demonstrate that the forces of evil will not have the final say in the end. If Jesus had simpily died, and was not vindicated. What faith do we have? Not only does the message backfire but in what way can we be inspired. Is the Gosepl message, “good deeds are punished” or “Don’t have hope because in reality Rome will always rule and if not Rome then Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.”
    I mean we rich Americans, can go without that because well were rich, and we aren’t living under an oppressive regime that robs us of our spirit and faith.

  • Paul D.

    I suspect that the early Gentile converts to fledgling Christianity — which at the time was really just a sect of Judaism — saw something compelling there that didn’t just involve swapping one set of myths and deities for another set. People saw real benefit in this faith that wasn’t just a matter of having a guy who did a better job of turning water into wine than Dionysus or calming the seas better than Poseidon. 

    If Christianity is to remain relevant and vital today in a post-Enlightenment world, I don’t think the key is wowing everyone with stories of miracles and the like. If the best Christianity has to offer is some 2,000-year-old miracles, then I think it’s in trouble. Yes, Jesus was awesome, but is that all we’ve got? People trying too hard to sell the resurrection or benefits of the Christian afterlife sometimes come across like used car salesmen.

  • Brian

    I would say that the Gentiles fled to Christianity because something about it was meeting their needs. You have to remember that Christianity is the religion of the slaves. According to Jesus, God loves the poor and oppressed. And while Pagan religions might offer something similar, their society at large seemed to glorify being powerful, which many were not.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    Albert Schweitzer said Christianity could and should get by without an historical Jesus.  I have spoken with another scholar now living in your area who opined that if the Jews can get along without an historical Abraham then Christians could conceivably get along without an historical Jesus.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    Why not? Some Christians get along quite fine without God.

    • Rev Tony Buglass

      “Some Christians get along quite fine without God.”  In what sense is that ‘Christian’ or ‘Christianity’?

  • Eldad Keynan

    Neil – why “without historical Jesus”? I think that the “traditional” Jesus is not the historical Jesus; while Prof. McGrath is suggesting a historical Jesus. 
    Another comparison could be suggested: to Moses and the Torah. In Jewish terms, the Torah is called ”Moses’ Torah”. Deutronomy is concluded by Moses’ death and burial, and a verse that tells us: Moses’ burial spot is not to be known to humans. Judaism doesn’t need Moses’ burial spot to follow Moses’ Torah, nor does it ned Moses’ alive to follow it. The teachings and rulings are the essense, not the person, whether legendary or not, who delivered them.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Contemplating how Christianity can survive with change strikes me as odd as worrying about the borders of a country staying stable.  Instead, when it comes to countries, should we not worry about prosperity, freedom, safety and such before we worry about borders?  I wish progressive Christians and Buddhists (to broaden the catch) would worry about the actual deeper treasures (if there are any) and seeing how to emphasize them more than the flag over the country.  

  • Gary

    “what Christianity does or does not require in order to “survive.”
    The simplistic answer is believers. So maybe a more important question is “why do people hold onto a Christian religion?” What are people’s motivations? I have a rather dim view of human motivations. Some answers may be:
    1. To explain our existence. Other religions also do this. So does science.
    2. To provide society with morals/laws to live by. Other religions do this. Besides, much like the Israelites following OT guidance, followers of the NT did a pretty efficient job in clearing North America of Native Americans only 200 years ago (so human moral laws seem to apply only to their own group or individual survival, not to the benefit of all humans in the society).
    3. The doctrine. There is such a wide variety of interpretations of doctrine, given the same facts in the bible, with such a variety of religions under the Christian banner, you can pick whatever group of interpretations fit your desires. The 31 flavors of religion. Who wouldn’t like that?
    4. The survival of the individual entity beyond death. This motivation fits in with what we have evolved to do, survive. Survival of the individual, along with survival of the society (#2) fits in with the human interest in “end of world” scenarios. The people pushing the “end of world” scenarios always consider themselves as one of the group that will continue-on in a rapture, resurrection, etc. Without a belief in some sort of resurrection (Jesus first, us later), Christianity wouldn’t offer a strong motivation for humans to follow Christianity.

    I am sure there are other motivations. But with such a wide variety of human motivations to believe in Christianity, it will always survive, even as it evolves in multiple directions. If science proved that that there could not possibly be a resurrection, people would still believe in Christianity, because they want to believe. A real resurrection might become a spiritual resurrection. I believe in a resurrection, but to be honest, it is because I am afraid not to believe, not because it makes sense. So I have selfish reasons for wanting to believe. If I was a real Christian and followed Jesus’s advice, I’d give everything away and follow him, by helping humanity. But I am selfish, and have evolved to survive, one way or the other.

  • Anonymous

    James,
    Because Christianity is defined in such various ways, there isn’t a (one) definition that defends against Christianity’s demise. “Christiaintiy” has traditionally been understood in conservative circles, as historical and was to define history for the individual believer. In liberal circles, ‘Christianity’ has been understood as a literary device to use “myth” to universal “the human”, but “the human” translates into the political realm or real life realities/problems/complexities that can’t be rectified, as easily as “The Gospel” message of reconcilliation/forgiveness.

    Historically, Christianity was a disempowered Jewish sect. So if Christianity is understood in a historical way, then it is a “separatist movement” which is about a disempowered group. But, with our Constitutional government, this can’t be the case.

    Literary critiscism understands Christianity as one among many religiouss understandings that use “myth” to provide meaning. But, what meaning, if one lives in a politically “free” society, where meaning can be defined by the individual? As “trascendence” was needed for those that were politically oppressed.

    Both of these approaches of reason and experience, fall short, as far a Christian faith is concerned. The realities of life bring conflicts of interests, definitions about “the good”, and these breed complexities about “how to live life in this world”. These are not really about “Christianity”, so much as philosophical questions about defining why, what and how the political should look and be…..

  • Bob H.

    To survive, Christianity needs a cadre of dedicated scholars & students conserving and extending the tradition against all odds, a body of followers determined to maintain their identity, and some mark or sign maintaining their distinction from the surrounding society — that seems to be how Judaism has done it, so far. But the emphasis of Prof. McGrath’s question is actually whether liberal Christianity can command enough of these resources to continue into the future. A good question. To a large extent, what we call liberalism in the larger culture really is liberal Christianity. In other words, the broader liberalism is much less materialistic and less secular than it appears to be at first blush. And its culture is still stuck to historic Western Christian culture. But its adherents don’t go to church. And without an institutional base that can command personal loyalty, influence marriage, career, and childrearing decisions, etc., I question whether it can survive in a world of tougher-minded movements.

  • Anonymous

    Your question about what “can”/”can’t” Christianity live without presumes that Christiantiy is to live. Moral development would affirm that “social order” is necessary. Faith development would understand “faith” as symbol to describe “ideals/values”, while intellectual development would understand that one must come to a realization that free societies allow for paradox and choose where they will commit and what they value. The liberal and conservative have vastly different understandings of the basis of what the world “should” look like, how the world is to function as to structuring, and what are the probablities of attaining “outcomes” or maintaining “social order”. Is one a realitst, or an idealist? And are pragmatice solutions to be experimental or “tried and true”?

    • Anonymous

      I might add that even moral development makes a difference in how morality is defined. ”Morality” based on conventional (religious) or post-convetional (a Constitutional) basis. Is this really about “Chrsitianity”, then?

      Understanding whether justice, and truth is to be defined by real realities of a Constitutional government, which represents “the people” or by “transcendent values” of religion, is whether one is positioned in a empowered or disempowered class.

       The mind reacts to injustice to the ‘self’ and transmits that “injustice” either in real terms of seeking justice from a government that is “fair” or “appealing” to some supernatural realm that will “appease the gods” to give some form of empowerment…accepting one’s “lot” as “Fate” or “Providence”!

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    “Albert Schweitzer said Christianity could and should get by without an historical Jesus.”

    BM: Certainly that would explain why many early Church writers omitted to mention him, either totally or almost entirely.
    Reasons for not incorporating him might have been:
    a) Through he Pauline epistles, and ‘Hebrews, and some “data” from gMark, and possibly oral traditions, they knew Jesus was no more than a Jewish petty healer with a 15 minutes fame due to some mistaken identity and some activist Jews.
    b) the gospels showed so much differences, even contradictions, unhistorical happenings and “pagan” god deeds that the “gospel Jesus” was better not mentioned at all.
    And believing in his resurrection was a matter of faith, not facts (despite all the various literary efforts to prove otherwise).

  • roerter

    Christianity made a fundamental mistake when it decided that religion is all about beliefs.

    This was a mistake in two senses. First, it is a conceptual mistake, because many religions around the world are not concerned about what you think, so much as what you DO or what you ARE. For example, a religion might require that one honor the ancestors by lighting incense in front of a shrine daily. Or, you might belong to a religion by virtue of the fact that your mother belonged to that religion – again, regardless of what you believe.

    Second, it was a mistake in the PR sense. Requiring a certain set of beliefs is just begging for schisms, as people argue about which set of beliefs is the correct one. So Christianity splintered again and again.

    Christianity could survive by taking either of the approaches mentioned already: you are a Christian if you go to Mass once a week, or if one of your parents was a Christian (say). But you have to wonder: What would be the point?

    • Anonymous

      Pieistic faith is Islamic faith. Faith as “practice”, which will cut your head off, shun, isolate, and persecute you,  if you don’t act according to social norm…is this what you want to promote in a civilized society? It is very tribalisitc, and holds power over those under its power.

      I recognize there is an attempt to emprically investigate such religious commitment. Our nation is seeking understanding of such zealots! and how to defend against such…

      Pieitism believes that one’s behavior and actions are habit formations toward a “God” who rewards or punishes those that obey…giving allegience to “god’ as first and foremost of importance…it is a holiness movement/viewpoint. And such a movement can be very dangerous, as it breeds a “superior religious race, that will be Facist in its political commitments!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    I remember a statement made about when will a deer no long be a deer due to evolution and James said, ‘when people stop calling it a deer”. The same is true here. It will be Christianity so long as people call it Christianity. Of course now there are those that define it rather narrowly so Catholics aren’t Christian or Mormons or Baptist. One can’t know if Jesus would say what we do is an acceptable variation of what he taught, and the same could be said of the apostles in relation to us and to Jesus.

    My thought is while I like Christianity in comparison to some other beliefs, there are also others that I think have a lot to contribute. I don’t think anything we can say goes to Jesus or is Christian is the last word in philosophy but it could have a contribution to make. I’m not sure that a position like that would allow to many to classify me as Christian, but I generally use that label for simplicity, for cultural reasons.

    I don’t think Jesus was resurrected in a physical sense or that what ever life he enjoys in the next world is unique to him or that it had a real effect on anyone else’s place in the world to come. But I like the concepts that emerged from the interpretation of his death. I tend to see them as unintentional metaphors. People like Jesus demonstrate people can be good and worthy of forgiveness. Even if Jesus was really a creep, people who follow in his example, knowingly or not, confirm the possible goodness of humanity. What his followers took to be evidence of his continued life in my opinion was a mind trick.

    As to Jesus being the Christ, I think such labels are completely subjective, so any one can be Christ to those that think you are. It’s like asking if KISS is the greatest rock band in the world. Personally I don’t mind calling Jesus the Christ since his action created a form of Judaism that has the universalism appeal that the old prophets had hoped for. For those that believe Judaism is Jewish custom, one, Judaism to day is not Judaism of yesterday, all things change, even the word of God. Two, the prophets always placed mercy and justice above ritual, and I think Christianity takes that to the logical extreme (though if one wants to observe every ritual to honor God, there is nothing wrong with that, and personally I think the rituals have been what made the Jews the great people they are today, pound for pound humanity’s most valuable members).

    • Brian

      I as a Roman Catholic think ritual has an incrediable teaching power and while ritual is no substitute for ethics there is no harm in having both. But I do think that Christianity should be in some sense how you think if we were just to go to Mass or utter the Our Father everyday than our rituals are empty. There has to be a connection between the two. But if Christ is not risen than is the message of Christianity as I said earlier that there is no hope.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    I just don’t get most of the things that are written on this blog, the posts and the comments. First, James’ question is seriously flawed. Christianity is a belief system based on the various ideas put forth in the Bible. There are many different components that when combined make up the Christian religion with its beliefs and practices. What is being proposed here is utter nonsense. Let me illustrate with an analogy. A computer is also made up of many different components that have various purposes. When these components are combined together, it creates a working, usable computer. So in the same line of thought as this post, can we really just decide for ourselves what components of a computer can be thrown out and then try to kid ourselves that when we are done we will still have a working computer? In other words, the Bible is our main source for Christian beliefs. If you start throwing out parts of the Bible because you do not think they are real, what is the bases of your Christian belief? Why do you even claim to have a Christian belief when you can not even historically prove to yourselves that a single word in the Bible is authentic? I understand that many here accept the claims of historical criticism, which is fine, but keep in mind that accepting historical criticism means rejecting the Bible as the inspired word of God. Without an inspired word, you do not know God, and if you do not know God, you do not know Christ, and if you do not know Christ, you are not a Christian, so stop pretending you are one.

    @Gary, instead of relating societies shallow reasons for being a false Christian, you should have related the real reason. True Christians hold on to their religion because they love God and want to learn more about him and his ways. They are willing to sacrifice all things and to suffer hardships to please God. They read the Bible for encouragement and strength to be able to bear living in this twisted and hateful world that ridicules God and his word.

    • Trey

      @Howard: I’ve got news for you. Even so called conservative Christians pick and choose from the Bible. They of course then come up with creative  justifications for the picking and the choosing that they do after the fact. For example the majority of Christians do not observe the Sabbath Day- though it is explicitly stated in God’s unchanging and inerrant 10 commandments to man. Non observant Christians justify their actions by saying it is an out of date rule under the old Mosaic Law and they are under a new covenant now with Christ that makes the old rule obsolete. On Paul’s declaration that is shameful for women to speak in church…oh that is just cultural peculiarity of Paul’s time – the church can ignore that. On Jesus explicit injunction against divorce and remarriage – oh the church frowns on it and God hates divorce – but we can make exceptions. 

      • Howard Mazzaferro

        @Trey,

        Where did I say that conservative Christians were true Christians? Besides, your talking about a completely different subject. You are talking about things related to interpretation, the subject here is rejecting parts of the Bible as not authentic, like saying the gospels are not historical or accurate. Now if you want to argue that conservative Christians do not believe the 10 commandments were from God, then you would be on the right subject.

  • Gary

    @ Howard….”True Christians hold on to their religion because they love God and want to learn more about him and his ways”…do not Christians believe that humans are effectively immoral, as in “totally depraved”? I think that fits into my description. I guess I do not hold humans in as high esteem as you do. I would say that true Christians hold onto their religion because they have something to gain = either eternal life, forgiveness for their sins, elimination of guilt, missing a dead loved one, tired of war and injustice, or even perhaps thinking they are better than other people, or lucky/blessed more than other people. If they love God, how do they know God. And don’t tell me that it is through the bible. There is as much hate and killing in the bible as there is love.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    @Gary

    “do not Christians believe that humans are effectively immoral, as in “totally depraved”?

    The first problem is that you seem to think that everyone who claims to be a Christian is really a Christian. And to answer your question, No, not all people are “totally depraved”. Yes, a Christian has the fight against the flesh, but some do win this fight. No human is perfect, but there is a big difference in committing a sin and practicing sin. Even before that, a person has to know what constitutes a sin.

    “I guess I do not hold humans in as high esteem as you do.”

    No, not simply humans, but the Christians who truly know God and Christ, and do their best to know and do God’s will.

    “I would say that true Christians hold onto their religion because they have something to gain = either eternal life, forgiveness for their sins, elimination of guilt, missing a dead loved one, tired of war and injustice, or even perhaps thinking they are better than other people, or lucky/blessed more than other people.”

    Well again, you are referring to false Christianity. I guess I can’t blame you as you have never encountered true Christianity yet.

     “If they love God, how do they know God. And don’t tell me that it is through the bible. There is as much hate and killing in the bible as there is love.”

    This tells me that you view the Bible simply as a jumble of stories that are only taken at face value. But there is so much more, these stories represent divine judgments and prophetic allusion to other future events and combine to create the main themes of the Bible. It is this kind of reasoning that is the center of false worship. No true Christian would ever put human life above divine judgment. Why is it that we always here people say God murders people, but no one ever mentions how these people defied God’s authority and loathed his glorious name with their acts of wickedness? Because these are the thoughts of man, not God.

  • Isaiah Burton

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
    Total depravity is one of the five points of Calvinism, there are other Christian views that are opposed to Calvinism such as Arminianism. Also, total depravity, in the view of Calvinists, usually refers to the condition of people who are unredeemed or not yet redeemed. They are depraved because they do not want what is good (God), and total because they have absolutely no ability to seek or choose that which is good without direct intervention from God Himself. It is total because they can do nothing about their condition.
    Now some Calvinists (maybe many, I don’t know an exact percentage) do push the term total depravity in another direction which is to mean that humans will always do the most evil thing possible when given the chance. Basically in this view, everyone (except the Calvinists themselves who have been redeemed) is a more evil version of Hitler and loves kicking puppies. Seemingly this would cause chaos, but it doesn’t because God is constantly restraining evil.
    Now obviously not everyone who uses total depravity in the second sense goes that far, but that’s the gist of it.

  • Isaiah Burton

    Also, when you guys say that people are basically immoral, that’s not a monolithic Christian position either. St. Augustine believed that evil itself was a lack of the good and had no substance itself. For one to say that humans were evil or immoral would be to say that God had created evil or something that was evil and that would mean an all-good, all-knowing creator was the author of sin. God made man and said “it was good”. Obviously popular Christian theology has went in the direction that people are basically immoral, but that has not always been the case.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      St. Augustine was a smart guy, not only for his hypothesis that time did not exist before space. I’ve speculated that evil is denial of truth or reality, it is a lie, and lies don’t have real existence but are misrepresentations of reality, so a god that contains all truth and reality would not have evil in him even though we perceive evil as existing, that existance is an illusion.

  • Beau Quilter

    The word “Christian” doesn’t actually appear in the Bible very often. I think there are only three occasions:

    Acts 11:26
    “… The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”

    Acts 26:28
    “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’”

    1 Peter 4:16
    “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

    Despite it’s rarity in scripture, we’ve since adopted the label to almost universally apply to anyone who is a follower of Christ, although, many Christian sectarians, (some who have commented on this post) would limit the the name to only those who follow their own interpretation of Christ. 

  • Isaiah Burton

    Of course asking “What Can/Can’t Christianity Exist Without?” leaves one wondering what you mean by Christianity and exist.
    I will do my best to condense this post but it will be difficult to get everything I would want to say in.
    I will define Christianity as what the early apostles believed. Granted we do not know what the early apostles believed exactly, and they certainly understood and recorded their beliefs and views through the framework of their ancient worldviews consisting of their experiences, religion, local myths, cosmology, and many other criteria. One thing I believe is about as certain as anything can be is the apostle’s belief in a resurrection. It is clearly evident in Paul’s writings, such as 1 Cor. 15 and in all the gospels (certainly in an abbreviated version in the Gospel of Mark).   
    Certainly, the gospels teach an empty tomb so they seem to be in favor of a bodily resurrection rather than a spiritual one. I know that it is controversial, but I believe that Paul believed in a bodily resurrection as well.
    First in 1 Cor. 15:4 Paul says that Jesus was buried and then he was raised, it seems that the part about Jesus being raised is in apposition to the part about Jesus being buried. Obviously you bury bodies, so it seems that Paul is most likely referring to the raising of a body when he says that Jesus was raised.
    Secondly, in verse 12 Paul uses the term “resurrection of the dead”. There was a debate between differing religious groups in Palestine during the first century about the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection from the dead while the pharisees did. The pharisees used ossuaries to bury their dead so that they could be resurrected, which seems to imply that they believed in a bodily resurrection. When Paul uses the term “resurrection of the dead” it seems unlikely that the idea of a bodily resurrection isn’t in his mind.
    Lastly, and this is kind of silly, but if the Jesus ossuary in the Talpiot Tomb is real then that would settle this conversation about a belief in a bodily or spiritual resurrection because the whole purpose of the ossuaries was to preserve the body for a bodily resurrection! So whoever buried him must have believed in a bodily resurrection and not just a spiritual one.
    Anyway, I believe that the early apostles did believe that Jesus was raised bodily and that it was a matter of “first importance” to use Paul’s words.
    There is much more that I want to say, but do not have the time, I am trying to make a case that a bodily resurrection of Jesus is something that Christianity could not exist without, anything calling itself Christianity without that would be an imitation and not the real thing.  

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @Isaiah

      I have a question for you. As you may know, Jesus death had a purpose, it served as a sacrifice and ransom to redeem mankind. The idea of a sacrifice usually implies a permanent loss. So in your theology, if Jesus was raised bodily using the body in the tomb, what was the sacrifice? Also, what was exchanged in the ransom?

      How would you incorporate these verses into that theology?

      Hebrews 9:16-17 For where a covenant is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a covenant takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

      • Isaiah Burton

        When you get to Hebrews 9 the author is setting up his worldview, which
        is very heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. There is the eternal or
        heavenly realm which is perfect and the earthly realm which is a poor
        substitute or imitation of the heavenly realm. In verse 15 it says
        “since he died” which I take to mean that the author of Hebrews does
        believe Jesus had a human body and wasn’t some type of phantasm or
        something.

        Hebrews 6:1-2 mentions that the author of Hebrews wants to put aside certain “elementary” teachings about Christ, one of which is the resurrection from the dead, so it seems that the author of Hebrews does believe in the resurrection of the dead and that it is intimately connected to Christ. He also considers this an “elementary” teaching, which I believe is the author’s way of saying, “now I want to get on to deeper subjects” not “I don’t believe in these things”.

        Also, resurrection of the dead goes back to the debate between sadducees and pharisees about future bodily resurrections. It seems most likely that the author believed in future bodily resurrections (because of Hebrews 6:1-2) and while that doesn’t prove that he believed that Jesus rose from the grave bodily, it makes it seem very probable. Combining a belief in Jesus as the Christ, his bodily death, and a belief in bodily resurrections it seems almost certain that the author of Hebrews did believe in a bodily resurrection of Jesus. With the author’s favoritism for the heavenly realm verses the earthly realm one would find it easy to believe that the author didn’t believe in bodily resurrections, but because of Hebrews 6:2 it is obvious that he does believe in bodily resurrections and that somehow his bent toward Greek philosophy would not inhibit, for him, a belief in a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

        Now, the covenant started when Jesus died. At the time the author wrote Hebrews he believed Jesus was “sitting at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12), so Jesus was alive in some sense, he was there sitting next to God, not lying in a tomb or a ditch somewhere. But in another sense the author did not consider Jesus to be alive (Hebrews 9:17, which I believe is what you are referring too).

        Now if Jesus is alive in one sense, what sense is he not alive? I believe that this could be answered in one of two ways, possibly even with a combination of the two. First, positionally, Jesus at the time of the writing of Hebrews was a “mediator” according to the author. Jesus was in some way the go-between between the earthly realm and the heavenly realm. This position meant that he was not part of humanity, who lives entirely in the earthly realm, but was positionally above it. The second way in which the author might have not viewed Christ as alive was due to his location. Jesus was sitting next to God in the heavenly realm, and did not live or exist (at that point in time) in the earthly realm or plane of existence, thus he was not alive in the same way you or I are.

        I hope this is helpful, this is just the way I had interpreted the author of Hebrews. Out of curiosity though, how do you interpret Hebrews 9:16-17? 

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          @Isaiah

          In all that, you failed to answer my question. What did Jesus permanently sacrifice? I will give you my view on that subject along with the explanation of Hebrews that you asked about. To help understand what a resurrection means, we will need to realize that there are two different kinds of resurrections, a heavenly one and an earthly one. Paul talks a lot about the heavenly one, the same one that Jesus told his apostles about when he said they had places waiting for them in his fathers house. Romans 6:5 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Why did the author word it that way? Is the author implying that there was something special about Jesus’ resurrection that his close followers were to receive as well? What about the rest? Is this Scripture implying that unless you are murdered for your faith, you will not receive a resurrection? No, it is saying that certain ones will receive a special resurrection to heavenly life that Jesus received. Revelation 20:6 “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Who will Christ and these heavenly priests reign over? The ones who receive an earthly, bodily resurrection when the new earth is established. (Rev 5:10). So a resurrection is not necessarily bringing a dead body back to life.

          As far as what Jesus sacrificed, you came pretty close on a couple of occasions. What Jesus sacrificed for all time was his flesh, his human body and his human life. That is precisely why Jesus came to the earth in the way he did, born completely human, as opposed to simply appearing in a human body as angels have done in the past. Therefore, he sacrificed that sinless and perfect body and life to compensate for the loss of the sinless and perfect body of Adam, who we are descended from and inherited his unforgivable sin. That is why Jesus had to buy us back with his human life so that he is now our Eternal Father. So Jesus was resurrected, but to heaven, not as a human. 2 Corinthians 5:16 “Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” Therefore, the covenant is in force as long as the human Jesus who made it, is not alive. Obviously, there is much more to this, but I am trying to be brief.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      I do think Paul had in mind that Jesus corpse was transformed into a resurrection body, and so it is unlikely that any one in Christianity would point out the location of that corpse (though they could, if they had hidden the body themselves, but that location would unlikely be a named coffin in a named family tomb), however, I don’t think Paul thought that he or his compatriots encountered Jesus’ resuscitated corpse, but instead that he encountered a body transformed into something like an angels body.

      • Isaiah Burton

        I agree with the transformation part, that it something I forgot to mention in my previous post on a bodily resurrection. While being transformed into something like an angel’s body is a possibility, I think it might be more specific than I would like to go. I’m just not sure what Paul and the others saw.

  • Isaiah Burton

    @ Howard Mazzaferro

    Yes, the death of Jesus had a purpose, but there are a few theories on the purpose of the atonement: Ransom Theory, Christus Victor, Penal Substitution, among others. I did not state a particular theory of the atonement and make it an essential because I don’t think anyone is certain what the apostles believed regarding this particular subject. Maybe it should be an essential, but we would have to determine what the apostles believed and figure out if it was a uniform belief among all of them (I don’t know that their theology was that developed though).

    I will come back later and try and answer your question regarding the verses in Hebrews but for now my 2 year old son is begging me to play with him. 

  • Gary

     @ Howard and Isaiah, regarding 1) Bible interpretation; 2) totally depraved…
    1) 31 flavors; 2) free agency. The devil didn’t make me do it. God didn’t prevent me from doing it. The bible, especially the OT, seems to be full of totally depraved people. David is a saint, king, annointed by God, believes in God, etc….but he sure likes the wife of his soldier, and is not above murder to try to hid the depravity. Solomon, 1000 wives and concubines, enough said, other than he basically set up the Northern kingdom to be defeated by the Assyrians, and gave up some of the northern tribes territory (territory that he must have believed was God given to the “chosen ones”), so he could build a grander temple. BTW, it was called “Solomon’s temple”, not God’s temple. So the most highly annointed representatives of the human race (except for Jesus), according to the bible, have a “slight depravity”. Maybe not “totally” depraved. Anyway, not much to debate here, you all choose one flavor, I choose another. 

  • Brian

    I am almost certain that Paul’s resurrected body was a transformed one as oppose to a new body all together.
    As for what Christ’s death meant, I often feel as if we completely ignore our Orthodox Christian brothers, what about the doctrine of Theosis? It avoids many of the more unfortunate implications than western theories do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      As in henosis, union with God? I think union with God is exactly what Jesus was trying to do with his diciples and what Paul was trying to do with his and G.John with its’ readers.

  • Brian

    Well Theosis, is also called divinitization. The idea goes that since we are created in “God’s image”, we are each able to imitate God in our own way, Althanasius said “that the son of god became man so that man may become gods.”
    Thomas Aquinas, and other Catholic theologians also expressed idea’s similar to it. But I think that the doctrine of Theosis, merits some attention.

  • Gary

    @ Brian…..please don’t go over the edge. That is Mormon theology…that is “that the son of god became man so that man may become gods.” You must re-evaluate your theology. Otherwise, you will be required to sign up to a cult. Tell about temple practices, and you’ll have your tongue pulled out by its roots, and your throat slit (~1975 Mormon temple practices).

  • Brian

    I would assume the Mormons adopted that theology from the Catholics and Orthodox Christians, though Theosis could just be part of the greater human religious imagination and thus it would be no surprised if Joseph Smith were to come up with something similar. Sort of like how eschatology is found in almost every culture, even cultures not linked to the Abrahamic religions.
    But the reason why I suggested such a doctrine is because many people are unsatisfied with the whole idea of Original Sin or any of the theories about how Jesus’ death atones for us all. 
    But I don’t mind the idea of original sin, I find Aquinas’ view on it very interesting. In reponse to one of his acedemic opponents, he sarcastically writes how absurd the idea that death only entered the world after the fall. For Aquinas the fall is just how we humans tend to choose the lesser of two goods. Instead of following God’s eternal law, we tend to choose what is not always good for all. You can read more about in his Summa.
     

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    Some have asked me about my responses, and Bernard has offered his “Life of Brian” scenario as a “rebuttal” to what I said. All I can say is: read Albert Schweitzer for yourselves. Don’t blame me for simply pointing out what his argument was. Get real. Address the argument of Schweitzer himself! Why shoot the messenger?

  • Gary

    Brian, I like a lot of the Catholic theology (not all)…also my wife was once Catholic. Maybe I’m wrong, but I like that they interprete the bible based upon “what would Jesus say about the scripture?”. I like their “thou shall not kill”, instead of murder, and especially I like their current view that science is not incompatible with the bible. However, I almost choked when you mentioned “man becoming God”, since I have only seen that in the Mormon theology. So I did a quick check on orthodox wiki, and found…
    “The statement by St. Athanasius of Alexandria, “The Son of God became man, that we might become god”, [the second g is always lowercase since man can never become a God] indicates the concept beautifully. II Peter 1:4 says that we have become ” . . . partakers of divine nature.” Athanasius amplifies the meaning of this verse when he says theosis is “becoming by grace what God is by nature” (De Incarnatione, I). What would otherwise seem absurd, that fallen, sinful man may become holy as God is holy, has been made possible through Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate. Naturally, the crucial Christian assertion, that God is One, sets an absolute limit on the meaning of theosis – it is not possible for any created being to become, ontologically, God or even another god.”
     
    So theology clarified, at least for me. Mormons do indeed believe they will actually become Gods, if they do everything according to their theology, attend their temple ceremonies, etc, and make it to their celestial kingdom.. BTW, the secrecy oath they originally had in their endowment ceremony is, at least according to them, because they are given secret signs, handshakes, names, and have to repeat verbatem a long speech, to pass through the veil between death and the celestial kingdom. They say that satan cannot enter their temples, so the secret stuff is for the ones to become Gods, and they can’t say them outside the temple, because, heaven forbid, someone unqualified may actually get the secret info to pass through the veil. Also, their level of glory in the celestial kingdom is greated, based upon the number of offspring they have on earth while alive, since they are the ones the new Gods will “Lord” it over.

    Anyway, the statement by Athanasius fits into my love of the book, “Who Wrote the Bible”, by Friedman. Sometimes the church leaders, or even bible writers, say things that either they mis-spoke on, or it gets interpreted by some people in a different way, or they maybe flat-out made a mistake on, or were motivated to amplify in a way that suits a personal view, and not direct revelation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      I think the process of of unifying with God does not mean the individual becomes a new god but that their essences melds with God’s own so ones individual self is just a manifestation of the one true god.

  • Brian

    I was almost certain that I wrote the word “gods” as oppose to God, as in the eternal one. But, yes you are correct to say that man can never become ontologically God or even a god lest monotheism be compromised. Michael beautifully illustrates what I think it means to be unified to God. So there you have it. I’m glad you found the concept enjoyable.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @Brian,

      I have a problem with your statement of “man can never become ontologically God or even a god lest monotheism be compromised.” First, no I am not arguing that man can become God or a god, my problem is your link between the word God/god and monotheism. I feel this is usually misunderstood. The Bible clearly shows that other beings can rightfully be called god without implying polytheism. I think the problem stems from the idea that people define the word God as the single unique being who created all things. This is wrong, the Bible never applies this definition to the word God itself. To help illustrate my point, I will need to use God’s personal name. When reading the Bible, you will see that YHWH is the one who is described as the single unique creator. The definition of the word God (elohim and theos) is generally understood to indicate power, authority and object of worship. These words in themselves do not identify YHWH, but anyone with power or authority or who is an object of worship. That is why the word God can be used with modifiers, such as the most high God or the Almighty God. If the word God by itself meant those things, it would be redundant to use the modifiers. However, the word God is often used in the Bible to identify YHWH as well, and the meaning of the phrase the True God, means YHWH is all powerful and has all authority and is the rightful recipient of worship. So the word God is sort of a generic title which can be applied to anyone who displays the qualities of power, authority, or object of worship. It is YHWH Elohim who is the single unique supreme being. I think much of the confusion has come from Christians and others using almost exclusively a generic term to identify the supreme being YHWH. So in my opinion, the word monotheism is a misconstrued word based on the confusion of the terms listed above.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

        The Bibles writers held a number of views on what a god is. the most broad definition is as you say, any thing with power, authority, or is worthy of respect. Of course we are not using that yard stick, we don’t think Obama is a god or Tom Hanks, though both could in some culture qualify. I think we are talking about ultimate authority, god par excellence. The goal of the mystic in a number of tradtions is union with that. Mormanism, which never accused of intellectual rigor, seems to concieve of God as something less.

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          @Michael,

          I was talking about things included in the framework of the Bible. Such as Satan being called a god at 2 Cor 4:4 because he is a powerful supernatural being and receives worship. The god’s of the nations, even though they were not real living beings, they were the objects of worship. Moses was a god to pharaoh as he was a representative of YHWH and Moses performed powerful miracles from YHWH. The Israelite Judges were gods as they were given authority of judgment over YHWH’s people. So the word God/god, as used in the Bible is not automatically synonymous with YHWH. In the Bible, the identity of God has to first be established based on context and association with the acts and qualities of YHWH. The phrase Almighty God equals YHWH, but the word God alone does not automatically equal YHWH.

  • Brian

    Well, I am well aware of ideas like divine agency. But, I generally think of God as the Eternal one, the ultimate. You know that guy who created everything. So while Satan may be called a god [because he is powerful], I tend not to use that sort of language because it’s misleading to most without a education in biblical languages. Plus, I’m Catholic, and I have several hundred years extra of religious vocabulary so if the terms or how I understand them stem from biblical understanding than please forgive me.

  • Isaiah Burton

    First, sacrifice just doesn’t mean what you think it means. While a sacrifice can be permanent, it doesn’t have to be. A brother tell his dad that he did something that his younger brother actually did and take the punishment in place of his younger brother, in this sense the older brother did sacrifice himself. Here is an example of someone being the sacrifice and not losing something permanently. Sacrifices do not have to mean permanent loss. 
    Also, what you call a heavenly resurrection is not a resurrection in the usual sense of the term. The general sense of death, in ancient times and now was that a part of you is eternal and does not die. It is transferred from your dead body to a heavenly or not so heavenly place, and is never resurrected. Dying and coming back to life somewhere else, Heaven included is more akin to reincarnation (transference to another body in another place) than to resurrection (a reanimated and transformed state). 
    About Romans 6:5 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
    Being united with Christ in a death like his or a future resurrection says nothing about whether Jesus’ resurrection was bodily or not. The death Paul refers to is relating to the baptism he mentions in verse 4 and the resurrection either relates to a future bodily resurrection or is some sort of analogy that is comparable to the death/baptism analogy in the first part of verse 5. Even if you want to call this a spiritual resurrection, it is totally different than the type of spiritual resurrection that someone like John Domminic Crossan believes in and has nothing to do with what happened to Jesus’ body after his death.
    Also, I already showed that Paul believed in a bodily resurrection of Jesus in an earlier post, the first one you responded to. If you want to argue that Paul did not believe in a bodily resurrection you need to address my first post on the issue.
    Looking at the rest of your post, you say nothing that is in any way connected to the issue of whether Jesus had a resurrected body. When you reply to this, why don’t you try and discuss parts of the Bible that actually discuss Christ’s death and resurrection? Staying on subject might be helpful. 
     

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      As far as your example of a sacrifice, you are wrong. The brother did sacrifice something permanently, he sacrificed the truth. And to keep protecting his younger brother, he can never reveal the truth for the rest of his life, if he does, the sacrifice will end and the younger brother will be punished or at least found guilty of the offence. Okay, first I do not subscribe to the unbiblical Platonic philosophy of an immortal soul, and neither did those of ancient Judaism, so I am not even going to reply to that nonsense. As far as your proof for Paul believing in a bodily resurrection for Jesus, I’m going to focus on 1 Cor 15:4 that you mentioned in the earlier post. Okay, for starters, this scripture says nothing about a bodily or spiritual resurrection. And we have another problem, Paul related how Jesus appeared to the other disciples and lastly he appeared to him. Making no distinction or explanation why Jesus appeared to the other disciples as a man, but to Paul he appeared as a heavenly being with bright lights and no one else could see or hear anything. On top of that we have a clear contradiction to the idea of a bodily resurrection. I’m sure you have a fancy explanation for the following Scripture so you can still believe in a flesh and blood resurrection for Jesus.

      “. . .However, this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:50)

      Here are some interesting notes on Jesus grave clothes that were left behind.

      Then   something   else   struck   him—the   grave-clothes   were   not   dishevelled   and disarranged. They were lying there still in their folds—that is what the Greek means—the clothes for the body where the body had been; the napkin where the head had lain. The whole point of the description is that the grave-clothes did not look as if they had been put off or taken off; they were lying there in their regular folds as if the body of Jesus had simply evaporated out of them. (The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (267). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.)

      Not lying with the linen cloths but was rolled up by itself indicates that the cloth which had been around Jesus’ head was in a position separate from the linen cloths with which his body had been wrapped, and that it was rolled up. The verb “to roll up” is not found in the Septuagint, and elsewhere in the New Testament it appears only in Matthew 27.59 and  Luke  23.53,  where  it  is  used  of  wrapping  Jesus’  body  for  burial.  In  the  present context it is possible to take the verb to mean “neatly rolled up,” in contrast to the grave cloths,  which  may  have  been  left  lying  about  in some  disorder.  But  more  probably  the verb should be taken to indicate that the cloth with which the head had been wrapped was left in the shape that it had (that is, an oval loop) when it was wrapped around the head of Jesus. If so, the  grave cloths are pictured as lying flat in the place where the torso had been, while the cloth with which the head was wrapped retained its oval shape and was lying in the place where the head had been. (Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1993], c1980). A handbook on the Gospel of John. Originally published: A translator’s handbook on the Gospel of John, c1980. Helps for translators; UBS handbook series (606). New York: United Bible Societies.)

      • Isaiah Burton

        Howard, you don’t even know what a bodily resurrection means. You are arguing for a spiritual resurrection by talking about how Jesus left the tomb and his burial wrappings empty! That’s like saying I don’t believe computers exist while typing on one!
        No one is arguing that the body that Jesus had after the resurrection didn’t have attributes that the rest of humanity currently lacks. In an earlier post I replied to Michael Wilson because he mentioned that Jesus’ body was transformed and I realized that was something I should have mentioned when I posted about the bodily resurrection in this thread. Jesus, after the resurrection, seemed to do things such as walk through walls or appear out of nowhere, fly off during his ascension, and pass through his burial clothes without messing them up (as you mentioned). This isn’t a problem for a belief in a bodily resurrection of Jesus, it just means that the body was transformed in some way, but it was the physical body of Jesus! Jesus died, was raised from the dead and had a body that could do these things. You keep calling these things “spiritual” and saying these things prove a spiritual resurrection. The term spiritual resurrection does not mean that. What I have posted is the traditional orthodox Christian belief in the resurrection and it is a bodily one.
        The term spiritual resurrection means that the body was not used in the resurrection at all. John Dominic Crossan for instance says he believes in a spiritual resurrection. He means that Jesus was resurrected separately from the body. So what does he think happened to Jesus’ body? He believes it was probably eaten by dogs, not passing through burial clothes. Others who believe that Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual believe that Jesus’ body was probably thrown in a ditch, or if it was buried, it was put in some nondescript tomb. The whole reason that James McGrath posted this question on his blog was because if the body in the Talpiot Tomb turned out to actually be that of Jesus it would mean that Christians would either have to give up the idea of a resurrection or claim that it was a spiritual resurrection (meaning the body never slipped its burial garments).
        So if you do believe in a spiritual resurrection then tell me, what happened to Jesus’ body? Was it tossed into a ditch, thrown to dogs, left in some nondescript tomb, or is it lying in the Talpiot Tomb or some other tomb we have yet to find? I guess you could believe that Jesus’ body slipped his clothes somehow while there was a spiritual resurrection, but that would leave a reanimated (zombie) Jesus wandering around Judea. I wonder what happened to it?
        Seriously, if the tomb was empty, it was a bodily resurrection, end of story. In the future get your terms straight please.    

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

          There are a number of ways to imagine a resurrection. The Gospel writers weren’t deep scientific thinkers on this so some of their descriptions seem muddled. The stories of Jesus interacting after death with the apostles seem crafted to dispel the idea that this was only a hallucination or that Jesus was a common ghost, ghost being common folk lore among the Greeks. So they depict Jesus eating, that is something flesh bodies do, so they are saying his resurrection was physical, but of course being the son of God he has supernatural powers. Strangely to sell this idea, they have Jesus present his scared hands and feet, strange because God can bring him back from the dead but not heal his wounds fully.
           
           Paul never describes a lunch with Jesus or anything proving a physical resurrection as a flesh body, and seems to dismiss that concept of resurrection, instead saying that we will be transformed into beings made of spirit. Of course logically God could make you a spirit absent your physical body, and even the dead in the sea, surely unrecoverable physically, will also be raised.  Add to that other statements in the New Testament about the raised dead not needing to eat and not marrying and you get the idea that the raised dead will be made out of angel stuff.  But Paul seems to also envision the people being transformed. From our perspective completely unnecessary but mentally it seems disturbing to imagine seeing your old flesh body rot away now that you’re in your new spirit one. I don’t consider it however a bodily resurrection because you don’t have a real body, only the appearance of one. Does God have a real (natural) body? Do angels have real bodies? They have spiritual ones, and so he thinks do the resurrected, there is no connection between the old and new, the old is essential transformed (effectively destroyed) as a psychological convenience.
           
          Crossans resurrection is purely spiritual, so your old body has nothing to do with the old, but the old is still there. This is how we think when we imagine or departed loved ones doing things in heaven. Paul may think this of departed saints, but thinks the future will hold a time when the separation of life and death is eliminated and also the separation of earth and heaven.  He seems thought to equate human death with sleep and it seems to be a holdover of the old sheol idea, that the land of the dead is not comparable to life. Jesus is not asleep in this manner but in death is still an active participant in world events, but as a cosmic being. Other writers seem to envision other saints as also inhabiting a space like this, so Jesus can chat with Elijah, who never died and Moses.
           
           If the tomb is genuinely Jesus resting place, then we must imagine that the apostles did not think  Jesus’ body needed to do anything for him to “bodily” resurrected as a an angelic being.  I doubt highly that it is Jesus’ tomb, and instead think that the apostles believed Jesus was buried in a way consistent with other crucified victims, an anonymous shallow grave, and so going out to retrieve Jesus’ body to disprove his transformation into a heavenly being was out of the question.  The whole tomb story is a pious fiction of a later generation.

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          @Isaiah,

          I think you are the one who is confusing the terms. Anyone I have ever talked to about the subject, believed that Jesus dead body in the tomb came back to life, the exact same body that died. Sometimes they say the body was glorified, but they never exactly explain what this glorified body means in a biological sense. So for example, when Lazarus was resurrected bodily, his dead body came back to life and he stood up and walked out of the tomb with his grave clothes still on. Why did Jesus’ body have to vanish, leaving the grave clothes as they were when he was resurrected? The Jesus that appeared to the disciples did not appear to be glorified or transformed in some fashion, he looked like a normal man, why did he not simply raise up in his grave clothes like Lazarus? I never said or agreed that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection. Lazarus resurrection was a bodily resurrection, so if you think Jesus resurrection was bodily, then it would have been like Lazarus. Also, just because Jesus physical body vanished, in no way means it was used as the bases of his new spiritual body. Maybe you could explain how any part of this material world, can exist in an immaterial world? If I understand you correctly, yes Jesus was raised in a form like angels, which are purely spiritual beings. Sometimes when they appeared to people, they materialized human bodies that could eat and drink and so on. And that is precisely what Jesus did after his resurrection. Finally, yes, I believe Jesus resurrection was spiritual, his human body was not used, it was taken by God as the sacrifice, which you never did answer by the way. You also never answered my other question. Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God waiting to inherit God’s kingdom. So if you are correct and it is Jesus transformed physical body next to God in heaven, then 1 Corinthians 15:50 must be an interpolation. Or does this transformed body no longer contain flesh or blood? What is it then?

          • Isaiah Burton

            Wow, Howard, now you are changing your position just so you don’t have to admit that I am right. You were arguing that Jesus’ ability to slip his burial garments was proof of a spiritual resurrection. I told you what a spiritual resurrection really meant and now you have changed it to, Jesus’ body just disappeared.
            You said, “Anyone I have ever talked to about the subject, believed that Jesus
            dead body in the tomb came back to life, the exact same body that died.” If these people you have talked to mean that it was Jesus’ body, the one in the tomb that was resurrected, they are correct, it’s not a different body, but it was transformed in some way. This is obvious because Jesus could do all sorts of things that normal bodies cannot do, appear/disappear or fly. If they mean that it was just reanimated with consciousness restored (like Lazarus) then they are incorrect.
            You are right in the sense that no one really knows what a glorified body means. I wholeheartedly agree that I do not know what all the differences are between what was Jesus’ earthly body and how it became his heavenly one, no one understands this transformation process. I have no experience with resurrected bodies, and the Bible does not give enough information for anyone to conclude the differences between Jesus’ body, pre- and post-resurrection.  
            You mention 1 Corinthians 15:50 which says, “Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” If you would have read the rest of the paragraph you would have read this, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will be changed – in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”
            It’s funny, it says that “this perishable body must put on the
            imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality”. So the
            mortal body puts on something else, but it (the mortal body) is not
            lost! This is one of the reasons that I say it was the same body, only transformed. 
            Also, in verses 12, 13, 21, and 42 Paul uses the term “resurrection of the dead”, which is an obvious buzz word (or phrase). This term was a hot-button issue between pharisees and sadducees and it specifically meant the resurrection of a physical body! This is why people were buried in ossuaries! Pharisees believed in a resurrection of the physical body and sadducees did not. We know what this phrase means, there is no debating it, Paul uses the term in an affirmative fashion and even goes on to descibe it! Paul believed in a bodily resurrection!
            In verses 20-23 it says, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him.”  
            Paul uses the term “resurrection of the dead” to refer to Christ! Paul also uses the term “firstfruits” meaning that Jesus was the first and that other resurrections of the dead will occur at some point in the future!
            Finally, Brian’s comment on Lazarus’ resurrection are pretty close to my own view, although I am not sure about the flesh and blood part, how that all works is a mystery to me.

            • Howard Mazzaferro

              I have changed nothing, you are probably misunderstanding me. You can read about my view in a book I wrote several years ago. Here is a quote from it.

              “I do not know if you do not understand my point, maybe the terms  need  defined.  The  word  soul  can  refer  to  the  body,  life, both body and life, and the life a person enjoys. If you believe in an  immortal  soul,  then  maybe  this  is  where  the  problem  is coming from. The ransom Jesus provided which falls under the word  soul,  was  his  human  body  and  the  life  he  enjoyed  as  a human being. His life force (spirit) that is provided from Jehovah that all living things have is not the ransom. That is how Jesus was resurrected, his life force was used to bring back to life his spiritual body, which did not violate the ransom.” (My Letters Defending The Faith Second Edition. 2009, Howard Mazzaferro, p. 112-113)

              As far as the people I talked to about whether Jesus resurrection was bodily, I probably should have mentioned that I think these people are wrong. I do not think that his human body was used at all in his resurrection. As for the Scripture you quoted, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will be changed – in a moment, in the blinking of an eye…” this is not applicable for 2 reasons, first read it again, it is not talking about a regular resurrection, as these people do not sleep in death, this change either happens at the moment of death or while they are still alive. Second, and more important is the fact that these people are not part of the sacrifice or ransom, so it is not relevant whether their old bodies are part of their new bodies. However, it matters a great deal in Jesus resurrection because his human body was the sacrifice.

              You said, “resurrection of the dead”, which is an obvious buzz word (or phrase). This term was a hot-button issue between pharisees and sadducees and it specifically meant the resurrection of a physical body!” Ah, I’m a little confused, are there some people alive somewhere that are in need of a resurrection? The unfaithful Pharisees and Sadducees are the last people I would be looking to for theological answers. The Jews of the second temple period had various ideas about resurrections and the afterlife, not just one.

  • Brian

    I also would look at Corinthians 15:37 and onwards, to see Paul’s analogy of the seed. The body that goes down is the one that comes up. When Paul says spiritual I would assume that he meant what the body is composed of as oppose to the realm that it is raised in, so Jesus’ body would be like an angel’s body. He also gives another anology about switching different kind of clothes.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Howard, sorry it took so long to reply to your earlier comment. You said that without an inspired word, people do not know God. That presumably means that the first person to write some part of Scripture did not know God, since that person by definition had no previously-existing inspired word. I don’t see how this viewpoint works. If what you mean is that one needs either an inspired text or to be divinely inspired oneself, then presumably even if the former option is called into question, the latter exists, albeit with all the uncertainty and confusion that comes along with it. My own view is that what are called inspired texts are writings by people who were believed to be divinely inspired, and so if inspired people create confusion and conflict and it is hard to discern who if anyone truly speaks for God, then I think that that problem does not go away simply because they write something or have their message written down.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @ James, You have this very sneaky way of turning things around an applying them to situations that they were not meant to address. I was talking about Christians today and more specifically, to historical critics and their adherents that say they are Christians. Then you just reiterate the exact problem I was trying to expose. Yes, I know that you have doubts about authenticity, inspiration and the apparent confusion in the Bible, and that was exactly my point. If you do not have total faith in what you are reading as though you were reading God’s thoughts, then you simply do not believe that you know God’s thoughts, at least through the Bible. Unless you are having some sort of personal revelation with God, then you do not know him. What you know is what you have created in your own mind with your own reasoning. Besides, your logic is a bit flawed. For someone who does have faith in the complete Bible, the logic goes something like this. As I said, I was talking about Christians, and every Christian author all the way back to the one who wrote the first word of the New Testament, did have inspired Scriptures available to him to know God, the Hebrew Scriptures. Every author of the Hebrew Bible also had prior inspired Scripture to know God, the Pentateuch. Moses wrote the Pentateuch as he had direct communication with God. And this communication was not just some dream or religious experience, this communication was witnessed by an entire nation. I know you do not agree with most of this, and again, that’s my point. If you reject or doubt every other thing the Bible says, what do you have? Nothing! Nothing but a pieced together story made from parts of the Bible, parts of archeology, parts of historical data of societies and cultures, philosophies, hypothesis, and so on. I however believe the complete Bible and I know the God of the Bible and I have hope that the things he promised will take place. You also have hope, you hope some day you will come across a knowledge of God that you can completely trust and believe in. I’ve already found that!

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @ James, You have this very sneaky way of turning things around an applying them to situations that they were not meant to address. I was talking about Christians today and more specifically, to historical critics and their adherents that say they are Christians. Then you just reiterate the exact problem I was trying to expose. Yes, I know that you have doubts about authenticity, inspiration and the apparent confusion in the Bible, and that was exactly my point. If you do not have total faith in what you are reading as though you were reading God’s thoughts, then you simply do not believe that you know God’s thoughts, at least through the Bible. Unless you are having some sort of personal revelation with God, then you do not know him. What you know is what you have created in your own mind with your own reasoning. Besides, your logic is a bit flawed. For someone who does have faith in the complete Bible, the logic goes something like this. As I said, I was talking about Christians, and every Christian author all the way back to the one who wrote the first word of the New Testament, did have inspired Scriptures available to him to know God, the Hebrew Scriptures. Every author of the Hebrew Bible also had prior inspired Scripture to know God, the Pentateuch. Moses wrote the Pentateuch as he had direct communication with God. And this communication was not just some dream or religious experience, this communication was witnessed by an entire nation. I know you do not agree with most of this, and again, that’s my point. If you reject or doubt every other thing the Bible says, what do you have? Nothing! Nothing but a pieced together story made from parts of the Bible, parts of archeology, parts of historical data of societies and cultures, philosophies, hypothesis, and so on. I however believe the complete Bible and I know the God of the Bible and I have hope that the things he promised will take place. You also have hope, you hope some day you will come across a knowledge of God that you can completely trust and believe in. I’ve already found that!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MUIGGGWVZRPI7DRSO4ENSPPHCQ ConnorO

    All these issues arise out of the fundamentally irreconcilable conceptions of the soul and its relation to the body found in Jewish and Greek cultures.

    For Jews, and semitic cultures generally, a soul without a body to animate is nonsense, does not compute. Whereas, for the inheritors of Hellenistic culture and thought, the idea of a bodily resurrection is offensive, disgusting, like zombies. Dead bodies are dead; the soul has left. Dead bodies are also corrupting and disruptive to the conduct of the living and are given their own sacred space.

    The incoherent and inconsistent early Christian treatment of resurrection as found in the NT and associated literature is the result of various attempts to bridge this gulf.

  • Brian

    I would go with Paul’s description as he was the first one to report a resurrection [that we have]. And even if you don’t consider it a bodily resurrection from our point of view, it still was to Paul, the body of Jesus was raised up albiet in a angelic form. I however believe that the tomb story bears the mark of some authencity. If Paul’s description of the resurrection is true [in the sense of how the apostle's expereinced it] then there would have been no body at the tomb or ditch. The later elaborations were probably for apologetic reasons [with who, I do not know] or wahtever. But I am conviced that the tomb/ditch was empty. As for what happened to the body, I don’t know exactly. Personally, I think something special happened that day but I know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

  • Brian

    Lazarus’ resurrection wasn’t really what an ancient Jew would have called a resurrection. The death process for Lazarus was simpily reversed, which means eventually Lazarus will die again. Jesus on the other hand, had an immortal body. But we keep telling you that the body was transformed, so the physical body is now made up of spiritual substance. As for how he sits at the right hand of the Father, according to Luke he flew up to heaven.
    As for Corinthians 15:50, I’m not sure what you think it means or how you are using it in defense of your position.
    And I would say that a transformed body does not contain flesh and blood.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @ Brian

      This is all well and good, and I am not really interested in peoples opinion about how Jesus was specifically resurrected, except for the point that no one has provided an answer to my question of what Jesus sacrificed? The Bible is pretty clear that it was his body, his flesh. So exactly how does Jesus sacrifice this flesh, yet he still retains it as the basis of his transformed body?

      John 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

      Hebrews 10:10 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

      • Isaiah Burton

        Your not interested in peoples opinions about how Jesus was resurrected? That is the whole point of our discussion! James’ blog post asks the question “What can/can’t Christianity exist without?” James even says that the idea for this post came from an earlier blog post he wrote about new information coming from the study of the Talpiot Tomb and the James ossuary. Specifically, some people believe that the physical body of Jesus is in that tomb! The idea of a bodily verses a spiritual resurrection is front and center in this thread, it’s the whole point! What Jesus sacrificed has absolutely no connection to this topic whatsoever, it is totally out of left field! Also, you claimed that my analogy of the older brother taking a punishment in place of a younger brother was faulty. How about I rephrase it, let’s say that the younger brother did something wrong, he threw a rock through a window. The father was going to spank the younger brother, knowing full-well that it was the younger brother who did it. But, the older brother steps in and tells the dad that he wants to take the punishment in place of his younger brother. The father accepts the older brothers offer and spanks him instead of the younger brother. The older brother sacrificed himself and no one loses anything permanently. Also, if God the Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice without any permanent lose then who are you to complain that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t a good enough sacrifice. The question is not how you define sacrifice or what you would accept as a sacrifice, but what God would accept as a sacrifice.    

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          @Isaiah,

          Interesting analogy, lets now put the real biblical characters into it and see if it still makes sense.

          let’s say that the younger brother [Adam] did something wrong, he threw a rock through a window. The father was going to spank [punish with death] the younger brother [Adam], knowing full-well that it was the younger brother who did it. But, the older brother [Jesus] steps in and tells the dad [God] that he wants to take the punishment in place of his younger brother [Adam]. The father accepts the older brothers [Jesus] offer and spanks [kills] him instead of the younger brother [Adam].

          I use Adam, and not mankind in general in the analogy because Adam is the origin of sin.

          Romans 5:12, 18-19 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. . . Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

          There are a couple problems here. First, Jesus did not sacrifice himself for Adam, because Adam was a perfect man turned a deliberate sinner. Not even imperfect men can be deliberate sinners and expect salvation.

          Hebrews 10:26-29 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

          Jesus sacrificed his human body and life not to save Adam, but to save his descendents who are born into sin, a sin that was not their own and to which they could not ask forgiveness for. The source of the sin had to be dealt with. So in the end, Jesus sacrificed his perfect human body and received the punishment meant for all of mankind, eternal death. So his human body must stay in eternal death to keep the ransom in effect. Finally, I don’t see why you make such a big deal about Jesus retaining his human body in some fashion, after all he was alive for countless millions of years in heaven with a spiritual body before this human body even came into existence. Why do you think he needs it now? Why is it so hard to imagine that it was this spiritual body that was resurrected?

          John 17:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

          • Isaiah Burton

            My analogy was not of real biblical characters, the analogy was only to point out that the older brother sacrificed himself and did not lose anything permanently. Since you put Jesus, the exact sacrifice we have been talking about in the place of the older brother I will take that as complete and total agreement on your part that what the older brother did was a sacrifice. Now, unless you can tell me what he permanently lost then you just agreed with me and your objection that Jesus must have gave up his earthly body based on the meaning of the word sacrifice has crumbled.
            Also, I do not think that Jesus “needs” a human body, but I do think he has one. I brought this subject up, as I have mentioned before, because this subject was the basis for James’ post and the main reason for this thread. I am convinced that Jesus’ resurrection was bodily in form, just as almost every Christian for the past 2,000 years has. I’ve showed you the evidence and you continue to cite individual verses that, when put in context, actually support my view! You cited 1 Corinthians 15:50 for instance when verse 53 says “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” If you go back to verse 42, Paul is talking about the “resurrection of the dead”! Now you dismiss this because I said it was the pharisees and sadducees who were using this term. Paul, who was a devout Jew, had to have known what this term meant. This is like saying that just because you and I are not Hindus that when I use the term “reincarnation” that I somehow must not mean what the Hindus mean. Also, you are correct, there was more than one view about the “resurrection of the dead”, the pharisees were pro and the the sadducees were anti! I know that in both camps there were probably varying views, but at the most basic level, it means that the physical body was part of the resurrection! From 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, I can see why you would get the impression that you do with Paul’s defining of the spiritual body and the earthly body, but that is ignoring certain verbs, like “raised” and “changed”. In a discussion where the term “resurrection of the dead” is front and center, verbs like these have to be referring to the physical body. If we cannot come to that conclusion, at the very least, then words must have no meaning, and we cannot study anything of the past because when studying anything from history, all context (historical and otherwise) has to be thrown out the window. John 17:5, what does this have to do with anything. I guess you are trying to say that glorify must mean that God is giving Jesus a spiritual body? Also, when it says “Father, glorify me in your presence. . .”, the Greek has more the idea of “with yourself” than “in your presence”. So it is not speaking of Christ having a spiritual body. Anyway, say whatever you want, it will probably be a little while before I can post again. I’m going to be busy for a while. But have a good day, I have enjoyed the debate, mostly, some things were a little infuriating, but all in all it was fun. I can read any responses on my phone though, but I cannot respond with much more than a few words.God bless!

            • Howard Mazzaferro

              “My analogy was not of real biblical characters, the analogy was only to point out that the older brother sacrificed himself and did not lose anything permanently.”

              I used your analogy because it had some similarities to the biblical account, but you will noticed that I had to change your temporary sacrifice “spank” to a more permanent one of death.

              “Since you put Jesus, the exact sacrifice we have been talking about in the place of the older brother I will take that as complete and total agreement on your part that what the older brother did was a sacrifice.”

              Actually, what you describe is not the definition of a religious sacrifice as in the case of Jesus. The Columbia Encyclopedia defines sacrifice as: “sacrifice [Lat. sacrificare=to make holy], a type of religious offering, or gift to a superior or supreme being, in which the offering is consecrated through its destruction.” Your description fits the modern sense of doing something unpleasant to prevent someone else from having to endure the unpleasant thing. Which is not really even a sacrifice in the modern sense, such as a mother sacrificing her youth to care for her children. What she sacrificed, she can never get back, she will never be 18 years old again. However, for the sake of argument, lets say it is a sacrifice. You still have a serious flaw, the older brother protected the younger brother in this one instance only. He would have to accept the punishment for his younger brother over and over again. The sacrifice was temporary and the thing gained was only temporary. Your analogy needs to address the issue of protecting the younger brother permanently if you want it to be an analogy of Jesus sacrifice. This was the same problem with the animal sacrifices, the Jews had to do them again and again. However, Jesus sacrificed brought permanent benefits. Can you explain to me why a temporary sacrifice would bring permanent benefits?

              “I’ve showed you the evidence and you continue to cite individual verses that, when put in context, actually support my view! You cited 1 Corinthians 15:50 for instance when verse 53 says “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”

              So how long did it take you to find a translation that used the word “body” in this verse? Because it is not in the Greek text. This is simply a figure of speech and not to be taken literally as if the human body is encased in something else. Colossians uses the same word, would you take this literally? Colossians 3:12 “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

            • Howard Mazzaferro

              “If you go back to verse 42, Paul is talking about the “resurrection of the dead”! Now you dismiss this because I said it was the pharisees and sadducees who were using this term. Paul, who was a devout Jew, had to have known what this term meant.”

              Well, there are a few problems here. This “term” you mention is the Greek word anastasis, and if you are referring to this specific term being used by the Jews, the only source comes from non-biblical texts. The Greek word anastasis appears only 3 times in the LXX at Zep 3:8, Lam 3:63, and Dan 11:20 and none of these are in reference to someone rising from the dead. So even though some Jews believed in a bodily resurrection, there is no evidence that their concept was tied in with the Greek word anastasis. Yes, Paul was a Pharisee who obviously held their views at one time, but that does not mean he didn’t use the phrase “resurrection of the dead” in a new Christian sense. After all, Jesus reproved the Pharisees because their concept of the resurrection was wrong. Matthew 22:29-30 “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

              “From 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, I can see why you would get the impression that you do with Paul’s defining of the spiritual body and the earthly body, but that is ignoring certain verbs, like “raised” and “changed”. In a discussion where the term “resurrection of the dead” is front and center, verbs like these have to be referring to the physical body.”

              Why does it “have” to be referring to a physical body? I think you are reading things into the word resurrection that are not really there. The Greek word anastasis simply means “rising up”, the word originally had no relation to bringing a dead body back to life, read the three Scriptures from the LXX I listed above and see how the word was used. Also, I think you are reading into the word “dead” that since it is a human body that is dead, that must be what is raised. With that logic, you leave no room for any other kind of resurrection. But again, you are wrong, Lets finish Jesus discussion with the Sadducees and Pharisees. Matthew 22:31-32 “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” How are these men living? Also, John 3:5 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” So regardless of what you think, flesh and spirit are not merged together somehow to create a transformed human body. As far as the word “change,” are you aware that one of its definitions is to replace with another? Like when I change my clothes, I put on new clothes that have nothing to do with the old ones I was wearing.

              “John 17:5, what does this have to do with anything. I guess you are trying to say that glorify must mean that God is giving Jesus a spiritual body? Also, when it says “Father, glorify me in your presence. . .”, the Greek has more the idea of “with yourself” than “in your presence”. So it is not speaking of Christ having a spiritual body.”

              This is a perfect example of how you are not moving past the elementary things, you just keep saying Jesus was raised bodily, Jesus was raised bodily. I am trying to get you to explore why Jesus died and why he was resurrected, and what was the sacrifice and ransom, how does his death technically help anyone? When you understand the reasons, the other things make more sense. I listed John 17:5 to show that the person of Jesus had a pre-human existence and that he was in a form like God, a spirit. (John 4:24; Phil 2:6). And what was he like when he went back to heaven? Hebrews 1:3 “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature. . .” See also Colossians 1:15. So if Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature, then God must also have a glorified human body. And if God is really immutable, then he has had this human body for all eternity. Interesting, so God is human after all!

  • Trey

    I recently finished a book by Ray Kurzweil titled ‘The Singularity Is Near’ and it made me wonder what would be the implications for religious belief if man were to achieve near immortality or even immortality itself. What if technology allowed us to exponentially increase the human life span (life expectancy has more than doubled  in just the last 100 years), how would people view religion in such a brave new world? BTW I am not saying I agree with his futuristic predictions it just made me think about religion in the context of the future he painted in the book and since most, perhaps all of the world’s major religions offer up the promise of eternal life, I wonder what the incentives for religious belief and practice would be in that world.

    • Isaiah Burton

      Fascinating topic, I am not sure what it would do to religious belief, but I know what I’ll be pondering for the next few days!

  • Isaiah Burton

    Howard Mezzaferro and I (with many helpful posts from others) have been going back and forth about Jesus’ resurrection, whether it was bodily or spiritual in nature. One thing I think is interesting is that he seems to see the spiritual realm as so totally different from the earthly realm that Jesus couldn’t go to the spiritual realm with a human body. In his view the spiritual realm is completely immaterial. Even when angels come to Earth and interact in the material world, they take on human physical forms in order to interact, for example they eat.
    I wonder if anyone else thinks (or believes that the biblical writers thought) that the two worlds are that separate or if others think that the heavenly realm (or whatever you want to call it) is more earthly and does have material substance? Also, if material creatures like us cannot exist or interact in an immaterial, heavenly realm without changing into a totally unconnected immaterial form (like a spiritual resurrection of Jesus) and immaterial beings have to change into material forms (angels) in order to act in our world, then doesn’t that mean that God could not be able to act in our world without a physical form? Would God need to abandon his immaterial body and take up a physical one just to interact in our world or are the earthly and heavenly realms more alike than that?
    I know this seems like it is off of the topic of this thread, but doesn’t Christianity need heavenly beings (mainly God) who have an ability to interact with the material world in order to exist?   

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      I think different concepts existed about the nature of heaven in the ancient mind. You have some tales that in some societies that depict the other world, heaven or hell, as an island or land in the clouds or below ground where gods lived. This can coexist with a more metaphysical understanding of heavenly beings existing in a hidden dimension of sorts.  Paul seems to have both views at times. He says he is unsure if he travelled to heaven spiritually or physically, but also says flesh and blood cannot inherit heaven.
       
      I would interpret his views as believing a person could physically be taken to heaven, but it lay beyond the mundane world, so you couldn’t reach it by sailing or riding a bird for instance.  Its own inhabitants however are not made of normal matter, but an amorphous substance that is like air and thought to be similar to what the heavenly bodies where made of.  He believes the ultimate destiny of man is to be remade with this substance, which is a literal spiritual substance, quite unlike a metaphorical spirit material, such as composes the “Spirit of 76” or the personified spirits of various ancient cities that never seem to have an existence apart from being the soul of the city.
       
      That spirit substance, I would gather, is not subject to the rules of the material world. It can affect matter but does so by magical association, not natural force. For instance invoking the name of a demon can cause sickens on an enemy without their being contact between the curser and the cursed. Likewise a spiritual being cannot be harmed by stabbing it, but though protective amulets and spells. Gods and angels do appear in human guise and can eat and such, even procreate with mortals, but these forms are only appearances put on by the god and not its true self, just as Optimus Prime is not really a truck even when In that from behaving as a truck. Docetics thought the living Jesus was such a spiritual manifestation.  And other legends can attest the gods could appear in many forms to impregnate mortals, the procreation is never seen as mundane impregnation, but magical.  Effectively, spiritual beings don’t turn into material ones to affect matter, they do so magically. On the other hand material beings in heaven wouldn’t be able to manipulate the magical spirit stuff of heaven without magic. It is magic, miracles, or mysticism that allows the interaction between matter and spirit.
       
      God of course requires no body to act in the world because his magic is that his thoughts are manifest into reality. He is a bit like concepts like the law of natural selection which are rules that govern the interaction of matter, but is not a material object, like ions or protons.  Of course God is still anthropomorphiesed as having a human intellect that uses human style rational and emotional thinking.
      Now I think a large number of believers historically have envisioned heaven as a place where you play harps, or live in a pleasure garden, but I think the intellectual leadership of these communities saw heaven as a place outside of normal human experience and contained in an in expressible merger with higher forces, like becoming light or love.
      On the last point, oddly some forms of Christianity did not think God could interact with the material world, and that was accomplished by a non-material lesser emanation.
       
      Personally, I think that material existence is the only real kind, “spiritual” existence is effectively ideal existence, like the perfect island, it exist in minds, but has no material expression except the atoms of the brains it is composed in. As I mentioned earlier, I think God can be observed in the rules that govern existence, but it is only in the presence of matter that those rules have expression; only in matter could God know he existed.  
       
      Jesus may be dead, but the configuration of his mind is real and present independent his brain, it is a law of physics, information is never lost. (The configuration of everything that has existed is “out’ there, having been manifested in the past or future. ) It becomes manifest in everything that shares that configuration that identifies it as being identifiable with Jesus. This is like when we say a baby has its father’s eyes. It indeed does, as those eyes are caused by the same strand of information that created the fathers. Jesus lives on in those who he is identified in.  As to whether Jesus has a continued conscious existence, that  I do not know, but I would point out reality may be a big place, and we don’t know what could be.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thank you to everyone who has commented so far!

    @Howard, it does not seem to me that the Bible calls for people to trust texts, but to trust God. And it seems to me that your approach risks trusting that other humans were telling the truth rather than your own experience. Trusting the testimony of the human authors of the Bible does not seem to me to be the sort of faith that Paul and others describe as saving, Christian faith.

    @Trey, it does indeed make for interesting discussion to ponder the singularity, both in terms of the possibility of the evolution of god-like artificial intelligences, and in terms of the possible appearance of technology that could prolong human lifespans indefinitely. Would humans who lived 500 years respond to religious believers offering them eternal life in the same way that people today do?

    @Isaiah, I think that the analogy of one person being punished instead of another while the guilty goes free is problematic. I would be interested in your thoughts on some of my earlier posts in the topic of penal substitution, if you get a chance to take a look at any of them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      James on your response to Trey, I do think eternal life would be a draw to people living 500 years. i think the notion of people getting bored with life is pure nonsense or that anyone would feel they really had enough. In fact, i think as people live longer their ability to cope with death will go down. Dying was no huge tragedy to people expecting to be dead by 40, it was common. When the life expectance is 500 it is going to be perceived as a tragedy of unparlled porpotions when some one gets eaten by giant space ants at age 50.

    • Isaiah Burton

      Hello James, I haven’t had time to check your earlier posts on penal substitution yet. The background though for the story that I told about the father and two brothers came from a debate that Howard and I have been having throughout this thread. Howard says that for there to be a sacrifice the one doing the sacrificing must lose something forever or to be more plain, Howard’s position is that Jesus’ sacrifice was his flesh and blood, which he lost after death for all eternity. I was just trying to demonstrate that someone (the older brother) could sacrifice himself and not lose something for eternity. The easiest way to show this was to use a story that reflected something that was very similar (actually, probably identical) to penal substitution. In this sense, the father accepted the older sons sacrifice, whether we think it was fair, or even just. But the only point I was actually trying to make was that the older brother was able to sacrifice himself without losing something permanently and to demonstrate that Howard’s objection to a bodily resurrection based on how he defines sacrifice was unfounded. 
      I will go back and look at your posts on penal substitution though, but honestly I have never fully made up my mind on what theory of the atonement I am most in line with. I would be curious what you think, both your personal view and your view on what the biblical writers thought of the atonement. 

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @jamesfmcgrath:disqus David Friedrich Strauss: “Are we still Christians? No, said Strauss, at least not those among us who have absorbed the Higher Criticism, for we can no longer accept the Bible as the Word of God.”—Religion and the Rise of Scepticism, by Franklin L. Baumer.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Isaiah, thanks for the clarification. It is interesting to note that the Christian who espouses the immortality of the soul may find it difficult to view any sacrifice as “permanent” in any meaningful sense. And it is also worth mentioning that there are problems for a substitutionary view coupled with belief in eternal punishment, because it is unclear why a limited amount of suffering would substitute for the penalty of eternal punishment supposedly due.

    Michael, I don’t know whether at the end of 500 or 1,000 years someone would be sufficiently weary of life that they would find an offer of eternal li unappealing. But I hope we get to find out! ;-)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X