Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Theological Project Scraps . . . Question 4 continuned

As promised, I have read the articles from Jan Milic Lochman, and as I expected they affected my answer. Lochman emphasizes flesh. I am not enough of a creedal scholar to know the history of the Apostles' Creed. If memory serves, we don't know the exact origin or author of the Apostles' Creed. Which leads me to ask, in what language was it originally written. My guess would be Latin or Greek. I've looked at both the Latin and Greek versions, and they use carnis (Latin) or Sarxos (Greek), and both mean flesh. His emphasis, however, reminded me that no words in our creeds are unimportant. I hope you find the added paragraph enlightening. I'm opening for questions. I need to be able to defend my answers and I'll never be able to do that if I don't get questions. Without more delay . . .

4. What is your understanding of the Christian eschatological hope expressed in the Kingdom of God, Resurrection from the Dead, and eternal life?

In the gospel accounts Jesus makes reference to the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven repeatedly. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed the good news of God, saying the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news (Mark 1.13). The Kingdom of God, as Jesus proclaimed it was and is radical, and even revolutionary. Just the phrase the kingdom of heaven implies that there is kingdom other than Caesar’s. It was a threat to the Roman Empire. Today it is no less revolutionary. When we proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, we proclaim a promise of change. In our world, where Sin seems to be the only constant, where evil seems to reign, and injustice seems to be victorious, we proclaim that God’s kingdom has begun and will come and what seems will not always be so.

The Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church reads, “We believe in the reign of God as the divine will realized in human society, and in the family of God, where we are all brothers and sisters.” Theologian Ida Maria Isasi-Dias coined the term the Kin-dom of God, in which we are all related and inter-connected. I believe this is the hope of the Kingdom of God – a kingdom where social divisions are non-existent, where all have enough, where we are as concerned for our neighbors as we are for our own families, because our neighbors are members of our family.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22: 37 – 39). Within those two commandments, there are three – love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself. I believe that most of humanity does not know how to love themselves, which means they have no idea how to love God or their neighbors. In fact, Sin tells us that we are not worthy of love. As the Holy Spirit works in us, healing us, we find ourselves learning how to love. This work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and in our world moves us toward perfection, toward a full and perfect relationship with God, with each other and with ourselves, which is the hope expressed in the Kingdom of God. This kingdom has begun, in the Christ event and will be completed in the parousia.

Each Sunday in worship, I invite my congregation to affirm our faith. Regardless of which affirmation of faith we use, each Sunday we proclaim our faith in the resurrection of the dead. In Romans 6, Paul tells us that in baptism we have died with Christ, or we have taken on the death of Christ. He goes on to say in chapter 8, the one who “raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

Charles Hartshorne states that after we die, what we have been continues to be, especially in God, but also in those we leave behind. Our influence of the lives of those we knew continues on, but they no longer influence us. What we have been continues but we no longer continue to be. In essence, for Hartshorne, when we die, we die, and we are no more – at least we have no future influence. While Hartshorne speaks to the rational and reasonable yearning within my theology, the faith I confess each Sunday disagrees. It may not be rational, and I may not fully understand how, but I believe that Christ will come in final victory, and my body will be resurrected, fully resurrected.

To clarify, in the Latin version of the Apostles’ Creed, this belief is expressed, “carnis resurrectionem,” and in Greek it is, “σαρκος ανάστασιν.” Carnis and sarxos are both translated as flesh. We confess our belief in the resurrection of the flesh. This is distinction is important for a couple of reasons. First, we confess to the resurrection of the flesh as opposed to the immortal soul. Jan Lochman makes the case that this is a specific argument against dualism and Gnosticism. It is important to note that these same heresies exist today. Still there is a tendency to denigrate the material and elevate the spirit. Secondly, in confessing our belief in the resurrection of the flesh, we reclaim the dignity of the physical and the material world. I believe that all of me, my whole being will be resurrected. Moreover, the writer of the John opens his gospel by proclaiming that that Logos became flesh (sarx). Even if our “flesh” represents our sinful and fallen nature, as is so often the distinction made in Pauline writings, the Christ event redeems our whole selves, even our flesh.

This is not to say that in the resurrection we will be the same, in the same form. I do not pretend to know what my resurrected body will be. The Gospel according to Saint John, where the resurrected Jesus makes the most appearances is unclear, at best, in describing what the resurrection looks like. In some places, he seems like a ghost. He walks through walls in John 20:19, and 26. In John 20:27, he tells Thomas to place his hands in his wounds, as if he is a resuscitated corpse. He cannot be both, so I would say that he is neither a ghost nor a corpse. In his resurrected form, Jesus is something entirely different, never before encountered. Therefore it is not unreasonable to hold faith in the resurrection of the body, without knowing exactly what that resurrection will look like.



  1. How exactly does the "flesh" represent Sin?

    As in any aspect of life there is a balance. People who neglect any aspect for the pursuit of any other aspect of life are neglectful and will be miserable. Just as in the new fad of low carb diets. If you cut carbohydrates and substitute proteins you put undue stress on your body and miss vital nutrients. We can also say that excess carbohydrates can add weight and cause it's own plethora of disease. The best diet is a balance of all foods. Same can be said for Sin. If we pursue only the material and pleasures of the "flesh" we neglect ourselves spiritually and emotionally and will experience a deficiency. What happens when we neglect the physical, material world and pursue only the spiritual or emotional health. We will find ourselves ill and struggling to be happy and love God.

    For me "Sin" is the physical manifestation of this imbalance not any particular single aspect.

  2. @ Mary, exactly. I propose that any theology that denegrates the material, i.e. the created world, is seriously inadequate at best or just plain wrong. I was surprised by the use of the Greek word for flesh, b/c in our UMC Hymnals in the modern translation we confess that we believe in the resurrection of the body. Lochman's arguement, as I interpret it, is that the writers or framers of the Apostles' Creed specifically did not say, "I believe in the immortal soul" or "the resurrection of the soma (body)." The Gnostics (of old) preached that the material was something from which we needed to escape, into pure soul. Moreover, there were some teachings in the early church that the body (soma) could be perfected or a perfect portion of us. So to say that we believe in the resurrection of the flesh (sarx) is to say that not just some ideal version of us or perfect aspect of us will be resurrected, but the real us, the whole us. When God became flesh, in the Jesus, God took on all aspects of humanity, so it is our humanity that is redeemed in the Christ event.

    *loving this*