The New Physicality of Resurrection
Last week Bruce Epperly offered an alternate progressive understanding of Resurrection, one that allowed for it to be more than a parable or metaphor, but allows for a sense of physicality. This post got considerable discussion going, for we struggle with what all of this means. Part of our issue is that we must, whether we like it or not, recognize that science plays a role in the conversation. Progressive/liberal Christians tend to have a problem with discussions of reality that rely on supernaturalism. The assumption is that God does not contravene the laws of nature. There are a lot of reasons for that position, which I'll not go into here. But, it does raise questions about the physicality of Jesus' resurrection and that of any post-death experience.
Last night, if you watched it, the conclusion to the Lost series reflected upon life after death and while envisioning a rather inclusive/interfaith understanding, offered a sense of physicality -- even resurrection. On that end, I'll leave it to expert Lost watchers like James McGrath to break down the meaning of the finale. But, what it does suggest is that many people hope for an embodied future post death.
With that introduction, I wanted to add in a paragraph from N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope, that deals with Paul's understanding of post-death physicality. As a prelude to this quote, Wright makes it clear that he has in mind a sense of this new physicality of resurrection being part of "life after life after death." That is, what is spoken of in John 14 as the "many mansions" or Jesus in Luke speaking of paradise, infers an intermediate state prior to the new physicality that Jesus will embody in his own resurrection, and which we will share in at the time of the General Resurrection.
What Paul is asking us to imagine is that there will be a new mode of physicality, which stands in relation to our present body does to a ghost. It will be as much more real, more firmed up, more bodily, than our present body as our present body is more substantial, more touchable, than a disembodied spirit. We sometimes speak of someone who's been very ill as being a shadow of their former self. If Paul is right, a Christian in the present life is a mere shadow of his or her future self, the self that person will be when the body that God has waiting in his heavenly storeroom is brought out, already made to measure, and put on over the present one -- or over the self that will still exist after bodily death. (p. 154).
In this statement, which is a reflection upon Paul's discussion of the new creation in 2 Corinthians 5, he speaks of our current bodies being mere shadows of the future body, the spiritual body. The spiritual body is not ghostlike, but even more tangible than the current one. I would invite your response to this statement as we wrestle with what it means to embrace the idea of resurrection in the contemporary world. What is it, after all, that the hope of the resurrection, which Paul makes so central, have to say to our lives in the hear and now?