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<  Feedback  ~  Followup to Adult Breakout group Sunday 2/10/2008

PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 9:21 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
The following was sent in an email to me from Bill Sullivan.

We had an interesting discussion about bodily resurrection in Sunday
evening's GoF session and I had a few follow up questions. I
understand that this is a central Catholic doctrine. The words of the
Nicene Creed are a bit ambiguous ("we look for the resurrection of the
dead"), but the Apostles' Creed is quite clear that this is bodily
resurrection ("I believe... in the resurrection of the body"). So
far, so good. However, we also discussed the nature of the
resurrection body and this was where I think you lost me.

First, let me state a summary of my understanding of what you said:

1) The notion of a separate body and soul comes from imperfect Greek
philosophical terms/concepts of duality which have been applied to
Christian doctrine. A human is in fact fully body and soul and the
two are inseparable, even in death.

2) At the time of death, you will be bodily resurrected. Your body as
you know it on earth (that which will be buried) will either be cast
aside or somehow transformed and you will then inhabit a new
resurrected body. This will happen at the instant of death and at no
point will your soul be separated from your body since, by definition
of the unity of body and soul, it cannot be.

3) The resurrected Christ can be considered an example of what will
happen to our bodies at our own resurrection. He appeared to many
after His resurrection. Oftentimes, those he appeared to, even those
who knew him best, did not recognize Him. In the same sense, our
resurrected bodies will be somehow different from our current bodies.

Hopefully, that was the gist of it. If not, please correct me.

So... here's where you lost me. I've been under the impression that
our bodies as we currently know them will be resurrected. They may be
changed in some way, but that the bodies that we currently have will
at least be a starting point. At the time of our death, I thought
that only our souls were judged (Particular Judgment) and that our
souls would then be separated from our bodies until the General
Judgment. This raises the question of how this is possible since, in
all likelihood, our earthly bodies will decay to nothing long before
the General Judgment comes to pass. However, if God can create an
entire universe from nothing then I doubt He'd have much trouble
resurrecting a body from ashes and dust. My point is, won't our
bodies and souls in fact be separated at least for a time?

Regarding the example of the resurrected Christ, He did appear
different after His resurrection. However, He also took on a
different appearance (i.e. the Transfiguration) at least once before
his crucifixion. In addition, wasn't Christ's Divinity at least
temporarily separated from His body at the time of His death? In the
Gospel of Luke Jesus says "Father, into your hands I commend my
spirit" at the time of His death. The Apostles' Creed also says that
Jesus "descended to the dead." His body was still in tomb until the
3rd day so this would lead me to believe that His body and His spirit
were separated during that time and it was His spirit which descended
to the dead. When he is resurrected he clearly returns in the same
body as before -- His tomb is empty, He tells Thomas to examine His
wounds -- even if He is at times unrecognizable to those who know Him.

I guess I just can't shake the notion of a separate body and soul.
I'd be curious for your thoughts on any of this.

PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 12:15 am Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
Hi Bill,
Your summary of what we discussed was right on. I would get a little more precise about two statements.
1) The problem with our Western use of the notion of the duality of body/soul, spirit/matter is not so much a question of using an "imperfect" concept; the problem comes from mistaking a metaphor for the reality. There is no problem in considering a human to be body plus soul in those areas where that gives a better insight or good answers, any more than it is to use Newtonian physics at low speeds, or to regard matter as being solid in problems where the dimensions are larger than subatomic ones.
2). We need to be careful to distinguish between the moment of death and resurrection. I did not mean to say that at the moment of death we experience resurrection, or even that we get our resurrected body at that moment. What I hope I said was that at no point in our human existence does a human not have a body.
We did discuss what Jesus resurrected body tells us about what our resurrected bodies will be like. It does not tell us anything about our bodies between the moment of death and resurrection.
We do know that our body after death must be different from our body before death because in so many cases the body before death is destroyed. And even when it remains, it is not our body any more. The remains that we view at a wake or bury in a cemetery are no longer a human. The fact is that we have little or no information or revelation about what our bodies are like between death and resurrection.
But it is impossible for only our souls to be judged at the particular judgment because we are human and humans do not have separable body and soul. We are one thing: an embodied soul if you are stuck on wanting to identify parts. But why limit it to just those two parts: we are body and soul and mind and energy. Why don't we say our mind is judged or our energy is judged? Why just the soul? What ever that is. In Aramaic, the word we hear translated as soul means breath - breathe of life.
Here is a quote I read after our meeting from an article in the current issue of Chicago Studies by Bishop N. T. Wright.
From the historical viewpoint the word resurrection simply did mean bodies; there is no evidence whatever, until the second century, that anyone used the word or any of its cognates to refer to some kind of disembodied or so-called spiritual survival in which a body would not be involved.. This is not to pre-empt the necessary discussion of the nature of the resurrection body...<snip> If we regard the idea of immortal physicality as a contradiction in terms, as many do, that is precisely a sign of that deep rooted theological malaise which has afflicted Western thought for far too long and which has got in the way of a proper sacramental theology. Immortal physicality if what the New Testament offers us."
So in summary, our body
after death and therefore at our resurrection, shares no cells with our body before death, any more than our body today shares any cells with our body 7 years ago. We have no revelation about our bodies between death and resurrection, other than the ontological fact that we always have a body. And our resurrected body will be so different that we would not be readily recognizable as us.

As for the formulations you refer to surrounding the death of Christ, you have to remember not to read back into those words our dualistic meanings. Spirit meant person. Into your hands I commend my spirit - Here the author of Luke's gospel is putting the words from Psalm 31 on Jesus' lips. The author and anyone who heard this at the time would have heard this as: Into your hands I commend my self.
As for Jesus' body being in the grave when he descended to the dead, as we said above, the body we have after the moment of death is not the same as the body we had before death. The disappearance of the body from the tomb says nothing about the relation of that lump of matter to the resurrected body of Jesus. Jesus appears to his disciples in a body that is clearly different from the body that was in the tomb.
Thanks for following up.

PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 6:38 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 5 Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2004 10:56 pm
Arggh... had a reply all typed up and when I went to submit it, I lost it because I had to log in again. Whoops. Anyway...

I looked this up in the catechism and I stand corrected. The section is entitled, approrpriately enough, "BODY AND SOUL BUT TRULY ONE"

Also, 1st Corinthians 15:35-58 specifically answers the questions "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?" The implication is clearly that the resurrected body will be different. ... ians15.htm

Now, that's all well and good as far as explanation. However, I still find all of this difficult to wrap my mind around. I suppose this is where faith intervenes.

PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 9:36 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
Actually getting past our cultural programming is not so much a feat of faith but of critical thinking. Faith comes in where we encounter things that are beyond our capacity to comprehend, such as who God is and what happens to us after we die, but to sort through the language we have used to describe what it means to be human is an exercise in reason. In this case we have lots of source material to help us peel back the linguistic accretions and see through to the earlier ways of speaking about what it means to be human.

Good citations by the way. Here is another one that references John Paul II's Theology of the Body:
Spirituality is really about the soul and the things of the soul. The body and its needs do not matter. In fact, the body is the soul’s prison. Salvation is really the liberation of the soul from the dead weight of the body. So in this life, physical desires are to be resisted, even extinguished, if possible. That’s what Catholic spirituality is all about, right?

Not quite. That sort of spirituality has been promoted over the centuries by a number of different movements, Gnostic, Manichaean, Albigensian, who all have one thing in common–they’ve been condemned by the Catholic Church as dangerous heresies. In contrast to these heresies, the Catholic Church follows Genesis 1 to teach that the material world and the human body are masterpieces of God’s loving creativity. The human body is not a machine that the soul can trade in for another when it wears out. In fact, that is why re-incarnation can’t be right. No, the body is integral to who we are. We are enfleshed spirits. Jesus did not come to save souls but to save human beings. He fed the bodies of the hungry and healed the bodies of the sick even as his forgave their sins and taught them sublime spiritual truths. In fact we believe not just in the immortality of the soul but in the resurrection of the body.
From: ... Flesh.html


PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 1:16 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
As I re-read the section of catechism you identified, I noticed that paragraph 366 needs some comment:
366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.235
One might say that the phrase "when it separates from the body at death" is proof that the church teaches that a human can exist without a body after death. My comment would be that you always have to look first at the point of a statement to know what to place importance on. I would suggest that the point of that statement is to emphasize the immortality of the body rather than to state clearly that the body and soul can be separated.
I also found another online article that examines St. Irenaeus' views on the unity of human nature. (All the other articles by Deacon Keith are worth reading as well)

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:15 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 5 Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2004 10:56 pm
Charlie, one of the other 4 characteristics of the Church that we touched on briefly is oneness. Christ was not divided and therefore Christ's Church cannot be divided. However, the reality of the Church as it exists on earth is that it is not unified. There are dozens (maybe hundreds or even thousands) of Christian sects, each one claiming to offer the true path to salvation.

How do we reconcile this earthly splintering of Christianity with the oneness of Christ's Church?

How does the Catholic Church simultaneously claim these other churches to be in error while also allowing for the possibility of salvation for those outside the Catholic Church? Also, how does the Catholic Church avoid an implicit endorsement of these other faiths as being equally valid since they all offer the opportunity for salvation?

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:45 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
I was trying to figure out whether to make this a new thread but I guess it doesn't matter.

Your point about the absurdity of a religion that claims to have as a mark and a goal oneness being so splintered and divided is an extremely serious one. It is what makes ecumenism (the effort to reunite Christianity) a central responsibility of all Catholics, rather than the sideshow it has been for so long.
Whenever we are talking about Christianity, especially as understood from our Catholic perspective, we have to remember to hold in tension the ideal and the actual, the already and the not yet. So,
we are both sinners and saints, at the same time.
The Kingdom of God is at hand but it is not yet fully established.
The church is one because, as you point out, Christ is one but it is not yet fully exhibiting this essential mark.
So the lack of oneness should act as a spur to each one of us to engage in ecumenical efforts to the best of our ability.
As for salvation, we need to remember that scripture talks about salvation as heaven coming down to earth. It does not enter into any notion of a religion being a path to salvation in the sense of the road an individual walks to get from earth to heaven.
Scripture starts with God creating Eden, heaven on earth, and ends in Revelation with the heavenly Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth. The church does not really claim that other Christian churches are "in error" as much as it says that none of them have the fullness of truth that the Catholic Church does. To be even more precise it says that although God's truth is found in many places outside of the Church, there is no truth found outside the church that is not also found in the church.
So if the work of the Church is to help bring heaven to earth (to make God's kingdom come and God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven) then anyone doing any good, anyone acting out of love, helps that mission.
So as Jesus says when John reports others (beside the apostles) are working miracles in Jesus' name (Mark 9:38-41):
38 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."
39 Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.
40 For whoever is not against us is for us.
41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
It might be a little hard if you are not used to reading Church documents but I would suggest digging in to read part of Lumen Gentium that deals with this: ... um_en.html
Chapter II, paragraphs 9-17

PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 10:04 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 5 Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2004 10:56 pm
Charlie, I've been thinking more about body/soul unity. I've read the portions of the catechism and the various links that you've posted. Intellectually I can accept the concept. However, I've been struggling to come up with a mental picture of what it means. The stumbling block for me is the flesh, the literal skin and bones, that we inhabit (if that's even the right word since that implies a temporary state) during our earthly lives. Is this our body? Or is it simply our bodies as they appear on earth. I thought of an analogy, but it requires a bit of a tangent so bear with me.

I was reading about transubstantiation recently. It's a tricky concept and one that I wanted to understand better. I was familiar with the terms substance and accidents, but for some reason I had only understood them as they related to the consecration of the bread and wine. I had also misunderstood what was meant by accident. I interpreted it in its more common usage meaning a mistake or something unintended. Therefore, I thought of accidents as being unique to transubstantiation. That the appearance of the body and blood were just unintentional leftovers. As I read more, I realized that ALL objects have substance and accidents. The substance is that which something truly is (that's probably a bit of a circular definition). Substance is imperceptible to the senses. The accidents are how we perceive something.

So... back to my original point. Can the notion of substance and accidents be applied to our bodies vs. our flesh? In this analogy, the flesh would be the accidents. Skin color, hair color, weight, height, etc. All of the physical qualities which we perceive in ourselves and in others. Our bodies would then be the substance of who we truly are. That which we will be resurrected at the end of our earthly lives. Does this analogy make sense?

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 11:07 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
There is no question this is a very difficult thing to develop a mental picture for since we have no direct experience. Your application of the concepts of substance and accidents to this topic is very appropriate.
Another way of saying this is that accidents are things that can change without making a new thing. So I can change the color of my hair (or the amount), or lose an arm, or add pounds, etc. and I am still me.
In the process of transubstantiation, the accidents remain the same but the substance or essence has been changed. While this is challenging to understand (and some would posit other ways of talking about what happens at Eucharist), maybe we can look at it the other way around to shed some light on your difficulty in having a mental picture of what it means to say we have a body right after death.
After the consecration, the body of the Risen Christ looks like: a little wafer of bread. Maybe the bodies of those who died in the twin towers on 9/11/01 looked like plumes of smoke. Maybe all the "dark matter" that is spread throughout the universe is the form of human bodies after death.
I would suggest that the thing to get past in picturing this is not so much what that post death body looks like as it is letting go of the notion that it must resemble what you look like today. If Christ's post-death body can look like a wafer of bread or a cup of wine, why should we expect that our post-death bodies must look like the pre-death ones?


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