What Energizes You?

One night in our weekly gathering of friends we discussed the question "What exactly is the resurrection, and what kind of bodies will we have?"

From roughly the time of the Exile through the destruction of Jerusalem and beyond, many groups within the Jewish and Judeo-Christian worldviews expected a resurrection "at the end of the age", along with judgment from God.

Of course, the New Testament clearly claims that Jesus was physically resurrected after his crucifixion. According to the accounts, he spent time with his disciples after the event, and then left the planet with the promise that he'd return.

We picked up the story in I Corinthians, where Paul is dealing with the same question our Tuesday night group was dealing with. In chapter 2 verses 14-15 he writes:
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one."
Now that's the New American Standard translation. Here's the interesting thing: that word the NAS renders "natural" is psychikon in the original language. And the word the NAS renders "spiritual" is pneumatikon in Greek.

The root of psychikon is psyche - typically translated "the soul, or the emotional, feeling and thinking part of a person". We get our word "psychology" from psyche.

Of course, the root of pneumatikon is pnuema - for "breath or spirit".

And the -ikon endings translate to "pertaining to or associated with". Tom Wright, in The Resurrection of the Son of God says, and he persuades me to agree, that in the context of chapter 2, the -ikon endings for those words would be best translated "animated by".

And in the verses just before this passage, Paul had been comparing the wisdom of "this age" with the "hidden wisdom" that came from God, wisdom regarding the age to come.

So perhaps a better rendering of the Greek would be:
"But a man animated and energized by the current order of things and by the common wisdom or psychology of this age does not accept the things of the Spirit of God ... But he who is animated and energized by the Spirit and by the wisdom of the age to come appraises all things...".
Then Paul discusses the resurrection directly in chapter 15, and Wright points out that Paul uses these same words in 15:44 and onwards:
"it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."
The phrase "natural body" = soma psychikon and "spiritual body" = soma pneumatikon in the Greek text.

So a better translation of 15:44 might be:
"it is sown a body animated by the soul, by the psychology and by the wisdom of this age, it is raised a body animated by the Spirit and by the wisdom of the age to come."
See that? The resurrection produces a soma, a body that is...a body! It has real, concrete physicality. We don't become Casper the Friendly Ghost in some disembodied existence.

Nope - we get a new physical body that is powered, energized or animated by the Spirit of God. Connect this with Revelation 19 through 22 and what do you get? It's truly awesome!

Now the tricky part comes when we remember that in 1 Corinthians 2 - Paul is expecting us today, right here, right now - to live as anthropos pneumatikon (people animated by the Spirit and by the wisdom of the age to come). Did you get that?

We are to be energized every day and every moment by the reality of the resurrection and the kingdom to come.

Of course, the "now/not yet" tension that runs all through the New Testament is hugely present here. So this is tough to do when we've still got these old "corruptible" bodies. But God's Spirit inside us does the trick.

We've just gotta pay a lot more attention to him.

Father, give me the sense to be pneumatikon rather than psuchikon. Help me to be energized by, animated by and consumed with the wisdom of the kingdom to come. Give me the will and the strength to live now, as best I can, as if I were soma pneumatikon - until that great day when Messiah returns and makes everything new.


Steven Carr said...

'But he who is animated and energized by the Spirit and by the wisdom of the age to come appraises all things...".

So this resurrection has already happened and we have people walking around today with bodies '...powered, energized or animated by the Spirit of God.'?

So why do you need a resurrection for that to happen?

And I am pleased to hear Wright teach that , at the resurrection, the body of Jesus was changed into a body '...powered, energized or animated by the Spirit of God.'

This happens at the resurrection, doesn't it?

Jesus body before the resurrection was not animated by the Spirit of God.

Jesus body after the resurrection was animated by the Spirit of God.

This is Wright's exegesis of Paul's explanation of what happens in a resurrection.

'we get a new physical body that is powered, energized or animated by the Spirit of God.'

So what happens to the old body?

And why did Christian converts in Corinth scoff at the very idea of their god choosing to raise corpses?

All these questions are answered at my Resurrection Debate

Mike Aleckson said...

Friends, welcome Steven Carr. Steven is an atheist who's spent considerable time over the last several years proposing skeptical alternatives to Christianity.

Steven, it's good to have you here!

With regard to your question "So what happens to the old body?" - I know you've read Wright, and I know you've read the Bible - so you know Paul's words in I Cor. 15:

"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."

But honestly, before we start down the road of battling over minutiae - which I'd bet you've done quite a bit of over the years - I'd rather just have you note my particular posture relative to the Christian worldview. It's expressed in these posts:

"Proving" God's Existence

Spirituality vs. Intellect

My Epistemology

What is the Bible, really?

The Christian Hope

And though I see you've found this one already - I list it for sake of completeness. My Percentage-based Faith

What I'm getting at is simply this - I cannot prove that God exists any more than you can prove he does not. You and I both know this.

The only thing you and I can do is choose a worldview - a story that helps us make sense of the past, present and future.

You've chosen a worldview which, when pushed to reductio ad absurdum, denies the possibility of the existence of anything that cannot be measured.

And I respect your choice! But for me to follow you down that road is impossible, because your choice leaves far too many gaps in my understanding of the past, present and future.

A teleological worldview such as Judaism, Christianity or Islam, viewed through the critical-realist epistemological position that I've adopted, provides a much more satisfying explanation for me.

Again for me, Christianity as I view and practice it provides a more satisfying (intellectually, emotionally and dare I say spiritually) explanation of past and present, as well as a hopeful view of the future.

But I fully recognize and appreciate your right to think I'm full of it, and continue on your merry way to whatever your worldview tells you lies ahead!

Steven Carr said...

What happens to the old body?

I can't find the word 'body' in what you quoted.

I know this is 'minutae' to point out that the passage quoted does not contain the word 'body', which makes it less than helpful in knowing what Paul thought happened to the body.

Let me find a place where Paul does talk about what happens to the earthly tent we live in (ie our body)

2 Corinthians 5:1 'For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands'.

Body, destroyed.

As for the passage quoted, the one which has the minute detail of not containing the word 'body', it is perfectly consistent with the idea that one body is exchanged for the destroyed earthly body.

The verb is alasso. It can mean change, as well as exchange, just as our word 'change' is often used to mean 'exchange'

Paul uses the form 'allagesometha' in 1 Corinthians 15:51 (future form)

The same word is used in Hebrews 1:10-12 to describe how things will be exchanged in the way that clothes are exchanged.

In the Greek translation of the OT, it is used in Genesis 35:2 to mean change clothes (ie remove old clothes and put on new ones)

Paul often uses a clothing metaphor for the exchange of our present body for the new body, and 'allagesometha' fits perfectly into that metaphor.

It is also used in the Greek translation of the OT in Exodus 13:13 to mean replacing one animal with another.

So 'exchange' is a perfectly acceptable meaning for the word, and that is what it usually does mean.

Mike Aleckson said...

OK Steven, I'll bite (at least this time).

Did you notice that the word "body" (soma) is not in the verse you quoted either?

But just as it is indeed the topic of the broader passage to which you are referring, so it is with 2 Corinthians 15 to which I referred.

So the thrust of your argument is lost on me.

And I don't believe the overall Judeo-Christian understanding of resurrection would be nullified by replacing the verb "change" with "exchange" - so I'm not sure what you hope to do with that.

Again, my critical-realist epistemology requires me to be open to a more satisfying narrative framework to live within if I can find such a thing.

Unfortunately you've not yet provided me with such a worldview, so alas, for now I'm sticking with what I've got. :)

Anonymous said...

I am not fluent in Greek so I wont be able to add anything on that level. But I can say this.

Steven you asked what happens to the body. Read 1 Corinthians 15 again. First it talks about Christ and what his Resurrection was.

Think about it what happened to Jesus when he died. He was put into a tomb and he rose again. There was no body in that cave. Where is the body? The body is wherever Jesus is. He still has a physical body, but it has been changed. (The chapter goes through with more detail than I am going to. so it would be good for you to read through it.) The verses in that first part say how he is the first fruits. Meaning the same will happen to us. But lets continue from there.

From there it goes into what the differences are of the Spiritual body and the natural body.

Verse 51 and 52 says "Listen, I will tell you a mystery! we will not all die, but we all will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.

Again here we are seeing the word changed. We are first given an example of someone's body being changed, then what is different, then reinforced with these two verses. The body was changed, it wasn't destroyed. What was destroyed was the sin nature.

And if you have done enough study which I am sure you probably have. Death, decay and sickness did not come into the world until sin entered into the world. So by Jesus/God destroying sin they are getting rid of all three of those things causing the body to change. It is no longer corruptible.

Just thought I would add that in. Sorry for butting in.