Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wright on Resurrection

I'm about 250 pages into N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God. The polemical center of the book aims at Christians who deny bodily resurrection. And that's just great. Wright's strategy in making that argument mainly is to insist that "resurrection" means bodily resurrection, and nothing else.

While I am entirely sympathetic with Wright's goal to defend bodily resurrection, his argument forces him to speak a lot about "metaphorical" resurrections, regarding baptism, being born again, the first resurrection in Rev 20 & etc.

I just don't buy it. I believe that we are really and truly resurrected in baptism; I believe that the first resurrection spoken of in Rev 20 is being born again, etc.

"Death" is not extinction, it is separation. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body; spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God. Spiritual death is the worse of the two (Lk 12.4-5). Adam and Eve died on the day they ate the fruit, just like God told them they would. They did not die physically, but they did die spiritually; they were separated from God because of their sin.

So we are resurrected in baptism -- because of Christ's work, our souls are no longer separated from God's presence. That is the first resurrection. And, after we die physically, our souls will once again be united with our bodies at the second resurrection.

To be sure, it may make it more difficult to persuade liberals that Paul is speaking about bodily resurrection in 1 Co 15, but "my" way of talking about resurrection preserves what I take to be the reality of new life in this age. We were dead, but now we are alive. We have been resurrected in Christ, yet there is a resurrection yet to come.

As for 1 Co 15.44 itself, and its reference to the raising of a "spiritual body," I don't see that we need to limit "resurrection" to bodily resurrection in order understand that Paul refers here to bodily resurrection. In 1 Co 10.3, Paul refers to Israel eating "spiritual food" in the wilderness. He's of course referring to manna. It seems to me that the "spiritual" adjective refers to the food's heavenly derivation; it certainly does not refer to the food being non-corporeal. So, too, referring to the resurrection of a "spiritual body" does not at all mean that the body is non-corporeal. It instead refers to the heavenly derivation of the body, which is where we are currently seated in Christ.


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