14 June 2006

A Platonic world v. a Hebraic world

What great man, upon the eve of his martyrdom, looked evenly at his followers and comforted them with the soothing words that what they saw before them was a shell, but that his true self, his soul, would soon be ascending to where it belongs? What wisdom. The piety oozes from these final focused thoughts. The man’s name was Socrates, a man who lucidly and spiritually guided his followers as he sipped his cup of hemlock.

While Jews would take issue and even offense at this, I believe Christians would agree that we share the same foundation as the Hebrew people. We share the Hebrew Scriptures. We share the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who freed the Israelites from Egypt’s enslaving grip, the God who punished the disobedience of His people but promised a renewed promised land. As a friend said, “It’s a matter of timing.” They believe the Messiah is yet to come. We believe the Eagle has landed. And while Elvis has left the building for a time, we join the Jews in eagerly awaiting our true restoration.

Unfortunately, our Christian systematic theologies and folk beliefs have more in common with Plato and Plotinus than with the Creator and Yahweh of the Torah, the Rock of the Psalmist, the Wisdom of the Proverbs, and the Immanuel of the Prophets. We sigh at funerals, claiming that the body (which, incidentally, was created by God and declared good), is not the true person. They have gone on to a better place. They have made the final voyage to their heavenly home.


Paul says that we have just fallen asleep, that these bodies will someday awake. These very bodies will be resurrected and live corporeally with our Christ on a recreated, physical Earth, perhaps feasting on mangoes and nectarines, juice dripping down our perfect chins, holding hands as we skip together in the Jerusalem, leaping with the once-lame, singing with the former mute, and listening to the symphony of birds with the ex-deaf.

Why does it matter? Because life is more than getting our souls into heaven. And nebulously floating (or whatever unembodied souls do) for an eternity is a poor substitute for our true hope. Because the poverty-stricken deserve more than a track with four verses. They have eternal bodies created by God that need to be taken care of. Because choosing to not buy the superfluous shirt in order to fight sweatshop labor and give the money instead to the poor in Indonesia has a stronger reward and longer material pleasure than this ephemeral enjoyment.

3 comments:

Chris said...

Great thoughts. We certainly need to listen to the scriptural wisdom that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor) and the numerous references to removing immorality from our lives/bodies.

Also, you bring up some interesting issues regarding the body/soul. I certainly agree about the limitations (from a Christian perspective) of the socratic/platonic view of seperating souls from bodies. This is, however, a very entrenched view and will be hard for many to accept the limitations of. The Bible often discusses heaven as a new place on earth and believers receiving new bodies. I gusss I stuggle a bit with the connection to these present bodies and those future bodies.

But alas, you've raised some great questions for us to chew on. Thanks.

Heather said...

I agree with Chris' comment re: new bodies, etc. This is part of the mystery I don't understand. Will the ashes and dust of thousands of years of waiting Christians be gathered and revived ala Ezekiel's dry bones? Will God start from scratch? How will He work?

Victor said...

Great post. This is something I've been learning recently - the difference between a Hebrew and Greek mindset.

I also share your confusion about having a new body in the new Jerusalem, because Jesus' resurrected body had holes in his hands, right? I guess that's one for the experts.