Sunday, September 28, 2014

On the Resurrection, PART VI

I wanted to address what is probably a more popular Preterist view that interprets the "body" in resurrection passages to refer to the church, i.e., the corporate body. The exegesis, as we have seen already, refutes this idea. The resurrection is based in Christ's resurrection, which is of a physical nature, not a spiritual one. Christ isn't spiritually raised from the dead, and His resurrection corresponds to ours in terms of a transformation of this earthly, mortal body into a spiritual, immortal body.

What Preterists seem to do is to ignore that this argument in Scripture is not an analogy, but a result of how Christ saves us. What He obtains for Himself, He obtains for us. If Christ obtains the kingdom, we obtain the kingdom. If Christ obtains all things, we obtain all things. If Christ is saved, we are saved. If Christ dies, we die. If Christ is raised bodily, we are raised bodily.

This isn't an analogy. An analogy can merely intersect at a single point. Hence, we do have what could be construed as an analogy with the resurrection in Romans 6 (i.e., because Christ was raised, our spirits can be given life and we can then walk in that new life), but even this is meant to argue that resurrection has two phases to it (one where the spirit must be given life and then the body that follows). In fact, that is Paul's entire argument when one considers the whole of Romans 1-8, and does not take Chapter 6 out of context. But the argument Paul makes in this and other passages, such as in Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4-5, Philippians3:20-21, etc. is not an analogy between the physical and the spirit in these contexts, but rather a correspondence between what Christ receives and what we, as those who are unified as one in Him, will receive as a result of that unification. Hence, it cannot be construed as an analogy or metaphor.

The "analogy" between the bodily resurrection and the spirit merely exists because Paul makes the "already/not yet" distinction that Christ makes between regeneration and resurrection. His argument is essentially that of Christ's in the Gospel of John that says that whoever will partake in the resurrection tomorrow must first partake of  regeneration today (see John 5:25-29). There is no resurrection (a regeneration and transformation of the body), then, without first being regenerated (a coming to life of the spirit), and this is why the analogy of resurrection can be used to represent the spiritual enlivening. However, the NT is also careful to never call the spiritual "resurrection" a resurrection (anastasis). Instead, resurrection language is used for regeneration (e.g., "we may walk in newness of life [Rom 6:4], "made us alive together in Christ" [Eph 2:4; Col 2:13], "raised together with Him" [Col 2:12], although note that these passages reflect what is positionally done for us, not necessarily what has been full realized by us), but this displays only that such is a prerequisite using language trading on the analogous imagery of our future bodily resurrection and not the thing itself.

However, if one notices, even in these contexts, the referent is the individual, not the corporate body. The attempt to argue that plurals are used has no force to it, as simply because the apostle addresses the group as a plural does not prove one way or the other that he is merely speaking of what is true of the group as a whole. In fact, such language most often addresses the individuals within a collective, not the collective as a singular entity, which would actually be addressed more with the pronominal "it." If anything, then, the use of the plural "we," or "you" would indicate that individuals within the group are being addressed and not the group as a whole entity (cf. Israel or the Church being referred to as a singular masculine or feminine pronoun, singular demonstrative, or a 3ms verbal form). Hence, if the plural pronouns lean in any direction, it is the direction of taking these statements as directed at the individuals of the corporate group as individuals, not as something that happens to the collective as a singular entity. In other words, what is true concerning X is true of each and every individual of Group Y. What this means is that each individual must be bodily raised from the dead, as the corporate group has no physical body to be raised, nor is it being addressed.

Now, what is attempted by some Preterists is to argue that the "body" in resurrection texts is actually the corporate body of the Church, as in "the body of Christ" metaphor that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and Ephesians 2:15, 3:6, and 4:4, 12.

Hence, when passages like Romans 8 or Philippians 3 or 1 Corinthians 15 use the word "body" these texts are merely continuing this metaphor.

There are a few major problems with this view that make it an eisegetical error rather than an exegetically valid interpretation.

1. It's linguistically fallacious to transfer a contextual referent from one passage to another. Nowhere in the contexts of texts like 1 Cor 15, Phil 3, or Rom 8 does Paul use the body of Christ metaphor as the collective church. The context of these passages is the individual.

2. The Body of Christ is never referred to as "our body." Yet, in these texts, the body being raised is ours, not Christ's. This seems obvious. The Body of Christ, or Christ's Body, can refer to His actual physical body or the church in certain contexts, but the term "our body," "your bodies," etc. isn't the metaphor that Paul uses elsewhere.

3. In Romans 8:11, the term is "our bodies," a plural, which is not only never used to refer to the singular body of Christ, but wouldn't be, as Christ does not have multiple "bodies," but rather we are told in the analogy of Ephesians 4:4 that there is, in fact, only one body when it comes to the body of Christ.

4. The body that is raised is also called things like "mortal/dead," "corruptible," "perishing," "without honor," etc. Yet, this cannot be true of Christ's Church, which has been brought to life, purified, eternal, seated in the heavenly places with Christ in exaltation, etc.

5. The body of Christ analogy also trades on the idea that we are one with Christ right now. We were joined to Him when we believed. Hence, what is true of Christ right now is also true of His body right now. Since this is the case, the resurrection could not be a future event of the collective spiritual body, since what is true of Christ now is already true of the spiritual collective body of Christ. What is not a realized experience of those in the body of Christ is the future resurrection, even though Christ has already been raised in His own physical body. It is, instead, our bodies that have not entered into Christ and been redeemed yet, and hence, we await this hope as a promise from God verified by the fact that He has given life to His Church through Christ already. But Preterism requires a future resurrection from the time that Paul wrote these things, since Paul himself speaks of the resurrection as a future event (the aspect of expectation) from himself. In other words, the spiritual work of bringing to life the one new man, the body of Christ, through the Spirit has already occurred at the time Paul writes. There is nothing left, therefore, to raise but the individual bodies of believers.

6. From a historical-redemptive view, if Christ does not redeem our bodies, then what was lost is not redeemed, as redemption holds the idea of buying back something in order to restore it. This is where the gnostic tendencies within Preterism come into play. The human is just a spirit in a body, not an ensouled body, as Genesis 2 tells us. What we have in Preterism is a loose end, where a person's body, which I will argue is a huge part of what makes up that person, is lost and never saved. Hence, only part of a person is saved, not the whole human being. The goal of God's salvific plan to redeem and restore the humans He made is never realized, as He must now throw away a huge part of what makes them up. Humans, as the Bible defines them, therefore, are never really saved. This is why Preterism must believe in a non-biblical view of humanity and alternate plan of redemption in order to say that God saves people. I think it is related somewhat to the failure to distinguish between ordo and historia salutis (see If we understand that Christ is fulfilling a redemptive history of the humanity, body and soul, that was lost in terms of the historia salutis, then we understand that this is what has been, and will be, applied to us in terms of the ordo salutis, i.e., a complete restoration of humanity as existing in the ensouled body. This is why even the physical creation groans/longs for redemption of God's children so that it will be restored as well (note that the word κτίσις is used both in Romans, and everywhere else in the New Testament, to refer to the created cosmos when not speaking of a believer as a creation, which it obviously does not here- I would even include here the 2d Century ending of Mark where the disciples are to proclaim the gospel to all of creation). Thus, the entire physical world under redeemed humanity will be redeemed because they have been, not merely spiritually redeemed, but physically redeemed as well.

7. If resurrection is merely a corporate spiritual event, and the body is to be discarded, why is our work in sanctification always wrapped around the body? God sanctifies His people when they are saved (1 Cor 1:2; 6:11). This refers to the regeneration of the spirit/conscience when it has been cleansed and set apart for God to walk in newness of life. That's why the Corinthians can be addressed as "sanctified ones," and those who were "washed" and "cleansed," yet they are in need of sanctification as immature and corrupt. Yet, sanctification is still needed of the body because it too will enter life. If it is not going to enter into life, and the spirit is already sanctified, what exactly is the point of sanctifying the body? The proto-gnostics were correct to conclude that if the body is just going to be discarded in the end, then one ought to just eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Paul agrees with this assessment in 1 Cor 15:32.

I realize there may be avenues out of this particular conundrum, but I offer it up merely as something to be considered, since the idea that one needs to sanctify his body is consistent with a view toward a bodily resurrection, but not necessarily in view of a bodiless resurrection.

In any case, I wish to now summarize the argument in Romans1-8 in order to show that, contextually speaking, it is simply implausible to take the body referred to in Romans 8 as the corporate body of the Church.

Romans 1-3: All men are corrupt and under the judgment of God.
Romans 3-4: Hence, faith has always been necessary for us to be forgiven.

Romans 5: Our sin problem, however, must be dealt with, so Paul begins a discussion concerning its roots in Adam.
Romans 6: God takes us out of Adam when we have faith in Christ, unites us to Christ, puts the old man to death, and gives life to our spirits.

Romans 6-7: However, even though the spirit has been given new life, the body is still unredeemed and carries the old man with it. Hence, a war breaks out between the desire of the flesh, evidenced in the parts of one's body, that desires to be a slave to sin, and the desire of the spirit that wishes to be a slave to righteousness.

Romans 7: Paul explains that the law only increases the problem because it expresses a desire for righteousness that is external and adversarial to the nature of the flesh, causing Paul to enter into despair and to cry out, saying, "Who will save me from this body of death?"

Romans 8: The answer is that Christ has already saved us in an already-not yet framework, so that we can seek to live and take victorious refuge in the spirit He has regenerated while we eagerly await, along with the rest of creation, the redemption of our body in glorification (a process described as the goal of God from our predestination on forward, a divinely set destiny from which nothing can separate us; and thus, we may take comfort and hope in that).

Now, this is the context for the word "body." This is the context for the phrase "our bodies" and "our body." Denying this is nothing short of ignoring the context, and committing numerous exegetical fallacies, all in the effort to save a doctrinal position that misunderstands even the central texts (i.e., the Olivet Discourse texts within the Synoptics) with which this text is being reinterpreted in order to harmonize with that misunderstanding.

But let's look at another one. Philippians 3:20-21 states:

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Notice a few things here. A transformation of the body of our humble state into into σύμμορφον τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ a shared physical form with His glorified body. In other words, our body will match His. He can do this because He has the power to subject all things to Himself, and that includes even the wayward body.

Notice, as in Romans 8, we eagerly await for this to occur because we are still at war with our unredeemed bodies. This is in contrast to those who indulge in the flesh and whose appetite is their god (v. 19).

Here, the contrast is between the bodies we have now and Christ's body. How would this refer to Christ's Body as contrasted with Christ's Body if both bodies referred to the same thing? And if there is a distinction to be drawn out, what is it? A spiritual one where we who have already been made like Christ in our spirits will be made like Christ in our spirits, and so we eagerly await what we already have completely?

Again, it makes no sense to take this as anything else but referring to our physical bodies. Hence, it is "our" body, and this body is in a lowly state that must be glorified in the future, as it will be transformed into conformity with His glorified body as an act of Christ causing all things to submit to Him as their Lord.

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