Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Resurrection, part 13

If the body that rises is the same body that died, that raises an interesting philosophical question. Suppose a cannibal eats somebody and then dies shortly afterwards. How can both of them be resurrected entirely with the same body they died in?

The problem is that when you eat something, the molecules from it become part of you. Everything decays when it dies, so if God is going to raise the same body, he has to gather all the parts. But what if two people shared the same parts? Who will get the parts at the resurrection?

I don’t think this problem is as formidable as it might seem. Even when we are alive, our body is in a constant state of change. Cells die and new cells are born. Molecules are constantly being changed out. Within every seven years, we’ve practically got a new body. The body you have as an adult obviously can’t be completely identical to the body you had when you were born.

On the other hand, there is some kind of continuity between the body you are born with and the body you have as an adult. They are related somehow. One comes from the other. To use Paul’s metaphor, one is the seed from which the plant emerges.

So I don’t think it’s necessary for the body that rises to be identical in all its parts to the body that dies. I think the relationship between the dead body and the risen body could be similar to the relationship between our infant body and our adult body. I think God will use material from our original dead body, but he may use other material as well. As long as the risen body somehow comes from the dead body, then there’s continuity between the two just as there’s continuity between my body now and my body seven years ago.

If it so happens that our resurrected bodies are completely new bodies distinct from our dead bodies, I don’t think that causes a problem for us. Our self, whether we call it a soul, a spirit, a mind, or an ego, survives the death of the body. If that same self reanimates a different body at the resurrection, then it is still we ourselves who are being raised. The soul provides continuity of personal identity between death and resurrection.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a real problem, though. In their view, the resurrection body is completely distinct from the dead body. A dead body will stay in its grave even after a person is raised from the dead. But JW’s don’t believe we have a soul that survives the death of the body. There’s no continuity at all between the person who dies and the person who rises. In their view a person is nothing more than a living material object. That material object dies, never to rise again, while some new object comes into being. I don’t see how it’s possible on their view for the person who "rises" to be the same person who died. At best, they’d just be a perfect replica.

to be continued... Part 14

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