Monday, November 24, 2008

St. Justin's Treatise on the Resurrection

I'm swamped and too busy to blog as I'm getting ready for a Thanksgiving trip. So, I'll leave you with an email Rob sent to me and a few friends yesterday:

Here we have below in the Commentary from perhaps the greatest of early Church theologians incontrovertible evidence that Luther's and Calvin's dualism regarding the flesh and spirit (derived in part from some of Paul's and perhaps even Augustine's borderline dualism) is far removed from essential and orthodox Christianity. God created us flesh and bone in HIS image, then breathed life (spirit) into our material being, then reincarnated His Son in our very flesh and bones, how could Luther and Calvin view the body as utterly irredeemable? In point of Christian orthodox teaching, as Justin makes clear, the body and soul are inseparable in our redemption and as Christ attested in His resurrection. One of my professors in first year theology in the seminary took this so far as to argue that Luther and Calvin were actually "not Christian" in that their doctrine that the body is irredeemable essentially denied the true meaning of the Incarnation. It is possible to see in this dualism the seeds of Christianity's rejection in the broader secular culture as causing a pernicious misunderstanding of orthodox Christian teaching on the balance between material and spiritual life when their interconnectedness is properly understood. One can also see in this great theological error underlying Protestantism a rejection of the belief that pagan culture itself can be redeemed and in this the deepening chasm between the secular and Christian life. Life is meant to be a celebration of God's unceasing and boundless love for us and that celebration includes our material well-being shared with others rather than hoarded or exploited. Subject to the Law, and in moderation as Aristotle would say, let us celebrate and Give Thanks.

Now this misunderstanding and resultant chasm has spread into the field of biomedicine such that more and more people equate Christianity with a belief that suffering is to be preferred over medical advancement. Christ's Resurrection showed that redemption of our being did not eliminate all suffering but redeemed it for the Resurrection of the Body and Soul. There can be no complete elimination of suffering, only its redemption in Christ. But grounded in a proper understanding of the body's redemptive nature, Christians do believe in ethical scientific advancement in medicine to relieve and mitigate human suffering. That is using our talents in God's image.

Let us pray for our spiritual leaders that they have the fortitude to continue to teach the historic Truth of the Church and that our people's eyes be opened to that Truth. Let us also pray for the conversion of our Protestant brethren as Unity is essential if we hope to redeem our pagan culture.

Commentary of the day:

Saint Justin (c.100-160), philosopher, martyr
Treatise on the Resurrection, 8 (Migne 1994, p.354 rev.)

"He is not God of the dead, but of the living"

The flesh is precious in God's sight; of all his works it is the one he prefers and so it is natural that he would save it...Don't you think it would be ridiculous if something that was created with so much care, that which the Creator considers to be more precious than anything else, were to fall back into nothingness?

When a sculptor or painter wants the images they have fashioned to remain to testify to their glory, they restore them once they have deteriorated. And would God see his property, his work, fall back into nothingness and exist no more? We would call a «laborer of uselessness» anyone who built a house to destroy it or who allowed it to fall into ruins when he might have kept it standing. In the same way, would we not be accusing God of creating the flesh without purpose? But no, the Immortal one is not like that; he who is by nature the Spirit of the universe cannot be a fool!... The truth is that God has called the flesh to be born again and has promised it eternal life.

Because wherever the good news of man's salvation is proclaimed, it is proclaimed also for the flesh. For what, indeed, is man if not a living being endowed with intelligence, formed of soul and body? Does the soul alone make a man? No, for it is the soul of a man. Are we to call «man» the body? No, we say that it is the body of a man. So if neither of these two elements makes up man by itself alone, it is the union of the two that we call «man». However, it is man that God has called to life and resurrection: not part of him but the whole man, namely soul and body. So wouldn't it be absurd if, while both exist according to and within the same reality, one of them should be saved and the other not?


Anonymous said...

This has to be one of the finest two-paragraph theological manifesto emails I've ever read. But then again, how often do people put such profound subject matter into common emails? Kinda shows what a waste the medium of email is most of the time. I think you are ready to become a traveling preacher on dualism and the Theology of the Body. JP II knew exactly what Christian ecumenism really needed. As your theology professor opined, once the body-spirit unity is lost, Christian theology begins to break down. Justin was right on point. Would God create us in the flesh, merely to considerate it dispensable? And why would God redeem us through the bodily incarnation and bodily resurrection of Christ if the body were not essential to true understanding of who we are? Fr. Charlie Irvin recently emailed this quote from a French theologian/philosopher(?), Teilhard de Chardin, "You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience." So much for all these New Agers seeking their gurus and higher planes of consciousness outside of the body.

Anonymous said...


Any Christian theologian who has fallen to this dualistic thinking clearly has never ice skated or played hockey. I mean, if Divine revelation cannot be found in the near-levitation that happens when gliding over frozen water, it cannot be found. We do experience the spiritual through the physical.

Pond Skating next week if the weather holds up!