Temples of the Spirit

The sacramental understanding of the historic Church is predicated on, as is all Christian dogma and experience, the Incarnation. Matter matters because the God of matter became matter for our sake. This understanding extends to the human body. Christianity rejects the dualism of Plato, the Gnostics, the Manicheans, and Descartes that would in any way destroy the unity of the human body and human soul/spirit. (I here make no argument as to whether and in what way the human soul and human spirit are two separate things as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 seems to explicitly indicate.) The human body cannot be reduced to mere matter because a human person is the unity of body and soul/spirit. In fact, the Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit in both body and soul/spirit. The reality of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body of the believer is evidenced by the numerous instances of the incorruption of the bodies of saints. And it is on this reality that is based the historic Christian prohibition against cremation.

The biblical case looks something like this. First, note that the body is referred to as the temple of the Spirit.

Know ye not that ye are God’s temple, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If anyone corrupt the temple of God, God shall bring this same one to corruption, for the temple of God is holy, which ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom ye have from God, and ye are not your own? For ye were bought with a price; glorify then God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

That this is not merely a figurative manner of speaking about the relationship between the Christian body and the Holy Spirit is evidenced by 1 Corinthians 6 in which the prohibition against having sex with a prostitute is predicated precisely on the fact that the Holy Spirit really and metaphysically indwells the body of the believer.

Worship occurs in temples, and indeed, we are to worship God with our bodies, in a living sacrifice.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well-pleasing to God, your rational worship. (Romans 12:1)

Furthermore, the life of Jesus is made manifest in our bodies.

. . .always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we, the living, are always being delivered to death on account of Jesus, that also the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)

And when we are sanctified it is as a whole person, soul/spirit and body.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is the One Who calleth you, Who shall also bring it about. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

In fact, the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies and will redeem them.

But if the Spirit of the One Who raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead shall also make alive your mortal bodies on account of the indwelling of His Spirit in you. . . . And not only so, but we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly awaiting adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:11, 23)

In fact, the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our redemption.

. . . in Whom [i. e., Christ] ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the Gospel of your salvation—in Whom having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy spirit of promise, Who is an earnest of our inheritance until redemption of the preserved possession to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

One does not normally give back a promise or deposit, but retains it so as to claim that which has been promised or the fullness against which the deposit has been made.

Thus, not only is there no indication that the Holy Spirit leaves the body on death, and that the body ceases to become the temple of the Spirit when it becomes “temporarily” separated from the soul between death and the resurrection, in fact all the Scriptural evidence strongly indicates that the Holy Spirit remains indwelling in the body (as well as the soul/spirit) of the believer and in the resurrection will reunite soul/spirit and body.

Now, some will object to this construction of the biblical evidence.

1. The primary contention will be that there is no explicit Scripture that says unequivocally that the Holy Spirit continues to indwell the body of the believer after death.

But this objection only serves to reinforce the argument being made, for the Bible doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit ever leaves the body, either. One cannot apply this objection to the argument without also falsifying the contention that the Holy Spirit does leave the body on death—for the Scripture does not say that either.

We know that the Bible says the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We know that the Bible says the Holy Spirit is a guarantee of our redemption. One does not normally give up a deposit prior to the acquisition of the guaranteed result. That’s the point of the deposit. And we know that our bodies will be redeemed by the Spirit.

So, though the explicit words to the effect, “The Holy Spirit stays in the body after death,” are not in Scripture, clearly the Scripture–on a prima facie reading–leads one to make that connection. And since the explicit words to the effect, “The Holy Spirit leaves the body after death,” are also not in Scripture, one cannot appeal to this principle of Scriptural silence to prove that point. For in doing so, one also cuts against one’s own case. Thus both positions must rest on connecting explicit Scriptures to one another to make the respective cases.

2. Another objection is a reductio ad absurdum: If the bodies of Christians consumed by lions or dying out in open fields are transformed into animal and plant food and into excrement and waste, then one is asserting the Holy Spirit resides in animal dung or in a rose or weed.

But this is a category mistake. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just reside in mere matter, he indwells a human body. (This statement should be taken in the context of this present discussion and not in the context of the Sacramaments as a whole.) The humanness of our bodies is predicated upon the fact that they do not come without souls/spirits. This is why we are born as embodied souls, and why our souls and bodies will be reunited in the resurrection after death. Which is to say that simply because the material elements of the human body pass through the gullet of a lion, are converted to food, and pass out as excrement is in no way an indication that the Holy Spirit must reside in lion dung.

The reasons why are as follows:

1) First of all this is tantamount to the dualist heresy which opposes the Christian doctrine of the unity of the person as a soul/spirit and body; i. e., it views the body as merely the material elements of this universe and not as that which it actually is, the home of the human soul/spirit made in the image of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. But if the body is the home of the human soul/spirit made in the image of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, then clearly there is more than just material reality at work.

As I noted above, the human body is that with which we worship God, that through which the Holy Spirit ministers his life, that which will be redeemed (and not just our soul/spirit), and that through which the life of Jesus is revealed to the world. So if the human body is just merely material elements, then God uses those material elements to make real his Gospel. And if God has claim on our bodies, then there is every reason to suppose that he will not leave our bodies on our death, but will, in ways we cannot fully understand, continue leaving his seal/deposit in them for our future (to us now) redemption.

2) Secondly, for the objection to work, one must first assume that the Holy Spirit never indwells the body (which one must also first prove for it to be a part of one’s argument), or that the Holy Spirit leaves the body at death (which is also something that one might assume, but would also have to first prove for it to be part of one’s argument). But this has been answered in the response to the first objection above.

3) Furthermore, this objection rests on another unproven assumption: the vileness or disgustingness of the conversion of the material elements of the human body into other things (animal flesh, grass or flowers, rose or a weed), and with it the Holy Spirit indwelling those things. But if the reality of the human body transcends its mere materiality, then so to does it transcend this unproven assertion that the Holy Spirit by elemental conversion must reside in animal dung which was once a pre-digested human.

3. A third objection is that the indwelling in our bodies is merely a figure of speech.

I’ve already answered this in relation to 1 Corinthians 6 above, but there is a further response. Here, once again, the principle cuts both ways. If one reduces the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to merely a figure of speech, then not even our souls/spirits have the Holy Spirit, and we are left without any real union with God, which Jesus prayed for in John 17. The Christian faith then simply becomes reduced to a life of good moral living, somehow energized in us through a Spirit that has no contact with us.

4. Another objection contends that if the human person is, indeed, a unity of soul/spirit and body, then the body, upon death and the separation from it of soul/spirit, ceases to be a human body.

This objection ultimately fails because it presumes the loss of the humanness of the body through the lack of being indwelt by the human spirit/soul. But let’s continue with that line of reasoning. Did Jesus’ body cease to be his body once he died? Would it have been appropriate to cremate, dissolve in acid, or grind up into chunks the body that housed the Godhead fully? Why not? On this objection’s reasoning, once Jesus died, his body ceased to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and therefore was no longer human (or, for that matter, divine), therefore we could presumably have done anything to it we wanted. It had no intrinsic value or Holy Spirit indwelling it. Right?

The problem, though, is that our salvation is accomplished in the body of Christ. Through the death of his body our sins were atoned for. Through the Resurrection of his body we have life in his name and bear his image. This does not at all deny the divinity of Christ, nor that he raised himself from the dead. Rather it is to affirm that inclusive of the spiritual aspect of our salvation is the bodily aspect. This bodily aspect of our salvation is predicated precisely on the Incarnation and the work of God done in Christ’s physical and transfigured body. Therefore we could not do just anything we wanted with Christ’s body.

Christ’s body remained his body even in death, nor was that body ever sundered from the Holy Spirit, for it that were ever to have been so, God would have ceased dwelling in a human body, and the Incarnation would have been undone. (And, in fact, this is tantamount to adoptionist heretical Christologies.)

So, if the Holy Spirit continued to dwell in Christ’s body even during his time in the tomb, then it must be the case that the Holy Spirit continues to dwell in the bodies of dead Christians, since Christ is the firstfruits of the Resurrection.

So, the body, if it is a human body, is not simply reducible to its material elements, for it is not merely a material shell housing the soul/spirit and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is an irreducible spiritual-physical/soulish-physical reality which transcends though is connected to mere material reality. Death is an abnormal state of affairs for the soul and body, requiring their “temporary” separation. And if the Holy Spirit indwells the whole person, then he indwells not just the soul/spirit but also the body. So in death when the soul/spirit is separated from the body, the Holy Spirit continues to indwell both and will reunite both in the resurrection.

Free Will, Free Choice

Back in March and April the soteriology diablog was hot and heavy, but eventually died down. (I continue to post links to any further responses the participants have.)

Recently, at the invite of a commenter on this blog, I registered over at Grace Centered Message Forums (a largely churches of Christ venue). As a result of participation in one message thread I am still involved in, I decided to actually make the case for human free will/free choice/freedom to choose. Note that the case is made from a Christian standpoint and not from a strictly a-religious philosophical one. My arguments would be much different for that sort of audience.

If you’re interested in the discussion, begin here. But if you just want to read my initial posts sans responses, click on the “continue reading” link below.
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Personhood Backwards and Forwards and Monergism’s Essence

Kevin replies to my “Till . . . We Have Faces” in his “Masks and Modes.” As his reply unfolds along two lines of thought, so, too, will my reply.

1. Personhood Backwards and Forwards

Kevin goes to some lengths to defend himself from my charges of modalism. Unfortunately, the way he does so leaves my charges unanswered. Instead of showing how it is that his position does not radically identify person with nature, and thus logically entails modalism, he utilizes the terms I introduced into the issue but reads into them both more and less than I intended. This is, perhaps, not unjustified since the terms hypostasis and prosopos do have a range of meanings that differ somewhat between philosophical and theological contexts. I’ll take on the responsibility for not more carefully clarifying the terminology.

That being said, however, the substance of my charges against Kevin’s position remain and should be clear: he identifies person with nature. To do so in (strictly speaking) theological terms is to propose modalism. While Kevin is right to draw some distinctions between human and divine persons, what is true of both, as I have argued, is that a person is not strictly identifiable with his nature.

While Kevin has asserted that he thinks the same thing–i.e., that persons are not radically identifiable with their natures–nothing in his own arguments provides a basis for that assertion. Indeed, this has been my point. It is the substance of his argument itself that substantiates my charges. He has had ample opportunity to show, by way of argument instead of by mere assertion, how it is that his belief in monergism does not entail such a radical identification of person and nature. But he has yet to do so. Or, if he has, he has been too subtle for my poor thickheaded mind.

But so as to be clear about the mapping of personhood, backwards and forwards, onto God: I take as the fundmental starting point for talk of human personhood, the divine personhood of the Trinity and Christological personhood. In other words the Trinity and Christology are revelational facts that are not derivable from human experience and reason. Apart from revelation we would not know there is a Trinity or Christ is the incarnate God. We cannot argue from human personhood to Trinity or the Incarnation. But if the Trinity and the Incarnation are facts–and Christians take them to be so–then they are the fundamental realities that define human personhood. From these points only is it helpful to derive our concepts of human personhood as made in the image and likeness of this God who is Three-in-One and incarnate as two natures and two wills in one Person.

However, in that human personhood is intimately and inescapably connected to Trinitarian and Christological Personhood, what you say of one you say of the other. Any deviation from the Church’s understanding of the Trinity will affect one’s Christology and this will deform one’s understanding of personhood. Similarly, if one has a deficient understanding of human personhood, this will inescapably affect one’s Christological and Trinitarian understandings. So, it is not per se illegitimate for me to “backwards map” what I take to be Kevin’s understanding of human personhood on to Christological and Trinitarian dogma, because there is a related and necessary consistency that must be upheld among all three. What remains, then, is for Kevin to prove how his understanding of human personhood does not violate the Church’s understanding of Trinitarian and Christological realities.

This has consistently been my point. I believe that monergism is a heresy not because it emphasizes that humans cannot save themselves, not because it emphasizes the priority and sufficiency of God’s grace, but because its understanding of human personhood necessarily results in a deficient Trinitarianism and Christology. Kevin has yet to disprove my contentions.
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Deliberately Sinful, Deliberately Virtuous

I wanted to take the opportunity to offer another reflection on the “cash value” of the theological concepts on soteriology that have been discussed on this and other blogs over the last few weeks; namely, personhood, nature, will, choice and act.

Those who’ve followed the discussion will remember that my argument has been that it is persons who act, not natures, and that no matter what is one’s strongest inclination at the moment of willing, it is fundamentally the person who decides and chooses what act to do. In other words, this is a fundamentally libertarian understanding of free will. I have built this case on Trinitarian and Christological dogmas concerning personhood, nature and will, and how those apply (theologically and philosophically) to human persons. If you want to see the theoretical framework of my argument you can go here first, where it is summarized. (See also Robert Kane, “Two Kinds of Incompatibilism” in Agents, Causes, and Events, and his The Significance of Free Will.)

In this post, I want to look at these concepts from the practical arena of moral development, especially in light of a pop cultural understanding that our behaviors are greatly, even completely, determined by our genetic and/or psychological makeup.
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A Nice Paper by Metropolitan JOHN Zizioulas

The abstract of On the Holy Spirit reads:

The only way for creation to be saved and deified is through communion with the uncreated. This communion is the work of the Holy Spirit, who is ‘life-giving’. Life and communion coincide only in the realm of the uncreated, since in creation death overcomes communion. The Spirit gives true life because he is uncreated and the communion he offers comes ‘from above’, from the uncreated God. The description of the Holy Spirit as ‘life-giver’ is another way of saying that he is God, this truth put in soteriological terms. On this description hangs the entire existential significance of the Pneumatology

Another good quote:

For the first time in the history of philosophy, particularly of Greek thought, we have an identification of an ontological category, such as hypostasis, with a notion, such as Person. In classical antiquity, both Greek and Roman, these terms always remained clearly separate and distinct. Hypostasis was identical with substance or ousia, and indicated that something is, and that it is itself, while prospon indicated, in a variety of nuances and forms, the way something relates the other beings. By calling the Person a ‘mode of being’ (tropos hyparxeos) the Cappadocians introduced a revolution into Greek ontology, since they said for the first time in history that a) prosopon, is not secondary to being, but is its hypostasis; and b) a hypostasis, ie an ontological category, is relational in its very nature, it is prosopon. The importance of this lies in the fact that Person is now the ultimate ontological category we can apply to God. Substance is not something ontological prior to Person (no classical Greek would say this), but its real existence is to be found in the Person.

Read the whole thing.

Soteriological Sidebar III: The Father’s Personal Existence Precedes the Divine Essence

Kevin reponds to my second post on the Trinity with his, Of Wills, Words, and the Monarche. I’m extremely grateful for his reply, most especially for his work in delineating a harmonization between St. Gregory of Nyssa (on the monarche of the Father) and St. Athanasios (on the not involuntary generation of the Son). As I hope to show, this harmonization actually bolsters my account of the monarche of the Father in precisely the way Kevin thinks it doesn’t. I’m also grateful for his post since it gives me a chance to more explicitly point out the connection between what I am taking to be the heresy of monergism and its effects on an orthodox Trinitarianism. Since the connection between the Trinitarian theology which underlies my critique of monergism depends upon that Trinitarian theology, I will first deal with Kevin’s second and longer part of his post. Then I will deal with the first and shorter part on the connection.
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Till . . . We Have Faces

Kevin has responded to my last reply to him in his Till…God’s Great Judgment Seat. He has also replied to Perry’s comments (at Kevin’s “Synergies of Christ”) in his (Kevin’s) most recent post Real Union and Legal Talk. I’m grateful for both his replies, as they offer some important clarifications. But as Perry will doubtless wish to take on Kevin’s (lengthy) “Real Union and Legal Talk” I will not direct my comments to that post per se. Making use of his clarifications, I will direct my own comments to the concepts embedded in “Till . . . God’s Great Judgment Seat.”

In our discussion, Kevin has reiterated that he bases human action in human willing which is constrained by nature. Kevin claims that personhood is real and not merely nominal, that a person exercises a will, but that that will is constrained by that person’s nature, thus eliminating the possibility that a human person could will in opposition to their nature. Or, to state it positively and perhaps more correctly, that a person will always will according to their strongest inclination at the moment of willing. Kevin also admits to a synergistic account of human action after regeneration (or in the context of progressive sanctification), though he also claims that the work of Christ done in a person cannot fail. Presumably by this he means that since after regeneration a person’s nature is regenerate, the inclinations of the nature will always most strongly incline toward God, so a person cannot but will (progressively ever greater) union with God.

Part of the issue, it seems to me, is that Kevin wants to maintain a theological determinism (that God is in some way the necessary and sufficient cause of all events, including human acts, though Kevin would, I suspect, subscribe to divine-human joint sufficiency in determining human acts) while at the same time preserving ultimate moral responsibility and a concept of personhood which embraces these presumably fundamental tenets. But if this is the case, then human willing cannot meaningfully be a function of personhood but a function of nature (either depraved or regenerate), and “person” here is a mask of sorts identifying the particular instance of a human nature.

I will grant that Kevin can make an argument for ultimate moral responsibility for a will that is free only insofar as it is constrained by its nature–though I, myself, find such arguments thin–but I fail to see how his understanding of personhood can be hypostatic as opposed to prosoponic. The person here seems to me to be only in such a way as to instantiate a particular human nature. It is the will of the nature that does all the work. The person, even if real in a certain way, is little better than a name by which is identified a particular instance of a nature.
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Two Interesting Articles on Compatibilism and Libertarianism

Two respondents to Lynne Rudder Baker’s 2003 article “Why Christians Should not be Libertarians: An Augustinian Challenge” (Faith and Philosophy, 20:4 (2003): 460-478), which article is not online, give some cogent responses criticising her compatibilist account of free will. (Both links below are pdf files.)

John M. Depoe’s Why Christians Should not be Compatibilists: A Response to Baker

Kevin Timpe’s Why Christians Might be Libertarians: A Reply to Lynne Rudder Baker

Summary of Free Will Issues and Questions

What I hope to accomplish here is a brief summary of the questions and issues surrounding the notion of free will. The philosophical positions enumerated here are the ones that are behind (though with variations) the ones espoused in the diablog on soteriology. (Note: Perry also has a good, detailed summary of the philosophical issues and questions here.)

First of all, the very notion of the “free will” is, itself, philosophically difficult to nail down. What we mean by “free will” is notoriously difficult to articulate. While all of the interblogolocutors in the soteriology debate can start with a rather strong affirmation of some of the central doctrines on which our discussion is based, even among ourselves we have differing views on what we mean by “free will.” Is the will a faculty the nature, or the operation of a person? Is the will “free,” and to what extent? And (given our answer to the extent we posit freedom to the will) what difference does that make? Is choosing different than willing? Can the will be determined but choice remain free? What sense can we make of “free choice”? I don’t propose here to answer these questions–after all, the philosophical discussion itself is laborious and ongoing–but only to survey some of the important issues, and to clarify broad positions.

Free will usually indicates some state of affairs such that the human agent can and does rationally author, or reasonably causes, his or her own acts. (But this description hardly covers all the possible options available in the current philosophical debate.) In other words, free will is usually tied to the notion of causation of actions. In general, two interrelated questions are asked about this question:

  • Is human action determined or undetermined?
  • Is free will compatible or incompatible with determinism or indeterminism?

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