Friday 24 March 2017

Why are we resurrected? Why are bodies better than being spirits?

Although all Christians 'believe' (in some sense) that after death, at some point, Men are resurrected- this fact has not permeated very deeply into Christian reflection - because there is almost always an implicit assumption that it is better to be a spirit than to have a body.

Yet, if that was so, why would the Creator our loving Father have resurrected us, when he could instead have had us reborn as immaterial spirits?

Maybe many Christians would deny that that they have the built-in assumption spirit-good-body bad - but it is all over the place. Christ is seen as decending into incarnation in a human body, and many are amazed that a pure spirit would condescend to do this.

Going back to the first philosophers of Ancient Greece - the body is seen as subject to disease, corruption, ageing and death... naturally the spirit was more highly prized; naturally the eternal real was seen as immaterial spirit, where there could be no decay because no 'matter'...

Yet Christianity insists we will be resurrected into bodies - albeit perfected bodies that are immune to decay, destruction or death. But why? Why bother mucking-around 'confined' in bodies when we might we free-ranging spirits...?

Mormonism goes a considerable way towards explaining this, by the insight that God the Father (as well as Jesus Christ) is embodied - and that this is a necessary part of attaining the highest level of creative divinity. (For example, while creation does not require a body, and Jesus Christ created - or co-created - this world; divine procreation - the begetting of spirit children - requires the body; in some way.)

But there is not much indication of why this should be - why 'bodies are better' - whereas three thousand years or more of philosophical and religious history suggest that bodies are a limitation, not an advantage.

Why, then, are bodies better - as it seems they must be?

To answer this seems to require a sense of divine limitation which is anathema to most Christians - even though the Bible is full of it... full, that is, of an apparently accepted implicit assumption that God can only achieve certain purposes by certain linear and sequential actions - that God is limited in how he can achieve things, and that God achieving things requires time as well as the consent of Men.

Well, it looks-as-if God cannot achieve the highest level of divinity, even for Jesus Christ, without incarnation and death followed by resurrection; because, of course, Jesus was resurrected - and that was how he attained his perfection.

(Interestingly, Jesus was not the first Man to be resurrected, he was the first 'god' to be resurrected; Lazarus, who was resurrected by Jesus and before his own resurrection, was the first Man. This fact seems very significant - and it is given great significance in John's Gospel - but its implications seem under-appreciated.)

My conclusion is that - even despite all their disadvantages which we know so well - bodies are better than spirits; when 'better' is understood as developmentally or evolutionarily more-advanced.

Why? I think the reason is related to agency; that an incarnate has greater agency than a spirit - that somehow the diffuse and unlocalised nature of a spirit means that a spiritual being cannot fully discriminate between self and not-self - and therefore there is a limitation and impairment of agency, or 'free will'.

A spirit, I suggest, cannot exclude causes from his or her thinking; the spirit mind is permeable. So, when a spirit thinks, the thoughts may not be his or her own thoughts. (Note that spirits, like bodies, are always either male or female.)

The essence of incarnation is the possibility of full agency - presumably that is what bodies ultimately are: methods or mechanisms by which minds are 'insulated' from other minds, and concentrated.

I say possibility, not necessity - because agency may be feeble, is infrequent, may be displaced by external causes - including 'possession'.  

But without full agency, hence incarnation, the higher levels of divinity are unattainable.

So, bodies are better - which is why our eternal life is to be spent incarnated - and not as spirits...