(This is a big question - a natural question; and one for which I haven't been able to find a ready-made answer that addressed and answered it, square-on, to my satisfaction.)
Why mortality? Because it is necessary. An immortal resurrected Man cannot be achieved without a 'transitional stage' of living a mortal life in a mortal body.
This implies that reality is constrained; and represents a major limitation in the power of God the creator.
God cannot create a Man in an everlasting resurrected body without first going-through the phase of mortal life.
Mortality is therefore a consequence of God's creative constraints - in a sense, a measure of God's weakness in comparison with that 'omnipotence' which has traditionally, but wrongly, been imputed to God. Therefore, the many imperfections and incompleteness of mortal life
(disease, ageing, death...) are intrinsic to the fact that mortality is a
consequence of limitation.
If God really had been omnipotent, and assuming for a moment that such an abstract imputation makes sense (which I don't accept) there would have been no need for mortal life (and BTW no need for Jesus). This is a flaw in all theological schemes entailing divine omnipotence - whether monotheistic or polytheistic: mortal life is a superfluity; at best a waste of time and at worst suggestive of a deity that is indifferent to suffering.
This explains why - for so many billions of people in history, so far as we can infer - mortality has been such a brief affair; hardly more than the mere brief establishing of life, of incarnation, of embodiment. Probably most Men have died soon after fertilisation, or as embryo, foetus, newborns, in infancy...
But not all; and most Men nowadays survive for much longer than mere incarnation. Why? Because God has made a virtue of necessity; where that is helpful to us; each as an individual.
God made this life, this world, as a bespoke place of learning for the longaevus such as you and me (meaning the long-lived: that is, those who live beyond mere incarnation, especially after birth); individually-tailored to fit the needs of many millions of individual Men.
So - Mortality could-have-been a very brief phase; and for many it has been: that is, they simply incarnate and die, with the possibility of resurrection. Such is the fate of all Men.
But the extended and complex world, the varied lives of individual Men - all this is for a different purpose than the making-possible of resurrection. It is, indeed, for many individual purposes - reflecting the unique nature of circumstances of each human.
And this second purpose is to learn from our mortal experiences (including the experiences of mortality - disease, ageing, death...); to learn lessons that will be helpful to our experience in the eternity of resurrected life everlasting...
Also, mortal experiences that may help make possible the choice of life everlasting, which is called salvation, among those who otherwise would have rejected it
"If God really had been omnipotent, and assuming for a moment that such an abstract imputation makes sense (which I don't accept) there would have been no need for mortal life (and BTW no need for Jesus). This is a flaw in all theological schemes entailing divine omnipotence - whether monotheistic or polytheistic: mortal life is a superfluity; at best a waste of time and at worst suggestive of a deity that is indifferent to suffering."
I think this explanation is a satisfactory resolution to the pain/suffering question Bruce, which has troubled me deeply and kept me away from Christianity for many years,as a younger man, 'seeking' spiritual answers to lifes most important questions. It also makes me feel a pang of intense love and desire to follow God, with a deeper sympathy for the divine project of creation, that is difficult to muster if one approaches the divine as omnipotent, entirely self-sufficient and presumably complicit to the great evils perpetrated by human beings on one another throughout history and by disease, illness, etc. in so far as they have always been 'allowed' by presumed omnipotent God. It also opens the possibility of explaining why Jesus was/is necessary...
Having said that my thoughts turn to the following track...if God is not omnipotent, and is presumably restrained in several ways including by the free will of other beings placed in his creation (again this seems to follow), Jesus becomes necessary as a redeemer and an incarnation of the divine spirit of God within creation. A light amongst the darkness of beings unawakened to the possibility of eternal life. But we all know Jesus could heal the sick and (so it seems from the Gospels) predict the future (cocks crowing, Judas' betrayal, etc.) which understandably have led many Christians to assume omnipotence. But still, after Jesus has left us, we live in a world where paedophiles perpetrate great evils, cancer/infection ravages and destroys lives, etc. These are the kinds of things that Jesus *would have healed* healed or prevented based on his loving, merciful character. And so, it seems, that despite the awesome Gospel reports of such miracles, in modern times God cannot prevent much of the suffering in this world, or, perhaps it is only through prayer and devotion that *some* of the evils of this world can be mitigated but presumably this too reflects a limitation of God, who presumably if deeply sorrowful for the limits of mortality, as much as we are.
So perhaps, prayer works when we are aligning most closely with the spirit of Christ. This, most of all, is what is needed for goodness to work in hearts and minds of men and even our bodies. Unrepented sin destroys and corrupts the creation and harms the beings that inhabit it. But Jesus could heal the sick and walk on water because he was one in spirit with the divine.
David - As a general remark; this world is not meant to be a world without suffering but a world of learning. I don't think the amount of suffering in the world was reduced by Jesus, either in his life or since - not was that what he promised. His gift was primarily about what happened after biological death - and the influence that Jesus had on mortal life is, I think, secondary to that. Beyond that, I believe that this world is full of specific people and situations, and there are as many meanings and explanations for what happens, as there are situations.
wrt prayer - I think it is more of a means of communicating and learning, than something with specific functions or properties. Or, there are as many functions as people and prayers. Often - what is learned from a prayer may be different from what is intended.
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