Material or immaterial persons? [split off from Christian Wisdom in the Biotech Age]

(James Stump) #1

If I understand you correctly, I’d have to disagree. Genesis, where we find the foundational discussion of being created in the image of God, says nothing about immortal and ethereal spirits (and in Gen 2, it calls us nephesh the same thing as other animals; Hebrew scholars help me out here). The distinctive aspect of an image (in the context of ancient Near Eastern cognitive environments), is that it is a physical presence, something seen, that somehow stands in for what is not seen (the king when absent, or in this case God). And in the New Testament, the hope of the Christian is not for our spirits to float off to an immaterial heaven, but the resurrection of the body. God created us–every part of us; and Jesus saves us–every part of us.

So it is precisely because we are these material beings of flesh and blood that makes it so important that our tinkering with those bits of matter is done only with extreme caution and reflection.

Christian Wisdom in the Biotech Age
(Shawn T Murphy) #2

This is the illogical line of thinking my post is trying to lead scientists from. The resurrection of the material body is impossible, and not what Jesus demonstrated to His disciples. With a physical body He could not have passed through locked doors. His resurrection was in an ethereal body or spiritual body. It is this immortal body that God created in His image. And this is the same body that Adam and Eve had in the Garden until they were cast out into the harshness of life on Earth in Genesis 3:24. But this is not the discussion I wanted to have on this thread.

My point was simply to remind scientists that the gravest sins you can make are against the spirit. As long you are following your code of ethics of trying to help the patient or those suffering in general, then you should not worry about performing an abortion to save a life or using ethically questionable research to ease pain.


Why? He created matter and I am sure He could pass through matter if He chose to do so.

A body which you could hug, place your finger in the wounds, use to cook fish, eat and who knows what other unrecorded things.

(Shawn T Murphy) #4

God created the Laws and God does not violate His own Laws. It took a large amount of energy to dissolve the material body of Jesus after His death, and the same would be required each time to have a material body pass through solid materials.

The apostles did not recognize His spiritual body because He looked different. He could control the density of His manifestation to perform functions in the material world, but He still looked different than when He was alive. (Ref: Jesus – New Insights into His Life and Mission)


So there are things that God can not do?

They weren’t expecting to see him. So when did they realize that this different body which no one recognized was really Jesus? Was He wearing a name tag?

I would really like to see the chapter and verse for this.

(Shawn T Murphy) #6

Yes, God chooses to follow His own laws. This was an early Christian belief that was declared anathema by the emperor of Rome. Since Rome had become God’s seat on earth, they did not want any restriction to what they could do in His name.

If anyone says or thinks that the power of God is limited, and that he created as much as he was able to compass, let him be anathema.

I gave the book that explains the process. It is not just one verse in the Bible, but this is the best hint when Jesus tells Mary it was to dangerous to approach Him while He was manifesting.

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

To Mary, He appeared out of nowhere and He warned her that it was dangerous.

(James Stump) #7

Agreed. It distracts from the purpose of the article.

That seems rather harsh. There are definitely long-standing traditions espousing both sides of this. How do you counter the charge that the side you’re defending stems from Gnosticism and the deprecation of matter?

Of course resurrection bodies are different than our current bodies in some important way. (And I’m actually not making any claim here about whether we an immaterial aspect to our being.) I don’t think we can resolve this by pointing to Paul’s term “soma pneumatikos”. It is spirit and it is body (and body is the noun, if that matters). In the case of Christ, we don’t have a dissolution of the body and replacement with a spiritual, but a transformation of the one into the other (at least according to tradition). Why would the physical body have to dissolve if he was really just a spirit who would reappear elsewhere?

To my mind, your speculation solves some problems (like how it would work for the resurrection of bodies that have been dead for thousands of years), but creates many others.

(Shawn T Murphy) #8

Dear James,
I called the resurrection of the human body illogical for two main reasons. 1) Theological - Jesus’ physical body disappeared from the tomb and then when He reappeared, His own disciples could not recognize Him and He could pass through locked doors. 2) Biological - decay starts at the moment of death and there is no evidence that a warm and dead body was brought back to life.

Why does it cause many problems to believe what Paul taught, that the spiritual body of each person lives on? Why do you call it “my speculation” when you quote Paul saying the same thing? As I have said before, the work from Walther Hinz on the life of Jesus is a work that every Christian should read.

(James Stump) #9

This is what is under debate, not what has been established! Do you acknowledge at least that your position strays from the mainstream Christian tradition of the bodily resurrection of Christ, and that it sounds a lot like Gnosticism? I’m not claiming that the tradition is infallible, just resisting your efforts to make it sound like your position is obviously true.

(Shawn T Murphy) #10

Yes, I agree that it strays from the Catholic belief in the resurrection of the physical body. But I see putting the label of Gnosticism on this concept as labeling it a dead belief. This is why I point to a prominent linguist and biblical historian to show that the concept of a spiritual body is still alive today as a Christian belief.

The emperor Justinian destroyed this belief in the first five anathemas that he spoke against Origen. Origen was a Christian Father, not Gnostic.

(Mitchell W McKain) #11

Resorting to magical divine powers in order to rescue failed logic? God created the laws of nature for a reason. It is irrational to think that God would break the laws which He Himself created. Only human beings would do something so short sighted, inconsistent, and stupid, which is why we can be thankful that they cannot do this.

Yes! God is spirit, but clearly God is more real and substantial not less so.

No, but this does not mean God can do whatever you dictate by whatever nonsensical means you care to imagine. There is such a thing as logical coherence. Besides… Shawn said “does not violate His own laws” he did not say “can not” as you have changed these words into with blatant dishonesty!

That bit of sophistry doesn’t work when we are talking about someone they spent every day with for years.

Why? Is there something that you imagine that God cannot do? I bet you have a long list of such things God cannot do to keep Him tightly under the control of an irrational theology.

What article?

And then there is the fact that all the material of the body is recycled into the environment to become the material of other people. But that just goes to show that resurrection cannot rationally have anything to do with remains inside graves.

Amen to that! I think it is clear that after having preachers telling them what it says so many times people can no longer read the words without replacing them in their head with what they have been told so often.

Mainstream? Is this like the mainstream that approved of slavery, the treatment of women as possessions, or the massacre of the American Indians. If it contradicts the words of Paul in the Bible then what does the fact that this contradiction is mainstream have to do with anything?

The fact is that western Christianity introduced a number of strange medieval distortions of Christianity which is easily revealed by going to the orthodox faith which is still governed by ecumenical councils rather than power politics that went so far off the rails it gave rise to the Protestant reformation. Don’t get me wrong. The RC is a great church, a GREAT CHURCH, especially since the counter reformation. But some really bad distortions from medieval times are still pretty evident. And notice that this lends no support to Shawn’s complaints against Justinian since that is from a much earlier time, though I quite agree that Origen was no Gnostic (doesn’t mean his opinions were correct though).


Failed human logic perhaps. Why do you assume Jesus had to pass through the walls? He could just as easily bent space-time to just appear in the room.

So now divine providence is limited to what can be accomplished by a human.

I was responding to this.

I was wondering where in the Bible it mentions the density of manifestation.

(Mitchell W McKain) #13

I don’t assume anything. I just read what Paul explains in 1 Cor 15, that resurrection is a bodily resurrection not to a physical/natural body, which is perishable and made of the stuff of the earth, but to a spiritual body which is imperishable and made of the stuff of heaven. So I know that Jesus’ resurrected body is not bound by the laws of nature and so there isn’t the slightest reason for Jesus to break any of God’s laws of nature in order to appear in a room without opening a door.

I certainly assume that God is better than childish irrational people who will bend and break every law of man, God, nature, and logic to demand what they want no matter who they have to hurt in the process.

You were responding to Shawn’s idea that the resurrected Jesus could control his density to demand a Bible verse as if you doubted Jesus could do such a thing, which seems a little inconsistent with your own appeal to magical divine powers to rescue your own irrational arguments. Frankly I don’t think Jesus’ resurrected body had a density at all because as Paul says, it wasn’t made of the stuff of the earth with physical properties like density.

(Shawn T Murphy) #14

Here is the quote from Hinz that addresses your question:

When Christ passed through closed doors and stepped in front of them for the first time, they were startled and scared. Christ realized this »and said: “Why are you frightened? It is I. Peace be with you: it is I!” For the disciples thought they saw a ghost. That is why he said: “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as I have. Come and touch me, so that you can reassure yourselves as to who I really am.”« He held out his hands to them, and they did as he had suggested. (Walther, Hinz. Jesus – New Insights into His Life and Mission (Kindle Locations 5523-5526). Kindle Edition.)

The density is in the reference to them thinking He was a ghost because He could walk through walls, yet could feel Him solidly.

(James Stump) #15

Yes, the point is that our thinking is rooted in and guided by a tradition. We don’t make it up anew with every generation. So if you’re going to buck the tradition (as is totally appropriate in many cases like the ones you note), there needs to be some pretty compelling reasons to branch off on your own.

Whether or not my or @Shawn_Murphy’s proposals contradict Paul is what is being discussed.

(Mitchell W McKain) #16

Well that is certainly possible. Shawn has quite often felt little need to confine himself to what it actually says in the Bible. I am a little more conservative but I think that can easily go too far also. Besides the actual text of the Bible, I think compelling reasons also include logical coherence and the objective findings of science.

So… why don’t we put the text right here for everyone to see easily…

1 Corinthians 15:35 But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

As usual Paul is rather precise and specific as well as saying it every which way to keep people from twisting things too easily
Physical natural body
verse 42. perishable
verse 43. dishonored, weak
verse 44. sown, i.e. dies
verse 45. what Adam had making him a living being
verse 46. first, before the spiritual body
verse 47. made of the stuff of the earth, which it calls dust, but in modern parlance would be atoms or particles
verse 48. having the nature of dust, or atoms, which by the way comes from the laws of nature
verse 50. flesh and blood which cannot inherit the kingdom of God

Spiritual (supernatural?) body
verse 42. imperishable
verse 43. glorious, powerful
verse 44. raised, existence follows from having a physical body
verse 45. what (the resurrected) Jesus had making him a life-giving spirit
verse 46. second, after the physical body
verse 47. made of the stuff of the heaven
verse 48. having the nature of heaven, presumably from something other than the laws of nature
verse 50. not flesh and blood which can therefore inherit the kingdom of God, and yet from Luke 24 can nevertheless be said to be flesh and bone unlike a ghost.

This last is clearly turning on a rather fine point… What is the difference between “flesh and blood” and “flesh and bone” besides the fact that one is Paul speaking and the other Jesus speaking and in the very different contexts of Paul addressing the question of what kind of body we have in resurrection and Jesus simply trying to calm the fears of His disciples? May I suggest that “flesh and blood” is a matter of life function while “flesh and bone” is a matter tangible substance. In other words, the living spirit of a resurrected body has all the tangible substance which a dead spirit or ghost does not have, but it does not derive its life from the same composite chemical and biological functionality – after all this would explain why one is perishable and the other is imperishable.

(Jay Johnson) #17

I’m a poor substitute, but while it is common to understand Gen. 2:7 as God breathing a soul into Adam or infusing him with the imago Dei, the Hebrew phrases for “breath of life” and “living soul” are used of both animals and mankind. (“Let the land produce living souls according to their kinds…” Gen. 1:24; “I am about to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy from under the sky all the living souls that have the breath of life in them. Everything that is on the earth will die” Gen. 6:17.)

In the Old Testament, life is manifested in the breath, which comes from the Spirit of God. This is true of both people and animals, since both come from the ground (Gen. 1:24, 2:7) and both owe their lives to the spirit/breath/wind of God (Gen. 7:14-15). Genesis 2:7 does not teach that ha’adam (the man) was “ensouled” or “enlightened” at his creation; it simply teaches that human beings, like the animals, are made of earth and owe our lives (breath) to God, our Creator (cf. Ecc. 3:18-22).

For an actual scholar’s take on the question, see J. R. Middleton, “Humans Created Mortal, with the Possibility of Eternal Life,”

It should be obvious that Shawn’s interpretations are unorthodox, something I’m pretty sure he would agree with himself.

(Shawn T Murphy) #18

Yes, @Jay313. What I represent was orthodox until 543 AD when it was declared anathema by the barbarian emperor Justinian. BioLogos has already embraced one of those “unorthodox” beliefs by accepting evolution and the old earth. Where there is one, I hold there are many more to embrace. That is the voice I bring to the discussion.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #19

Except that Biologos’ “unorthodoxy” is based on an appeal to both scriptures and an accurate understanding of reality as learned from peer-reviewed consensus science. The heterodoxy put forward by you strays beyond both scriptures and modern science. So there is no “equivalence” here that “just because Biologos pushes something still unpopular among many Christians today” that therefore this forum’s doors must be open to promote all other unpopular ideas as well. There are still “the quackery tests” in both the theological and scientific worlds that are brought to bear here.

(Shawn T Murphy) #20

Understood Mervin. Evolution and the old earth are simple physical phenomena to prove with peer reviewed works, yet how long did it take just to get the foot into the door of Christianity? My spiritual topics have only limited scientific research options and rarely peer reviewed, yet. My hope in participating in this forum is to get scientists to think outside the small sandbox they play in. If there is a Heaven, there should be some repeatable evidence that scientists could pursue. I have some thoughts, if anyone is interested.