Well I think “imperishable” means a little more than long lived and advanced technology so that a stray meteorite puts an end to eternal life. I think “imperishable” means that DNA and the laws of nature have nothing whatsoever to do with the resurrected spiritual body.
According to Paul, it was only physical in the sense of bodily and not in the sense of natural, but supernatural and spiritual. And because of what Thomas said, you can only be sure that Jesus was making an effort to convince them that it really was Him and not an impostor, and physical in the sense of bodily but not that He was making an effort to demonstrate He was physical in the sense of natural, otherwise why appear in the room without opening a door?
I taught it every year. My two favorite passages concern his disappointment with the “white moderate” and his disappointment with the church. As follows:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice …
… I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows…
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
WOW!!! Never read that letter before. Thanks for the quote…I was way too young for much of that era, but I do recall some of the conflicts — though not viewed by me from a religious or Christian standpoint.
Wow. Thank you. “Electrifying” was the sensation that best described the reaction i had in reading this entire post. And the ignorance continues, I think, though perhaps more subtly. I am sure others can point this out better than I. David Platt seems to be a prophet here too, but maybe we need nationwide repentance.I think I do. I am too complacent and not enough proactive.
Irrelevant. The question was about what does “imperishable” mean. Saying that something isn’t really a problem because God can fix or protect a fragile body doesn’t address the question. It still sounds like the carpenter holding his creation together because he didn’t do it right in the first place. The reliance upon the power of God even to make up for your own flawed metaphysics or theology sound really suspicious to me.
Let me echo the thank you for posting. I too had never read it. I was probably 12 when written, and no doubt was because I was in one of those white moderate churches.
Things are better now, but we still have a long way to go with racial and social healing.
I was chatting with my daughter yesterday, and they had a Latino family in their home for dinner, and in the course of conversation it came up that this 50ish man stated that it was the first time he had ever been a dinner guest in the home of Anglo family. It is just a reminder to me that we have a way to go, and need to break bread with one another.
You make invalid assumptions and then base a whole slew of stuff on those invalid assumptions.
So what does imperishable mean? It means that is is forever lasting, without end. It has zero to do with Dualism vs Monism as BOTH are theoretically possible with the Creator of the Universe at the helm. That is the point that I am making. I tend to favor the Monistic approach but I am not so conceited to claim to know for certain which is so.
Well I don’t really know what you mean by all this dualism versus monism talk. I am a substance monist, because science demonstrates that this provides the superior explanation encompassing any number of effective dualisms or pluralisms within. But if you are saying what I think you are saying that there is only the physical universe and nothing outside or beyond that, then that goes way too far from the Bible and Christianity to be of any interest to me. It certainly doesn’t sound anything like 1 Cor 15 (where Paul contrasts the spiritual to the physical) which is where I got the word “imperishable” to begin with.
Where did you teach it? It’s a masterful theological document. We had a great discussion. Here’s a link: Letter from Birmingham Jail for everyone else who wants to read it.
We have an image of Dr. King carved on our bell tower at church. I’ve only seen pictures of it; I don’t even know its exact location or how to access it but I’m going to find out.
It’s your view of no actual physical resurrection that goes against how I read the Bible and from what I have heard from many a Bible scholar. I’m not saying that it is definitely incorrect, just that it’s not how I interrupt those passages.
Yes, I think that there is only God and the physical reality which he created. I see no reason why that is not compatible with the Bible. Dualism (the view that there are separate realities (Spiritual and Physical) is also compatible. Paul, nor anyone else, clearly stated which is the case.
But I believe in and have been talking about a resurrection which is both actual and bodily. To equate “spiritual” with not even being actual is a very strange way of reading the Bible and to insist reading what other people write in that way is downright dishonest.
But like I said I am a substance monist so your argument doesn’t even make any sense. There has been no talk by me whatsoever of any separate realities. You are simply inserting this. But the fact is that Paul and the rest of the Bible talk of the spiritual constantly and 1 Cor 15 is one of the best discussions in the Bible about the difference between the spiritual and the physical. I don’t know what all this talk of “separate realities” has to do with anything at all. So are you reading 1 Cor 15 at all… or simply discarding it?
It sounds like what are really saying is a kind of naturalism which equates the scientific worldview with reality itself and thus any kingdom of heaven would have to be either in the future or up in the sky. Though why you would insist on all of reality being limited to what you see and know about right now is a bit unfathomable to me. If there is any lesson from the history of science is that reality is always bigger than what we thought.
Thanks also for providing us the motivation to read his letter in its entirety as well. I’ve probably read it before but couldn’t remember the last time (If I ever had!). We attended a MLK celebration this weekend where my wife got an honorable mention for a piece of art she contributed. The theme was: “we may have arrived on different ships, but we are all in the same boat.”
But that letter certainly speaks deeply to the deeper issue of this very thread.
Yes, you are. When you say that it wasn’t his physical body but rather his “spiritual” body you are in fact creating two separate realities. A physical one and a spiritual one.
I’m not going to discuss this with you anymore. I don’t appreciate you’re constant negativity. I am not “dishonest”; I am saying things exactly how I see them. The fact that you disagree does not make me dishonest.
I am not sure if you can call them two separate realities. A spiritual being can experience both the physical and spiritual worlds. But a most all physical beings can only experience the physical and not the spiritual world. It is like being in the interrogation room behind a oneway mirror. The reality is the same, but the observer have different experiences on each side of the mirror.
Paul is the one saying this not me. I thought the point was understanding what this means and you are the one both saying these words of Paul mean separate realities, not me.
1 Cor 15:42 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 a substance monist this is just one reality with different kinds of things in it, including the spiritual things talked about Paul and the Bible. Maybe it would help if you explain what you mean by “different realities.”
I didn’t say anything about your character, but you were telling people I am saying things which I never did. You told people that my view is one of no actual resurrection. But my view is simply quoting Paul about a physical/bodily resurrection to a spiritual body not to a physical/natural body (the word “physical” having two different definitions).
Jesus DOES NOT call us to, “seek justice and end oppression” and did not send his followers to do that. One Saturday he walked into a synagogue and said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4
The oppression in the passage is a spiritual oppression, not physical and he was starting a spiritual revolution. He said that HE has been anointed to proclaim good news, freedom from prisoners, sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, etc. Man’s biggest need is forgiveness and to be connected to his/her creator. It’s a spiritual blindness, and slavery to sin he is talking about. Jesus had a spiritual ministry and this is a spiritual message. Look at what he says next:
"Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
If that scripture referred to the physical, then for Jesus to fulfill it he would have waved his hand and wiped out all injustice and oppression. But he didn’t! That’s because his father wants changed hearts, his children reconnected with him, that’s how the world will change. You don’t believe me, lets see how Jesus characterized his ministry:
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
"Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:38)
"From that time on Jesus began to preach , “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)
He told the apostles at the end of his ministry to baptize disciples. Peter, in the first gospel message, told those cut to the heart that to, “repent and be baptized”. Luke states, “with many other words he warned them and pleaded with them, save yourselves from this corrupt generation”. After the 3,000 were baptized, they:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-7)
Devoted to prayer, fellowship, teaching, meeting needs and breaking break. And people saw this and were saved, just like Jesus said in Matt 5:16, let your light shine and people will notice and be attractive to the faith. We also know they spent time making disciples due to:
"But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand." (Acts 4:4)
"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing," (Acts 6:1)
"The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)
Were they making disciples or seeking to end injustice? At the Jerusalem council, Peter said:
"Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." (Acts 15:20)
No call to, “stamp out oppression and injustice” there. And you won’t find it anywhere in the New Testament (I actually checked).
This is a false dichotomy - that if you’re a fisher of men then you’re not someone who works for justice, or meet the needs of the poor, or even cares about oppression. If anyone read my post a few days ago on the three major aspects of the Christian life, I said that our lives must include helping the poor and needy. I, and those in my church, actually volunteer a fair amount doing all sorts of things, in groups or individually and for me that includes mentoring teens. It’s part of my life as a disciple. But there is a big difference in caring for the needs of the poor as a follower of Christ and saying that Christians are called to, “end injustice and oppression”. Jesus said the poor (and oppressed, by extension) will always be here, because the spiritual roots of those things will always be here.
I taught high school English to students incarcerated in Dallas County juvenile detention. Usually, I was the only white face in the room. Let that image sink in for a minute… haha
I have been doing a lot of thinking and research lately on the imitation of Christ, and the “What Would Jesus Do?” movement of the '90s came to mind when I read your last statement. (Actually, I applaud any attempt to get Christians to live more faithfully, and I would much rather see a fad like WWJD bracelets than the Prayer of Jabez or purity rings. But that’s neither here nor there …)
One problem with the WWJD approach is that it is entirely passive and reactive. One simply waits for an ethical situation to arise, then asks WWJD? The imitation of Christ, on the other hand, is active and proactive. It is not passively taking life as it comes, but actively choosing to take up the cross and follow Christ.
A second problem with the WWJD approach – indeed, with the whole concept of imitation of Christ – is that it presumes a knowledge of the life of Jesus that most people do not have. I think it was N.T. Wright who compared Christian ethics to being an actor in a drama without a third act. We see the general outlines of the plot, but we must improvise an ending. This is only possible when we have so absorbed and internalized the story of Jesus that we intuitively know the direction the author (God) intended for us to go. In short, if we don’t intimately know the Christ of the gospels, then who are we imitating – a figment of our imaginations, or the Son of the Living God?
On top of that, we cannot completely comprehend the gospel portrait of Jesus until we understand the historical context into which he was born. This includes political, economic, social, and cultural considerations. In all of those areas, Jesus announced “the Great Reversal.” Nietzsche deridingly nicknamed it “the revolt of the slaves,” but the fancier term that he coined and Niebuhr borrowed was “the transvaluation of values.” (Consider the opening lines of the Sermon on the Mount, especially in Luke’s version. It is the poor whom God has blessed, not the rich…) In honor of MLK, then, I’ll expound for just a minute on the historical context of Jesus and the gospels…
I mentioned some of the cultural considerations a while back, so I’ll start with the political front, where virtually all of Jesus’ contemporaries expected Messiah to literally fulfill the prophecies of a king who would sit on the throne of David, crush Israel’s enemies, and rule the world. Long story short, Jesus sidesteps those nationalistic dreams of political power and conceals his identity as Messiah for most of his mission, preferring to refer to himself as “Son of Man,” which did not carry any messianic connotations for his audience. In John 6, Jesus drives away those who sought to crown him king by force, and he tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. In fact, the reason that the Pharisees and Herodians confronted Jesus with a question about paying taxes to Caesar was that every first-century messianic pretender had been a tax protester, so they expected Jesus to be the same. Of course, Christ rejected their premise, and he included both a tax collector and a Zealot among his apostles, thereby negating politics. God’s solution to our collective problem is not political. (Someone please tell that to our evangelical brothers and sisters!)
Economically speaking, Herod the Great had a habit of taking land from peasants and rewarding it to his courtiers and generals. These absentee landlords combined small farms into larger operations and sold the crops for cash. The system was transforming from one of subsistence farming and barter to a cash-based economy, and as usual, the people on the bottom suffered the most. Herod’s land confiscations created a perpetual underclass of day laborers (“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard…” Matt. 20) and tenant-farmers, much like the situation for freed slaves in the South after the Civil War. Another method the wealthy used to obtain land was by loaning money to perpetually cash-starved subsistence farmers, who bit-by-bit went further into debt until their land was confiscated for non-payment. It’s no accident that the first building burned in the Jewish Revolt housed all the debt records of Jerusalem, and we should not over-spiritualize the Lord’s Prayer when Jesus prays, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Perhaps as much as 20% of the population of Judea and Galilee was homeless. Think about that fact next time you read the gospels.
Shall I go on? Of course! Why stop now?! Let’s talk about Jesus and the social situation in first-century Palestine.
To a Jew of that time, Samaritans were “half-breeds,” both racially and religiously. Yet, immediately after confronting and confounding Nicodemus, the ultimate “insider,” Jesus reveals his identity to a Samaritan woman, of all people, in the only instance in any of the gospels that Jesus acknowledges his identity as Messiah prior to the Transfiguration. What?! Then, of course, there is the story of the Good Samaritan, contrasted with priests and Levites. In short, Jesus rejects racial and religious discrimination.
But wait! There’s more! In the patriarchal society of his time, when women were not allowed to study Torah, let alone be accepted by rabbis as disciples, we find women not only financially supporting Jesus’ ministry (which was allowed), but doing unheard-of things such as sitting at his feet as disciples, traveling with him, and serving as the first (sometimes only!) witnesses to the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection. What is going on here?!
Then, of course, there were children, who died off at astonishing rates prior to the 20th century. Despite our modern rose-colored-glasses view of childhood, in antiquity children were considered a burden until they could contribute to the labor force. They truly were “the least of these,” which explains why the disciples tried to shoo away mothers who brought their infants and toddlers to be blessed by Jesus. His reaction? He was not too busy or important to be bothered, as they supposed, but instead he emphatically said, “Bring the children unto me, for to such belong the kingdom of God.” Tax collectors, prostitutes, Romans, Gentiles – all the outcasts of society were welcomed in the society of Jesus.
Essentially, Jesus violated every custom and prejudice of his society. Do we really have to wonder why they killed him?