Why reject Genesis on science but not the historical resurrection?


Wow, you have reviewed ALL the statements of faith by Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox?! That’s some impressive internet skollership. I maintain that Physical is a synonym for Bodily. See JasonBorne4’s post where he shows that BioLogos confirms a physical resurrection.

(Christy Hemphill) #43

Maybe it’s time you and @mitchellmckain agreed to disagree about the use of the word physical.

Mitchell has clearly communicated that in his usage, physical means natural and isn’t accurate to describe Jesus’ resurrection to a supernatural body. The first fruits of the New Creation broke into our world with the resurrection. The resurrected Christ is not a product of our natural world. He is a new creation. We should all be able to affirm that.

You have clearly communicated that you are using the word physical to mean bodily, substantial and fully present in our reality. Clearly Jesus wasn’t resurrected as a ghost or to existence in a realm that is only spiritual. Mitchell has agreed with you on that, he just doesn’t use the word physical that way.

Arguing over the proper prescriptive semantics of the word physical as it applies to the Resurrection is counter-productive once you have both explained how you are using the word personally. You are both describing orthodox beliefs about Jesus’ resurrection. Time to call a truce.

(George Brooks) #44


I like your answer. But I would like to add one more clause to answer @mentalmagicman’s original question:

“So why and how could anyone decide that Genesis is not to be taken as a scientific description based on one’s understanding of science but believe that the resurrection of Christ is to be taken as a scientific description when it flies in the face of established science?”

To accept the Resurrection of Christ does not require an overturn the deductive conclusions of all the observations of nature that God has given us to understand. It only requires that on one day, for one man, something extremely unusual happened.

Now, attempt this same assessment for what most Creationists want us to do:

Creationists want us to overturn:

  1. all the deductions of the observations of mainstream Geology indicating great age of the Earth;
  2. all the deductions of the observations of multiple terrestrial chemical and physical measurements indicating great age of the Earth;
  3. all the deductions of the observations of multiple Cosmological physics measurements indicating great age of the Universe;
  4. all the deductions of the observations of microbiology…
    and more and more.

This is not as difficult a question to ask of a Christian Evolutionist as a Creationist might imagine.


BioLogos uses the word that way.

(Christy Hemphill) #46

So what? BioLogos is not going to insist everyone must use words the same way. There isn’t anything to win here. The two of you essentially agree, you just attach different senses to one word. There is no point in continuing to try to convince Mitchell he must adopt your phraseology. He is not using the word physical incorrectly. Physical, in science communities, is often used the way he is using it - to describe material made of atoms subject to physical laws. If he explains his usage, and explains his meaning, and gives his justification for his preference, our task is to understand his meaning, not be pedantic about semantics. His meaning was very clearly communicated.

(George Brooks) #47

[[ Edits: Multiple edits to clarify quoted material from my own explanatory discussion. ]]

Sometimes the sequence of the terms is more important than the actual meaning of the term.

If Enoch or Jesus are “physically lifted” up into the Heavens… this clearly encompasses the sense of the word “bodily”.

Semantically, the progression is clear: Physically > Bodily

But things get dicier in the reverse, don’t they?: When a Church father talks about the “spiritual body” … is it a physical body? Is it even a body?

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 offers a simple description: "So also is the resurrection of the dead… It is sown [as] a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."

But what we think is simple, is only simple because we want it to be. The Greek term ‘spiritual body’ apparently doesn’t mean ‘transparent’ or ‘ephemeral’; it means something more like ‘purified body’. But it is hard to find this fact in all the torrid writings of the Church.

Nothing confuses the situation more than a retreat to Jewish metaphysics! The book, Jewish Views of the Afterlife (by Simcha Paull Raphael, page 296) throws a blinding torch into the room - - leaving a literary after-image that makes almost all other ideas impossible into some kind of ghostly apparition:

Quoted Material except where brackets note otherwise:
"Guf Ha-Dak: Once the process of separation of body and soul is complete, the individual consciousness continues to exist in a separate field of light, or a “transparent body” - - what is called in some kabbalistic sources guf ha-dak. This guf ha-dak [‘Vessel [of] the Sheer’] is regarded as a spiritual postmortem body. The term “vessel” refers to the body … and “sheer” refers to its mystical translucent quality!

Rabbi Eliezer Ha-Rofei Ashkenazi (1513-1586), author of Maaseh Ha-Shem, refers to a spiritual form around the body that continues to exist after death. Similarly Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1658), author of Nishmat Hayyim, writes of a translucent, spiritual body in which all souls are garbed; even after death, this “body” remains attached to the soul.

This view is inherent to kabbalistic tradition, which asserts that “the spiritual body and the physical body are actually one and the same before, during and after life, although manifested on two different planes” After death, the former separates from the latter; while the body begins its process of physical composition, the spiritual body, guf ha-dak [aka ‘tzelem’], survives and goes through the stages of the postmortem journey.
[End of Quoted Material]

[It conforms to the contours of the physical human shape. And when a soul achieves perfection, the guf ha’dak, the soul’s body, is perfected as well.]


But what about the position of the church? Perhaps Terence Nichols’ book, Death and the Afterlife: A Theological Introduction, most swiftly summarizes the complexity and nuances of what a “spiritual body” seems to mean (Pages 64-65):

Quoted Material except where brackets note otherwise:
"For Augustine, there is no doubt that the soul survives bodily death. The “first death” is precisely the separation of the soul from the body. The souls of the martyrs, he thinks, are already in heaven. The souls of the wicked go to a state of punishment: ‘For the souls which have been separated from the bodies of the godly are at rest, but those of the ungodly suffer punishment until their [physical] bodies rise again: those of the godly to eternal life, and those of the ungodly to the eternal death which is called the second death.’

… At the resurrection, according to Augustine, the actual earthly material of the body will return to the soul, which will reanimate the body. However, all the material does not have to return to the same part of the body. Like a statue that has been melted down and recast, the same material will be in the body but perhaps in different locations.
[FN 37: Augustine, Enchiridion 89; in Whitney, Basic Writings, 1:710.]

Following Paul (1 Cor.15), Augustine also insists that the resurrected bodies of the saints will be “spiritual bodies.” ‘The flesh will then be spiritual, and subject to the spirit; but it will still be flesh and not spirit.’
[FN 38: Augustine, City of God 22.21; Dyson, Augustine, 1152.]
[[GB’s note for semi-clarity, thus: the church fathers sustained the idea that the body can be refered to as a Spiritual Body, while still made of flesh’; while the Rabbis sustained the idea that the ‘spiritual body’ existed even before the End of Days and was the ‘truest’ container of the soul.]]

The matter of the bodies then will be transformed to that it is incorruptible. In addition, the body will be wholly submitted to the soul and the soul to the spirit so that the body will no longer be able to resist the will of the sanctified soul. So, like Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine integrates the physicalist and the spiritual traditions of the resurrection by insisting on both.[!]

The original material particles of the body are recombined but transformed into a spiritual body. Of the nature of that spiritual body, Augustine confesses ignorance: “But no experience that we have yet had enables us to know what the nature of the spiritual body and the extent of its grace will be; and so it would, I fear, be rash to offer any description of it.”
[FN 39:Augustine, City of God 22.21; Dyson, Augustine, 1153.]
[End of Quoted Material]

[[Final Note:
There’s something to be said for the gritty detail of Kabalah. Geoffrey W. Dennis’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism (p 112) tells us where souls come from!:
‘Guf ha-Briyot: The Vessel of Creatures’ Souls are said to originate in a celestial reservoir called the Guf, from which they enter earthly realms in order to animate bodies. The Messiah will not come until the Guf has been emptied of all its souls (Yev. 62a). After death, these souls return to the spiritual realms and are deposited in the Otzar of Tzror ha-Chayyim, the Treasury of Souls, which is beneath the Throne of Glory. (A.Z. 5a; Ned. 13b; Shab. 152a; PR 2:3; Bahir 126; Zohar I:119a).
End of Quoted Material ]]

(Christy Hemphill) #48

Augustine did not have a concept of atomic theory. So I don’t know how much weight his musings on the physical mechanics of being raised imperishable should carry.

I think it is pretty standard Christian belief, that whatever those spiritual bodies are like, the risen Christ had one, and we will be like Christ.

(Mitchell W McKain) #49

What original material particles? The atoms and molecules in our body are constantly being replaced. And if you mean the atoms and molecules at the time of our death, the you have a problem because the truth is that those atom and molecules are recycled and end up in other people even at the time of their death. So if that is what you mean then it is impossible.

This is why I suggested above that some Christians seem to go out of their way to contradict science even if they have to contradict the Bible to do so. The apostle Paul says that this is not the case probably because someone already pointed out to him this problem with the idea. So he says it is a bodily resurrection to a spiritual body made of the stuff of heaven rather than a resurrection to a natural/physical body made of the stuff of the earth (like dust).

The hard thing for me to understand is why do they do this? Why contradict Paul, just so they can contradict science and common sense. It like they are proud of the irrationality of such beliefs and the crazier they can make those beliefs the more they like them.

(George Brooks) #50


Hey, fella… I didn’t write that sentence… I just transcribed it. Terence Nichols was interpreting what Augustine meant when he insisted that a resurrected Christian would have his “flesh” miraculously returned to him FROM HIS CORPSE … but seemingly re-arranged into perfection that would never know corruption.

(Mitchell W McKain) #51

It is difficult to tell because it is not in quotes of any kind. Anyway that explains why Christy attributed it to you and I did the same.

(George Brooks) #52


Yes, I can understand that these long sections of narrative can be hard to track… but first of all, I didn’t fire back at you because of poor tracking… I fired back at you because your logic was incorrect. Yes, particles are constantly inter-changing … but that’s the point of the miracle, right?

A person has died… his body rots away … and Augustine says he gets his whole body back … non-corrupted… presumably from somewhere near the end of the body’s last breath, right? That’s a pretty powerful miracle… and you are going to quibble over defining which particles of matter?

In the meantime, let me list what I was doing in that posting… INSTEAD of perfecting the quote marks:

  1. I quoted from at least two different books, providing full titles and author names.

  2. I paid attention to page references.

  3. When footnotes seemed particularly helpful, I tracked them down within the Google Book (which some of you will know is no picnic).

  4. I provided some additional explanatory notes when I thought it might be informative.

  5. And I included quotes WITHIN the quoted text when it was necessary to do so.

So I offer my sincere regrets that I missed a set of quotes that would have helped keep the source of the text more clear.

(Mitchell W McKain) #53

NO! The point of a miracle is not the complete irrationality of logical contradictions, and I also refute the idea that the point of a miracle is the violation of the natural laws which God made (as if he were a whimsical member of the Roman pantheon who cannot make up his mind from one moment to the next, rather than someone with integrity who keeps to His commitments). The point of a miracle is that they are so unexpected that they suggest the presence of the divine.

No and that was precisely the point of my objection. AND the fact of the matter is that nothing in the Bible says anything about particles, there is only the word “dust” which Paul specifically says in 1 Cor 15 has nothing to do with the resurrected body.

I inserted “quoting Terence Nichols’ book, Death and the Afterlife: A Theological Introduction

(George Brooks) #54


Wha? Right. Agreed. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about particles.

But is it your intention to insist that bodies are NOT made of particles? We’re not even talking about atoms here… we’re just talking about little pieces of flesh and bone that make up a dead body. I would think you would be quite quick to admit that dead bodies are a giant circus of “particles” waiting to happen!

Do you think a body that rots away does so without crumbling and effluvia? Even liquid effluvia dries up into … well… dust and particles, right?

To what, exactly, are you objecting? The author didn’t say Augustine used the term “particles” … the author was using a modern word to characterize to the modern reader what might be going on with Augustine’s scenario applied to a body in the here and now.

plural noun: effluvia

  1. an unpleasant or harmful odor, secretion, or discharge.
    “. . . .the unwholesome effluvia of decaying vegetable matter. . . .”

POSTSCRIPT: the author of the text in question SAYS that Augustine was careful to point out that a person gets his body back. Do you think the author was wrong about Augustine saying that?

(George Brooks) #55


I thought this would help with the flow of the discussion …

(Mitchell W McKain) #56

Physical bodies are made of particles. Dead bodies are made of particles. Resurrected bodies, which Paul calls spiritual bodies, are not made of dust, he says – not made of particles, I conclude. Bodies made of particles are not imperishable – they are bound by the laws of nature which govern those particles. Thus everything Paul says in 1 Cor 15 works together. Spiritual bodies are something else as far as their composition and properties but they are the same as far as their appearance and function. For when it comes to getting our bodies back what is important is appearance and function not composition. Even in the physical body it is the appearance and function which the body seeks to maintain by constantly repairing things, not the same matter, not the same cells, nor even the same number of cells.

I am pretty much objecting to descriptions which contradict Paul in 1 Cor 15. In this case it is the talk of bringing back the same identical matter the body had at death because that not only doesn’t make any sense but it doesn’t agree with the words of Paul. I am certainly not concerned with the words of Augustine as if he had any authority on the matter.

What Augustine said does not concern me, I will assume that is correct, and only say that I agree with Augustine that a person gets his body back in appearance and function, because that is all people care about especially in those times when they didn’t even know about molecules, atoms, and particles.

As for this Catholic answers page you have posted, the use of the phrase “physically raise” is a problem because the contradiction with Paul and it isn’t supported by the catechism either. Both use the word “bodily” not “physical” because the latter word has meanings other “bodily,” which clash with Paul’s words in 1 Cor 15. As for the rest of it, we are simply back to same but different and Paul explains how they are different: imperishable rather than perishable, powerful rather than weak, of heaven rather than of dust.

(George Brooks) #57


So you are setting yourself up to argue with Augustine?

He didn’t use the term particles… but he wasn’t an idiot either (though the Original Sin thing temps me to offer a few opinions on the matter).

Obviously, Augustine and the Holy Mother Church believed that when God returned your body to you, he re-worked it … so that it was not DUST anymore.

I’m not sure why you are fixating on this particular issue…

Apparently, back then BOTH were considered equally important.

Oyyy. As @Christy points out, the folks back then weren’t even aware of such matters. But they seemed to think a person would KNOW if it was their old body or not.

Mitchell, did you skip the part where the author of the summary indicated that Augustine said it was the “old body REWORKED”???

I think you need a cup of coffee and a re-start on yesterday. You sound a bit over-wrought.

(Christy Hemphill) #58

Augustine also said that women can only image God in union with their husband, because they are inferior creatures. He’s not infallible.

(George Brooks) #59


Well of course. Please remember that I’m a Unitarian Universalist… and to us, there are not many things that approach infallibility.

My point to @mitchellmckain is that he seems to have an issue with how Augustine thought about the problem of the resurrected body… and not just with some out-of-sync paraphrasings by the author of one of the books I quote from.

Christy, you are not a Catholic, right? So no doubt you are not particularly impressed with the Lateran Council of 1215 (which is quoted in an exhibit I posted above):

"The Fourth Lateran Council (1215), infallibly defined that at the second coming Jesus “will judge the living and the dead . . . . All of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear…”

I understand Mitchell’s concerns, but wouldn’t you agree that he is making a mountain out of a mole hill? Augustine was not challenging Paul about the resurrection. And neither is the Roman Catholic church!


I am apparently late to this discussion and was pointed to it by a summary email from BioLogos “since my last visit”. I think there are good reasons for distinguishing between our understanding of the Creation myths in Genesis and the Gospel accounts of the resurrection. The first relates to the different genre of the creation accounts versus the resurrection narratives. The second relates to the “face of established science”.

The two Creation myths in Genesis 1 and 2 belong to a genre which is known to us from other such Creation myths from the ancient Near and Middle East. Traces of other ancient Creation myths are still found in some of the other Old Testament Scriptures.They are stories which attempt to give an order and purpose to the world; an order and purpose that is established from the beginning. Often a path to understanding is given using the words of an indigenous leader about the Creation myths of his own people: “I don’t know whether these stories actually happened, but I know that they are true.”

Interpreting the Biblical Creation stories literally only leads to problems. The sequence of Creation in the two stories is different and can only be harmonised by some tortuous arguments. What would be the spiritual purpose of us having a sequential account of God’s act of Creation anyway? God had enough trouble trying to explain the Creation to Job, and I suspect he would have just as much trouble explaining it to us today. Lumbering a relatively primitive people with scientific information would only give them an incomprehensible burden.

But what about the New Testament accounts of the resurrection? Shouldn’t the resurrection accounts be treated in the same way - as myths which tell spiritual truths, not literal ones? If understood in this way, we might conclude that though Jesus died, his spirit lives on in us his followers. Of course, that would be true whatever we conclude, but the issue is, is that the only way it is true? The problem in answering this question is that two things become hopelessly intertwined and should be separated - what the Gospel authors believed, and what we believe. Let me give an example. In Luke’s Gospel two disciples are on their way to Emmaus. As they walk, Jesus joins them, but is not recognised at first. Then in the breaking of the bread, Jesus is recognised. What a great text to preach on Jesus’ presence when we break bread together in his name! This could lead on to a great sermon that does not require any belief in a bodily resurrection. The only problem for this view is that the story does not end there. When these two disciples rejoin the others, Jesus appears in their midst and invites the disciples to touch his bodily form. Three of the four Gospels show that their authors intended to describe Jesus’ resurrection as that of a bodily form. This is only missing in Mark because the ending of that Gospel has been lost.

If that is what the Gospel authors intended, what about St Paul? Doesn’t Paul distinguish between a physical body and a spiritual one? The problem here is that we import our own meaning into his words and often remain ignorant of the overall framework of Paul’s thinking. When Paul speaks about a “spiritual body” our tunnel vision is blind to the word “body” in the expression “spiritual body”. A spiritual body is not some kind of ether-like shadowy existence, perhaps like that suggested by the ancient Greek concept of the immortal soul. “Flesh” and “spirit” to Paul are powers that define two different realms of existence, with only the second being salvific. The Spirit which raises us to newness within (Romans 6:1-4), will ultimately raise our mortal body (Romans 8:11). Of course, this not the resuscitation of a corpse, but the transformation of the body, paralleling the work of the Spirit inwardly.

But what about the face of established science? Well, that face keeps changing. I usually find that Christians are still stuck in 19th Century science. When the physicist Max Planck enquired about first studying science, he was told to try something else, because all the important things had already been discovered. Max proved that wrong and led the world into Quantum Physics. Around the same time, Albert Einstein showed that time was a fourth dimension of this universe which could flow at different rates and even stop. It is interesting that the resurrection of Jesus was considered in the New Testament as an end of time event. Critics of the resurrection often derisively refer to Jesus passing through walls. It would seem more in keeping with both New Testament eschatology and Einstein’s physics, to refer to the resurrection appearances as incursions of the end of time.

It seems strange to me that the proposal amongst physicists of parallel universes has moved into respectability without the slightest evidence whatsoever. But the resurrection appearances of Jesus, for which there is historical testimony, meet with derision from some. As a thought exercise, think of the life of the resurrection as occurring in a parallel universe, which intruded historically by the design of the divine. We have historical evidence of something like that, but pinning our thoughts to the notion of parallel universes may tie us prematurely to a passing parade in the annals of science.

(George Brooks) #61


Then the only question is whether or not the author was fair in how he described Augustine’s position… which seems that it was fair, in that it pretty much agrees with the Roman Catholic stance on the matter.

This means the objection you have is with the Roman Catholic interpretation of gospel. You object to “physically raise” … because you really want Paul’s description to be applicable to something OTHER than “flesh”.

In fact, I touch on this in the body of that posting.

Apparently “Spiritual Body” was not a phrase that was supposed to conjure up images of ghostly or vaporous bodily parts. It was meant to refer to non-base, non-corrupt material. Sure, the body might glow like in the New Testament reference to the Transfiguration … but the body was still flesh, with blood inside it and so forth.

“Spiritual” here meant more “purified”, or “sanctified” or something that indicated “freedom from corruption”. It did not intend to mean “not material”, “not meaty” or whatever else is in your mind on the matter, Mitchell.

So, your objections have had the value of triggering a “forced march” over these issues and concepts. I’m glad you concluded that you don’t take issue with Augustine - - not because I admire Augustine so much, but just so we are clear that your objection is with an entire institution, rather than with my sources of information.

Truth be told, I have some issues with the Roman Catholic institution myself.