No Bodies and Our Souls

November 9, 2009

Say it fast a few times, and imagine you’re not from America. You may find a surprise hidden in the words.

I went to Ikon tonight, and that was the title of the night’s reflections. The purpose was to provoke those attending to consider the mind-body paradox. Well, at least, it has (seemingly) always been perceived as a paradox by those of us in the West. One thing that Christianity has historically pushed back against is the gnostic conception of the flesh as evil– really it is matter that is evil, represented in weak human flesh. To a gnostic only the spirit is pure, and the spirit needs to escape from the fallen corruptible matter that traps it.

Sound familiar? It should.

Like I said, Christianity has been pushing against this idea since before it stopped being Jewish. The world is GOOD, and the world is redeemed. Humanity is part of this, created alongside it, and is inseparable from it; this is why the Biblical endgame is God coming here not the other way around.

So tonight we had reflections on each of our senses, trying to figure out how our senses relate to our bodies and our souls; how our bodies and our souls relate to each other. Someone pointed out that when a person attempts to insist that humans have no soul, they are just a body, that something feels wrong about that, yet our souls are so physically connected it is impossible to deny that they could exist separate our bodies. This fearful complexity may be just glimpse of the complexity that is the Trinity.

Are human beings integrated wholes, or are they a body and soul? Yes.

Maybe the thing to take from this is that human beings are irreducible. This is different for insisting on a vision of humanity as just the body, just the chemical connections in the brain. This is also different from insisting that humans have a soul separate the body. Maybe we’re just too damn complicated to ever comprehend.

So when you’re interacting with another person, no matter how fleeting, keep in mind the inconceivable thing that you are confronting in another person. Fearfully and wonderfully made indeed.


5 Responses to “No Bodies and Our Souls”

  1. mk said

    Good stuff, thanks for the update. . . also, Sandie and I finally watched “Once.” Fabulous. Might need to watch it twice, and get some more of The Swell Season.

  2. Katie said

    “Maybe we’re just too damn complicated to ever comprehend.”


  3. Tyler said

    Good thoughts and reflections Chris! Contemporary Christianity has at times been gnostic-esque in it’s handling of the union of body/soul. I like your thought about the Trinity…it’s almost like many things in our beliefs are incomprehensible conceptually yet lingering somewhere between certainty and doubt.

    Imagine the implications this has for things like horrific accidents, violence, and rape as well as marital sexuality, brotherly affection, and even our posture…?

    Question for you: how does the new creation that awaits relate to and how is it different from the current creation? Another way of asking this is how do our current (temporary) bodies relate to the glorified (eternal) bodies we will receive? How are they different? Certainly the Almighty has subjected creation to physical laws of decay, will theseone day be removed? what do you think?

    • christophermahlon said

      Tyler, I’m sorry this took me so long to respond to. My week was filled with crazy things.

      I’ve always like the water analogy for the Trinity, but I’ve also alway felt that the metaphor lacked something. Mainly, water cannot be its different forms simultaneously. This is where I think the human body/soul thing makes a little more sense. We’re both things at once, inseparably.

      I very much agree that this stance makes the way we treat our physical selves MUCH more important than we generally do. Maybe this is what the scriptures mean when they’re telling you to watch what you do with your body? Maybe the writers had an insight into the human condition that we’ve lost? Maybe we’re supposed to have a holy awareness of the things we do to ourselves and how those things affect our souls.

      As far as the future is concerned: I’ve got nothing for you, man. I know that sounds like a cop-out and sort of out of character for me, but I just have no idea what form all that craziness is going to take. My general stance is that it doesn’t really matter all that much, since I’m not in charge of it. I’m supposed to be rooted in the here and now; which is another consequence of viewing the body/soul in this way, I think. I will say that I most definitely believe in the Resurrection, I just have no idea what that will be like.

  4. Mom said

    First of all, let me admit that as I have read your postings chronologically, albeit in one day, I have used my dictionary several times.

    Second, in response to Tyler’s post above, and your unsureness of what is to come, I just have to tell you my belief. I believe that everything will be perfect to each person, as they see “perfect” in their individuality … as long as that “perfect” is in line with God’s desire for us.

    I just know that this is probably something that the two of us don’t agree upon, so I’m glad this is a post, not a conversation in person, because I’d probably give up and just not say anything. I believe heaven will be “heaven.” God promises it to us.

    Today in church (I wasn’t there, but Dad and the boys called me with the scripture verses so that I could read it while they were listening to the sermon), they talked about John 15:1-17. Jesus talks about being the true vine and God being the “vinedresser.” What I understood from this is that God got rid of the bad parts of us when he sent Jesus to die for us. As long as we “abide” in Him, we will be his “branches” and will bear fruit. And I don’t just mean reproduction. I mean fruit like kindness, empathy, goodness, beauty, love, friendliness, etc. Those will be the things that will exist in heaven.

    And here’s the part that seals the deal: (16)”You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (17) These things I command you, that you love one another.”

    God is asking us to show love to each other and then to trust Him that He will give us the very best of our desires in the end. And guess what else? We might not even KNOW what the very best of our desires are right now … He may just reveal all of that to us when we meet Him.

    Cool, huh?

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