The Future Resurrection of the Body: Part II
1.) First, discussions on the afterlife are problematic to begin with since we know so little about existence after death (granting there is such a thing).
Patrik is certainly correct, from a purely epistemological perspective, to assert that we know very little about post-death experience. However, there is a difference in epistemological certainity and hoping for certain conceptions of the afterlife. As I will try to argue in future posts, I think there are reasons for hoping in a future, and in some sense more than metaphorical, resurrection of our bodies. The key term here is hope. This is how I want to frame this discussion, by affirming that, yes, our knowledge about the after life is limited but that this limitation should not hinder us from having certain (hopeful) conceptions about it.
2.) Furthermore, the Bible does not offer any detailed discussions concerning life after death and the common perceptions of this post-death existence have more to due with the influence of such literary works as Dante's Inferno.
3.) What the Bible does offer is" essentially a 'negative theology'" about the afterlife.
Patrik is a bit wrong on these two points. Granted, most of the Hebrew Bible does not offer much in regards to an afterlife and when it is clearly asserted it is not until the Book of Daniel, which many scholars believe to be one of the latest books in the Hebrew canon. However, once we cross the intertestamental divide into the NT it is an entirely different story. I must admit to being somewhat perplexed as to how Patrik can assert that the Bible says very little about existence after death. The hope of a future resurrection permeates the NT (even in individualized eschatological schemes such as John's Gospel there remains a hope for future resurrection). What the Bible is silent about is the intermediate phase between death and resurrection. But it has much to say about the final state of salvation.
4.) And though Paul takes up the issue of future bodily resurrection in 1 Cor. 15, Rom. 6ff offers a better guide to Paul's thoughts on the believer's body where he uses it as a symbol for what the believer has become or who they currently are (personality).
In Romans 6, Paul never actually uses the body as a symbol in and of itself. Paul's discussion concerns our being crucified and baptized into Christ's death. This is the symbolism being utilized (though I think if Paul were here he would reject our talk of 'being baptized into Christ' as merely symbolic). Yet even if we allow that Paul is using the body in a purely symbolic sense in this passage this would by no means signify that that is how Paul always understood the body. Indeed, later in Romans we see clearly Paul's understanding of the body as more than a symbol for "ourselves." Consider the following passages:
"But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Rom. 8: 10-11)
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved." (Rom. 8: 22-24)
In regards to the first passage two things need to be noted. First, Paul makes it clear that the life given to our mortal bodies is provided for on the basis of the life given to Jesus' mortal body when he was raised from the dead. The connection would imply the salvation of our bodies as similar to that of Jesus' when God, through the Spirit, raised him from the dead. Secondly, Paul places an attributive adjective with the word body (Greek: soma), namely, mortal. The use of this adjective is inexplicable if Paul merely has in mind a metaphorical body.
As for the second passage, Paul clearly makes a correlation between the redemption of the created order with that of our bodies. Just as the creation eagerly groans to be redeemed, so too do our bodies. To make Paul's use of body as merely symbolic for our personalities or what have you would not make sense in this passage.
So then for Patrik to divert the discussion concerning Paul's view of the body from 1 Cor 15 to Rom 6 is not helpful since, in my mind at least, other passages in Romans would seem to suggest the same type of understanding of body as that found in the famous resurrection chapter.
5.) Based on this observation, the hope of salvation after death should be understood as the redemption of our personality, that which constitues who we truly are. Resurrection of the body is simply a way of affirming that after death, God will make us "whole."
Since this is the crux of Patrik's position. I do not think Patrik is necessarily wrong in what he is saying but it is incomplete in my opinion. The rest of the posts in this series will attempt to clarify why I think this is incomplete and why I think we can hope for the resurrection as more than the salvation of our personalities. In the next post I will engage Patrik's interpretation of 1 Cor 15 (be sure to read Patrik's intepretation here).