RE: Essay about errancy

From: Dr. Blake Nelson <>
Date: Wed Feb 04 2004 - 13:53:33 EST

--- "Gough, Joshua" <> wrote:
> George, thanks for the response, I will have to take
> a look at that book
> you mentioned. I agree that unless there is a full
> resurrection, it
> doesn't make sense. Christians often complain that
> scientists are guilty
> of reductionism in that they attempt to dissect
> humanity into bits and
> pieces, but are not Christians guilty of the same
> who attempt to reduce
> a human into a corporeal and non-corporeal makeup?

No. At least not in what scripture actually says both
OT and NT and not in some traditions. What is true is
that the greek idea of corporeal and non-corporeal
elements of human beings got absorbed into christian
thinking despite it not actually being there. Joel
Green and others have written extensively on this
topic. Some christians disagree with Green, et al.'s
contention, but I suppose that is par for the course.

Even so, it seems to me there is a difference between
greek (or Cartesian) mind/body dualism and the nothing
buttery of extreme reductionism. The mind/body
distinction tried to make sense of data available, at
least the impressions one has in their own mind of
consciousness, etc. Additional data and philosophical
reflection shows that mind/body dualism has problems.
Reductionism tends to ignore data or reclassify data
that it cannot deal with as "meaningless" -- so, I
think there is a difference between the two in that
respect as well.

> Are we truly "one" or
> are we not?

The Hebrew Scriptures and the NT most assuredly say
that we are one.
> But, that brings up one question a chemistry
> professor of mine raised
> once:
> For a resurrection to occur, where do the elements
> of the body come
> from?

Reminds me of the equally specious question what
happens if one person eats another person? (Or what
about cremation or organ donation, etc., etc.) They
misunderstand what the christain hope is -- contra a
few sects, the resurrection is different from yet
continuous with this universe that we know. It is not
the ultimate recycling product where people will be
rebuilt out of the exact same stuff of this universe,
but a hope for the redemption of the entire universe,
us included, in some different form having continuity
with the form of this universe. How that's supposed
to happen exactly is not something that scripture says
a lot about, but generally talks about in metaphorical

Others much more readily knowledgeable than I can
> That is, you and I have bodies that we now know, and
> really have always
> known, come from ingesting food and metabolizing the
> materials from that
> food. This is not reductionism, it is just the way
> nature works. We put
> food into our bodies and that food becomes our
> bodies.
> So, the fingers typing this note were once in the
> ground, and then were
> in food, but long before any of that, they were in
> the stars. Truly, we
> are star stuff.
> So, for a physical resurrection to occur of all
> beings who achieved
> God's righteousness seems to me to raise a huge
> problem. How many of the
> 77 billion (accurate?) human beings who have lived
> on this planet will
> be judged righteous and be raised? Is it just
> 144,000 or something like
> that? Did God foreknow this?

See above. Leaving aside the sects that think exactly
that (like JW), Paul seems to talk of a different, yet
continuous form, and there is nothing to lead to
believe that it means resurrection in this universe as
it is, but in a transformed universe, which vitiates
the concern about where do all the elements for the
resurrection come from).
> Here's a thought experiment:
> Conceivably, you and I could actually have elements
> that were once part
> of the body of one those resurrected saints that
> eventually died again
> (we assume?)
> So, if you and I have elements in our physical
> constituency that once
> were the constituents of a righteous man from the
> past, then how does
> God raise both past righteous man and current me and
> you into a
> simultaneous creation? Does God do so by
> manipulating the physical
> constructs of the universe such that new elements
> are created to
> recombine into the exact configuration of the body
> to which he deems fit
> we inhabit at the time of resurrection? (How he
> decides what body I
> should inhabit is still in question, is it the one I
> had at 18, 23, now
> at 26, or maybe at 50?) Does God keep a database of
> our optimum
> constituencies and then remap our physical being in
> accordance with that
> optimization?
> We can pretend we "don't know" how he'll do it, but
> certainly we can ask
> questions as to just how given the laws of this
> universe that he _could_
> do it.

As noted above, there is nothing to suggest that the
resurrection is in this universe as it is now with the
same laws of physics, etc. Polkinghorne edited a
volume with a series of essays on this topic and
issued his own monograph. One of the titles was The
End of the Universe and the Ends of God or something
to that effect which dicusses many of the
eschatological issues that you are raising. So, it
might be useful.

Hans Kung's voluminous _Eternal Life_ deals with many
topics (including near death experiences (NDEs) which
he IMHO rightly does not see as providing any proof of
life after death) and theological strains of thought
regarding what eternal life means and what different
strains of the christian tradition have thought.

There's many good overviews of the issues and what
scripture and tradition have had to say. What is most
certainly true is that the concerns you are raising
are particularly sectarian interpretations of the
resurrection and are not in accord with the majority
of christian thought (not that popularity is a measure
of truth, but that christian thought generally is not
what you seem to think it is on the subject).

> Another thing with resurrection that troubles
> me is the concept
> of heaven. Supposedly God will not force us to
> accept his offer of
> forgiveness because that interferes with free will.
> Now, in order for us
> to be truly without pain or tears in a resurrection
> body, there is one
> thing God must do: Alter our state of being against
> our will because he
> presupposes he knows what is best for us and how we
> will best experience
> this life after death.

Why would this necessarily be against our will?
> God wants us to have no pain after death. He knows
> us. Therefore, he
> knows he has to alter us to remove pain. So, why is
> he unwilling in this
> life to alter us, but once we get to the other life
> he is perfectly
> willing, in fact has obligated himself to do such?

This, of course, is a vast theodicy issue. The
question is really can you make a universe with
genuine free will where there is no pain. I don't
claim that it can be done.

The hope of the life to come also includes redemption
of the pain. But in the life to come, there will be
no doubt nor room for doubt that there is a God, and
how would we have the free will to freely love or
reject God if such a universe were the universe in
which we were initially created? It seems to me we
would have no choice but to love or fear him in such a
> All of that brings the question of if God truly has
> divine foreknowledge
> of all things, did he know about this dilemma before
> it happened?

Whether God has deterministic foreknowledge is a
subject of great debate, even leaving aside the recent
open theism movement. If true free will requires such
a universe as this, then this is not a problem
regardless of where you come out on the issue. Pain
and suffering are problems to the extent that they are
unnecessary. And again, christians say that God has
taken on the role of the suffering servant, suffers
with us, etc. rather than being aloof.

> If he
> did, why did he create the world? Some would say he
> thought the risk
> worth the reward. Well what is that reward? The
> reward of having beings
> who he has to forcibly manipulate to ensure their
> eternal state of joy
> due to such beings' remembrance of their past
> formative experiences,
> sorrows, pains, joys, etc all of which would produce
> pangs of longing
> and remorse and alienation for not seeing their
> loved ones with them.

This is a whole farrago of issues, all of which seem
loaded. I don't have the time or space to go through
them ad seriatim. Perhaps we could take one at a

As a general principle, I see no forcible manipulation
involved in God's redemptive action. How do you see
it as such?

> But, that's all ok, right, because God will make it
> all better and
> perfect.

This is a silly sop that folks like put
up in their stuff as a pastiche of christian thought.
There may be people who believe this, but this is not
what scripture or tradition says. It does say that
there is redemption and joy and forgiveness. It says
there is that in this world, here and now, not some
pie in the sky reward you later thing. I, for one, in
my own life believe that to be a true experience, even
in personal suffering.

> So, if he's going to make it all perfect,
> why did he not make
> it all perfect from the get go? We cannot address
> this by going down the
> path of free choice because we've already seen that
> God has to eliminate
> free choice in order to ensure our eternal state of
> happiness.

This appears to be an incorrect syllogism. You have
to explain how this is the case, because I think you
are simply wrong on this point for reasons discussed
in part above.

> If God
> truly did not want an army of "praise you God"
> automatons,

Who says he does? Sounds like more

> it seems then
> he's gone along way to ensuring that he gets just
> that unless the claims
> of removing all tears and eternal joy are simply
> untrue.

Again, I don't follow your logic here, sorry.
> Phew, back to real life, the only life I know of at
> least right now ;-)

And the kerygma re Jesus of Nazareth is about this
life, how to live in this life in relationship to one
another and in relationship to God. It seems this is
a point that and others seem to forget.
The proclamation about Jesus is for us, in this life,
here and now. Love, joy, forgiveness, peace,
compassion, understanding... These are hardly rotten
pie in the sky hopes that things will be better in a
future life. That B.S. is something that folks like
those at use as a caricature of
christianity. It sure isn't christianity, though.

> >>-----Original Message-----
> >>From: George Murphy []
> >>Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 6:03 PM
> >>To: Gough, Joshua
> >>Cc: Rich Blinne;
> >>Subject: Re: Essay about errancy
> >>
> >>Gough, Joshua wrote:
> >>>
> >>> I guess my issue with this boils down to:
> physically, did many dead
> >>> people come alive and walk around Jerusalem or
> did they not? It's
> either
> >>> historically accurate or it is not. Just the
> same, either Jesus came
> >>> back from the dead physically and literally, or
> he did not. Ravi
> >>> Zacharias is right: It's either/or, not
> both/and.
> >>>
> >>>
> >> any resurrection of the body then when you're
> dead you're dead,
> period.
> >>Of course this
> >>by no means proves that Jesus _did_ rise from the
> dead, but let's not
> >>waste our time
> >>pretending that there is some kind of Easter hope
> or faith if he
> didn't.
> >> I'm always amazed at the supposedly modern people
> who claim to
> be
> >>eager to
> >>brings Christianity into accord with modern
> science, with its intense
> >>concentration on
> >>the importance of matter, but then think that they
> have some
> Christianity
> >>worth talking
> >>about without a resurrection that confers lasting
> value on matter
> (e.g.,
> >>Spong).
> >>
> >> Shalom,
> >> George
> >>-
> >>George L. Murphy
> >>
> >>

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Received on Wed Feb 4 13:53:47 2004

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