Thursday, October 25, 2012

"I'm Spiritual, Not Religious."

I've heard this assertion many times among circles of friends who—like myself—have become disgusted with the hierarchical, traditional power structure of the Christian Church (the paradigm, not the denomination). I've heard many say "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual." Unfortunately, that's bull-hockey. Take this beautiful little quote from F. Schleiermacher:

Religion is the outcome neither of the fear of death, nor of the fear of God. It answers a deep need in man. It is neither a metaphysic, nor a morality, but above all and essentially an intuition and a feeling...Dogmas are not, properly speaking, part of religion: rather they are derived from it. Religion is the miracle of direct relationship with the infinite; and dogmas are the reflection of this miracle. Similarly belief in God, and in personal immortality, are not necessarily a part of religion; one can conceive of a religion without God, and it would be pure contemplation of the universe; the desire for personal immortality seems rather to show a lack of religion, since religion assumes a desire to lose oneself in the infinite, rather than to preserve one's own finite self.

It is important not to confuse religion with dogma. The latter proceeds from the former, not the other way around. Spirituality without religion is like a writer with no pen or paper. Good ideas, but no way to work those ideas into a meaningful practice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"See How He Loved Him!": Lazarus, the Love of God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (Part IV)

Below is the fourth and final piece of my theology paper for my Resurrection in the New Testament class. In Part IV, I conclude my paper with remarks on how the eschatological resurrection of the dead is—like the raising of Lazarus at Bethany—motivated primarily by God's love for Creation. See also Part I, Part II, and Part III.

The Resurrection of the Dead
I have argued thus far that the Gospel of John depicts both the raising of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus as acts of divine love. It seems strange that while much attention has been given to the eschatological hope of the resurrection of the dead, the possibility of love as the catalyst of that eschatological hope has received little notice. To fully draw these three sections together into a discussion of the final resurrection, we now return to the two questions from earlier.
1) How does the Fourth Gospel portray death?
If there is one thing for certain about Lazarus, it is his death. By the time Jesus and the disciples reached Bethany, Lazarus was absolutely, totally dead. The Gospel writer emphasizes this by pointing out twice that he had been in the tomb for four days. Launching his journey from across the Jordan, Jesus tells his disciples, flatly and without great passion, “Lazarus is dead.” “This almost brutal announcement serves to correct any tendency to see death as illusory or unreal.”[1]. Death must be understood as an absolute reality for resurrection to hold theological gravity.
Some theologians maintain that resurrection is a means of surviving death,[2] but this is quite frankly against all biblical accounts, including the one most pertinent to this study. Resurrection is not a means of surviving or avoiding death. If Christ must die, the author of the Fourth Gospel argues, then we must follow him. “In response to Jesus’ decision, ‘Let us go to him [Lazarus],’ Thomas answers, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ The grammatical antecedent of ‘with him’ is Lazarus, although the meaning is clearly ‘with Jesus’ who will surely be arrested if he returns to Judea.”[3] Beginning with the decision of the disciples to follow Jesus to Bethany, the proceeding narrative is a proleptic foreshadowing of the events that will transpire in Christ’s death and resurrection. Lazarus was dead (and died again), Christ died, so surely we must harbor no illusions of escaping the inevitable. Resurrection is instead a means of descending into death and conquering it, and love is the catalyst that brings us through the other side into a transformed existence. Resurrection is our hope; in the Fourth Gospel, love is the power by which that hope is realized.
2) How does the Fourth Gospel suggest death might be overcome?
While there is no escaping death, faith in Christ offers the opportunity to overcome it. This is not a faith which rewards the believer with a golden ticket to paradise, but a placing of trust in the belief that Christ will return to establish ju›stice, and will furthermore raise the faithful from the dead as a fulfillment of his great love for us. “In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was…demonstrating the validity of his own claims that he would rise again, and that he had the power and authority to do so. This miracle…illustrates Jesus’s claims that he will raise people at the eschatological resurrection.”[4] This eschatological promise is lived out in the present by believers who—like Peter in his “reinstatement”—are called to mutual service and submission, to feeding lambs and tending sheep while sharing in the love of Christ. Rowan Williams illustrates this well: “Growth is…not simply the buried Jesus calling the buried self into a shared tomb, but the inexhaustible depth of God’s remembering love calling to the depth of hope and potentiality and freedom in the self.”[5]
To Gregory of Nyssa, the connection between Lazarus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the future resurrection of the dead is a very clear one. In On the Making of Man, Gregory writes:
Once [Jesus] had accustomed people to seeing the miracle of the resurrection in other bodies, he confirmed his word in his own humanity. You already received a glimpse of that word working in others—those who were about to die…the young man at the edge of the grave, the putrefying corpse [i.e., Lazarus], all alike restored by one command to life…Now look at him whose hands were pierced with nails, look at him whose side was transfixed with a spear…If he then has been raised, well may we utter the apostle’s exclamation, “How do some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (25.12-13)[6]

In other words, for those who have faith in Christ, the eschatological promise of the resurrection remains our hope of redemption—just as Lazarus was raised by the power of love, and just as Christ was raised and transformed in love, so will we be raised and transformed by that same salvific love.
Additionally, W.H. Cadman concludes that the glory (doxa) of God which is revealed in the Lazarus story is the result of the love-union of Christ in the Deity:
The utterance of Jesus [“I am the Resurrection and the Life”] discloses a consequence when God and the incarnate Logos are in the relation of “glory” or “love” in which God dwelt with the Logos “in the beginning,” [and] “before the world existed. If Martha has grasped and accepted this consequence of the love-union she will discern in the raising of her dead brother a revelation of the union itself.[7]

Sandra Schneiders, building upon Cadman’s claims, equates the power of Jesus to resurrect those who believe in him with his love of Lazarus—the “one whom he loved” in this case being synecdochic of the greater body of believers.[8] Through the power of God’s divine love, those who believe are raised. Regardless of whether or not Lazarus holds the distinct honor of being the Beloved Disciple, it is clear that the tradition soon developed within the Johannine community (and scriptural canon—see 1 John 2:7, 3:2, 3:21, etc.) that all Christians are “beloved disciples” sharing in the hope of the resurrection together.[9]
            The Gospel of John weaves a narrative with a common resurrection thread—love. It is the love of a friend that moves Jesus to raise Lazarus and submit himself to the grave, it is the love of God that raises Christ in glory, and it is the love of Christ which raises us to new life on the Last Day. Throughout the gospel story, divine love is the undeniable “true constant, the one sure thing” upon which the eschatological hope of all believers may rest.[10] In the story of Lazarus, we catch a glimpse not only of the literary foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ, but of our own resurrection, as well. “The resurrection calls us into a new beginning, into a new heaven and a new earth brought about through God’s transformative love.”[11] It is through this fundamentally transformative power that we hear the call of Christ to come out of the darkness of the tomb and into the light of New Creation, and by this power that we leave our grave clothes behind us.

[1] Sandra Schneiders, 49.
[2] See Stephen T. Davis, Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 207.
[3] Sandra Schneiders, 50.
[4] Stephen S. Kim, 64.
[5] Rowan Williams, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel, Revised Edition ed. (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2003), 41.
[6] Quoted in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol 4b. Thomas C. Oden, gen. ed. (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 372.
[7] W.H. Cadman, “The Raising of Lazarus,” in Studia Evangelica: Papers Presented to the International Congress on “The Four Gospels in 1957” Held at Christ Church, Oxford, 1957. ed. by Kurt Aland, F.L. Cross, et al. (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1959), 434.
[8] Sandra Schneiders, 55
[9] Ernest Lussier, God Is Love: According to St. John (New York: Alba House, 1977), 44.
[10] Jo-Ann A. Brant, 65.
[11] Lyle K. Weiss, 181.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"See How He Loved Him!": Lazarus, the Love of God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (Part III)

Below is Part III of my final theology paper for my Resurrection in the New Testament Class, in which I conclude my remarks on the raising of Lazarus and discuss the possibility of the resurrection of Jesus as another act of divine love. Part IV will conclude my paper with a discussion of the eschatological resurrection of the dead. See also Part I and Part II.

In depicting a Christ who weeps out of love at the death of a friend, yet who also publicly declares, “I am the Resurrection,” the author of the Fourth Gospel establishes an inseparable nexus between the raising of the dead to new life and the sacred bond of divine love—a bond of love so strong that it will ultimately lead to the cross. The return of Lazarus from the grave is a proleptic microcosm that foreshadows the resurrection of Christ and, as we shall see below, the future resurrection of the dead. In other words, “The raising of Lazarus is the Gospel in miniature.”[1] When Jesus later claims that “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13), the author of the Fourth Gospel completes the relationship between the love that brought Lazarus out of the tomb and the love which motivated Christ to enter it.
The Resurrection of Jesus
There has long been an understanding that the crucifixion of Jesus was an act of divine love—that is, it is commonly accepted that love was the motivator for Christ’s submission to the cross. “Through his death,” claims Jo-Ann Brant, “our relationship with him is not severed but strengthened, because his dying reveals his love for us.”[2] Furthermore, “[The Fourth Gospel] understands Jesus’s death as the consummate expression of divine love, but recognizes that this is only apparent in retrospect, from the vantage point of the resurrection.”[3] It makes little sense, then, to assume that the resurrection and vindication of God’s Messiah would not also be a continuance and intensification of that same love. However, following the death of Jesus, love is seldom mentioned in conjunction with his resurrection. The purpose of this section is to discuss the possibility that in order to fully grasp the theological implications of the empty tomb, one must explore the resurrection of Jesus as another act of love in connection with his death on a cross.
The concept of love in the Fourth Gospel fundamentally involves the act of giving and sacrifice,[4] and this is illustrated quite well in Johannine theology—“For God so loved the kovsmon, he gave his only son…” This giving is further implied in Peter’s “reinstatement” in ch. 21. As Christ submitted himself to death in the cross out of love, so God rewarded Christ with a vindicated, transformed body. Therefore, when Jesus questions Peter on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, he is also dictating to Peter the mark of true discipleship, that is, love submits itself to and receives its reward from the Source of Love. The cost of the eschatological promise is mutual submission and “feeding lambs” and “tending sheep” here in the present reality.
If we build upon our earlier assumption that the Fourth Gospel has fashioned Lazarus as the Beloved Disciple, it is not difficult to imagine the source of his “seeing and believing” at the empty tomb of Christ; Lazarus would have recognized the signs of one who has been raised from the dead through the power of love—the very love that called Lazarus forth from his own grave in ch. 11.[5] Yet unlike Lazarus, the Jesus that was laid in the tomb is not quite the Jesus that emerges on Easter morning. “In the resurrection God’s love for Jesus transforms him, attaining for Jesus his ultimate good and becoming, by anticipation, the embodiment of God’s new creation.”[6] It is the defining love of God that raises Jesus and transforms him into the living icon of New Creation. As the raising of Lazarus constituted a microcosmic illustration of what divine love envisioned in Christ looks like, so the resurrection of Christ has macrocosmic significance. The divine love illustrated in the body of the risen Lord as he calls Mary the Magdalene by name and as he hails the frustrated disciples from the shore of the lake is the result of the fulfillment of God’s ultimate cosmological plan for the salvation of the universe and the redemption of all things.
We now see that love is the impetus for both the raising of Lazarus and the resurrection of Christ. Yet, unlike Lazarus, Jesus becomes the opportunity through which the resurrection of all believers is made possible—he is, as Paul says, the first-fruits of the dead. “The risen Jesus is the living embodiment, the historical anticipation, of that realization and perfection towards which transformative love moves."[7] The confession of Christ coming in the flesh in 1 John 4:2 refers not only to the initial incarnation of the Logos in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel, but also to the resurrected Christ physically returning from the grave, clothed anew in that which is incorruptible: the transformative love of God.

[1] Sandra Schneiders, 52
[2] Jo-Ann A. Brant, “A Sure Thing: Death and Eternal Life in the Gospel of John,” Vision 5, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 62.
[3] Craig R. Koester, 123
[4] Paul S. Naumann, “The Presence of Love in John's Gospel,” Worship 39, no. 6 (June-July 1965): 369.
[5] Floyd V. Filson, 86
[6] Lyle K. Weiss, 200
[7] Ibid, 202

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"See How He Loved Him!": Lazarus, the Love of God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (Part II)

Below is Part II of my final theology paper for my Resurrection in the New Testament class. You can find Part I here. In Part III, I will conclude my remarks about Lazarus and discuss the resurrection of Jesus and the eschatological resurrection of the dead.

The One Whom Jesus Loved

I would here like to briefly consider the possibility of identifying Lazarus as the literary figure of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel. Though the argument that the raising of Lazarus was motivated by the love of Jesus by no means requires this premise to be true, and a thorough examination of other possible identities of the Disciple-Whom-Jesus-Loved is beyond the immediate extent of this study, it is nevertheless insightful to my assertion that the Gospel of John undoubtedly characterizes the return of Lazarus from death primarily as an act of divine love.

Floyd V. Filson and Basil S. Davis are among those who believe the Fourth Gospel points to Lazarus as the Beloved Disciple. Filson argues strongly and convincingly that the only serious contender for the role is Lazarus, and that identifying him as the disciple in question creates a literary and theological cohesion to the second half of the Gospel that has been largely ignored by modern scholarship.[1] The character does not make his first appearance until after Lazarus has been called forth from the tomb, and following this momentous final sign performed by Jesus the Gospel repeatedly places the disciple within the most theologically profound moments of the narrative: at the last supper, reclining against Jesus (13:23); at the crucifixion, where Jesus charges the disciple to care for his mother, Mary (19:26-27); with Peter at the discovery of the empty tomb (20:1-9); and the final post-resurrection appearance of Jesus by the Sea of Tiberias at the close of the book (21:7, 20-23). In each of these appearances, the Beloved Disciple serves as a theological literary device to remind the reader that love is present even at those events in the narrative where love seems remote.

It is significant to note that when Jesus is initially sent word of Lazarus’s illness, he is informed by Mary and Martha that “he whom you love [i[de o{n fileiæV] has fallen ill” (11:3). Later, following the death of Lazarus, Jesus reveals to the disciples that “our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep” (11:11) In this case, the word used to denote “friend” shares a root along with fileiæV in v 3. Though it may be argued that two separate Greek words are used to illustrate Jesus’s relationship to Lazarus and the Beloved Disciple (filevw and ajgavph, respectively), and that the two characters should therefore be understood as distinct from one another, a variant of ajgavph is also used to describe Jesus’s love for Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha (11:5). This has led some scholars—Filson among them—to conclude that filevw and ajgavph are virtually interchangeable synonyms in the Fourth Gospel.[2] Moreover, having been raised from the dead by Jesus, who was himself later resurrected, it is not inconceivable to imagine a rumor arising among the early Christian community that regarded Lazarus as immortal, which is exactly what happened to the Beloved Disciple, supposedly providing the warrant for the composition of Gospel in the first place (21:23).[3] The purpose here is not to prove definitively that Lazarus was in fact the Beloved Disciple, but to illustrate that the writer of the Fourth Gospel goes out of his way to ensure that the reader is absolutely aware of the fact that Jesus loved Lazarus. If this is indeed true, then the case is strengthened for the raising of Lazarus as an act of love carried out by a divine Messiah.
Repeatedly throughout ch. 11, it is revealed to the audience that Jesus possessed great affection for the man he brings back to life. It is this affection in the face of death that leads to the climactic and familiar account in v. 35: “Jesus began to weep.” The basis for this very poignant human outburst from Jesus has long been speculated: Are his tears brought about by frustration with “the Jews” who misunderstand his ultimate theological purpose?[4] Are they tears of grief that “legitimate human agony in the face of death”?[5]  Tears of anger at the power that death continues to hold in this life? Though the text by no means demands a single interpretation of this emotionally moving incident, the simpler and more viable reading is that Jesus is indeed grieved by the death of a friend whom he deeply loved.[6] Regardless of attempts to isolate the precise cause for Jesus’s weeping, I would agree with Stephen S. Kim’s assertion that love is the lens through which this great miracle must be viewed: “Jesus’s display of his love and compassion…sets the stage for his miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.”[7] Despite the fact that the man has been dead four days, the stone is rolled away. “Transformative love pursues the ultimate good of the other.”[8] If this is indeed true, it is with Lazarus’s ultimate good in mind that Jesus approaches the tomb, offers a prayer of thanks to God, and—knowing that this decisive moment will invariably lead to his own execution—he cries, “Lazarus, my beloved friend, come out!” By the power of transformative love the dead are recalled to life.
            Though we may ostensibly perceive of this story as having a happy ending, I must here call attention to the theological caveat at the close of the pericope. While it is true, as stated above, that there is no linguistic difference in the Fourth Gospel between resuscitation and resurrection, a subtle distinction is nevertheless maintained in the words of Jesus following Lazarus’s exit from the tomb, still in his grave clothes: “Unbind him and let him go” (11:44). When Lazarus does come forth, he remains restricted by the very trappings of death. This side of the eschatological final resurrection of the dead, the shroud of decay still clings to Lazarus’s body.[9] The great and true final act of love in the Fourth Gospel is the one that sees death itself folded and laid aside when the risen Lord emerges vindicated from the tomb on Easter.

[1] Floyd V. Filson, “Who Was the Beloved Disciple?” Journal of Biblical Literature 68, no. 2 (June 1949): 88.
[2] Floyd V. Filson, 85
[3] Basil S. Davis, 231
[4] See Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: a Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 846.
[5] Sandra M. Schneiders, “Death in the Community of Eternal Life: History, Theology, and Spirituality in John 11,” Interpretation 41, no. 1 (January 1987): 54.
[6] D. Moody Smith, John (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 225.
[7] Stephen S. Kim, “The Significance of Jesus' Raising Lazarus From The Dead in John 11,” Bibliotheca Sacra 168, no. 669 (January-March 2011): 59.
[8] Lyle K. Weiss, “The Public Significance of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ” PhD Diss., St. Mary's Seminary and University, 2008), 201.
[9] Andrew T. Lincoln, “”I Am the Resurrection and the Life“: The Resurrection Message of the Fourth Gospel,” in Life in the Face of Death: The Resurrection Message of the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 141.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"See How He Loved Him!": Lazarus, the Love of God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (Part I)

Over the next few days I will be posting sections from my final paper for my Resurrection in the New Testament course. Obviously theological writing is not my strong suit, and I would much rather be exploring the social world and the historical background of the New Testament, but I have for the most part enjoyed my time in this class. It has been a time of intense personal spiritual and theological growth, and I am grateful for the experience. Below is Part I, the introduction to my paper, "'See How He Loved Him!': Lazarus, the Love of God, and the Resurrection of the Dead."

I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world…and that, insofar as [the world] is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love…summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace

The Gospel of John and its related literary counterparts, the Johannine epistles, place high value on the theological dualism which illustrates the triumph of light against darkness, good over evil, and love over hatred. Specifically, the author(s) of these texts contrasts love not only over and against hatred, but even death, which is presumed to be synonymous with hatred (John 12:25; also 1 John 3:15). It is particularly the pitting of love against death with which this present study is concerned. The raising of Lazarus of Bethany by Jesus well illustrates the triumph of love over death, and suggests that in this powerful sign we might catch a glimpse of the future resurrection, when all things are made right.
In this paper I intend to argue, using Johannine theology, that the raising of Lazarus was at its foundation both an act of love and a theological foreshadowing of the resurrection of Christ. With this in mind, it is therefore possible to assume that the resurrection of the dead at the eschaton will likewise be an act of divine love in which God reconciles all things in the New Creation, in which Love comes to dwell and reign on earth, and in which God truly becomes “all in all.”
The Raising of Lazarus
Each of the four canonical Gospels presents its own perspective of the impetus for the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. The Lukan narrative depicts those assembled before Pilate as accusing Jesus of inciting political uproar and encouraging tax evasion, while Matthew envisions the charges brought against Jesus involving blasphemy and malice toward the Temple. In the Fourth Gospel, we might comfortably allege that it is the raising of Lazarus of Bethany from the grave that ultimately leads Jesus to Golgotha.[1] Indeed, this whole episode foreshadows the events that unfold early on Easter morning following the crucifixion—it is a literary mechanism that ultimately reveals God’s final plan for human redemption. According to Fred Craddock, “Briefly put, for [Jesus] to call Lazarus out of the tomb is for [Jesus] to enter it.”[2] The answer “Come and see” to Jesus’s inquiry about the location of the corpse is a call to death which beckons Jesus into the tomb.
Theological Questions
It has become widely accepted among scholars and theologians that the raising of Lazarus must be distinguished from the resurrection of Christ by the use of the term “resuscitation” rather than “resurrection.” N.T. Wright clarifies resurrection as “going through death and out the other side,” presumably in opposition to (as in the case of Lazarus) returning from death into this world, where death continues to govern and those resuscitated must die again.[3] No such distinction is made in the Fourth Gospel—the word used to indicate the resurrection of Christ (ajnavstasiV) is used in the same capacity when Jesus claims, “Your brother will rise again,” in 11:23, and again when he announces, “I am the resurrection and the life” in 11:25. However, a thorough study of this distinction is beyond the scope of the present essay. The more urgent theological issues presented by this story involve the nature of death and the power by which death can be reversed. It is thus appropriate when attempting to establish theological correlation between the raising of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus to consider how the Fourth Gospel answers the following questions: 1) How does the present Gospel narrative depict the nature of death? 2) How does it suggest death might be overcome? I will examine a few possible answers to these questions in a later post.

[1] Basil S. Davis, “The Identity of the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved,” The Expository Times 113, no. 7 (April 2002): 230.
[2] Fred B. Craddock, “Jesus Wept: John 11:32-44,” Journal for Preachers 23, no. 3 (Easter 2000): 37.
[3] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 3): 422.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review of Beth Felker Jones, Marks of His Wounds: Gender Politics and Bodily Resurrection

Joshua Paul Smith. Review of Beth Felker Jones, Marks of His Wounds: Gender Politics and Bodily Resurrection (New York City: Oxford University Press, 2007).

The problem of a normative dualism has for centuries—millennia, even—plagued not only the most brilliant theological minds of the Church, but has been a driving force behind popular culture, as well. A Neo-Gnostic separation of soul from body is alive and well in many churches today, and continues to inform popular conceptions of what constitutes a “normal” human body. The harm that this dualism visits upon the body—particularly female bodies—is ironically both physical and spiritual. Bodies are fashioned and broken by the 10-billion-dollar-a-year cosmetic surgery industry, by eating disorders, and by dangerous normative expectations glimpsed in tabloids and on swimsuit models. Few attempts have been made by theologians to reconcile a Christian understanding of a bodily resurrection with feminist conceptions of the body. Such is the basis for Beth Felker Jones’s Marks of His Wounds. In five short chapters, Jones attempts to argue that not only do gendered bodies matter in the future physical resurrection of the dead, they are indeed integral to understanding the grace of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
Jones’s thesis is twofold: 1) A new, holistic feminist anthropology is needed to replace those feminist theories of the last several decades that have slipped into a body/soul dualism that considers only the female body or only the female essence, and 2) this holistic feminist theory of the body is reconcilable to the orthodox Christian tradition of the physical resurrection of the dead. This twofold thesis is punctuated by the necessity of bodily sanctification reaching from the eschaton into the present.
In the first chapter, entitled, “The Body Broken,” the author establishes the problem that she hopes to address—namely, that current feminist and theological anthropologies have proven insufficient for developing a theology of the body as a psychosomatic (body/soul) unity. To take on a feminist theology of bodily resurrection, it is first necessary to determine what constitutes embodiment, and furthermore, feminine embodiment. A difficulty with any such undertaking is that even feminists are predominantly dualistic when it comes to theories of the body: either a woman is a woman because of her physical composition (essentialism), or gender itself is transcendent and performative, based upon roles dictated by a one’s dominant culture (constructivism). Rejecting this dangerously dichotomous approach, Jones suggests that there is a third option which allows for both the respect of our physical forms as well as the recognition that humans are more than the sum of our parts: the body is good, says Jones, but the body is also broken.
The second and third chapters (“The Body Ordered” and “The Body Dying,” respectively) expand upon this idea with perspectives on the general resurrection of the dead from Augustine and Calvin. Utilizing Augustine’s theology of the body and his understanding of bodies that are “ordered toward God,” Jones argues that physical resurrection of the gendered body must occur if the redeeming work of the Creator is to be complete. The physical body is not inherently evil—quite the opposite, in fact. The physical body, as a creation of God, is good. Through sin, however, holistic body/soul unities become disordered in our love of “things of the flesh” over the “things of God.” Jones insists, along with Augustine, that the future resurrection of the dead necessarily rests on the re-ordering of psychosomatic entities toward the City of God through the transformation of psychikon bodies into pneumatikon bodies.
Jones’s treatment of John Calvin, however, is not as clear. Calvin’s theology of the body, she points out, differs significantly from that of Augustine. While Augustine understood the body to be inherently good yet disordered under sin, Calvin understands the body as that which prevents the soul from fully comprehending God. Where Augustine viewed the corruptibility of the flesh as the ultimate enemy of embodied creatures, Calvin reserves this claim for death itself. In fact, while the future bodily resurrection of the dead is a theological reality for Calvin, he nevertheless maintains an intrinsic dualism that distinguishes body from soul. However, Jones argues that for Calvin, the concept of the noetic—that is, the intellectual knowing of God—is ultimately inextricable from the optic, or the seeing of God at the eschaton, and that these are in turn connected to God’s sanctification of the physical individual. This implied physical act is vital to an embodied feminist theology that embraces the gendered physicality of the resurrection.
In the fourth chapter, “The Body Raised,” the author further argues the necessity to conceptualize human beings as psychosomatic wholes. Jones makes a case for the non-reductive physicalism of the body/soul unity. Regardless of what a soul is, is should be understood as completely inseparable from the physical body. In essence, one’s identity is bound by both body and soul. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the hypostatic unity of Christ himself—though the analogy ultimately breaks down, the psychosomatic unity for which Jones argues is nevertheless very similar to the contention that the physical body of Jesus and the divine nature of Christ were one and the same.
The final chapter, “The Body Sanctified,” establishes an ethics of living the eschaton in the present as proleptic of the future resurrection of the dead. Jones here examines two traditions of resurrection embodiment: the eradication of gender in the resurrection according to Eastern tradition, and the retention of gendered resurrection bodies in the Augustinian tradition. For feminist theologies, the Eastern tradition is particularly problematic, since it rests on the presumption that gender will not be carried over into the resurrection due to the inclination of gendered physical bodies toward lust. This perspective, Jones maintains, is inherently gender-biased. One might here recall the promise of Jesus in The Gospel of Thomas to make Mary the Magdalene male in order that she might participate in the Reign of God. Instead, Jones maintains the full continuity of (albeit redeemed and transformed) gendered bodies in the resurrection. Augustine’s concept of bodies reordered at the eschaton toward the love of God eliminates any concern of lust from those who might claim gender retention unholy. Furthermore, Jones concludes that an embodied resurrection must have implications in the present—the Church much take its cue from Jesus, who remains for us the example of one truly ordered toward God, not in his maleness, but in his cruciformity. 
There are, of course, occasional shortcomings in Jones's argument. For instance, the concept of humans as psychosomatic wholes—the very premise upon which this study rests—leaves a few questions unanswered when explored more thoroughly. If, like Jones, we are to reject both essentialism, which claims that gender is determined by physical anatomy, and constructivism, which holds that gender is the sum of one's environment and social upbringing, then what of those who are subject to the very real dualism lived out every day in the transgender community? If one's gender is integral to his or her identity in the redeemed New Creation, how then are we to approach those for whom sexual identity is an unclear struggle, or otherwise completely dichotomous? If the physical, gendered body is important in the resurrection to mark someone as a fully integrated person, then what of those with androgynous or intersex bodies? Jones's claim has very serious implications for a great number of people whom she fails to acknowledge in her assessment. 
Despite all this, Marks of His Wounds remains a well-argued and thoughtful examination of both the dangers of Neo-Gnostic body/soul dualism and the necessity of an adequate theology of the body that respects what God created as good—human, gendered, psychosomatic wholes. Though at times Jones’s primary thesis may appear lost among dense language and layered thoughts, the book ultimately converges on the very heart of what it means to confess belief in resurrection of the dead: that God created human bodies as good, and God will restore them to that goodness once again in the New Creation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reading My Great-Grandfather's Work

Today, my new Bauer-Danker Greek Lexicon came in the mail. It may seem a silly thing to be excited over, but I've been looking forward to this all semester.

I have added this reference book to my shelf, right next to my great-grandfather's copy of Young's Concordance (22nd edition). This concordance was given to me when I left for college; my great-grandfather, a United Methodist minister, frequently used the book in writing his sermons. While tidying up my office space and reorganizing my library the other day, I noticed a few loose pages sticking out of the top of the big book, and pulled them out. They turned out to be pages of a sermon (or some other piece of exegetical writing) that my great-grandfather worked on nearly forty years ago.

I did not know my great-grandfather very well. He died when I was very young, after suffering a series of strokes and slipping grumpily into dementia. However, the stories I have heard about him have led me to believe that he was a well-respected man, beloved by his community. As I progress with my seminary education, I find myself piecing together the life and education of my great-grandfather, and I'd like to think that in some ways, I take after him.

My great-grandfather's class photo from Eden Theological Seminary,
class of 1953. His is the fourth photo from the left on the bottom row.
Below is a word-for-word transcription of my great-grandfather's handwriting, including all mistakes. My editorial remarks are in brackets. I do not agree with everything he wrote, such as his use of masculine pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit, or the assertion that the "best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself." The manuscript is obviously not complete, and I do not know where the rest of the sermon could be. But it is one of the few remnants I have of the only other member of my family to ever attend seminary, to enter into a community of faith and minister to everyday people trying to make sense of their lives. If I am anything like he once was, my great-grandfather wrestled with the Spirit all his life, discovering new questions such as the one which he writes about here. 

And so by cherishing this scrap of writing, I am appreciating my great-grandfather's memory.

The Spirit of Promise
[by Roger L. Connelly]

Scripture Reading: Luke 24:44-53 (Verse 49)

          One of the terms used in the New Testament for the H.S. [Holy Spirit] is "the Spirit of Promise". This term is implied in our text when Jesus said, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
          Why has the H.S. been called "the Spirit of Promise"? The most obvious answer is because He [sic] was promised. And while that may be a simple answer, the substantiation of that answer by showing where in Holy Scripture He [sic] was promised is not so simple.
I have asked a number of people where was the Holy Spirit promised by God the Father as Jesus informed when He said "...I send the promise of my Father upon you..." I also checked my concordance, but to no avail, and I referred to the cross-reference Bibles that I have, but with the same result. There just must not be a specific scripture which says in so many words that God promised the H.S.
          The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself, so I decided to try to answer this question by the Bible itself.
          So, to begin, I turned to the fulfilment [sic] of the Promise in Acts 2: where the H.S. was given to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.
          When Peter stood up to preach his sermon of explanation of what had happened, he began by saying, "But this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:16-18) Also Joel 2:28, 29).
          When John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, baptizing, he explained his presence and work by saying of himself (Matt. 3:3) "For this is he that was spoken by the prophet Esias, (Isaiah) 40:3) saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."