Tuesday, April 17, 2012

the frailty of the body...

Is anyone else like me, a bit put off (and embarrassed to admit it) by all the trendy theological talk of 'incarnating' ministry and 'lived' theology and the 'earthiness' of the Christian life?  I mean, I know that Christ was fully human, and that we ought to value our humanity as something good, created by God... and I get that the result of being a follower of Christ who thinks this way ought to be that we reach out in love to other human beings, in the midst of their humanity.  This is all a wonderful expression of our faith.

But, I gotta say, there's also a big part of me that still thinks there's something really valuable in the view that this world is not our home, and there awaits something much better after this life is over.  I mean, maybe it's just an immaturity on my part, but the idea of not having to live in this frail body, with all of its limitations, is extremely appealing.  Perhaps if I had a really "successful" life, and was an amazing physical specimen, I'd feel differently.  But, I suspect that there are very few people who are really content with this human life, if the truth be told.

I mean, imagine what it would be like to never have to deal with the physical and mental limitations we have to put up with in this life.  Imagine, no allergies of any kind!  hehe... a silly example, I suppose, but it's just to make the point that I think most of us get used to living lives that are far less than what we really want, but we convince ourselves that our lives 'aren't that bad', because the alternative is being depressed about it.  Of course, in comparison to many people, my life isn't that bad, and I know the scriptures say we should rejoice in all things.  Still, life could be a LOT better.  Doesn't everyone think that, deep down?

I guess my little rant here is just to say, in the midst of sharing life, and being loving to others, and learning to bring hope and healing to the world, I hope Christians aren't forgetting that the primary revelation of Christianity is still precisely that there is a new life, a life beyond death, and a new world, that we believe somehow exists.  And, earthiness and language of incarnation aside, I am really hoping for that.  Because if all we have to look forward to is a world similar to this one, just a little better due to human endeavors, that doesn't seem very appealing to me.  I wonder how to find balance between living for Christ in this life and looking forward to the afterlife.

Maybe you disagree?  Perhaps I'm just not seeing things the way I should?  Curious to hear the thoughts of others.


RC said...

Unsurprisingly, you and I see this differently. :) Well, a little differently. I do spend a lot of time thinking about death, suffering etc but I think I've accepted it as part of the human experience. The big things at least. Things like cancer, life feeding on life, death etc. There are things we can do to lesson suffering and prolong life but it is part of the living experience. It can kinda suck. But I think I'm accepting that as well.

I don't know what awaits after death. Maybe it's something better or maybe it's something even more terrifying than life here. Maybe it's nothing. Sometimes I think I'm just ready for a new adventure wherever that might take me. But I'm not certain I'd do any better over there than I have here. It would really suck if eternity is nothing but constantly worrying about what I'm going to be when I grow up :)

I hope you feel better soon, Geoff.

PS: I wish I could edit my comment rather than delete it!

BenMc said...

I think our expectations for the new life should be based on the character of God, and the expectation that our feeble expectations will be surpassed. In one way or another, what's to come will be MORE real than what is now. CS Lewis captured this well in The Great Divorce. The problem with "heaven" is that it seems boring to a lot of people, because we are embodied and earth-connected. I think God will recreate/enhance all of this somehow because that is what God does -- giving more than expected. So I entirely agree that we need to look forward to something more. Not just heaven, not just earth but "earth and heaven be one." The common expectation for heaven is dilute and I think an emphasis on the goodness of creation and the physicality of the body is a great shock tactic to challenge common Platonic assumptions.

That said, I'm always struck by the end of 1 Corinthians 15 when after all this dense and amazing discourse about what's to come, Paul sums it up by saying "stand firm and know that your work will last." Somehow my work -- my science, my relationships -- will last and carry over. Heaven isn't so much a reboot as "the mortal putting on immortality." So I think your thoughts are a challenge to a challenge (and very helpful reminders!).

Phillip W Higley said...

Well stated, Geoff!