Sunday, August 26, 2012

How can Material Things Communicate the Things of the Spirit?

As seen from the book Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian



How Can Material Things Communicate The Things of The Spirit?

God Acts Within His Creation

How can material things make us aware of the presence of God? This truth can only be grasped if we understand that matter is not inherently base or evil. The earth is no less good than the spiritual realm which He created (Genesis 1:25). There is no "better-worse" distinction between the material and spiritual world; both were created by God, both, both co-habit the other, and both reveal God's presence.(52) The world is not a "failed attempt" of God. To reject creation as an inferior product is to reject the Creator Who made it.(53)

The earth has consistently been involved in the things of the Spirit. In fact, the whole scheme of salvation has been clearly "incarnated" in time and matter.(54) Creation, Redemption, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost all took place within this material world. Not one of these events occurred purely in the "spiritual" realm.

The Scriptures make plain that if the material creation and the supernatural world did not have such an integral relationship with each other, the entire creation would collapse; "in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1: 17). To pit objects we can smell, taste, and feel against those things that defy dimension is a contest that the Bible forbids. Matter and Spirit are not enemies; they are "relatives" which have both been fathered by the same Hand.

God created matter as well as spirit. God has created the entire world, and every ounce of matter belongs to Him....Therefore a certain tendency in religion which 'despises' material things, reducing religion to what is 'spiritual,' is wrong, non-Christian.(55)

As C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, "God likes matter; He invented it."


Redemption: The Restoration (Not The Obliteration) of The Material World

In the Last Day, the Lord will not discard His creation; it-like all those in Christ- will be restored and redeemed to its original "newness."

'Behold, I make all things new' [Revelations 21:5]. These were God's last words to us, and they only say at the end, and eternally, what was in His mind at the beginning, when He looked on the sacramental world of His creation and saw that it was good.(56)

In other words, Christ may make all things new, but he will not wipe out his creation in favor of a different creation. After Christ's return, it will be the same world, and we will still be human beings. The difference will be that God's redemptive presence within us and the world will be more fully revealed and experienced.(57)

Nothing in creation was meant to suffer death and to be thus imprisoned by corruption. Although the consequence of humanity's Fall has passed on to the world around us, sentencing it to the same curse (Romans 5:12), when Christ returns it will be a recipient of the same redemption we have inherited in Him (Romans 5:17-21).(58) Until that Day, man's call is to offer back creation to God. Such an offering is performed through the consecration of ourselves and all of creation to God. In this consecration, all matter acquires its spiritual meaning and is blessed.(59)

The crucial truth to be understood is that created matter is not inherently corrupt, nor is spirit inherently holy. Both have been personally made by the Lord for His glory. Both can be turned away from Him and thus corrupted. The spirit world cannot be distinguished from the material world on the basis of the one being more hallowed than the other:
... it must be remembered that corruption applies as much to the spiritual realm as to the material. The devils and damned souls in hell are, precisely, spirits in a state of corruption. Just as good food rots, and silver tarnishes, and our flesh sickens and decays, all of it because of evil, so the lordliest celestial spirits may rot and tarnish and decay into fiends in hell. It is the same process, the same fabric.(60)

The Spirituality of The Body

A negative view of creation often leads one to discount the physical nature of man. Many within the Evangelical-Fundamentalist stream believe that the real person is located only within the spirit or soul. This popular teaching continues by saying that the body is merely an "earth-suit," something God gave us so we could "get along" on the earth. The philosophy is often summarized, "We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body." The eternal reality of the person is confined to the spirit and soul, and the body will simply pass out of existence.(61)

Platonic philosophy supports such a non-matter view of man, but nowhere in the Scripture is this teaching supported.

The New Testament never uses 'spiritual (pneumatikos) in antithesis to the bodily (somatikos). There is no opposition between spirit and body, for there is even such a thing as a spiritual body (soma pneumatikon) (1 Corinthians 15:44).(62)

God created man as both spirit and matter from the very beginning. The body is not carnal; it just as spiritual (godly and holy) as our souls and spirits are.

Likewise, our true selves are not composed of two or three parts that can be studied in isolation. We are not parts (material + spiritual); we are whole beings (material inter-dwelling spiritual). Spirit and matter inseparably make up our entire identity; our bodies are an inherent part of our personhood. "The spiritual man does not have a body, but is a body. Man is 'bodily' a spiritual being, and is 'spiritually' a material being."(63)

As shocking as it may seem to some of us, the truth is that our bodies (not just our souls) will be with us for eternity. And our bodies-along with the created world-will be saved:

....even we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23).(64)

On the Last Day our bodies will not be destroyed. Far from it! They will be cast in the very likeness of Christ's resurrected body(1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 15:42; Philippians 3:21). One day our flesh of corruption will be transformed, and it-along with all of "mattered-creation"-will experience full redemption (1 Corinthians 15:38-45).(65) Yes, it is true that our bodies will be glorified, and yet they will still be that same "seed" of flesh that we presently identify as our physical persons.








 Pages 209-212 from the book "Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity For the American Christian" by Jordan Bajis, 2006 Light and Life publishing

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