Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Body/Spirit Heresy

Our friend Marlene and her grown daughter Annelies visited us this past week. Marlene is, in addition to being a fine mother, a pastor's wife, a former adjunct professor at Montreat College (and soon to rejoin that faculty), a board member of important agencies and organizations in and out of the PCUSA, a Christian feminist, and a great, great friend, especially to Carol. We have known Marlene, husband Gary, and Annelies for many years. In fact, knowing them has been a signal blessing on us and our family. We have had many conversations with them, and often topics will come up again, and we will resume our discussion after an intervening time of many months or even many years.

The topic of body/mind came up again. I think I brought it up, because I have been thinking about the Incarnate Christ a good bit. It is a theme that Ken Meyer revisits often at Mars Hill Audio ("MHA"), and now that Carol has helped me figure out how to download MHA's MP3s (the secret is to hand the device to Carol and ask her to download them), I am now a regular listener again. What I have been thinking about is the question of "Where is Jesus?" For example, people say that "Jesus is in my heart", and when they do I am not sure what exactly they mean. Jesus, it seems to me, is "gone". He left. We receive him during communion, in some way, but I don't think that Presbyterian's are quite where the Roman's are. (Of course, I know we are not.) God's presence now is his Holy Spirit, at least on a daily, ongoing basis. If we have some sort of authentic sensation of the Deity, I think the Holy Spirit would be it, wouldn't it? Anyway, that's the sort of thing I have been thinking about.

So we started down that path, and somehow managed to get over to the problem of women who, once they marry a man, become the Blessed Virgin to themselves and their husbands. It wrecks God's plan for the marriage bed. Those marriages, especially when they are supported by a religious culture that forbids divorce (the same religious culture that supports this erroneous view of Mary, the mother of Jesus), is pretty horrible for all concerned. Our thesis is that "sex" and "love" have been wrongfully bifurcated in our fallen culture, and that they are intended to be a unity in the marriage relationship. From that perspective we can, for example, have a pretty good idea about how insidious is pornography.

Of course, there is nothing new about any of this.

But there is something new about this splitting of the idea of mind (or spirit or soul, I use those terms interchangably, and maybe that's not correct) and body and it is an exhibit going around the country called "Body Worlds". Wikipedia has a good article on this exhibit. It has been to Miami and I have seen advertisements for it on billboards, but I didn't really know what it was about until I heard an interview of art historian Michael J. Lewis on MHA this morning. Lewis has written an article about the exhibit in Commentary here. It's worth reading. Body Worlds is an exhibit of human corpses that have been preserved by a technique developed by a German physician and anatomist, G√ľnther von Hagens, in which a plastic substance is injected into bodily tissue after all of the bodily fluids have been removed. As a result, decay is forever arrested and the body or body part can been studied and, now, exhibited in a commercial and colorful way.

What does that say about where we are in the mind/body (or soul/body) conversation our culture is having? Not much good, I would say.

AND ANOTHER THING: I can't let this thing die (?) without mentioning Old Man's War, by John Scalzi, a terric SciFi novel that Macon gave me. It deals with every middle aged man's fantasy of being a warrior, and deals with it very well. But there is also a sort of reanimation theme developed. Scalzi's view, as I discern it, is thoroughly materialist, and that is that the soul (or self-consciousness at least) is simply the sum of the material parts of one's body.

1 comment:

Jana said...

Funny you mention it--the whole Body World thing really bothered my husband for that reason. We didn't go see it. You are the only other person I've ever heard bring it up.