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Do Christians Need Bodies?

Dr. J. chats with theologian Brent Waters, author of This Mortal Flesh: Incarnation and Bioethics and From Human to Posthuman: Christian Theology and Technology in a Postmodern World. Professor Waters teaches Christian Social Ethics at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois. They discuss the importance of the body for Christianity, the ethics of reproductive choice and life extension, and whether human beings are supposed to have a creative role in nature.

Brent and James, thanks for sharing this interview.

It seems, Brent, that your positions on materiality are inconsistent. On the one hand, you say that the incarnation of Jesus affirms that materiality is good. On the other hand, you expect the ultimate condition of humanity is an immaterial heaven (or hell?). Have I misunderstood you? If not, how do you square these two positions?

Moving on, Brent, I don't think you've provided any more of a reason to avoid radical life extension than one might provide for avoiding normal life extension. You questioned what a person would want to do with all the extra time, but the same could (even should) be asked regarding what any of us intend to do with the time we appear already to have. I share that concern, and it seems we can articulate it better in terms of advocating quality of life than in terms of resisting quantity of life. From a Biblical perspective, we read passages that suggest the disciple John would live until the return of Christ. What good could come of that?

You also mentioned, Brent, that we must die to gain eternal life -- at least, that's what I understood you to have said, so please correct me if I misunderstood. There are at least a couple problems with that idea. The first is that it seems strange (to say the least), as Nietzsche and others have pointed out over the years, to associate death with eternal life. The second is that it's reasonable to argue from the Bible that one need not die to gain eternal life, and even that those who have died must be resurrected bodily to gain eternal life. For example, Paul taught that some would be changed in a "twinkling of an eye" without dying, and he also taught that in the resurrection of the dead there would be celestial and terrestrial bodies.

Finally, I wonder, Brent, whether you consider God to be embodied. If not, why do you consider embodiment so important for humans?

Again you show your contempt for everything Jesus taught. You wrote,"The second is that it's reasonable to argue from the Bible that one need not die to gain eternal life,"

No it is not reasonable it directly contradicts the Lord.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Mt 16:24–25)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”(Jn 12:24–25)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,(Jn 11:25)

“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.”(1 Co 15:40)

And Paul:

“Christ will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”(Php 3:21)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,(Jn 11:25)

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.(Php 1:21)

Lincoln you certainly have a right to believe what you like. I am for religious freedom. But its different to spread disinformation in the name of a religion you clearly do not follow. Please stop pretending to be a Christian Lincoln and misrepresenting everything the Bible teaches.
Just to clarify and in interest of fairness yes Lincoln is correct that some are "changed" when Jesus returns (the rapture) but this is an act of God for the final generation who is on earth at the Parousia and is no way coherent with consciousness uploading, radical life extension or other such techno-mythology.
Hello, death preacher. Everything you attribute to Christ, Jesus attributes to his disciples as well as himself. Religious fundamentalists, such as yourself, are not worshipping Christ as presented in the Bible. You are worshipping that which would oppose and raise itself above all else called God, in contrast to Christ that would raise us together as joint heirs in God.

The traditional Christian belief is NOT that human beings experience an immaterial existence in heaven or hell. Christian dogma clearly teaches the resurrection of the body.
Hi Scott. I hope you and I can persuade everyone that's true, and thereby decrease inclinations to escapism and nihilism among Christians.
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