This post will be directed more to my readers who are still in the Church of Christ (COC) than to Reformed Christians because when it comes to the issue I’m discussing, Reformed Christians and Catholics agree, while many in the COC do not.
One more thing before I jump into the subject. I know that in the COC, there is no formal catechism, and no formal determination of which doctrines are orthodox and which heterodox. I’m sure that there are members of a COC somewhere who agree with the traditional Christian doctrine. If you’re one of them, great! My observations are just my observations. The COC is not entirely homogenous, so I will not be surprised if you tell me you’ve been in the COC your whole life and have never believed the heresy I describe here.
OK. That out of the way, my experience in the COC was that while there is generally a solid understanding of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead bodily, there is great confusion about the nature of our own resurrection, toward which we still look forward. While still in the COC I heard classes, lectures, and sermons defending the historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus. No stone is unturned.
We would go through all the reasons to believe he really died. He’d been up all night in great emotional agony. He’d been scourged in a way that often killed men. He’d been punched around, forced to carry a heavy timber for several miles and had already proven physically unequal to the task. All of these hardships left him in a weakened state. He’d been nailed to a cross so that he couldn’t breathe. The soldiers who were very familiar with death by crucifixion said he was dead. Etc.
We also dealt with socio-political arguments against the resurrection. The Jewish leaders had a vested interest in proving he didn’t rise, so they might have taken and displayed the body, but would not have taken and hidden the body. Despite Jesus’ claim that he would rise again, the disciples were clueless and didn’t really believe he would, so they were unlikely to try to fake his resurrection. Etc.
Most importantly, for my current purposes, we discussed the reasons to believe he really rose from the dead. We would talk about how he invited his disciples to touch him, and about how he reassured them by saying, “I”m not a ghost.” We talked about how he ate – even asking for fish at one point. The interesting thing is that all our reasons focused on the fact that he had a physical body.
At the same time, many of the same people who make these arguments will claim that our final resurrection will be only spiritual, not bodily. Heaven is a spiritual place, they claim, so we will not need bodies there. We will be free from our corrupted bodies. My own beliefs about this while I was in the COC were indistinct, but I tended toward a denial of a bodily resurrection.
What I find interesting is the inconsistency here. We wanted to claim on the one hand that Jesus was really raised from the dead on the basis that he had a body after the crucifixion. Our reasoning was: Jesus had a body, displayed physical characteristics and therefore must have been truly raised from the dead. (I agree with this line of reasoning, by the way, and so do most Trinitarian Christians.) But when we discussed our own resurrection, we lost the sense that without a body there is no resurrection.
So to any COC readers (or other Christians) who do not believe in a bodily resurrection, I have this to say: A non-bodily resurrection is no resurrection, but a seance. If we prove Jesus’ resurrection by his physical post-resurrection nature, then we must also expect to have bodies in our post-resurrection natures.