Table of Contents
Part I: Embodiment and The
No Body = 'Nobody'
A justly famous paleontologist,
one of America's most informed protagonists for the evolution
of man, wrote a few years ago: "There was no anticipation
of man's coming. He responds to no plan and fulfills no supernal
purpose. He is a unique product of a long unconscious, impersonal,
material process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned." (15)
So thought Professor George Gaylord
Simpson. But Simpson was wrong. The appearance of the human body
upon this world scene was no accident. Scripture tells us that
man was very deliberately planned and created in God's image
after what amounts to a divine conference in which God said,
"'Let us make man in our own image after our likeness: and
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the
fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth,
and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So
God created Adam in his own image, in the image of God created
he him" (Genesis 1:26, 27). Thus the biblical view of the
introduction of man makes him very much the result of a plan.
15. Simpson, George Gaylord: quoted by John
Pfeiffer, "Some Comments on Popular Science Books"
in Science, vol.117, 1953, p.403. See also G. G. Simpson,
The Meaning of Evolution, New Haven, Yale University Press,
1952, p.344, 345.
Bertrand Russell, like many other notable individuals
of this age, shared Simpson's dismal view of life and wrote quite
as eloquently about the destiny of man as Simpson did
about his origin: "All the labors of the ages, all
the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness
of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death
of the solar system. . . . No philosophy which rejects
these (certainties) can hope to stand." (16)
Such is the logical conclusion
of a forthright and consistent materialism which sees man as
merely a physical phenomenon among the millions of other physical
phenomena which have no more and no less significance in the
scheme of things than man. All are by-products of pure accident.
The Universe itself will
continue to cool as it has done for billions of years until it
dies from loss of useable energy and passes with all its contents
into oblivion, unremembered in the unthinkable darkness of the
total absence of all consciousness. It will go out, like a match
struck for a brief moment that flares and dies as though it had
never been. Only silence and cold will remain. (17)
This prospect was accepted
without qualification by the Nobel Prize winner and world renowned
French scientist, Jacques Monod, who quite recently stated the
case in poignant terms: "Man knows at last that he is alone
in the universe's unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged
only by chance. Meanwhile he is left with nothing but an anxious
quest in a frozen universe of solitude." (18)
The pathetic sadness and loneliness
and pointlessness of human existence lies at the end of this
philosophical trail. It is a philosophy of despair. Such is any
evolutionary world view when it is projected with complete consistency
to its logical conclusion. (19)
Gresham Machen observed,
correctly, that the validity of any system of thought is best
evaluated by pursuing the logic of it relentlessly to its ultimate
conclusion. The conclusion expressed by these profound scholars
16. Russell, Bertrand: quoted by J. W. N.
Sullivan, Limitations of Science, Pelican Books, England,
17. Sullivan, J. W. N., ibid, p.33 and Lealie Paul, The
Annihilation of Man, New York, Harcourt Brace, 1945, p.154.
18. Monod, Jacques, Chance and Necessity, translated by
Austryn Wainhouse, London, Collins, 1972, p167.
19. Machen, Gresham: quoted by J. I. Packer, Fundamentalism
and the Word of God, London, InterVarsity Press, 1958, p.26.
itself. Such candid remarks
made by highly informed and intelligent men point up the unhealthiness
of any philosophy which renders the individual's life totally
insignificant. In the evolutionary world-view, apart from his
functions or skills, the individual has no personal worth. He
is effectively cancelled out as a person.
Such a tragic view stems from the
reduction of man to a mere body, a thing, a physical organism
essentially nothing more than a machine which will soon wear
out to be thrown on the scrap heap.
In an odd way Christians have contributed
to this denigration of the whole man. What we have done is to
place so much emphasis upon the spiritual welfare of man and
so little upon the importance of the body that we have emasculated
man. We have tried to make him essentially "angelic,"
a spiritual being who, however, just happens to have a body,
a body which we shall be only too happy to slough off. This has
had the effect of divorcing two things, body and spirit, which
should never even have been separated. To many people it has
ceased to be of much importance where the body came from. The
origin of his body was left to those who scarcely believed that
man had a spiritual side to his nature. We have largely surrendered
"to the enemy" all concern for the body, so that effectively,
by a joint effort, we have annihilated man as man.
We have failed to preserve as part
of our Faith any frank acknowledgment of the enormous importance
attached, from Genesis to Revelation, to the possession of a
body. Not just a body of any kind, since all animals have
a body and so do plants. No, not just the possession of a body,
but the possession of a HUMAN body, a unique house for a unique
spirit both of which are of God's creating.
This body is fully one half of
our identity as a person. The world was formed in the first place
for its very existence and continuance, as Isaiah 45:18 makes
clear. "Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens: God
himself formed the earth and appointed it; he hath established
it, he created it
not in vain, he formed
it to be inhabited." It is no wonder that the astronauts,
viewing the earth against the blackness of outer space, saw it
as a gem and were deeply moved by it. It seemed to them so beautiful,
as home always seems to be when viewed from afar, whatever it
may be when examined more closely.
The Medieval theologian, Hugo St.
Victor (10961141) described the close inter-relatedness
of things in a characteristically succinct manner thus: "The
spirit was created for God's sake, the body for the spirit's
sake, and the world for the body's sake: so that the spirit might
be subject to God, the body to the spirit, and the world to the
Now there is a framework for a philosophy of meaning!
The body forms the intermediary between God and the physical
world through man's spirit.
To complete the sequence, he might
have added in the light of what we now understand, "and
the Universe for the world" for such it begins to
appear. Revelation 4:11 furnishes the reason why: "For You
have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were
This is even more pointed when
it is realized that the phrase "all things" means not
merely "everything" in common parlance but more specifically
the Universe, since this is what the Greek (ta panta)
signifies. The Universe, and man for whom it was created,
was created for his pleasure and still exists for his pleasure
in spite of what man is doing to it.
This present order, however, is
temporary. It is to be replaced in due course by a new Universe,
not merely by a new heavens only but by a new EARTH also! And
this replacement is to be permanent. Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22 as
well as Revelation 21:1 give us every assurance of the fact.
If the essence of man is not merely
in his spiritual nature but in his physical nature as well, the
continuance of man's body is made meaningful by the promise of
a new heavens and a new earth. In harmony with this promise
we are assured that there is reserved for us the prospect of
20. Hugo, St. Victor: H. O. Taylor, Medieval
Mind, London, Macmillan, 1911, p.65.
a new "house"
for our spirit, a new body which is to be "eternal in the
heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:l).
We have so spiritualized this new
Universe which is to be our eternal home that we see man's future
as essentially a spiritual one. The spiritual becomes of overriding
concern. And yet Colossians 2:17 tells us that we should look
upon this present world as a mere shadow of the ageless Universe
which is to replace it. And this ageless Universe includes something
called a new earth with a formal structure such as will
accord with our new bodies. We shall not be ghosts flitting from
cloud to cloud: in contrast to the angels we shall be real
people with bodies as real as his resurrected body (Philippians
3:21). And He categorically denied that his body was a mere ghost
But why is a
body so necessary for man? Angels do very well without them,
so why can't we?
There are a number of reasons why man has a body, though it is
obvious enough that God can create angels whose existence is
just as real despite lack of embodiment. So, allowing that God
did not need to create man in such a way that he had to
have a body, why did He create man thus? Let me suggest
(1) One of the most obvious
reasons is that God created a Universe which is physical.
He must have had a reason for doing so and I suppose the
best reason has to be simply: because it suited his purpose.
Granted this, we might go one step further and say that He had
from the beginning every intention of putting "someone in
charge" of it, not in charge of the earth only but ultimately
in charge of the whole thing. That someone was man, starting
with responsibility for the earth (Genesis 1:28). But how could
we "take charge" without a body? It does not seem that
Now even though God equipped man
with a body for this reason, a body having hands and eyes and
ears and feet
and a brain and so forth,
there was still no guarantee that man would take charge successfully
because he was given freedom to obey or to disobey his
mandate. But at least it seems clear that to exercise any kind
of dominion over a physical world we had to have these physical
appurtenances. Even angels need some temporary embodiment when
they are called upon to act on the physical world: not always
perhaps, but certainly on occasion as we shall see later.
Thus, to put the case in a nutshell,
man can exercise his will upon the physical order of things only
because he has these physical properties, i.e., because
he has a physical body which is extraordinarily well designed
for the express purpose of "taking charge." It is obvious
that I can will to move my hand, and it moves. We don't really
know how this comes about but it does respond to my willing,
and with this ability, we can manipulate material things with
a remarkable degree of success for good or ill. The body
is thus a mediator between the will and the world.
For example, I can't simply
will the hands of the clock to move forwards one hour in the
Spring or backwards one hour in the Fall, but I can cause it
to happen by making my feet carry me to the clock and making
my hand reach up and change the setting to Daylight Saving Time.
Indeed, we can act on the physical world even to
the extent of beginning the conquest of space only because
we have a body as our own personal effective instrument.
That is one very good reason why we are given bodies.
(2) But there is a second reason.
In order to carry forwards this government of the world, and
I suspect of the whole Universe in due course or at least of
the New Universe, we must somehow multiply our numbers. There
are only two ways by which this increase can be achieved: by
direct creation or by procreation.
Let us suppose it is done by creation.
Angels are individual creations. Each one, as Thomas Aquinas
astutely observed, is a separate creation and therefore is a
species. (21) Each one stands entirely
on its own. There are no relationships between them. No angel
is father to another angel. They do not multiply by marrying
and bearing offspring (Mark 12:25). Thus "to fill the jobs
available" in governing the earth, God would have had to
create individuals as the tasks developed in order to fill "the
But now a new problem arises. In
the divine plan, these agents, whether pure spirits or embodied,
were created with a measure of moral freedom. That angels are
not robots is clear from the fact that they do indeed have some
measure of freedom, freedom at least to hold contrary opinions.*
Furthermore, a number of the angels were disobedient and fell
(Jude 6) and these are to be punished for their failure. But
then the question arises, If they can be punished, can they also
As far as we can
see, they cannot be redeemed. Why not? Well, if we take the Word
of God as our guide in all matters of salvation of either men
or angels, redemption requires a substitute redeemer, and the
redeemer has to be one in form and nature with the subjects to
be redeemed. But if each angel is a separate species by the very
fact of creation, it would seem that not one redeemer but thousands
or perhaps even millions of redeemers would be required, one
for each angel.
There can be no "first
Angel" whose fall involved them all so that they could all
be incorporated and redeemed as members of a single family. Since
they did not arise by multiplication from a single "father
Angel" corresponding to a single "father Adam,"
the Plan of Redemption which
21. Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica,
Book I, Question.4: An Aquinas Reader, Mary T. Clark,
New York ,Image Books, 1972, p.89.
* The evolutionist says that one can have a brain without a mind,
and this is certainly true. The brain of Einstein has been preserved
in a container since his death, though the rest of his body "lies
a moulderin' in the grave." But they then add: "but
not a mind without a brain" and this is certainly
not true. ["Brain that rocked physics rests in cider
box", Science, vol.210, 1978, p.696]. In Daniel 10:12,
13, 21 it is said that the angel, though bodiless, clearly "had
a mind of his own." The passage is quite unequivocal about
works for man cannot
be made to work on the same principle for angels. As the prophet
Malachi wrote, "Have we not one father?" (2:10)
and as Paul re-affirmed in Acts 17:26, "God has made out
of one all men for to dwell on the earth." A single
redeemer who stands as a second Adam can act as a redeemer
of the whole species of man. But no such situation is
possible with respect to the angels.
The very essence of the Plan of
Redemption, substitute of one Head for another, can only be applied
to the single species, Homo sapiens. To redeem the angels
which do not constitute a family at all, would involve as many
redeemers as there are fallen angels. This is an inconceivable
Thus, if the appointed government
of the material Universe was to be formed of free moral agents
who were therefore fall-able* and consequently in need of a redeemer,
the only conceivable way to allow for their increase in numbers
was not by a direct creative process but by procreation from
a single racial Head, Adam. For procreation, embodiment is essential.
And therefore, if man was to be morally free, he must also
be redeemable: and to be redeemable, he must be able to multiply
by procreation: and to procreate, he must be embodied.
(3) Now a third
consideration enters the picture. It does not appear from Scripture
that angels "grow up". They do not start as infant
angels and grow up to be adult angels, because they live in a
world outside our world of space and therefore presumably outside
our world of time. So they do not increase in size nor mature
with time as we do.
Angels do not occupy space but
only position. That is to say, no two angels can overlap
as it were, by occupying the same position and so confuse their
* The theologians say "fallible,"
but for most of us the word has a slightly different connotation.
since they do not occupy
space, they do not need to cross the intervening space to pass
from one position to another. The passage is instant. This is
no longer such an unimaginable situation (even for a scientific
person to imagine) because modern Quantum Theory sees certain
"particles" which are centres of energy as apparently
shifting position in just such a manner. These "particles"
do not have dimensions and so do not have to pass between the
different positions they occupy. The movement from one level
of energy to another (it is difficult to express it in any other
way than a movement) does not occupy time, any more than these
particles occupy space.
So we have no new-born angels,
no infant angels, no adolescent angels, no aging angels, because
by reason of the very timelessness of their existence we have
to suppose that they are created already mature. It takes time
to mature, and the maturing process seems to depend on an
aging process. There can be therefore no such thing as the development
of character "on the job" though for the fallen angels
there is obviously a sudden destruction of character.
Clearly it has been God's intention
that man's role as governor of the Universe is to engender
a maturing process as a by-product. It is our interaction
with the physical world and with one another (physical beings,
all) that is to result in "the perfecting of the saints."
For this interaction we must have bodies that mature even as
we have spirits that mature.
Because interaction with the world
is so essential for the process of maturing, it would appear
that even the Christian is called upon to react with the world
and will not be taken out of the world (John 17:15) until he
or she has matured. For this reason it is important that we do
not forget to assemble with other Christians not merely in spirit
but in body (Hebrews 10:25). It is not good to go it alone (Genesis
2:18) though circumstances sometimes dictate it.
In short, "we are in our relations"
(22) both with
other things and with other people and these relations need to
22. Taylor, John, Man In the Midst, London,
Highway Press, 1955, p.21.
physical as well as
spiritual. We speak of making contact with people without
realizing that we are tacitly acknowledging the importance of
embodiment. Without embodiment we apparently could not be "made
perfect" as God has planned, even as the Lord Himself was
"made perfect" in his incarnation (Hebrews 5:9), where
"perfect" means mature.
In total isolation from human
contact, such as happens now and then with feral children deserted
by their parents in infancy and adopted by animals, there is
no advancement into humanness if the isolation continues for
long enough. All strictly feral children remain non-human in
personal development until they begin to interact with other
In a similar way, fully humanized
individuals deprived of all sensory (i.e., bodily) input from
the physical world can so disintegrate as persons that it proves
to be one of the most damaging modes of torture so damaging that
virtually all nations have outlawed it, though unfortunately
the agreement is frequently honoured only in the breach of it.
We thus conclude that embodiment
is essential for the perfecting of the saints.
(4) Then there is a fourth consideration. Granted
that embodiment is a practical necessity, we must also have consciousness
of our physical environment through the senses seeing,
hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling, and of course all locomotive
and manipulative faculties. These are mediated from the will
to the hand, foot, tongue, and so forth via the brain. It
is clear from neurophysiology that the brain is the physical
link between the will and the world.
Indeed, there is no unequivocal
evidence either from science or Scripture that man can retain
consciousness without an actual brain, either in this world or
in the next. Angels can, for they were so fashioned, but man
was not so designed. The most cogent argument for this must surely
be the tremendous emphasis in Scripture on the promise
that we shall be "reclothed"
in a new body (2 Corinthians 5:15). What need of
a body if we can function and be perfectly effective persons
without the body? And what need for the Lord's resurrected
body if He, too, can remain truly MAN without it?
True, it will operate on a different
principle (as we shall see later), but it will be an embodied
existence that we shall enjoy. Just as the Lord deliberately
set out to demonstrate to his disciples after his resurrection
that He had a body of flesh and bone, so shall we have a body
of flesh and bone. He was not a ghost; nor shall we be, for we
shall be like Him (1 John 3:2) and we shall have a body like
his glorious body (Philippians 3:20, 21). This body will be
our conscious link with the new heavens and the new earth; and
the source of our "personal awareness", just as it
is the source of our personal awareness in this present universe.
(5) And then there is a fifth reason relating to our
personal identity, the matter of recognition. We have
no idea how angels are recognizable to one another. How would
one identify one angel from another when meeting one on a street
in the new Jerusalem except they have some formal individuality
of shape or size or visible mannerism?
We establish our identity in a
dozen ways by facial features, body shape, size, mannerism,
walk, voice, colour: one could probably think of many other characteristics.
The common factor is embodiment! All such means of identity
are bodily: even voice, for we have no voice except we have vocal
chords, lungs, throat, tongue even teeth! Nor could the
other party be seen or heard or felt but for the fact that we
too have the means to feel and hear and see them, and they us.
The resurrected Lord used his own
body, transfigured though it was, to establish his personal identity.
It is difficult to think that we who have matured in a physical
body and will be punished or rewarded for the "deeds done
in the body," could suddenly appear without any shape or
form that would enable
us to identify one another. I think it safe to say that embodiment
is essential for the preservation of personal identity.
We have considered five of the reasons why it was
necessary for God's purposes that we should have bodies.
It remains now to consider very briefly three reasons why it
was necessary both for us and for God that He
also should assume a body.
(1) God Himself
must become incarnate first, and most obviously, because man
needed a Redeemer. A Redeemer must experience physical death
in man's place. And such a Redeemer must be of infinitely greater
value than any one individual, if his sacrifice is to be sufficient
for many individuals needing salvation. No one man, however perfect,
can be of sufficient worth to redeem more than one sinner.
On the simple principle of an eye
for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life, the cost
of sacrifice for the millions who need redemption had to be,
accordingly, far in excess of the sacrifice of one single human
life. Only the sacrifice of God Himself could suffice.
But as Luther put the matter very
simply, "God cannot die."* As a pure un-embodied Spirit
God could not experience the death of man except by becoming
Himself "embodied man." Thus it was not sufficient
that God should simply create a perfect man and then send him
as our Saviour, because such a one, though he might sacrifice
himself for the sins of one individual, could not by this means
pay the penalty of the sins of countless millions.
Therefore God Himself came as an
embodied Man in the Person of Jesus Christ who is the express
image of the Father's Person (Hebrews 1:3), supernaturally conceived
but naturally born of a woman and therefore in the likeness of
man. The very fullness of God thus dwelt among us bodily
* Luther: "According to his own
nature God cannot die, but since God and man were united in one
person, it is correct to talk about God's death when that man
dies who is one thing or one person(with God." Formula
of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore Tappert, Philadelphia,
Fortress Press, 1959, at Article VIII, section 44.
(Colossians 2:9) in
his Person, in order that He might bear our sins in his own human
body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) and as Man, "taste"
our death. Such was his worth that the death He tasted
was sufficient for every man (Hebrews 2:9).
This was one basic reason why God
for man's sake was embodied as Man: that God in Christ might
experience death for man. Hence it is proper that Scripture should
speak of God laying down his life for us (1 John 3:16), thus
purchasing the Church "with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
(2) But there
was another reason. God wished to reveal Himself to man.
And how better could He achieve this than by embodiment in the
likeness of men to share the vulnerabilities of our humanity
hunger, thirst, fatigue, wounds, and the whole gamut of
human emotions save those arising from our fallen state.
And so He came among us, a Man
among men, and after three years had so revealed Himself, personally,
intelligibly, intimately, that He could say to Philip who asked
Him to show them the Father, "Have I been with you so long
a time, Philip, and yet you havet not known Me? Whoever has
seen Me has SEEN the Father" (John 14:9). As Leo the
Great, Bishop of Rome, put it (in 449 A.D.), "The invisible
(3) And, finally,
a very important reason lies in the fact that embodiment subjects
man to stresses, fears, hurts, and limitations that entail temptations
quite unknown to purely spiritual beings like angels. Nor can
even God Himself have experienced these things. How, then,
could He fairly be a judge of men's actions, not knowing
first-hand the nature of man's temptations?
For this reason, the Father has
committed to the Son all judgment "because He is
the Son of Man" (John 5:27). Had God, in the Person
of Christ, not shared the human experience, He could not have
acted in complete fairness in judging man's sin because the meaning
of our temptations would be experientially quite unknown to Him.
But in Christ they were known to the full.
As a supreme example, consider one instance referred
to in Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23. It was customary for a drink
of vinegar and myrrh to be offered to men condemned to be crucified
if they were felt worthy of this mercy. The drink was a palliative,
and according to Alfred Edersheim it was prepared by a kind of
Ladies Society in Jerusalem. (23) It was usually offered to the victim just before
the actual elevation on the cross.
Apparently it had been found to
bring significant relief against the first terrible pain and
shock of crucifixion, and many must have thanked the women for
their mercy as the body was wracked by the agony it entailed.
The Lord Himself must certainly have been aware of this merciful
provision, but even so as a man He had first to taste the drink
to know for sure what was being offered to Him. And He certainly
would know what it was by tasting it, since apparently it was
bitter to the tongue. Even in the agony of those moments, having
identified its nature He resisted the temptation to find relief
and refused it (Matthew 27:34). It is true that He accepted vinegar
which was later offered to Him (John 19:30), but vinegar was
not a palliative and it would almost certainly be needed to enable
Him to speak and say the things He had yet to say from the cross.
The fluid loss from his body resulting from all the scourging
wounds He had received would have placed Him in a state of terrible
dehydration and probably well-nigh speechless. The temptation
to take the previous palliative must have been almost overwhelming.
It is therefore perfectly in accord
with divine justice that the judgment of man should have been
placed entirely in the hands of One who was both the Son of God
by eternal generation, and the Son of Man by embodiment in time,
and who was tempted in his human condition in a way quite impossible
for Him in his divine nature.
Thus we have
reviewed briefly five reasons why MAN is both blessed and burdened
with embodiment. (1) To be an
23. The Society of Jerusalem Women: Alfred
edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New
York, Herrick & Co., 1886, second edition, vol.II, p.590.
See also Thomas Horne, Introduction to the Scriptures,
Grand Rapids, Baker reprint. vol.III, p.163.
effective manager of
the physical world; (2) to enable him to increase in numbers
as he takes over his responsibilities increasingly; (3) to make
the resulting experience of physical interaction the basis
of a maturing process for his spiritual perfecting; (4)
that we might have a full consciousness of our world and self-consciousness
of ourselves; and (5) that we might have a means of retaining
our personal identity.
And we have looked briefly at three
reasons why God Himself assumed embodiment. (1) that He might
by the sacrifice of Himself secure man's redemption; (2) that
He might reveal Himself to man in all the beauty of his Person;
and (3) that He might be man's Judge with perfect fairness when
the day of reckoning comes.
We shall in
the chapters which follow have occasion to return to some of
these points in more detail. My object will be to underscore
in every way possible the fact that man is not embodied by accident
but by design, and to show that his body is as essential an element
of his very being as his spirit is.
It is literally a fact that having
no body is tantamount to being a NOBODY, and that apart from
the existence of these millions of 'somebodies' the Universe
is nothing more than a gigantic but pointless display of wasted
and wasting energy. It is the embodiment of man that gives
meaning to the present Universe and will give meaning to the
New Universe which is yet to succeed it.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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