Saturday, May 29, 2004

a spirit hath not flesh and bones

A little while back, a fellow on another forum objected to a comment I made about God being a spirit and not possessing a physical body. Here is my response to his suggestion that God must be a physical being.


Hello BL,
We have a very different views on this matter, and just to put this is context, your view appears to be that of a Mormon are something close to the Mormon position. The view I hold to on this matter is the view held by the whole Christian church from beginning until now. This is also the historic doctrinal view of Judaism. This is clearly seen in Article 3 of the Shloshah-Asar Ikkarim also known as the Thirteen Articles of Faith.

Article 3 reads this way --“The belief in G-d's noncorporeality, nor that He will be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling” or in a more modern wording “I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena, and that there is no comparison whatsoever to Him.”

Of course all the Jews and Christians could have been mistaken and Joseph Smith and you are correct, but I would not bet the farm on those odds.

One verse can be all the proof one needs if it is used rightly and contextually, and hundreds of proof texts can be used to teach a distortion if applied wrongly, so the number of verses one can bring into play in such a discussion may or may not be that important. Jewish and Christians scholars (and laymen alike) have always recognised that the Bible is a complicated book. Some of it is history, some is song and poetry, some is proverbial, prophetic, some portions are eschatological, and some is specifically philosophical and doctrinal. Some parts of the Bible are very literal and others are not. Those aspect of the scriptures that you bring up to prove that God is a physical being have always, by Jews and Christians alike, been understood to be anthropomorphic language used to make certain points.

Your methodology of interpreting Scripture proves too much. Not only must God have eyes, nostrils hands and legs, but he must have wings and feathers as well.

Lets return to the verses that I brought up earlier in this discussion. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39) And then Christ words in John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." We know from Jesus Christ’s words here that a spirit “hath not flesh and bones” and we know that “God is a Spirit.”

BL you said that “Spiritual substance is as real as natural substance Ken, except that it is of a higher type of matter and is governed by higher laws.” (emphasis is my own). This is absolute, pure conjecture that has been pulled out of thin air.

The word spirit is also the word used for wind, and breath in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Wind was the closest thing that could be used to describe that which is non-material. Even here with this analogy we find spirit or wind that is at times omnipresent and sometimes particular. Wind is everywhere like God and it can be particular, like and individual. We see this in its uses as the breath of an individual.

When a man gives up his spirit, does a higher form of matter leave his physical body and go to heaven or hell? No; a non-material, eternal aspect of his being is separated from the material aspect of his being.

Let’s look at another term used in Scripture. That is the word “Word” or “Logos” which is used in speaking of the pre-incarnate Christ. John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses this Greek term that is pregnant with meaning when referring to the pre-incarnate Christ for a reason. He uses it because it is familiar to the Greek world to which he is writing. In Greek thought the logos was a divine force, power or reason that governed the universe, but it too was non-material.

In fact a great problem of early Christians was fighting off the opposite of the heresy you espouse here. In neo-Platonic thought the non-material (spirit) was good and all things material (flesh) were tainted with evil. The Gnostics held to a heresy that Christ must have only appeared to be flesh and bone, because he could not truly be flesh and bone (a material being) because this was evil. The object of the Gnostics was to leave the material world, and return to the realm of pure spirit.

BL yours is a simplistic reading of the Word of God that ignores very important teachings in the Scriptures and it ignores the whole teaching of both the Jewish and Christian peoples who received these revelations.

Coram Deo,

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