Spiritual Needs Considered
The introduction of spiritual needs into the collaborative negotiation motivates participants to reflect on their true nature, their true essence.
They begin to ask, am I essentially a biological entity subject to biological determinism? Or am I a spiritual being that transcends the physical, a soul that survives body death?
These are vital questions whose answers typically require a period of spiritual direction and formation. They are not questions that most individuals spend time pondering.
A Troubled Peace
Culturally, it appears the issue is settled, with both Materialists and persons of faith placing their full attention on their material existence. For all practical purposes, most people consider they’re solely flesh bodies.
Christians appear to have reached a “go along to get along” accord with Materialists; this agreement, unreasoned and even unconscious, declares that man is essentially a biological entity. Biological determinism, most assume, sets the path of our lives.
Materialists obviously argue that a human’s essence is wrapped up in his physical nature. Christians, culturally inundated with this man-is-a-herd-animal viewpoint, fall into agreement, simply adding the caveat that, in their view, the flesh body will be resurrected.
Both men of faith and Materialists tacitly proceed with the false premise that man is solely, and for all practical purposes, a biological entity, with men of faith holding a (mostly irrelevant) caveat that they get to retain their flesh body even beyond death.
This means that, in the interim, until the resurrection of bodies, a troubled peace proceeds based on the idea that man’s true essence is that of a flesh body.
A Theologian’s View
The following excerpts provide an abbreviated but nonetheless vital look at Ratzinger’s exploration of the “resurrection of the body.” For a more complete and nuanced discussion, I recommend a careful reading of the entire final chapter of Introduction to Christianity.
For our purpose in this post, I move to the very last section of the book, a section that takes up “the question of the resurrected body.”
Ratzinger turns to Corinthians 15, verse 50:
“I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”2
He then highlights Chapter 6 Verse 63 of John’s Gospel, which parallels Paul’s thought:
“It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail.”3
“Both passages also contain a sharp counterpoint that emphasizes Christian realism as realism beyond the physical world, realism of the Holy Spirit, as opposed to a purely worldly, quasi-physical realm.”4
The following passage from Ratzinger’s work adds clarity:
“In Greek the word soma means something like ‘body,’ but at the same time it also means ‘the self.’ And this soma can be sarx, that is, ‘body’ in the earthly, historical, and thus chemical, physical, sense but it can also be ‘breath’—according to the dictionary, it would then have to be translated ‘spirit’; in reality, this means that the self, which now appears in a body that can be conceived in chemico-physical terms, can, again, appear definitively in the guise of a transphysical reality. In Paul’s language ‘body’ and ‘spirit’ are not opposites; the opposites are called ‘physical body’ and ‘spiritual body.’”3
The theological reflection continues:
“One thing at any rate may be fairly clear: both John (6:63) and Paul (1 Cor 15:50) state with all possible emphasis that the ‘resurrection of the flesh,’ the ‘resurrection of the body,’ is not a ‘resurrection of physical bodies.’”3
“To recapitulate, Paul teaches, not the resurrection of physical bodies, but the resurrection of persons, and this is not in the return of the ‘fleshly body,’ that is, the biological structure, an idea he expressly describes as impossible (‘the perishable cannot become imperishable’), but in the different form of the life of the resurrection, as shown in the risen Lord.”3
Thus we see that, upon reflection, the ad hoc “agreement” between Materialists and Christians regarding the nature of man—the idea he is solely or primarily a biological entity—falls apart. It is not a view that comports with the Reality of the spiritual realm, from which we must draw insight into our deeper needs.
Divine Collaboration and True Essence
In an earlier paragraph, Ratzinger captures why an understanding of our true essence beyond the physical or flesh body, is important for the Divine Collaboration protocol:
“What makes man into man? … The distinguishing mark of man, seen from above, is his being addressed by God, the fact that he is God’s partner in dialogue, the being called by God. Seen from below, this means that man is the being that can think of God, the being opened onto transcendence.”5
- Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius Press, San Francisco. trans. 1969.
- Ibid. 356
- Ibid. 357
- Ibid. 354