This week's podcast of "Life, Love, & Light" examines the writings of Augustine and Aquinas on the nature of the resurrected body. The Augustinian doctrine of resurrection focused on the necessity of divine reconstruction by God of every aspect of the body parts, rather than the Pauline metaphor of the seed in the ground that centered on a radical transformation. Inevitably, because of the wide dissemination of Augustine’s writings, his staunchly physical interpretation of Paul’s “spiritual body” became the standard Western view of eschatology.
As we discused in the previous podcast, generations of early apologists had linked personal identity with the “material bits” of the body. All these "bits" would have to be gathered up by God and reconstructed into the resurrected body, otherwise it would not be the same person who had died. Ancient theologians were convinced that if all the matter of an individual corpse were not resurrected intact, the identity of the person would be irrevocably lost. But they could not explain how the unique person could survive when the body was corrupted by death and decay.
Aquinas broke with the ancient tradition. He employed Aristotle’s metaphysical view that every being is a composite of two principles—primary matter and substantial form. Even though Aquinas still held that God would reassemble all the particles of the corpse in resurrection, he did not ascribe personal identity to the physical matter of the body. Rather, Aquinas (like Origen before him ) located identity in the substantial form of the body: that is, in the rational soul. It was the soul that made a being to be what it is. This approach by so distinguished a scholastic theologian as Aquinas, was an important breakthrough.
We consider the qualities of the glorified body, according to Aquinas, and question why it is we cannot imagine either a resurrected body or a resurrected mind.
NOTE: This series of podcasts is based on themes from my award-winning book, "Living Resurrected Lives: What it Means and Why it Matters," co-authored by my daughter, Eva Natanya, PhD (Cascade Books, 2020).
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