Sunday, October 9, 2011

this body of flesh....

The sermon in church this morning focused on the body and the mind - how neither is bad, but we must use them correctly. This reminded me of an essay I wrote for Omnibus last year, and I decided to go ahead and post it.

2. Explain at least two major Christian doctrines that teach that the human body is a good and positive thing. Then compare and contrast Plato’s Phaedo (79c-82) and the apostle Paul’s Galatians 5:16-18 on the body. 



                Plato’s Socratic dialogue, Phaedo, presents an issue common to Greek philosophy. In sections 79c through 82, Socrates and his two friends, Simmias and Cebes, discuss the soul versus the body. Near the end of this excerpt, Socrates says that the “soul is a helpless prisoner, chained hand and foot to the body” until it takes up philosophy and is able to come to know the separation of the two.
                The basic conclusion of their discussion is that the body is debase and wretched, and that the only way to be truly separated from it is either through philosophy and wisdom, then eventually through death.
                However, Christianity seems to oppose this view. The body is said to be a temple, which is a wonderful thing (1 Corinthians 6:19). Two doctrines, or teachings, reflect these pretty obviously.
                When God first created the world, He chose to create the human body. Genesis 1:26-27 describes God doing just this. And not only is He simply creating Adam’s body, but He creates it in His own image. In a sense, God also has a body, and we look like Him. If God thought that a physical body was bad, then he wouldn’t have given one to us. Even when Christ came to earth, He took on a man’s body. If He thought that the skin we are in was evil, then wouldn’t he have just come as a Spirit alone?
 I think these two things, Creation and the Incarnation, show that the physical body of skin, bone, and muscle, are not inherently evil. So then, is there still a difference between it and the soul? And is one or the other more important?
                Galatians 5:16-18 presents Paul’s view on the subject, and consequently, God’s. However, this seems to contrast the Creation and Incarnation, almost agreeing with the Phaedo in some ways. Paul says, “16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”(KJV)
                This presents that it is the desires of the body that are opposed to the soul; not necessarily the skin and bones we use to move around. In some ways, Socrates discussion with Cebes touches on this principle. For example, Socrates says at one point, “When soul and body share the same place, nature teaches the one to serve and be subject, the other to rule and govern,” and this seems to be consistent with some Biblical teaching. If the flesh (or body) is allowed to rule, then the well-being of the soul will be neglected and it will become subservient to the desires of the flesh. Socrates says the only way to change this is to make the soul completely separate from the body. This also agrees in a way with what Paul says.
                Where do the differences come into play, then? I think it lies in the method of separating the body from the soul. Biblically, Paul says that we must deny the flesh and strive after the Spirit. Socrates also says this, but the soul he speaks of is that of the individual person, not God’s Spirit. In a way, he seems to deliver the clich├ęd mantra that we are to “be true to ourselves”. When Paul speaks of being led of the Spirit, he refers to the Holy Spirit, not out own personal “essence”.
If we were to rely upon our own thoughts and feelings to put aside the body’s desires, then we would probably end up trapped even further inside of our flesh. God’s Spirit is the only one that can be completely separated from bodily lusts. We must chase after Him if we are to truly put aside the body.

[photo source - http://belindacai.blogspot.com/2010/03/i-want-to-live-where-soul-meets-body.html -- Yes, it's a blog, so I really don't know where she got it in the first place... Hm. This is also an essay on Phaedo. I don't have time to read the whole thing, or I would... different views on this could be interesting.]

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