Chapter Ten: A New Look at the Resurrection of the Body
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139 10 A New Look at the Resurrection of the Body In a recent book on the relation between modern science and traditional religious beliefs, English philosopher/theologian Keith Ward takes note of the fact that in the view of some scientists human thoughts and memories may someday be “downloaded” into supercomputers that would far outlast the possibility of physical human survival on this earth. 1 In this way human beings could achieve a type of natural (as opposed to supernaturally caused) immortality. 2 Ward then comments: “What computer analogies really show is not that we are just machines. They show that we—the very same conscious intelligent and responsible agents with a rich inner life of memories, hopes, and fears—could possibly be reembodied in very different forms.” 3 This is an intriguing idea but one that in my judgment requires further analysis. At issue, for example, is what is meant by a body or, for that matter, any sensibly perceptual reality or “thing.” Ward himself raises that question elsewhere in his book: “We might not want to call the colors, sounds, and smells we all subjectively experience ‘entities,’ as though they were objects in a shadow world paralleling the physical universe. But they are appearances that are different from the world that is the causal object of their appearing. They are appearances of the world to consciousness, and consciousness itself is the way the world appears in immediate experience.” 4 So if a tree in midsummer is itself not green but only looks green because it is perceived as such by a human 1. Keith Ward, The Big Questions in Science and Religion (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2008), 152. 2. See Frank Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 1–15. 3. Ward, Big Questions, 152. 4. Ibid., 157. 140  Part Three: Christian Doctrinal Questions brain with a very specific visual perceptual system, then what is a physical body apart from our normal human perception of it as something solid and enduring? If one is to claim that the human mind or soul can move from one form of physical embodiment to another, then the question remains: What is a body, in particular a human body, so that a human being could be equally “at home” in a new “resurrected” body as well as in a normal physical body? Likewise, for a Christian who concomitantly believes in the reality of the Mystical Body of Christ as somehow even now encompassing the whole of creation (cf. Eph 1:3-10; Col 1:12-20), one must inevitably ask about the relation between one’s physical body here and now, one’s resurrected body after death, and the bodily reality of the risen Christ. Given Ward’s generally favorable treatment of the process metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead, 5 I offer in this chapter an explanation of “body”as what Whitehead calls a“structured society”or society composed of subsocieties of actual entities, momentary self-constituting subjects of experience. 6 But just as elsewhere in this book, I revise Whitehead’s own understanding of “societies” so as to consider them as structured fields of activity for their constituent actual entities rather than as simply collections of genetically interrelated actual entities at any given moment. From this starting point, I offer my own explanation for Christian belief in the resurrection of the body. This chapter, accordingly, will be divided into two parts. First, I will briefly summarize my argument for rethinking Whitehead’s category of society as a structured field of activity for its constituent actual entities at any given moment. Then, I will dialogue with Keith Ward on how best to explain life after death as full incorporation into the kingdom of God or the Mystical Body of Christ. Whiteheadian Societies as Structured Fields of Activity For Whitehead, a society is clearly more than a random aggregate of actual entities, momentary self-constituting subjects of experience. They are genetically related to one another in virtue of common inheritance of a “common element of form” or “defining characteristic.” Yet given Whitehead’s acceptance of the strictly analytical approach to physical reality characteristic of the natural sciences of his day whereby physical 5. Ibid., 129–32, 251–53; see also Keith Ward, Pascal’s Fire: Scientific Faith and Religious Understanding (Oxford: One World, 2006), 162–64. 6. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, corrected edition, ed...


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Subject Headings

  • Causation.
  • Cosmology.
  • One (The One in philosophy).
  • Many (Philosophy).
  • Philosophical theology.
  • Providence and government of God.
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