resurrection of soul/body

May 7, 2008

This poem is a bit late for Easter, although it is still Easter season, both in East and Western Churches.  I read this poem a few years ago when I was taking Nancey Murphy’s Philosophy of Spirituality Class at Fuller Seminary.  At that time I was really thinking a lot about science and religion, resurrection, dualism/physicalism, and what it means for a human to have a soul.  I was also fortunate to see NT Wright debate Dominic Crossan at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary about the very issue of the resurrection.  There were some amazing speakers there as well, including Ted Peters and William Lane Craig.  A highlight for me was posing a direct question to NT Wright about his view on the nature of the human person, and talking to him afterwards about that in more depth.  I think he’s really in line with people like John Polkinghorne, Nancey Murphy, Ian Barbour, and Ted Peters about what it means to have a soul.  Ted Peters cited the following poem by Updike, which really brings it all together for me:

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

–John Updike


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