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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Maybe the Gnostics Have Already Won Anyway

OK, one more final post about the Gnostic Gospel of Judas.

Over at Mere Comments, I found this disturbing set of statistics. The question is: "Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?"

Only 36% responded yes. Only 50% of those who've attended church recently said yes. You can see the details for yourself here.

Even though it gets recited just about every Sunday in many-if-not-most American churches, people don't believe the Creed. "I believe in the resurrection of the body." And I contend that one reason is because pastors do not preach it clearly enough. We preach the gospel as if the point is just to save your soul.

Interestingly, when God created Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, He did not just create spirit beings. When the eternal Logos came to redeem humanity, he became flesh and arose in the flesh. And the apostle (1 Cor 15) clearly teaches a resurrection on the Last Day.

If you believe that the REAL you is your soul/mind/spirit and that your body is just a shell or dispensible container, then guess what, you are a gnostic. If you believe the soul is what matters and the body is unimportant, guess what, you are a gnostic. If you believe that eternal life consists of remaining disembodied forever, yep, you are a gnostic. The Christian religion, however, confesses the resurrection and glorification of the body, that you will live forever as body and soul.

But the fact that so few church goers know that is, at least to great degree, a failure of the clergy, the shepherds who are called to feed Christ's flock with the truths of his word.

Here is a test. St. John said to test the spirits.

  1. Did your pastor clearly preach the bodily resurrection of Jesus on Easter?

  2. Did your pastor make the connection between the resurrection of Jesus and your own resurrection?

  3. At funerals, does your pastor consistently preach about the resurrection or does he just talk about Aunt Mildred's soul?
We do not confess that you die, you go to heaven, end of story. We preach you die, you await the resurrection, you are raised glorified, you reign with Christ eternally.

I'd love to hear your comments about the three questions above.

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c. l. miller said...

I have to agree with you that Christ is not being clearly preached in many churches today. It is a sad fact that often in many denominations and churches in the U. S. the culture is having a much larger effect on the church than the church is having on its own members. Even many people who regularly attend church do not know the most basic truths of the Gospel.

Derek said...

I don't remember the bodily resurrection being clearly preached in the last 2 years at my (LCMS) church.

Your post reminded me of a question I have. You said: "you die, you await the resurrection, ..." Where does this awaiting occur? I mean, the theif on the cross was promised that he would be with Christ in paradise "this day," right? I'd really like to understand this.

Thanks for a great blog!

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Hi Derek,
You ask about the intermediate state of the soul between bodily death and the resurrection. Recognizing that these matters are enveloped in mystery, I will attempt to clarify.

The body dies and the soul is separated. The souls of the just are indeed in Paradise. St. Paul says that to be apart from the body is to be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus is "in Abraham's bosom." In Rev. 6:9,10, St. John sees the souls of the martyrs under the altar in heaven. They are crying for vengeance. This means that the souls of believers are with Jesus in Paradise but not yet experiencing the fullness of the bliss that will come after the final judgement. The souls of the martyrs are in heaven, but not fully at rest until they are avenged. And they are told to wait.

Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man also informs us that the rich man's soul is in torment in hell.

The soul, at bodily death, separates and goes to wait either in paradise or in torment. There they await the final resurrection when all things will be completed. Does this explanation make sense?

Sometimes Christians talk of this period as sleep or repose. Luther said that we could call this state sleep as long as we allow that the soul is aware and experiencing the joy of being in Christ's presence. An unconscious sleep, the soul sleep of the Adventists, is not what he had in mind.

Jason S. Evans said...

The resurrection of the body is really not something most Christians, outside of fundementalist circles, think about. Afterall, being a Christian is about Jesus helping you live your best life now. I don't think that the gnostics have won. I think everything outside of personal happiness and felt needs has become simply unimportant.

This Pastor's Wife said...

1. yes
2. yes
3. yes

My husband is said Pastor. A couple of years ago he led a funeral prayer service at which a local female Presbyterian 'pastor' attended. She came up to him afterwards and commented on his emphasis of the resurrection. She said she had never heard that done before. Sad.

Diana said...

The answer to all your questions is "yes", but I realize that I am very fortunate to be attending an LCMS church where the sermons are always about Christ and Him Crucified and the bodily resurrection is preached, especially at this time of year, but perhaps not as often as it could be.

VirginiaLutherans said...

One correction to this article- the Gnostics have not won, only lost. Anyone opposing God is already losing- it will only be official at Judgement Day.

The Griper said...

I wouldn't worry too much about this poll that was taken in regards to the resurrection of the body. It is a known fact that answers to polls are greatly influenced by the wording of the question. This is why I never take polls very seriously. And if you look at this question closely you'll see that it is worded in a very secular manner rather than in a biblical manner.

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