Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Reality of Christ: It's Not About the Body

Picture of the "Latin Cross"
I stumbled across this interesting article about how various religions view the resurrection of Jesus and was delighted to see that not only was the Baha'i Faith respectfully represented, but the writer of the article actually quoted Baha'i scripture directly rather than relying on the opinion of some random Baha'i that the writer came across:

The Baha'i Faith gives the Resurrection a more metaphorical than physical emphasis.

Abdul Baha, son of the faith's founder, Baha'u'llah, wrote in "Some Answered Questions" that "His resurrection from the interior of the earth is also symbolical; it is a spiritual and divine fact, and not material; and likewise His ascension to heaven is a spiritual and not material ascension."

Baha also said that "The Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body" after his death.

"When after three days the disciples became assured and steadfast, and began to serve the Cause of Christ, and resolved to spread the divine teachings, putting His counsels into practice, and arising to serve Him, the Reality of Christ became resplendent and His bounty appeared; His religion found life; His teachings and His admonitions became evident and visible."

." (Enjoy the Whole Article Here)

What bugged me a bit about this article is that the resurrection is described as a "conundrum" for other faiths. I don't experience it as a conundrum at all, as a Baha'i I believe in the resurrection without any cognitive dissonance or latenight wrestling with my faith. What I find peculiar, as someone who believes in Christ is the preoccupation that some people have with His physical body and the belief that if He did not physically rise from the dead then Christianity itself is somehow completely undermined. I found myself pondering this issue recently with all the drama surrounding the alleged discovery of the "tomb of Jesus and his family". I was equally amused during the furor over The Divinci Code. I found myself thinking "It's not about the body of Jesus but His spiritual reality". Why do I think this way? Because the Bible (in which I believe) says so:

John 6:63-It is the spirit which quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.

John 3:3-6-Jesus answered, 'In truth, in very truth I tell you, unless a man has been born over again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' 'But how is it possible', said Nicodemus, 'for a man to be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?' Jesus answered, 'In truth I tell you, no can enter the kingdom of God without being born from water and spirit. Flesh can give birth only to flesh; it is spirit that gives birth to spirit.

Matthew 10:28-And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

John 3:5-That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.

I Corithians 15:50-Now I say this brethren, that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

The passages in the Bible that give priority to spiritual reality over the physical body are too numerous to site in this humble blog, but I think that you get the point. This is why I find people's concern with the body of Jesus so puzzling. Whether He physically rose from the dead, whether He had a wife and children, whether His tomb was discovered, none of these have anything to do "the spirit which quickeneth" and are all about the "flesh" which we are clearly told in the Bible "profiteth nothing".

One way of understanding the whole "body of Jesus" obsession is through seeing spiritual consciousness as going through developmental stages analogous to the psychological and physical stages that a person's goes through in their life. The Baha'i Writings tell us that humanity as a whole is experiencing a challenging transition from adolescence into the stage of maturity. Adolescence is a time when obsession with one's physical reality is normative given all the wild and crazy things that are happening to one's body. Thus, the "body of Jesus" obsession could be understood as reflecting a kind of adolescent spiritual consciousness that must and eventually will, give way to a more mature understanding of the spiritual reality of Christ that is actually more aligned with what the Bible says than many traditional interpretations and dogmas. Such an evolution of consciousness is necessary for a human race which must assume the responsibilities of its collective maturity:

Whatever their value at earlier stages in the evolution of consciousness, conceptions of physical resurrection, a paradise of carnal delights, reincarnation, pantheistic prodigies, and the like, today raise walls of separation and conflict in an age when the earth has literally become one homeland and human beings must learn to see themselves as its citizens. (Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith)