All that Flesh, and No Where to Put It

Mark Jones departs from the Puritan opposition to Advent and Christmas by posting about the incarnation. But once again his excitement to make a point may get the better of him:

This shows us just how much God loves “flesh” (i.e., human nature). God is forever identified with humanity because of the incarnation. Thus, heaven will be a “fleshly” place. Not at all “sinful,” but certainly a place where we will be more truly human than we are now. If our bodies and souls are to be redeemed, Jesus had to possess a body and soul, since whatever is not assumed by Jesus cannot be healed. One is not more important than the other, as though we yearn for the day when we can shed our bodies and live as “free-floating” souls. Far from it. We yearn for the day when our bodies and souls are both transformed into the likeness of Christ’s glorious body (1 Jn. 3:2 “…we shall be like him”…).

Funny thing is, this will be an odd sort of fleshly existence where men and women won’t have an obvious reason for those parts of the human body that Paul says are “unpresentable” (1 Cor 12:23).

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52 thoughts on “All that Flesh, and No Where to Put It

  1. As with most important issues, my three favorite Yorkshire philosoophers have already addressed this subject. And with more sense than Mark.

    Compo: Do your reckon angels wear underpants?

    Blamire: You what?

    Compo: Under their overcoats. It never shows in the pictures. ‘Ere, do you reckon they’ve got parts, you know, to hide?

    Blamire: He’s a scruffy peasant. They don’t need them, do they? There’s no mucking about like that.

    Clegg: You see, no variety even in the heavenly chorus. Just rank after rank of sopranos.

    http://garth.typepad.com/primitive_screwheads/2014/04/last-of-the-summer-wine-series-2.html

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  2. Platonic gnosticism is not biblical. The spiritual body of the age to come is not non-material but is Spirit-controlled. You can have gender without being married.

    Luke 24: 36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence

    I Corinthians 15: 39 9 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power….

    51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality,,,,

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  3. Donald Mcleod, p 202, the Person of Christ, IVP, 1998–

    “The hypostatic union did not by itself secure the theosis of every human being. In fact, the hypostatic union did not by itself secure the theosis of even our Lord’s human nature. He was glorified not because He was God incarnate but because he finished the work given him to do (John 17:4)….It is perfectly possible to be human and yet not be in Christ, because although the incarnation unites Christ to human nature it does not unite him to me.”

    advocates of the incorporeal
    talk about a landless land and a timeless time
    up there
    inhabited only by full essences
    a world all clean
    refined and very light
    where time and space
    will not matter

    no created matter
    a world with no touching

    does this help us
    avoid awkward truths
    like that conspicuous hole in the ground
    when we’re dead
    and waiting for the resurrection?

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  4. Bruce McCormack, p 110, “What’s At Stake in Current Debates Over Justification?”

    “I do not participate in the historical humanity of Christ ( a thought which would require an unity on the level of ‘substance’. Rather, I participate in the kind of humanity which Jesus embodies. That is why I John 3:2 says that when we see Him as He is, we shall be LIKE him. The individual Christ’s humanity and my own were thought to be transcended in terms of a Platonic realism which holds that universals are more real than particulars (substance and accidents)…

    McCormack—“Nowadays, we are suffering from ‘creeping perichoresis’, that is, the overly expansive use of terms which have their homes in purely spiritual relations between humans who do NOT participate in a common ‘substance’ and who therefore remain distinct individuals. This surely has to be the relation of the human believer to the human Jesus as well.”

    McCormack—“The difference between the relation between a vine and a branch and the relation between Christ and the believer is that the first relation is impersonal and the second is personal. The flow of nutrients from the vine to the branches take place automatically. It does not require a legal act of the will. But in the case of Christ and the believer, we are dealing with a willed relation. The ethical ‘bearing of fruit’ takes place on the foundation of justification. John 15:3–‘You are already clean BECAUSE OF THE WORD I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU.’

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  5. I understand that – no marriage in the world to come. But, I don’t get what that has to do with the incarnaton of X or the future resurrection state of our bodies. I am not sure what the role of the sexual organs will be in the world to come. Perhaps glorification rids us of them or transforms their use. But, one of my biggest problems with the life to come is the intermediate state as, having on other experience of life except the bodily, I cannot conceive of having a non-bodily existence. So, it is the resurrection of the body not the soul’s liberation from the body to which I look forward. And I presume their will be some aspect of that life that replaces/tranforms and is better than sex.

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  6. I certainly do believe that we won’t be “disembodied souls” in the new heavens and the new earth. And while I’m sure there are those within Christianity that are confused on that part, is that really a tendency within Pres. and Reformed believers? His post reminds me of NT Wright’s arguments for the physical resurrection. And that’s not a favorable comparison.

    Also, what’s up with his comment that the incarnation would have happened if Adam hadn’t sinned?

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  7. Here is where I wonder: “Thus, heaven will be a ‘fleshly’ place. Not at all ‘sinful,’ but certainly a place where we will be more truly human than we are now.” A fleshly and not-at-all-sinful eschaton, sure, but more truly human than we are now? Does that mean we are presently sub-human? Our condition may be marred, but how does that mean our essence is diminished? Or is the idea that while we are fully human now we will be super human then? If so, then is that something closer to deification than glorification?

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  8. Zrim~ the “truly human” discussions usually show up in the human flourishing camp. And yes, they believe that Jesus was more truly human than fallen humanity is.

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  9. Jones and his ilk and their flattening formulations and novel emphases sometimes suggest this attitude: “Shepherd, Wright, et al were onto something. We can get rid of the dross and do it right where they went a bit wrong.” Maybe that’s wrongheaded paranoia but I think that’s why some of us are not on the Mark/GRN train.

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  10. Creation, incarnation and resurrection – all works of God that are clear testimonies in their own right that God does not abhor human nature and creatureliness. I don’t see the fuss here. Functional gnosticism and nestorianism is more a problem than Jones’ post. The only slip I see is this gushing modernism: “…just how much God loves flesh (i.e., human nature).”

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  11. Bill, you can’t imagine the saints hearing our prayers? How rationalist of you (though how you hear without ears is a serious problem).

    I was objecting to Jones’ celebration of fleshiness and calling heaven a “fleshly place” without qualification.

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  12. Self-sufficient and self-righteous people assume that they are going to “live somewhere”, even if it’s without a physical body. These “more moral” sinners think they are against “the flesh”, by assuming that they can continue to live even if they had no body and there were no more earth. But Paul’s letter to the Philippians teaches the destruction of all who those who rely on their own righteousness instead of submitting to Christ’s outside righteousness.

    1:28— not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their DESTRUCTION, but of your salvation, and that from God.

    3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the FLESH—

    3:19— Their end is DESTRUCTION their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

    Phil 3:18-19 is in contrast to 3:21. Their end is destruction; but our citizenship is already from heaven. Their end is destruction, but our end is one day putting on immortality. Having a citizenship FROM heaven does not mean that we are already in heaven.

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  13. II Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves WITH THOSE who commend themselves by themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” The verse makes a comparison— WE are NOT like THOSE people. THEY have an unrighteous standard of judgment.

    Most commentators on Philippians 3:18-19 focus on the word “belly” and assume that it means greed, not only the desire for too much food but the lust for money and sinful pleasures. They do not connect “belly” to the desire to have one’s own righteousness from the law, even though that has been the topic of the entire chapter up to that point. But the lust of the flesh is subtle.

    The unlawful desires of the flesh are most subtle when it comes to self-righteousness. The law of God should not be blamed for the sin of self-righteousness, even though God has predestined the abuse of the law. When a person thinks that his not tasting and his not touching brings him blessing, that person is not only self-righteous but also an antinomian, because that person is thinking that God is satisfied with something less than perfect obedience to the law.

    Colossians 2: 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”
    22 (referring to things that all PERISH as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh…

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  14. John H.: “Creation, incarnation and resurrection – all works of God that are clear testimonies in their own right that God does not abhor human nature and creatureliness. I don’t see the fuss here. Functional gnosticism and nestorianism is more a problem than Jones’ post.”

    GW: Agreed. Seems to me this post is overly-nitpicky. I’m not too familiar with Jones’ writings; maybe he’s theologically off-base in other areas, but I didn’t see anything heretical or unbalanced in the quote above, fairly and charitably read. Maybe because Jones has become one of OL’s favorite recent punching bags, it is deemed necessary to find something to criticize in his words, however much such criticism might strike one as straining out gnats and swallowing camels. Silly.

    D.G. Hart: “I was objecting to Jones’ celebration of fleshiness and calling heaven a “fleshly place” without qualification.”

    GW: Jones’ statement (read fairly and in context) was not “without qualification.” For example: “Thus, heaven will be a “fleshly” place. Not at all “sinful,” but certainly a place where we will be more truly human than we are now.” Sounds like a qualification to me.

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  15. Geoff, but as I suggest above, that sort of qualification raises more questions. Since it seems to clarify things for you, perhaps you could explain just what it means that “we will be more truly human than we are now.”

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  16. Mark Jones—”The Lutheran view that justification precedes sanctification..ends up attributing to justification a renovative transformative element.”

    Mark McCulley— Mark Jones is dogmatic that “union” precedes imputation, and that “faith” precedes “union”. Does that not end up attributing to “union” a renovative transformative element?
    Does that not end up attributing to “faith” a renovative transformative element? Is the atonement imputed to us on the basis of the Spirit’s work of giving us faith? Mark Jones switches back and forth from saying that “diversity” is ok and saying either or—-that those who disagree with Mark Jones are “Lutheran”..

    Mark Jones—Antinomianism, p 73—If fear of punishment and hope of reward provide the ONLY motivation for for holy living, then Horton certainly makes a valid point. However, this is another point where the Christian life is both-and and not an either-or on the matter of motivation. The fact is, that one will have a difficult time finding many classical Reformed theologians denying that Christians should hope for rewards as a motivation for holiness.”

    mark mcculley–One suspects that any theologian one quotes against “mercenary motives” will be dismissed as not “classical enough”. On the one hand, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. But on the other hand, one still needs to do x (be circumcised etc) in order to assure oneself of future justification.

    On the one hand, for Mark Jones, not everything is as either-or as Galatians sounds, and even in Galatians, for Mark Jones the distinction is not between law and grace, but between law misunderstood and law correctly used as one motivation to threaten Christians in terms of the “efficacy” of their future salvation (and also how to get more extra crowns for elite Christians.

    http://www.meetthepuritans.com/2014/04/12/the-threats-of-the-gospel-john-owens-thoughts-on-what-the-lawgospel-distinction-is-not/

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  17. Zrim: “Geoff, but as I suggest above, that sort of qualification raises more questions. Since it seems to clarify things for you, perhaps you could explain just what it means that “we will be more truly human than we are now.””

    GW: Surely you would confess that our humanity, while not destroyed, has been severely damaged by sin (total depravity and all), at least at the level of the ethical perfection of the imago dei as originally created by God (Adam and Eve pre-fall).

    I think what Jones was trying to say is that in this present evil, pre-consummation age, our humanity is a fallen humanity. As fallen human beings we are not “subhuman,” but we are also not living up to God’s ideal for humanity, i.e., image-bearers who perfectly reflect (on a creaturely-level) the ethical excellence of our Creator. Through redemption the fulness of our humanity, ethically-speaking, is (in principle) restored via regeneration, and in our glorification our humanity will be consummated in ethical perfection, fully conformed to the image of Christ; for “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

    One might argue that Jones’ could have expressed himself more clearly, but to pick at isolated, carelessly-worded statements in his article or to yank them out of the overall context of his article (i.e., what is the “big picture” thrust of what he is trying to communicate?) is what I mean by the term “overly-nitpicky.” (You’ve never expressed yourself with less than technical precision, or made compact statements that you chose not to elaborate upon due to space constraints?)

    Sorry, no offense intended; but it just seems to me there is a lot of gratuitous fault-finding and unnecessary hyper-criticism of Jones’ article in this particular post. (Though I’m not necessarily saying he is unworthy of criticism in other areas of his theology.)

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  18. Geoff, thanks. Your points about precision are well taken. Like you and Bill, I actually do not find the overall point of Jones’ piece too troubling. At the same time, in addition to the fact that this is part of the territory when one goes public, I see nothing wrong with wanting a little more clarity on specific statements, especially statements that one hears in other discussions like this “more truly human” stuff.

    That said, yes, I said as much above–condition marred, essence still very good. But it’s still not entirely obvious how that means our humanity will somehow be “more full or true” upon consummation. We will be made fully righteous, but no more human than we already are. I think you’re right, it’s sloppy and confusing language. So why use it?

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  19. GW, but sex/flesh isn’t sinful, or at least wasn’t before the fall. Lo and behold, in glory lots of flesh — still male and female genitalia — but no sex. Right?

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  20. This is pathetic. You guys need to do something valuable with your time instead of trying to take a statement in an otherwise helpful piece and tear it to shreds.

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  21. “More truly human” still bothers. And, no, Jones is far from having earned the benefit of the doubt. It smacks of continuity even in the edenic situation that tracks in an ontological way toward Rome and Natural virtue enhanced per super added grace even unto deification. And even if that’s not where he’s going(lack of space for precision) it still tends toward a failure to recognize the utterly ‘human’ situation in Eden that because of it’s probated nature was never intended to attain in glory. More flattening by Jones where there should be distinction and precision.

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  22. More truly human is probably a reference to the image of God and holiness/righteousness. Sin makes us like beasts (read the Psalms).

    So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

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  23. D.G. Hart: “GW, but sex/flesh isn’t sinful, or at least wasn’t before the fall. Lo and behold, in glory lots of flesh — still male and female genitalia — but no sex. Right?”

    GW: Unless Jones speculates in his article about sexuality in the eschaton, your question above is a red herring, and distracts from the main thrust of what Jones’ comments seemed to aim at. That you raise this question seems to me more evidence of hyper nit-pickery in this particular instance. (Sorry, no offense intended; just calling it like I see it.)

    But, to answer your question: True, sex pre-fall wasn’t sinful (and even post-fall it isn’t inherently sinful if enjoyed within God-ordained marriage). But Adam and Eve, pre-fall, were still living in an eschatological situation where they were sinless, but not-yet-glorified. Sex and procreation were temporary arrangements designed for pre-consummation living. Our Lord’s response to the Sadducees in Luke 20:27-40 pretty much makes that clear. So, yes, historic orthodoxy has always insisted that we will take our “flesh” with us (albeit in glorified form) into the eschaton (you know, “I believe in the resurrection of the body” and all that). To speculate about whether or not gender distinctions will somehow still be present in the eschaton or whether glorified humanity will be thoroughly androgynous like the angels is about as risible as the speculations about the resurrection body which Paul rebuked in First Corinthians 15; as well as beside the point that Jones seemed to be making.

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  24. Erik Charter: “Bob can still look forward to having his tiny package with him in glory…”

    GW: Erik, I appreciate most of your comments, and I know you’re just trying to be humorous; but are such comments really necessary? If we aim to be humorous, can we at least aim for a sense of humor that transcends elementary school bathroom talk?

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  25. Bob, but being like a beast isn’t the same as being a beast (i.e. less than truly human). The Bible is using metaphorical language, Jones not so much.

    But why are you contributing to a waste of time conversation?

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  26. But Mark Jones really believes in creation, not just redemption like you do.

    Mark Jones–“Adam was without sin, but that does not mean he was perfect; nor in the Garden did he reach glorification…. Our union with the God-man brings us into a state far greater than what would have happened if Adam did not sin. The incarnation adds an incredible and immense dignity to our nature. Moreover, our adoption is on a higher level, for we are united to the God-man, not just a man…. Christ is not only God’s reaction to sin. Sin did not necessitate the incarnation. True, things were made more difficult for the Son and for us as a result of sin, but God’s basic telos has not been altered.

    Mark Jones–So, however it would have happened, the Son would still have become incarnate, ruled over creation, and brought about the possibility of full communion with the Father through the Spirit. As van Driel says in his book, Incarnation Anyway– “The incarnation as it happened gives us so much, is so rich in gifts of divine friendship and intimacy, that it cannot be explained as only a divine countermeasure against sin.., I am so impressed with the Christ as he is that I argue that the category of redemption is not rich enough to explain the wonder of his presence”

    Mark Jones— The incarnation gives us the highest blessing possible: the beatific vision. We see the face of God in the man, Christ Jesus (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 3:18, 4:6; 1 John. 3:2). We behold God’s glory in the God-man (John. 14:9). Apart from the incarnation, we would be without this great blessing. To think that we would have missed out on this if Adam had not sinned makes little theological sense to me. Indeed, it makes little sense that a loving God towards his creatures would withhold from them the greatest blessing he can give to them: an OCULAR NOT JUST INTELLECTUAL sight of God in the flesh.

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/incarnation-apart-from-sin.php

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  27. And don’t forget—hypothetical universalism is a perfectly ok confessional interpretation. No love for some human flesh needs to be excluded from the accepted diversity of historic Reformed views, but ineffectual love for all creation is better than no love. Even though God’s love for sinners is not all that is necessary for them to be saved, they could have been saved if there had been other factors to go along with God’s necessary love. By His nature, Christ bore their flesh if not their sins.

    Mason—“With Christmas only four days away, I fear that many so-called “Calvinists” inadvertently limit the joy, comfort, and grandeur of the celebration by inadvertently limiting the scope of the Incarnation itself. Christmas is not just for the elect…..As we contemplate the meaning of this Advent Season and the coming Christmas day celebration, I pray that we all may be sure of two things:
    The Gospel of the Incarnate God is for you.
    The Gospel of the Incarnate God is for all mankind.
    God sent His Son such that all that was necessary for the salvation of any and every human is found in His Person. No human anywhere at any time can say, “He did not come for me,” for He bore their nature as well.”

    https://www.heartandmouth.org/2017/12/21/remember-calvinists-god-became-man-men-women/

    Donald Mcleod, p 202, the Person of Christ, 1998— Christ’s humanity is that of every human. But Christ is not every human. Christ is the man, Christ Jesus, and the only humanity united to him hypostatically is his own…. The hypostatic union did not by itself secure the theiosis of every human being. In fact, the hypostatic union did not by itself secure the theiosis of even our Lord’s human nature. Christ was glorified not because He was God incarnate but because he finished the work given him to do (John 17:4). It is perfectly possible to be human and yet not be in Christ, because although the incarnation unites Christ to human nature it does not unite Christ to me.

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