“But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’” (v. 35)

1 Corinthians 15:35-38 Thursday 12 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 119:161-176


Over the centuries the Church has, more than once, had tensionsbetween wanting to respond to practical challenges while realisingtheology needed to be re-examined. Then either theology or practice(or both) need to be reformed. In these few verses Paul isaddressing a particular issue for the Corinthians, one that mightstill be relevant to challenges we face today, although withdifferent factors involved.

Here Paul is addressing an incredulity among Corinthian societythat bodily resurrection is possible. He does not back down andmakes it clear that resurrection is not corpses returning to life.However, he also wants to be sure they understand that it is stilla bodily resurrection, just not the same body in the same form.

This has been an important theology that supports the choices wenow have following a funeral. Without Paul's confidence here, thatthe resurrection is not simply a raising of a corpse, it would behard to imagine that Churches would have been so willing to widelyadopt cremation. Because Paul makes it clear that our presentbodies are essentially like a seed for an eternal body, we do notdepend on preserving the body in a grave. It frees us to make thedecision about what happens to our physical bodies, without beingfearful of the impact on resurrection.

So when there was pressure to move to cremation due to ashortage of cemetery space, Paul had already provided the basis ofthe theology the Church needed.

More recently the work of Bishop Tom Wright and others has goneback to Paul and suggested a significant reform of theology ofresurrection to return to Paul's belief in a bodily resurrection,rather than airy fairy imagery of wafting around on cloudsprevalent in the last century.

To Ponder

  • How does your understanding of resurrection influence thechoices you make for your body at the end of your life? What isimportant to you about those choices? Do others know what isimportant to you?
  • We needed to rethink theology to support changes in practicebetween burial and cremation. Where else do we need to berethinking our theology in the light of challenges we facetoday?


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