Friday, August 4, 2017

If the Holy Spirit "lives in you," then where?

The following is some thinking out-loud...

I’ve been having a great back and forth discussion with a good friend regarding the ontological make-up of human beings; bodies, souls, spirits, hearts, minds, bio-mechanics, neurological capabilities etc. My perspective is that humans are indivisible-wholes, we are fully embodied beings whom at death cease to exist. In other words, there is not a “soul” part to us, that at death detaches or flies from the body to another place or realm. Rather our story simply comes to an end. However, this end is not the end. Our story is not forgotten and in the eschaton (the age to come when God judges, heals and renews all things), God (who knows our story even better than we do), will bring about resurrection life and the continuation of our story. This will include forgiving, healing, restoring and renewing the broken and damaged parts of our story as well – there will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more heartache.  Thus, in our “storied-existence,” death at the bottom of page 91 (for example), gives way to resurrection life at the top of page 92, meaning that to be absent from the body (dead) is indeed to instantly be present with the Lord; irrespective of the years that go by in the space, time and matter universe of earth.

In terms of the “soul,” I’m not trying to do-away with it, but rather, to rescue it from dualistic ideas that all-to-often compartmentalize our lived experiences and hinder us in our journey to become fully human – to become Christ-like. As a pastor, I’m trying to minister the life-of-Christ to the life of our church community, in order that they might become whole and healthy humans – fully human in their reflection of Jesus who shows us what it means to be truly human! Attempting this, without a clear understanding of what it is to be human, has the potential to result in all sorts of disconnect and frustration – our ministry is not to “souls,” or “bodies,” or “spirits,” or “hearts,” or “minds,” but to fully embodied people.

I would understand the “soul” to be our inner-self, our accumulated reflections, thoughts, feelings, hopes, passions, dreams, fears, and anxieties – ultimately the product of our natured, nurtured, neurological, biomechanical embodied life. In this sense it is our story, not in terms of an historical-narrative though (that’s too liner), but rather in a more three-dimensional and alive sense; we can go back-and-forth, up-and-down, in-and-out, to-and-fro within our story. It is part ego, part shadow-self, part enlightened, part known, part unknown, part shared and part kept as a secret. In this manner, the “soul” is very real and very much alive. But, it isn’t a ghost that flies away at death, nor the real us to be set against our “body” as simply a “house.” The “soul” only exists in an embodied story and thus, like the body, is extinguished in death. But we have hope! (Did I mention that?)

In our conversation, a passage in 1 Corinthians came up…

1 Corinthians 6:19
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.

If the Holy Spirit lives in us, where does it live? It’s an ontologically framed question in light of our ontological discussion. Quite frankly though, it’s not a question I’d ever considered from that perspective. So, here is my attempt to explain this aspect of this verse. We’ll start with 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and then look at 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, I’ll make some comments as we read. You may like to read the whole of 1 Corinthians though – it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

1 Corinthians 3:16
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 

Here in chapter 3, Paul’s reference to “you yourselves” being the temple of God is a reference to the Corinthian church as a collective community rather than a reference to individual bodies. God dwells in the “community,” the “relationships,” the “gathering” of the Christian church. In this 1st Century context temples always reflected the nature, name and images of their respective gods or goddesses. For the Christian church, the nature, name and image of God was not a reality reflected in carvings or statues but rather in the people of the church, God’s image bearers and their relationships with one another. God makes himself present in their midst and the Corinthian church community serves as God’s sanctuary.

1 Corinthians 3:17
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

The sinful divisions of the Corinthian church though (see early in 1 Corinthians), their vainglory, jealousy and partisanship is damaging their common life together. More than that, it is a form of sacrilege because in sinning against “consecrated persons” who are corporately God’s temple, it defiles the joint sharing in the Spirit who consecrates the temple.  This behaviour has the potential to destroy God’s temple, that is, the Corinthian church.

Now, we’ll jump to 1 Corinthians 6, as in this passage we see the individual also referred to as God’s temple. Note here there are number of quotations representing things said by at least some members within the Corinthian church that have been reported to Paul.

1 Corinthians 6:12
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Free from the law of Moses, it seems that some of the Christians in Corinth are abusing this freedom and embracing practices inconsistent with faithfulness to Christ and Christ-like living. Most likely regarding their eating habits, their drinking, and inappropriate sexual relationships.

1 Corinthians 6:13-18
You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

The general openness of the Corinthian Christians to this kind of living was essentially their advocacy of the quasi-Platonic thought of the day, that is, a dualism between the “physical” and the “spiritual.” Supposedly, one could do what one wanted with their “body,” eat what one wanted to and sleep with whoever one decided to, with this having no bearing in terms of sin or in terms of reflecting the nature of God. After all, these were simply physical acts and at the end of the day the “body” would be destroyed, whereas the “soul” would be saved into eternity. The attitude was thus, don’t sin with your “soul,” but do what you like with your “body.”

Paul absolutely rejects this perspective. Paul is all about a fully embodied life. The body is a temple sanctified by the Holy Spirit, united-as-one with Christ, and the mode of being through which and in which the Christian self brings glory to God. Paul rejects Corinthian ideas that freedom from the law now opens the door to licentious sexual relationships, that sin is a “disembodied” reality, and that our “embodied” choices and activities play no role in terms of our future destiny. We’re to live our “embodied” lives today, in light of our “embodied” future and Christian hope. Paul’s great affirmation of the body being the resurrection of Jesus himself! And, whom we are united with and with whom we share hope in regard to the same resurrection. One commentator writes; “Paul’s eschatology counters the dualism of those at Corinth who devalue the body by demonstrating how resurrection destiny is precisely what gives meaning, responsibility, and significance to bodily existence in the present.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.

Now, in light of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and further to comments in the introduction, this dust-of-the-earth body and embodied existence, is not a house for the real us, our “soul,” but rather, is the real us and is instead a house/home/temple for the Holy Spirit – who takes up residence in us and will ultimately give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:10). Dualism is foreign to Paul, though popular to culture – then and now. For Paul, the whole embodied person belongs to God, therefore despite illicit union with a prostitute argued by the Corinthians to be merely physical, it effects oneness of relationship which contradicts the Lord’s claim over the body. Sin isn’t something outworked in the “physical realm” as distinct from the “realm of the soul,” this is an artificial division.

So, finally, back to our original question: If the Holy Spirit lives in us, where does it live?

In 1 Corinthians 3 the focus is on the collective community of the church serving as God’s temple. The Holy Spirit dwelt in-their-midst relationally, even as they were in relationship with one another. Their sinning against one another damaged their relationships with one another and served as a threat to themselves (as the church of Corinth) and their ability to exist as God’s temple. God was in-their-midst relationally and the challenge to the church was wrong relationships – in this case broken relationships and divisions with one another.

In 1 Corinthians 6 the issue is again that of relationships. Individuals in this instance, who are united in relationship to Christ, are now also uniting in relationship with prostitutes – the two bodies in sexual union becoming one body. Not ontologically one, but relationally one – a concept which in our day and age (as in Corinth 2,000 years ago) is not always perceived as being that “big” a deal. Biblically however, relationship is the biggest deal. God is a Trinitarian relationship. Creation was created to relate to God, self, others and the rest of creation. God enters a covenant relationship with Israel and is the faithful covenant keeping God. Marriage is to be a life-long covenant relationship. The church is a community of relationship with God, each other and the world. To become a follower of Christ is to come into relationship with Jesus and become one body. Again, not ontologically but relationally.

This isn’t to say there are not ontological implications that come about as a result of sexual union. Neurological pathways are developed, chemicals are released in the brain, associations and memories are created etc., all of which impact the totality of one’s embodied existence. That said, it is still more appropriate to think of two becoming one relationally rather than ontologically – and, we would do well in the 21st Century to re-invigorate our commitment and championing of “relationship” as the biblical value that it is. So, in sexual union a husband and wife become one flesh, they become one relationally, I now live in my wife’s story, and my wife now lives in my story. Relationally it is entirely inappropriate for a husband or wife to engage in sexual union with anyone other than their own spouse – that would be to enter into another story and would be an issue of unfaithfulness and a failure to use one’s body to its proper end – the bringing of worship and glory to God whose temple it is.

So then…

QUESTION: If the Holy Spirit lives in us, where does he live?
ANSWER: He lives in us relationally rather than ontologically.

The Holy Spirit now lives in our story and we live in the Holy Spirit’s story – God’s grand-narrative of scripture and ongoing work in the world. Relationally the Holy Spirit is with us always, and in us always, and us in the Holy Spirit. This is Jesus’ encouragement, to abide; John 15:4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 

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