Our is an embodied faith. The opposite of this is the view that says ours is a purely spiritual faith. But Christianity is not a purely spiritual faith. Does that sound odd or wrong? Let me say it again. Christianity is not a purely spiritual faith. Upon hearing that some might think, “What are you talking about, Joel? Our faith is our spirituality.” Yes, our faith is our spirituality, but our faith is not purely spiritual. It is also an embodied faith. If you said, for example, “Our faith is purely spiritual, or completely spiritual, or only spiritual,” then I would say, “No, our faith is so much more than spiritual. It is spiritual, but it is also embodied. Our faith has a body because humans have bodies.”
Throughout Advent we are following the themes of Honest Advent, looking for gifts that we can give Jesus. Gift he actually wants. We have seen how we can give Jesus our vulnerability, love, identity, and today…our bodies. Bodies? Doesn’t he want our hearts? Yes. But there’s more…
Let me make a comparison to illustrate. We are different from angels. Angels are purely spiritual beings. They do not have bodies. That means, importantly, that we are also different from God. God is Spirit. God has no body. That goes for God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son in his pre-incarnate form. I just used a theological vocab word there. “Pre-incarnate.” Notice that I did not say, “Re-incarnate.” We hear “re-incarnate” probably more than we hear “pre-incarnate.” What’s the difference? Reincarnation is when you die and then your soul comes back as a different person or animal, and it is a belief found in some eastern religions. That’s not what Christians believe about the after-life. Furthermore, reincarnation is very different from “Pre-incarnate.” Pre-incarnate is just a fancy way of saying, “that state of being that Jesus was in before he took on a human body.” What I’m getting at is that Jesus was 100% spirit before taking on a body. But Jesus became an embodied spirit, just like us.
Christmas is the celebration of God the Son taking on a human body. His parents, Mary and Joseph, gave that little ball of flesh the name Yeshua, which in English is Joshua, and more commonly, Jesus. God had become human in the form of a tiny newborn, vulnerable baby. That’s one of the most important beliefs we Christians hold to. That one of the persons of the one true God, one of persons of the Trinity, became like us. Jesus is God who is Spirit, and who also became God in the flesh. Very much like Jesus, then, we humans have a bodily part and a spiritual part, which is sometimes called a soul. We are embodied souls.
I will not pretend to understand how the combination of body and soul works. How are we both? There is no clear consensus.
We’re pretty familiar with how the physical side works, right? Suffice it to say that a human woman and man work together to create a new human baby. Their work is physical only. They create only the physical part of the human. We believe that it is God who creates the spiritual part of humans. In his mysterious wisdom, God adds a soul to a body. God creates the embodied soul. God makes it a reality that our faith, therefore is an embodied faith.
When I think about that, the first question that comes to mind is: When do we receive our soul? At the moment of conception when a sperm pierces an egg? Does the miracle happen in a mother’s womb? We don’t know. Maybe it happens when the baby’s heart first starts beating in the womb? Maybe it happens at the moment the baby leaves the birth canal and takes its first breath? Theologians debate this, have many differences of opinion, and they don’t know for sure. The Bible doesn’t tell us the precise moment that we become embodied souls. Of course this debate about body and soul has many implications, the most famous of which in recent decades is regarding how we think about abortion.
Check back in to the next post as we continue learning about our embodied faith, and how it might relate to the abortion debate.