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AS we have been delivered by Christ from the penalties incurred by the death of the first man; and as by the sin of the first man there has been bequeathed to us not only sin, but also death, which is the punishment of sin; we must by Christ be delivered from both these consequences, both from guilt and from sin (Rom. iv, 12, 17). To show to us both effects in Himself, He chose both to die and to rise again; to die, to deliver us from sin (Heb. ix, 28); to rise again, to deliver us from death (1 Cor. xv, 20) [cf. Rom. iv, 25]. We gather the effect of Christ’s death in the Sacraments so far as remission of guilt goes: at the end of the world we shall gain the effect of Christ’s resurrection in our deliverance from death.
But some do not believe in the resurrection of the body; and what is said in
Scripture on that subject they perversely understand of a spiritual resurrection
from the death of sin to grace: which error is reproved by the Apostle in Hymenaeus
and Philetus (2 Tim. ii, 16). Moreover
the Lord promises both resurrections, when He says: The hour cometh, and now
is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the the Son of God, and they that hear
shall live: which refers to the resurrection of souls, then beginning by men
beginning to adhere to Christ by faith. But presently He makes explicit promise
of a bodily resurrection: The hour cometh in which all who are in the tombs shall
hear the voice of the Son of God: for manifestly not souls are in the tombs,
but bodies.10261026 See the context, John v, 25-29, which
quite bears out St Thomas.
The great proof of our corporeal resurrection is the corporeal resurrection of Christ: the first fruits, Christ, then they that are Christ’s at his coming, 1 Cor. xv, 23. If the Christ seen by His disciples after His death was a mere wraith, or ghost, then there is no resurrection of the body awaiting us. I take it some ghost stories are true statements of an objective reality seen. But the appearance of the ghost is not the removal of the body from the grave. The corpse lies still where it was laid, even while the ghost walks. Now, Holy Scripture assures us, this is precisely what did not happen in the case of Christ. The body was not in the tomb (Matt. xxviii, 6: Mark xvi, 6: Luke xxiv, 3: John xx, 2). St Peter appeals publicly to the fact in Jerusalem a few weeks after, and says that Christ’s flesh did not see corruption (Acts ii, 24-32). The Jews, Annas the high priest and Caiphas and John and Alexander, and all that were of the high priest’s kin (Acts iv, 6), had every interest in producing the body of the Man, whose resurrection was proclaimed (Acts iv, 10), and whose blood was being brought upon their heads (Acts v, 28). They did not produce it, they were unable to trace it. All that they could produce was the lame story of the ’sleeping witnesses’ (Matt. xxviii, 11-15). The ‘wraith theory’ is a direct contradiction of the witness of the Apostles (Acts iv, 33). It transforms the upper chamber (Acts i, 13), where the spirit of truth descended (John xvi, 13: Acts ii, 4) into a den of thieves (Mark xi, 17) A Christian at least will beware of such a theory. Cf. Job xix, 25.
Reason too gives evident support to the resurrection of the flesh. — 1. The souls of men are immortal (B. II, Chap. LXXIX). But the soul is naturally united with the body, being essentially the form of the body (B. II, Chap. LVII). Therefore it is against the nature of the soul to be without the body. But nothing that is against nature can be lasting. Therefore the soul will not be for ever without the body. Thus the immortality of the soul seems to require the resurrection of the body.
2. The natural desire of man tends to happiness, or final perfection (B. III, Chap. XXIV). Whoever is wanting in any point proper to his perfect well-being, has not yet attained to perfect happiness: his desire is not yet perfectly laid to rest. Now the soul separate from the body is in a sense imperfect, as is every part away from its whole, for the soul is part of human nature.
3. Reward and punishment are due to men both in soul and in body. But in this
life they cannot attain to the reward of final happiness (B. III, Chap.
XLVIII); and sins often go unpunished in this life: nay, here
the wicked live and are comforted and set up with riches (Job
xxi, 7). There must then be a second union of soul with body, that man
may be rewarded and punished in body and in soul.10271027 Many of us remain quite
unconvinced by these a priori
reasons. We believe in the resurrection of the body as a revealed doctrine. But
we look upon it as not susceptible of a priori proof:
in other words not like the immortality of the soul, a property incident to human
nature as such. The body will rise again, because God has been pleased to place
man in a supernatural state, and in Christ to renew the privileges of that state,
one of those privileges being, as St Thomas points out, the final deliverance of
the body from death. Of the three arguments last given in the text, the first two
rest upon the assumption that the soul, which is the ‘form’ of the body in man’s
mortal life, becomes after death a nude ‘form’ crying for its ‘matter.’ The assumption
is not incontrovertible. After death, the change of the soul lifewards can scarcely
be less than the change of the body deathwards. The disembodied spirit must be mightily
translated to higher existence, if, bereft of its senses, it still lives and energises
and understands, and does not lie stunned and dormant, as in a trance, a supposition
which no Catholic theologian will allow (see Chap. XCI). Who shall define this higher
existence? Who knows and can tell us that such elevation does not mean a fulness
of spiritual nature, independent henceforth of matter and organs of sense? But if
so independent, how shall the soul ever return to be the form of a body? It shall
not return to be the form of an animal body, but of a spiritual body (1 Cor. xv,
44), that is, of a body entirely subservient to the soul, and no hindrance to its
spiritual functions, as St Thomas presently explains (Chap. LXXXVI).
Of the two philosophies that have most affected Christian thought, Platonism makes for the immortality of the soul, but against the resurrection of the body. Aristotelianism raises a difficulty against the immortality of the soul: how shall the ‘form’ continue when the ‘matter’ is gone? But that obstacle surmounted, Aristotelianism favours the resurrection, as St Thomas’s arguments show. Cf. II, Chap. LXXXI
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