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Jan 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 27, 2019 – Guest Speaker

We were privileged to have Jacob Caldwell as our guest speaker this morning. In conversations with Jacob I have been impressed by the extent of his research, the depth of his thought, and the sincerity of his devotion to Jesus Christ. A physiotherapist by profession, Jacob has probed the relation between Christian spirituality and the human body. Listening to him share what he has learned throws a new light on an ancient truth and makes more real the fact that our bodies really are the temple of the Spirit of God.
chuck smith, jr.

Living by the Flesh

What does it mean to ‘live according to the flesh’?
● You probably think it’s the body.
It’s needs, desires, functions–all the wrong things we can do with it
● Jesus and Paul seemingly agree.
The following sound as if they envisioned two universes
(this is the conclusion drawn by many Evangelical Christians, including Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, pp. 60 -70)
One universe is superior, transcendent and good, while the other is inferior, material and intrinsically bad
The human body naturally belongs to the material universe

“My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 KJV).
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17 KJV).
“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29 NASB).
“… if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee” (Matthew 5:30 KJV).
“… flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50 NASB).
“… for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:12-13 NASB).
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Rom 6:12 NASB).

● We have this image of the good spirit above and the evil body below.
However, this is the ancient Manichean heresy
And it was soundly rejected by the earliest Christian theologians

● “For God so loved the world…” — the cosmos–that is, the whole of creation
The goal of Christian spirituality is not to escape the body into pure spirit

“It is a resurrection, not from the body, but of the body. The new creation is not a fresh start, but the old made new” (Robinson, The Body, pp. 82-3).

● We’re been missing something: the Incarnation
Sarx is Greek for flesh: sarcophagus (a lime-filled coffin, literally a “flesh-eater”)
sarx is dead meat, a body without spirit — a corpse
Soma is Greek for body: life, flesh with spirit, flesh fused to spirit

“. . . the body without the spirit is dead . . . (James 2:26)

Sarx will pass away, but soma is for God
Even more amazing, is that God is for the soma! (1 Cor. 6:13)

“While sarx stands for man … in his distance from God, soma stands for man … as made for God” (Robinson, The Body, p. 31).

● It’s not that we’ll leave these bodies and this physical world, but that the veil will be lifted.
We come to a realization of spirit as another dimension of the same reality
● The Kingdom of God is seeing the spiritual in the physical: the fusion of spirit and matter.

Why are we heretics?

Our culture has been shaped greatly by two theological and philosophical influences; that of St. Augustine and Rene Descartes:

“More than anyone else, Augustine shaped Western theology … throughout the Middle Ages his authority stood second only to that of Scripture. Historians have with some justice described the Reformation as a struggle between two sides of Augustine: Protestantism began with his doctrine of grace, and the Roman Catholic response grew out of his doctrine of the church. Descartes began modern philosophy with a series of arguments paraphrased from Augustine, and much of Freud reads like an extended commentary on Augustine’s Confessions. For better or worse, today’s thinking about God, or human personalities, or history, or sex still owes him a great deal” (Placher, History of Christian Theology, p. 108).

Augustine was a Manichaen before he converted to Christianity
(he was also influenced by Plato, whom he held in high regard)

● Descartes’ famous philosophical starting point: “I think therefore I am”: this is the Manichean heresy stated succinctly
● But more than the influence our culture is the fact that the Kingdom of God is terrifying:

“We have utterly separated spirit and sense [experience]; but [the cosmos] is both, with a double allurement so strong that we fear it. So we are Manichees at heart; for the Manichaean heresy is but the conscious, deliberate statement of a fear, and the assertion that it is wisdom and truth. The fear is latent in all men, and the facts of life seem to justify it. Spirit and flesh are manageable if we separate them, but fused together they sweep us away. So we are always trying to separate them, and to conceive of the universe itself as not one but two, the one all and the other nothing, the one real, the other unreal, the one pure and cold and the other warm and foul. And, whether we are devout or sceptical, we are afraid of the reality in which matter and spirit are fused” (Clutton-Brock, “Spiritual Experience,” in Streeter, The Spirit, p. 288-9).

● If we really entered the Kingdom of God, we would have to live accordingly and that’s overwhelming.
So we push God’s kingdom into the future or an alternate reality
That allows us to still be religious without the terrifying encounter with spirit

What are we going to do?

● We are going to “incarnate” the world–that is, look for the spiritual in the physical:

“If we really thought about it, we Christians would have to say that we, not the others, are the most radical materialists, because we say that the pure, actual self-communication of God, or God’s divine word, has taken on forever a true body” (Karl Rahner, The Mystical Way in Everyday Life, p. 50).

● Start with your own body:
The face–we have faces, not a face (the Hebrew word for face, panyim is used in its plural form)
People who read the micro-expressions of others’ faces can discern when they are lying
Our spirits speak through our faces, even when our mind intends otherwise
For example, we cannot control “blushing”

“We aren’t going to solve the mind-body disconnection by forcing a connection that cannot again exist. ‘I think therefore I am’ forever tore asunder the body from the mind. Our only way forward is to complete the severance, to recognize the separateness not just of the Ego, but of the rest of who we are as well. The Mind isn’t everything, and it isn’t even just the only thing that is separate. When we can imagine everything as separate, then a true connection can be rediscovered. The mind is another separate unit, just like the rest of the body, and therefore they are all connected in their existence as separate entities. The mind, the ego, the soul, the body, our praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles (Wordsworth), are all separate and yet one. They are like individual drops of water all falling from the same river off the edge of a mountain. Each is a drop, but together they are a waterfall. This is the image needed to truly connect the mind and the body” (J. Caldwell, Tending the Body, p. 105).

The heart–in scripture, the mind is located in the heart

“It [the heart] includes everything that we ascribe to the head and the brain — power of perception, reason, understanding, insight, consciousness, memory, knowledge, reflection, judgment, sense of direction, discernment. These things circumscribe the real core of meaning of the word [heart]” ( Hans Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, p. 51).

The Nephesh (Hebrew: “throat,” yet so much more–often translated “soul”): you can hear your own nephesh and that of others groan, sigh, gasp
Food and air pass through the throat, so nephesh can be that yearning, needy part of the human person

Nepes is as a rule the still unslaked desire, which urges action. … As the suffering soul especially, and as the tortured mind, the nepes is the precise subject of the psalms of lamentation; it is frightened (6.3), it despairs and is disquieted (42.5, 11, 43.5), it feels itself weak and despondent (Jonah 2.7), it is exhausted and feels defenseless (Jer 4.31), it is afflicted (Ps 31.7, Gen 42.21) and suffers misery (Isa 53.11). … The nepes experiences grief and weeps (Jer 13.17), but it also rejoices and exults over Yahweh (Ps 35.9)” (Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, p. 16-8).

● Talk to your nephesh, as in the psalms:

“Why are you cast down, O my nepesh,
and why are you disquieted within me?” (Ps 42.5).

● Then, moving from our bodies out into the world, be aware of spirit
Angels are everywhere
Someone argues, “But this isn’t rational!”
Tell that to Jesus when he talks to demons, rebukes a tree, and speaks to a storm as if it were a being.
Someone else, “But this is animism, or pantheism, or leaving Christianity”
Again, tell that to Jesus.
This only seems like leaving Christianity because we left Christianity a long time ago for the Manichean heresy.

“The power of Christ over generation after generation is not so much in the doctrine supposed to be His … as in the intensity of His spiritual experience which all men still can recognize in the beauty of His speech. What he really says is always this – that He sees God in His Kingdom of Heaven and that we can see Him too. … But there is no division so deep as that between those who recognize and value this experience and those who do not” (Clutton-Brock, Spiritual Experience, p. 293-5).

● First, learn to talk to your own nepesh and then talking to trees will be a lot easier.

● Iconography – how far we are removed from the body.

Contrast Eastern Orthodox iconography–which has always emphasized the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus–with western religious art. For instance, how the “Transfiguration of Jesus” in Eastern icons differs from Raphael’s painting of the Transfiguration. In Orthodox iconography Jesus must have both feet planted on the ground: he is a human! But in Raphael, he levitates into the heavens: he’s more of a ghost walking among us than truly one of us.

“We are children of this earth. Birth and death, body and earth, bread and wine are our life; and the earth is our homeland. In the midst of all that, of course, there is a secret essence of spirit, of subtle, tender, seeing spirit who looks toward eternity, and the soul, which infuses everything with life and lightness. But the spirit, or the soul, has to be present, has to be where we are, on this earth and in the body, clothing them with an eternal gleam instead of acting the good pilgrim who, ghostlike, wanders across the stage of the world once while remaining misunderstood and out of place there” (Rahner, The Mystical Way in Everyday Life, p. 52-3).

● Pain forces us to pay attention to the body and the physical world.
There’s nothing like pain to bring us down into the body and the physical world. Listen to it for this purpose.
● According to the Christian calendar, today is the fourth Sunday of Epiphany
○ Epiphany: “shining through”: the spiritual world shining through the physical; in Eastern Orthodox it’s called Theophany: God shining through.
○ the fourth week is all about physical healing:
● The readings for today include:

■ Mark chapters 1-2: Jesus healing physical ailments, the leper and the crippled man let down through the ceiling
■ John chapters 4-5, when Jesus heals the official’s son from a distance, and when he healed on the Sabbath
■ 2 Kings 5 when Naaman, the official of Syria is healed of leprosy by washing in the river
■ Psalm 103 which praises God for healing all our diseases

This morning, Psalm 103 will be our closing prayer
But in praying it, I will leave nepesh untranslated:

Bless the Lord, O my nepesh,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my nepesh,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust. (Ps 103 1-14)


Caldwell, Jacob. Tending the Body. 2015.
Clutton-Brock, Spiritual Experience. Essay in Streeter (ed.), The Spirit. New York: Macmillan Company, 1922.
Placher, William. A History of Christian Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1983.
Rahner, Karl. The Mystical Way in Everyday Life. Orbis Books, 2010.
Robinson, John. The Body. Bristol: Wyndham Hall Press, 1988.
Wolff, Hans. Anthropology of the Old Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973.

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