Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Romans 8:11 And Physical Resurrection

Chris Price has posted another article in his "Is Richard Carrier Wrong About..." series. The latest article addresses Carrier's view of Romans 8:11 as it relates to whether Paul believed in a physical resurrection.

In the comments section, Steven Carr posts some of his typical erroneous objections. (For those who don't know, Carr is a critic of Christianity who visits a lot of web sites and frequently posts on the subject of the resurrection. He doesn't make much of an effort to interact with or learn from the people who respond to him. He's posted here on occasion, and you can find our responses to him if you search the archives.) He objects that a resurrection isn't "EXPLICIT" in the passage, as if it needs to be. If the concept isn't "EXPLICIT" as he defines that term, then Price is "lying" and Price's interpretation must be "all in his mind". Then Carr objects that some passages Price cited from elsewhere in Paul's writings don't mention "our mortal bodies". But Price didn't cite the passages for that purpose. He cited them as more relevant than Carrier's passages, not as complete parallels to Romans 8:11. And Carr's citation of 2 Corinthians 5 only proves his view if we assume his reading rather than a Christian alternative, and he gives us no reason to prefer his.

For more on the subject of Paul's view of the resurrection, see here. Paul's Jewish context, the beliefs of his Christian contemporaries, and the beliefs of his churches shortly after his lifetime suggest that he believed in a bodily resurrection. Yet, Carr "wonders why Carrier can concede that some passages are problematic, yet true scholars like Layman cannot". Given that the sources surrounding Paul (those that influenced him, those influenced with him, and those influenced by him) affirmed a bodily resurrection, why should we think it would be unexpected if no passages in Paul are problematic for the position of bodily resurrection? The reason why Carrier acknowledges that some passages are problematic for his view is because his view is so wrong that he realizes that it's problematic and expects his readers to notice the same thing.


  1. I might also add that Carrier's views are doubly problematic insofar as he gives his alternatives in multiple choice form, as Steve demonstrates in his E-book.

    Is his alternative A? Well no, it's B. Really? Or is it C? or D?

    and compounding Carrier's own problems is that the contributors to TET can't seem to agree with each other.

  2. I want to clarify, for those who need it, that I'm referring to the traditional Christian view on this subject when I refer to "physical resurrection" or "bodily resurrection". I'm not denying that Carrier's view of Romans 8:11 or his two-body theory could be called "physical resurrection" in a sense in which that term isn't normally used. The usual Christian definition is about something that occurs after earthly life and involves a transformation of the body that died. These distinctions are more obvious in Chris Price's article than they are in my post, which I should have worded more clearly.

  3. For those interested, here is my initial response to Steve:


    If I wanted to lie about what the passage said I would not have quoted it and the surrounding passages in full. If you think "explicit" is too strong, try "crystal clear."

    Even the article has to backtrack and say 'The tense is future, meaning this is something that has not happened yet but will. This SUGGESTS the general resurrection at the Parousia.

    You do realize that the future tense is only part of the argument for this being a reference to the resurrection? The reference of giving life to a mortal body is the other part. And yes, together I think they make an even stronger, “crystal clear” reference to bodily resurrection.

    What do you think the implication is of the lack of a reference to "mortal bodies" in the three passages I note are better parallels to Rom. 8:11 than Carrier's? It would appear that, since no one disputes that 1 Cor. 6:14, 2 Cor. 4:14, and 1 Thess. 4:14 refer to the resurrection, the case for Romans 8:11 is all the stronger. Not only does it refer to a future event, relates that future event to Jesus' resurrection, speaks of that future event as giving life to the Christian, but it explicitly says that all of this involves the giving of life to the "mortal body." In other words, the evidence is even stronger that Rom. 8:11 speaks of a resurrection than the three passages you concede do as well.

    Remember, Carrier's point is not just to deny that 8:11 is a reference to bodily resurrection, but to deny that it is a reference to any kind of resurrection at all. I cite the three verses I do to prove that 8:11 is a reference to resurrection. Once that is established, I think even Carrier would admit defeat on this passage (though he may try and cast it off as Paul holding contradictory beliefs). Because once we concede that 8:11 refers to the resurrection, we must admit that it involves the "giving of life" to our "mortal bodies." Which is a crystal clear reference to bodily resurrection not in the two-stage theory advocated by Carrier or your "spirit is released" approach.

    Paul preached the destruction of the body, not its restoration.

    He could preach both. Death and decay obviously could be couched in terms of he destruction of the body.

    Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.'

    This is a reference to the possibility of persecution resulting in the death of the Christian. Chapter 4 goes into detail about this. Paul is not here commenting on the process God undertakes when he raises a body from the dead. Carrier seems to think he vaporizes the old body and gives a completely new one. But even here Paul writes of continuity between the old and new. In verse 4 Paul speaks of not wanting to be “unclothed” -- separated from his body – but rather to have “what is mortal swallowed up by immortality.” Paul is likely referring to being alive when Jesus returns. But I think this is still problematic for your theory and probably for Carrier's.

    Paul talks about the destruction of the present body, the earthly tent that we leave when we move into the heavenly residence.

    If by destruction you mean death, I agree. If by destruction you mean being completely subsumed into something new, I agree. But if you mean some sort of vaporizing, I'm going to need more evidence than you have provided. If Paul thinks the process is merely moving into a heavenly residence when we die, what do you think is meant by his reference to a period of being unclothed? Clearly he means a time when the spirit is without a body at all. True, the believer will again be given a body at a later time after death, but for a time he has none. Obviously, something more is happening than simply the spirit being liberated from the body. What Carrier has done – I think – is tried to explain this as the giving of a second body. The weakness in this theory is that it rests on faulty exegesis of Paul and manufactured examples of comparable beliefs in Paul's time when there appears to have been none.