Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Different Tempo Now

I am going to do something wild here and write a post that has nothing to do with flying poop or Mama love. I'm going to step outside my sphere of knowledge, that is, the sphere of motherhood and pretend to be an educated theologian.

In one of my classes we are reading and discussing the book Whatever Happened to the Soul? At the center of the book, a collection of essays really, is the theory of nonreductive physicalism. That being the idea that, "the person is a physical organism whose complex functioning, both in society and in relation to God, gives rise to 'higher' human capacities such as morality and spirituality". Very simply, the book discusses the idea that, rather than humans being made up of two parts--the material and mortal part (the body, the brain, etc) and the immaterial and immortal part (the soul)--perhaps humans are just one part. This would mean that upon death, the whole person would go to heaven, not just the immortal "soul" part. And, this would mean the notion of "saving souls" would have to include the whole person. This would mean that redemption goes much further than simply "soul" redemption.

Yesterday in class, we came to the topic of evangelism, and what adopting nonreductive physicalism would mean for it. And invariably, the question was posed:

Ok. So if you have just 30 minutes with someone, should you preach the Gospel, or give them some clean water, or some clothes, or whatever they need.

Without getting into what I believe about the whole "What if you only have 30 minutes to be with someone and YOU are the only sight of Jesus they will ever see!!" business, this is what I think. I don't think preaching the Gospel is always verbal. I think the Gospel can be preached in actions. I said yesterday, "Well really, if I live in a situation where I don't have clean water, and my babies are dying because of parasites in the water, and you come up to me and say 'Jesus loves you!', well...ok, but my babies are still dying." Telling me that Jesus loves me does not fix the problem of the parasites in the water. So if we are going to be in the business of believing that more than just an immortal and immaterial soul is being redeemed, then offering clean water to people is redemptive. Offering clean water, even without attaching verbal preaching, is preaching the Gospel.

In fact, I would take that argument even further. I work at a children's shelter, and because we are not religiously affiliated, we are not supposed to share our faith, identify our faith, etc. Often, my work involves holding babies--just to hold them and give them some human contact and affection. They don't know I'm a Christian, and most of the time I am not actively praying for them while I am holding them. That work, I don't believe, is any less redemptive than sharing verses from the Bible with someone who asks me to. And even further, if a group of non-Christian people decided to set up a food bank and distribute food to the hungry, then that work too is redemptive.

I believe that God works through us, in spite of us, and without us to do his Redemptive work. I believe that we join in this work, when we strive to right the wrongs we see, when we strive to better this world. Redemption comes in many forms, and often from the most unlikely characters. And accepting the idea of nonreductive physicalism (which is really just a fancy word for "I think the whole person is worth saving") allows us to remove our ideas about hierarchies of redemption. Then we won't have to make a choice between spending our efforts preaching the Gospel to care for souls or providing clean water to care for bodies. We can simply care for people the way they need to be cared for.

I know that many people will not agree with me here. That's ok, my own high school self wouldn't have agreed with me. I guess that's just part of working out our faith. But there we have dabble into theology. Tomorrow, we'll be back to flying poop.


dawnvon said...

this is why we're friends.

Anonymous said...

really dawn? all i can think of is your "clean needle" post you made on xanga- and how it is just the antithesis of what sadie blogged about.

Matt Cleaver said...

You know another word for "nonreductive physicalism?" Orthodox.

Good words. It sounds quite Bonhoefferite.

Sadie said...

Matt, that's what I was thinking too. Sounds very orthodox to me. In class my mind kept coming back to the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed and the mentions of bodily resurrection.

Anonymous said...

When we talked about this, Sadie, didn't I mention Bonhoeffer.
Oh Dietrich! How you have changed our lives.

Sadie said...

Indeed you did Jasmine. Indeed you did. Because you are brilliant, of course. :)

philip said...

Did anyone point out the bible? james 2:16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
I think that supports you sadie and since we should base our beliefs on scripture, instead of feelings. You can use that verse with people and many others.