Saturday, October 18, 2014

Your body is a temple...

1. I have never liked making a fool of myself, despite the fact that I do it so easily. So I am particularly keen to help others not make my mistakes, especially when it comes to the Bible or theology. There's a lot floating around out there that we say with confidence, even though it may be obviously wrong.

I did a post a little over a month ago on soul and spirit in the Bible and on biblical words for hell. These are just things a pastor should know. A pastor should know that Sheol isn't the fiery hell and that soul in the OT isn't the detachable escape pod.

Here's another one. When 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, "You are God's temple," the "you" is plural. Paul's emphasis is not on me as an individual, as we Western individualists so easily assume. His emphasis is not that I am God's temple. His emphasis is that y'all at Corinth, together, are God's temple.

This makes perfect sense, if you think about it. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul says that the congregation at Corinth is the body of Christ. And here he says that God's Spirit dwells in you. So we have a Spirit in a body, the collective body of Christ at Corinth. We have a collective body that is a temple, taken together.

You, plural, are the temple of God.

2. 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 is why it is especially hard for us not to go individual with this image. "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" (6:19). The "your" and "you" are plural, but body is singular. I believe Paul is saying the same thing here. Your collective body [of Christ] is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

What makes it difficult for us Westerners is that Paul has been talking about those who take their individual, physical body to a prostitute. In 6:15, he talked about their plural "bodies." It's a play on words. When an individual takes his body to a prostitute, he is corrupting the collective body of Christ. The individual body is a "member" of the corporate body of Christ.

This is a hard train of thought for us. It's not the way our culture thinks. What I do with my individual body, I do with the collective body of Christ.

Bottom line, this verse really isn't about not smoking or respecting my physical body out of respect for my Creator. It really isn't the "don't smoke" verse. It's about not defiling the church by involving myself with uncleanness.

I've written a bit on Corinthians, if you're interested. See here and here.


Bob MacDonald said...

I can't disagree that the you is plural and collective. Christ is plural. But as is continuously noted in the Psalms there is a dialectiic between these two - also in Lamentations and other places where the individual incorporates the whole. The issue of cleanliness, holiness, purity, is therefore not unimportant. And the Corinthian chap who was going to the prostitutes - not as an abstract proposition - but in the sanctified flesh of his own person.

This is the reason that sex is as important as it is. We collective are both body and bride. This truth is not unknown in the Hebrew tradition quite without the NT to tell us. (Hence the references to foxes and the placement of Psalm 45 with the psalms of lament.) It is not unknown in other traditions also but perhaps the language is not as pointed. This is why certain acts of war are so clearly understood as evil.

Bob MacDonald said...

there is an aporia in that last comment - the Corinthanian chap 'should have known this' - cut and paste nipped the manuscript.

Martin LaBar said...

Interesting, for sure.

My pastor said, yesterday, that homosexuality was worse than some other sins, because it affected one's body. He didn't comment on whether making use of a prostitute was worse than, say, gossip.

I'm trying to figure out whether what you said here makes him wrong, or not.

Ken Schenck said...

Sexual sins did seem to be in a special category for Paul. It is very interesting. I think it indicates that there was still, deep in Paul's subconscious, a sense of deep uncleanness to sexual immorality of these kinds.

From the standpoint of loving one's neighbor, the standards would seem quite different. So from that standpoint, adultery would be a much more serious sin than homosexuality.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the quick response!

And, of course, adultery is important enough that it made the Ten Commandments, whereas homosexuality did not.