Manifestations of Christ’s Resurrection

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to disciple Thomas with wounds on His body: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” (Jn 20:27) Now how could a glorified body have wounds? If a man dies by being shot, will he rise with a hole in his chest? If he dies a senile and decrepit old man, will he likewise rise senile and decrepit? (St. Thomas argues that “all will rise again in the youthful age.”) A permanent cripple like Stephen Hawking surely will not rise with any disability. Well, that’s actually an easy problem to solve. Jesus’ mission was not fully completed at resurrection. It remained to prove two things to the world: (1) that He was truly resurrected, and (2) that He was glorified. As regards (1), it was useful that Jesus’ post-resurrection but pre-ascension body had enough integrity to live but was not perfect in make-up. He postponed going to heaven until such proofs had been supplied, at which point the physical integrity of His body was fully restored.

Jesus showed His wounds to attest to the truth of the resurrection, but His power to come and go through locked doors, to be seen or not seen at will belonged to the glory of His body. St. Thomas quotes Gregory: “The Lord manifested two wonders, which are mutually contrary according to human reason, when after the Resurrection He showed His body as incorruptible and at the same time palpable.” (ST, III, 55, 6, reply 2)

I believe there was a certain inevitable if not 100% truthful trick to the manifestations. It concerns the personal identity of the risen human beings with who they were in this life. St. Thomas insists that it will be the “same” body that rises that also died. “For we cannot call it resurrection unless the soul return to the same body, since resurrection is a second rising, and the same thing rises that falls: wherefore resurrection regards the body which after death falls rather than the soul which after death lives. And consequently if it be not the same body which the soul resumes, it will not be a resurrection, but rather the assuming of a new body.” (Supplement, 79, 1) I am not fully sure what he means here; perhaps he thinks that the new body will be made of the same type of matter. But it may be that he thinks it will be very much like our bodies in this life.

I believe this is wrong for two reasons. First, in the state of glory, the soul has complete and perfect control over the body; this is precisely one of the two things that make the body impassible. But if the soul is in this sense supreme, then it is “pure act” to the body’s 100% passive power. As a result, the soul’s personal identity cannot be affected in any way by the resurrection. The identity between the wayfarer in this life and the person in heaven / paradise is maintained solely through the soul and not in the least through the body, except after the resurrection as the risen saint goes on with his blessed life. For personal identity and continuity of consciousness it is therefore irrelevant whether it will be the “same” body in whatever sense that rises or a different one.

Second, the resurrected body cannot possibly work exactly as a normal body would. Now Adam’s body was normal but maintained artificially by unique divine graces. A glorified body is different from both pre- and post-original sin bodies in that it suffices itself. Even if some of its amazing powers, such as “impassibility, subtlety, agility, and clarity,” are due to “the dominion of the glorified soul… over the body,” still the functioning of the body in paradise will have to be vastly different from our exceedingly complex and weird anatomy and biochemistry that are contingent on the specific design of this world.

(E.g., of what use will our present immune system be in paradise? The über-complex process of blood clotting? The colony of good bacteria in the gut?)

I even entertained the idea that each saint will simply create his own body as he pleases in the state of glory. (This would safeguard maximum freedom of the individual in the communion of saints.) However, there are three decisive objections to this. First, if people have complete freedom to make their own bodies, what’s to prevent them from trying on for size crazy bodies? Perhaps in order to build a certain complex machine in paradise, it would be most efficient if I assumed a lizard’s body to make work easier. But this seems grotesque. There have to be people in paradise, not hideous chimeric monstrosities. Second, if merit determines the beauty of the body, then complete freedom seems to take away the proper gradations of glory of the body. If, on the contrary, there is no such freedom and one’s body is given to him once and for all, then we have the fitting incentive to lead holy active lives here. (This is still consistent with my idea that people can switch between disembodied heaven and embodied paradise at will.) Third, this comes dangerously close to the idea that the body is a mere tool united to the soul accidentally as a hammer to the hand, rather than as an essential aspect of humanity.

But even upon abandoning this hypothesis, it seems that it would have been sufficient for a successful redemption for Jesus to have some human body, as this would adequately indicate that He consented fully to keep human nature, both soul and body, united to Godhead after finding us worthy of His love despite our crimes.

Consider further that a man whose body was burned and whose ashes were scattered, or who was eaten by wild beasts, cannot be resurrected as Jesus was, whose body happened to be relatively intact. If the circumstances had been different, and, say, Jesus had been cut into several pieces, each of which was buried separately, then no resurrection similar to what we find in the Gospels would have been possible. That Jesus had the “same” body was a contingent and “lucky” fact. Why then was it necessary for Him to have it?

I think for two reasons. First, so that He could be recognized physically. For example, “he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country” (Mk 16:12), but that might not have worked everywhere. Perhaps having a different even if “better” face, etc. would have hindered Jesus from proving that He lived.

Second, in order to over-demonstrate and make abundantly clear the continuity of personal identity after general resurrection, whenever that will be, since we know that the body is so important for it in this life. Mental illness or dementia or brain damage can destroy one’s sense of identity. A senile person may not even know who he is. Jesus suggested forcefully that we will be self-same in heaven as we are here.

There was nothing special, however, about the way Jesus’ post-resurrection body looked otherwise.

Resisting Jesus Is “Natural” and Expected

Sobran’s essay makes it clear that Jesus despised mankind, even (and especially) “people who adored him,” in the New Testament at least as much as the Lord despised the “stiff-necked” Israelites in the Old (e.g., Ex 33:5). The only difference, one supposes, is that, unlike in the Torah, no murders were committed at God’s hand in the Gospels.

In the end, however, Jesus proved that His love for us far exceeded His contempt.

Christ’s Glorified Body

St. Thomas calls God’s essence “super-intelligible” in itself, though ultimately incomprehensible to us due to its infinity.

Somewhat similarly, Christ’s resurrected body is super-visible, as per “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Mt 13:43)

Thus, Betty Eadie describes her near-death experience as follows:

As I approached it, I noticed the figure of a man standing in it, with the light radiating all around him. As I got closer, the light became brilliant — brilliant beyond any description, far more brilliant than the sun — and I knew that no earthly eyes in their natural state could look upon this light without being destroyed. …

Although his light was much brighter than my own, I was aware that my light, too, illuminated us. And as our lights merged, I felt as if I had stepped into his countenance, and I felt an utter explosion of love.

Far from Christ’s post-resurrection appearances being mere visions, whether entirely subjective or more objective, He hid His glory from sight, lest He would literally blind everyone, and presented Himself like a regular human.

St. Thomas’ analogy in this regard is extremely apt: “for example, the sun, which is supremely visible, cannot be seen by the bat by reason of its excess of light.” (ST, I, 12, 1) Even Paul’s blindness from his conversion on the road to Damascus may be understood to have come from his exposure to the physical light of the divine glory. (Though it could also have been a sign of Paul’s intellectual confusion, that he didn’t know what to think, since his whole worldview was shattered by the experience.)

The Scriptures do not testify that the risen Christ showed His glory to anyone (such as in the manner of the Transfiguration), but that He had glory, again, can be deduced from His manner of appearing and disappearing, coming in through locked doors, and the like at will.

Falsity of the “Atonement” Theory

Davis has an astonishing defense of the idea that the blood of Christ is an “atonement,” a sacrifice of “something spotless” or “without blemish” to make amends for human sins.

His first example to illustrate this theory is a war between nations. Why can’t wars be fought with robots?

A nation at war stops fighting when its leaders and citizens realize that continuing to fight would be too costly: too much territory lost to the enemy, too much damage done to the homeland, and especially too many lives lost. And that is precisely the problem with my five-year-old’s fantasy.

If a nation is only losing robots, that realization — that continuing to fight would be too costly — would never be reached. Conflict between nations is always horrible, and restoring peace is costly.

It is terrible to have to say it, but first people have to die.

Well, it is not only terrible to say it, it’s false. Davis continues with a second example of Romeo and Juliet, where the feud between the families ends only upon many deaths. He repeats the principle that “it is always costly to rectify a terribly wrong situation,” and again concludes with the opinion that “somebody has to die.” (218-9)

But that’s a wrong lesson to draw from these two situations. A human being receives his wake-up call and turns around from a life of crime or sin not when “somebody dies,” but when he in his own life reaches rock bottom, when he because of his sins loses everything. On occasion it may be sufficient to be thoroughly terrified by a threat or punishment or by an actual punishment or by a sober realization of what monster or loser one has become. When one sees that the only way left to him is up, he may begin to turn his life around and make amends. Now God may play a crucial role in this process. I agree with Davis that the wrath of God is very real. Many people have reported feeling “convicted of sin,” even feeling divine contempt for themselves. But that is grace or sanctification and a work of the Holy Spirit. It is not the entirely separate act of redemption by the Son.

We may even call this experience of inner regeneration being “born again” which does involve a kind of “death.” But at the most it’s a metaphorical spiritual death not a physical one.

Once this distinction is admitted, Davis’ atonement theory falls apart. I have defended my own view of the causal connection between Christ’s actions and our salvation in many posts below: e.g., [1], [2], [3]. Now I suggested that “the Incarnation was much more about God the Son than it was about us.” But now we can add an extra point precisely about us: that the murder of Jesus was truly a new low for the human race, an ultimate crime and evil, not matched at any time either before or after. I have further pointed out that whoever you “identify” as, your kind of people killed Christ. Realizing that the lowest possible point of human depravity has already been reached and almost universally found eye-openingly horrible should remind any Christian to climb toward the light.

Atonement Theory Is Nuts

In John 17, Jesus says: “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you… I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.”

Jesus does not say, “Father, punish me horribly and humiliate and destroy me utterly so that the human race may escape its just retribution.”

If that were how it worked, then the “Father,” whoever he might actually be, would not be my God. I would judge him completely insane. I can’t worship a mad being. I’d look for another God or do without one at all. Christianity would make to me no sense.

Incompatible Properties, 2

4) Immutability vs. Love:

3. An immutable being cannot be affected by events.
4. To be all-loving, it must be possible for a being to be affected by events.
5. Hence, it is impossible for an immutable being to be all-loving (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (190)

My reply: St. Thomas solves this problem in an exceedingly simple way: “a thing has existence, or any kind of good, only inasmuch as it is willed by God. To every existing thing, then, God wills some good. Hence, since to love anything is nothing else than to will good to that thing, it is manifest that God loves everything that exists.” (ST, I, 20, 2) Clearly, no immediate threat to the immutability of God is present in this understanding.

However, Drange asks us to consider the concept of love as “agape, which is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others.” (190) Such love must exist in God. But how is it manifested, and how is it compatible with immutability?

The proof is in the 3 sacrifices of God the Son. Each time a potency was introduced in Him which reduced Him to almost nothing, yet in actualizing this potency, the Son was reborn in glory.

The first death uplifted His intellect. The Son was blinded and yet upon choosing to take part in creation, He obtained in addition to His natural vision and full comprehension of God the free knowledge of the world that He could not have otherwise. The reason why the Son was in ultimate control, taking the natural and middle knowledge as inputs and directing both the Father and the Holy Spirit, was that the world was made for Him, and He is its ruler.

The second near-death occurred at His conception. The Son was reduced from God to a zygote. His power was thus dialed down to zero, yet upon His embrace of life and public ministry (perhaps at His baptism), Jesus grew up with the omnipotence equal to the Father’s, as manifested by His subsequent miracles. That’s the sense of “kenosis.”

His final death and self-sacrifice occurred through the Christ’s passion on the cross. He was tempted with hating mankind yet found us worthy at the end by rising from the dead, loving us with His will so much as to draw all unto Himself as branches to His vine.

God therefore is absolutely immutable by His 2nd-level nature, but can be made mutable by 3rd-level goodness. Since God is by nature pure act, any potency added to Him all but destroys His nature, but each time His nature was restored along with the world without end.

God’s self-sacrificial agape for us has therefore been demonstrated in action 3 times. Each death and rebirth changed God, but having accomplished all, God’s love for us now is once more immutable. “To sorrow, therefore, over the misery of others belongs not to God; but it does most properly belong to Him to dispel that misery, whatever be the defect we call by that name,” says St. Thomas (ST, I, 21, 3).

5) Transcendence vs. Omnipresence:

1. If God exists, then he is transcendent (i.e., outside space and time).
2. If God exists, then he is omnipresent.
3. To be transcendent, a being cannot exist anywhere in space.
4. To be omnipresent, a being must exist everywhere in space.
5. Hence, it is impossible for a transcendent being to be omnipresent (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (191)

My reply: Drange himself points out that premise 3 is vulnerable: “a being could be partly inside space and partly outside.” However, he finds this idea incoherent.

Let’s then clarify both concepts. God is present in each point in space both materially and spiritually. For material omnipresence, see

God Causes Inertial Motion;
God As Unmoved Mover; and
Proof of God’s Material Simplicity.

If God were omnipresent as simple 1st-level matter, then He would by that fact exclude all other bodies from space. It follows that He is omnipresent rather as rest energy.

This divine energy or wave-vibration permeates all things and all space. Its very universality within all created “fabric of reality” makes it ordinarily undetectable by us.

Regarding spiritual omnipresence, God is everywhere by “essence, presence, and power”: by essence which is existence, “inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being.” (ST, I, 8, 3) “But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing… Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly.” (1) St. Thomas summarizes this point: “God is in all things by His power, inasmuch as all things are subject to His power; He is by His presence in all things, as all things are bare and open to His eyes; He is in all things by His essence, inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being.” (3)

Transcendence means that God is not contained in the universe in any sense whatsoever, that He is not the world-soul, that He is “above all things by the excellence of His nature,” (1, reply 1) yet, unlike in the philosophy of process theism, the world does not also transcend God, since all things pre-exist in God as in the first cause.

6) Transcendence vs. Personhood:

3. If something is transcendent, then it cannot exist and perform actions within time.
4. But a person (or personal being) must exist and perform actions within time.
5. Therefore, something that is transcendent cannot be a person (or personal being) (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, …

My reply: The previous argument considered space; this one deals with time.

Now premise 4 is an unhappy one. God exists in eternity and would remain a person or rather the Trinity even without creation. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would each possess their own intellect, power, and will, and so would be persons.

Again, God does not exist “partly inside time and partly outside time,” a straw man of an objection to his own argument that Drange considers (which I agree would be incoherent). God’s eternity consists in “simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life,” i.e., a package of past, present, future, and timelessness wrapped into a single moment in which God lives and is in pure act. See, for example,

God’s Eternity, 1,
God’s Eternity, 2.

What Drange probably means is that a transcendent eternal God cannot be related to by us, if He cannot come down to our human temporal level.

But one of the perks of being thus eternal or transcendent with respect to time is precisely the ability to inspect all 4 time periods from a vantage point. A being as absolutely superior as God can always communicate with His creatures.

Drange mentions a related argument that opposes transcendence and freedom. As already argued, God ad intra has a will, but no free will, because He does not need freedom, being perfectly happy. Freedom is needed to choose between pleasures, to pick one and for its sake reluctantly sacrifice all others. But as Mises argued,

For an [ad intra] all-powerful being there is no pressure to choose between various states of uneasiness; he is not under the necessity of acquiescing in the lesser evil. Omnipotence would mean the power to achieve everything and to enjoy full satisfaction without being restrained by any limitations.

But this is incompatible with the very concept of action. For an almighty being the categories of ends and means do not exist. …

For the almighty being every “means” renders unlimited services, he can apply every “means” for the attainment of any ends, he can achieve every end without the employment of any means. (HA, 69)

But ad extra, in relation with the created universe, God is free by having chosen and created (again, as part of the Son’s death and rebirth) the best possible world out of an infinitude of all possibilities, by issuing grace to the just, and by governing the communion of saints in both time in this life and aeviternity in the next according to His counsel.

Thus, God is both transcendent away from and immanent within the world.

Christ’s Free Knowledge Prior to Incarnation

God the Son’s omniscience regarding His free knowledge before His incarnation may have extended only up to that point.

For in order for Christ to know that He would love us even after our worst possible crime against Him personally, He must have possessed de se, i.e., experiential, knowledge of or intimate familiarity with “what’s it like” to live — and die — as Jesus.

It is difficult to believe that He could simply foresee in eternity His decision to accept the grace of charity for humans after His death.

On the other hand, if the Son did not foresee it, then there was a chance that creation would have been in vain. It seems less than Godlike to go through with the project if it was truly unknown whether it would succeed or fail at its final stage.

We might then turn Jesus’ own parable against Him:

Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?

Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, “This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.” (Lk 14:28-30)

Could we really have ended up the pathetic creatures of a pathetic God? Surely not.

Divine Economy; Angelic Rebellion

1. By tradition we say that God the Father concerns himself with the entire universe; the Holy Spirit, with mankind, especially with its multiple kinds of unions through charity; and the Son, with the salvation and happiness of each individual.

But we can also look at it this way: the Son died the first time so that the world could be created; the second time at birth to unite humanity to the Godhead; and the third time on the cross to save individual men. But I’ve written on this extensively already.

2. The reason for man’s essential corruptibility and the inevitability of the Original Sin was the excess of potency in him. Angels are rational but have less potentiality in them and so are metaphysically safe; animals have plenty of potency but are innocent for being irrational.

As a result, man is a uniquely miserable creature. Blessed is the Lord for creating us anyway and providing an astonishing remedy for our inherent defects!

We can further see that the fall of the angels was a dispute between creatures and did not involve God. Lucifer was not so stupid as to rebel against the infinite and almighty God. His nature is and always has been intact. What happened rather was that the angels were given the grace of charity for men, as per the Holy Spirit’s mission to the world, but Lucifer despised humans for their (future) foibles and refused the grace. He then decided to wipe us off the face of the earth, not directly but by inclining us to murder each other. It should please us that the world, though it is beset by conflict, is after all not insane.

Note also that the demons will not be “punished,” as if they were part of our “civil society” of rational creatures and committed some crime. We are not cops who apprehended suspected criminals who will be granted all the requisite due process; if convicted in a court of law, “punishment” will be administered to some demons perhaps to deter others from harming men in the future. We are not a society disrupted by occasional sporadic disorderly conduct; we are at war which is total and merciless. The demons will be not punished by a civil authority but defeated in war and forced to surrender unconditionally.

Why Did the Lord Torment the Israelites?

Because the Jews represented both the best and the worst that humanity had to offer.

(In some ways, they do even now.)

In their capacity as best, God greatly blessed them; in their capacity as worst, God reviled them and fucked them in the ass with abject contempt as if they were filth.

This pattern is present in both the Old and New Testaments. An ironic thing is that in the OT the Lord brutalized the Israelites for straying from strict monotheism; in the NT Jesus condemns the Israelites precisely for their unsophisticated monotheism.

These qualities are simply two sides of the same coin. God could not make some of the Jews best without allowing the possibility that some of them would be worst. Moses and the prophets, Mary, Jesus, Jesus’ disciples were best; Judas the betrayer, the mob which demanded Jesus’ death, the ruthless Pharisees were worst. Uplifting some Jews toward glory entailed paying the price that some of them would be severely shamed.

A second answer is that OT to NT is as nature to grace. The law given to the nation of Israel was meant to purify their nature, and the prophets were raised to call Israel back to righteousness. The savage punishments served as incentives to the Jews to heed the law. Jesus came with the gift of sanctifying grace that could raise men above their nature. Since grace does not violate but builds on nature, anyone in the state of grace is spiritually uncorrupt and automatically immune from penance.

No One Has Greater Love Than This…

… to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (Jn 15:13)

What does it mean, when strictly speaking, Jesus showed His love for us not in His death but rather in His resurrection? In other words, according to my theory, He did not “lay down” but precisely picked up His life for His friends.

First, could God have always known the counterfactual,

(1) “If the Son were to incarnate, then He would love humans and unite their nature to Himself forever even after being murdered by them”?

Well, how do we know counterfactuals like

(2) “If you tilt the TV sufficiently, then it would topple over”?

We’d have to run an experiment first or use our empirical knowledge of physics. Only then can we evaluate counterfactuals like (2) even if the contrary to fact situation never actually takes place.

But prior to the Incarnation, there was and could be no such experiment to help confirm or deny (1). It was going to be a unique and non-repeatable event.

The Holy Spirit knew (1) by simple intelligence though His middle knowledge. But the Son had the final task of determining the Path.

Hence the Son had to decide, in eternity, to incarnate actually. At that point we had a new proposition,

(3) “Jesus will choose to resurrect,”

which could be foreknown by the Son by vision though His free knowledge. (3) would be true by virtue of corresponding to an actual (rather than contrary to fact) future event.

Christ’s death was the doing of His part of the bargain between Him and the Father who created the world for His Son’s pleasure. It was fully understood that humans were the unique creatures in the whole of creation whose nature was corruptible and would in fact corrupt. The question remained, would the Son love us humans despite our wickedness? And how to find out?

It wouldn’t have worked for the Son to say casually, “I guess they are Ok, so go ahead, Father, and just create these suckers. So they are corrupt. Whatever.”

The problem was solved by the Father requiring the Son, as a condition of the Father’s gift to Him, to become incarnate and feel humanity’s evils immediately and personally. The Son would then decide, armed with this intimate de se knowledge of what sort of crazy messed-up motherfuckers we humans really are, whether to redeem or condemn the world.

His resurrection sealed and completed the project of the creation of the external to God universe: we are worth the trouble, Jesus the judge ruled.

As a result, I say that Jesus’ death was a means to His rendering His choice about us which He at the time of speaking foresaw to be to redeem. Though He did not die for His friends, He died so that He could, having accepted the Holy Spirit’s final gift of charity, rise for them.

The cost of Jesus’ death was paid ultimately but not proximately for the sake of benefits to us. It is only when we understand this dynamics and know that our interlocutors understand it, too, that we can collapse the statement “Jesus died at the Father’s will, from our maximally unjust crime; but His love endured and overcame, and He rose for us” to the otherwise unintelligible and offensive “Jesus died for us.”