Monday, October 10, 2011

Nerd Theology II: Response to a Response

Victoria of Gaudete Theology wrote a critique of my post Nerd Theology. I'm thrilled to respond, both because the back-and-forth makes me feel like a ~*real academic*~ and because dialogue is essential to any meaningful exercise in process theology (which “Nerd Theology” most certainly is).

“In this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.”
2 Corinthians 5:2

“[In Heaven] there will be no animal body to weigh down the soul in its process of corruption; there will be a spiritual body with no cravings, a body subdued in every part to the will.”
Augustine, City of God XIX.17

There are two major frustrations I have with human physical reality as we currently know it:

  1. That the human body is so limited. I can't number the times I've wished for a second pair of arms. Or stalk eyes. Or the ability to fly. Or – the most frustrating aspect of being human – the ability to function without needing to waste a third of my life sleeping. (As brilliant and important a field as it is, I don't want to get into disability theory just now; all I'll say is: read The Chrysalids, and don't accept the popular conception of the non-disabled body as normative, whole, and ideal.)

  2. That the human body limits understanding. One of the earliest lessons you absorb with your baby formula is “don't get strung up by the way I look, don't judge a book by its cover” (N.B. If as a small child you absorbed the lesson in exactly this formulation, you are probably a much more awesome person than I am). But grounding my essential personhood in the particular physical body with which I am currently lumbered is doing exactly that. When you look at me and judge me to be a woman, you're reducing my personhood to a socioculturally constructed identity. Everyone, of course, makes these judgments all the time, every day, because we have no way of connecting mind-to-mind, personhood-to-personhood, and really understanding one another.

This is where God comes into it. Victoria points out that the incarnation collapsed the one true dualism of Creator and created; for Christians, this collapsing is perennial because of the Holy Spirit, the aspect of the Creator God that is now a part of us. This universal Spirit makes us one body – it connects us, mind-to-mind, personhood-to-personhood – but in our current physical reality we have no way of truly concretely experiencing this connection. The point of a transhumanist, biotechnological theology is to seek real and tangible ways of exploring our unity in the Spirit.

She's right, of course, to point out that I risk succumbing to Cartesian dualism. (Oh, irony – in seeking to avoid one form of dualism, I get sucked into another.) I suppose her point is that, whatever issues I personally may have with it, our experience as humans unquestionably encompasses the physical realm. I suppose my point is that I believe our experience of the physical realm could and will be radically different without the loss of our humanity.

And I do think the resurrection supports this belief. Jesus' post-resurrection body retains what is awesome about having a physical body (and I do recognize that some things about it are awesome; just because I'm so often uncomfortable in my own skin doesn't mean I don't enjoy good food and hot baths and hugs from those I love), while adding a number of upgrades and bugfixes. Teleportation? Yes please! Ability to pass through matter? Bring it on! The resurrected Christ is arguably the first post-human.

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