Thursday, January 3, 2008

There are three main reasons why most Christians reject the idea of sex in Heaven:

  1. Most Christians believe that all sex outside of marriage is a sin. Therefore, since the Bible states that resurrected Christians will not marry (Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:27-38), then it also seems logical to conclude that there cannot be any sex in Heaven either.
  2. Some Christians believe that our resurrected bodies will no longer be gender-specific. In other words, they believe our resurrected bodies will no longer be male or female. This is based on Galatians 3:28, which states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
  3. According to Time magazine:

    "Of Americans who believe in a resurrection from the dead, two-thirds believe
    they will not have bodies after the resurrection" (Time. March 24, 1997: 75, quoted in Paul Marshall with Lela Gilbert, Heaven Is Not My Home: Learning to Live in God's Creation. Nashville: Word, 1998, page 234 ).
It's hard to comprehend how people could engage in sex without having a body. There are two books that I highly recommend for anyone who doubts that we will have physical bodies after the resurrection. One is Heaven by Randy Alcorn. The other is Resurrection by Hank Hanegraaff. Unfortunately, neither of these fine authors agree with me that there will be sexual intercourse in Heaven. But they both make a compelling case that our bodies will then be both glorified and physical. Also, they both clarify why Galatians 3:28 is not talking about God annihilating our gender distinctiveness.

Trying to persuade someone that there is sex in Heaven is difficult enough as it is. But trying to persuade someone who doesn't even believe we will have physical bodies after the resurrection is an exercise in futility; it's like beating your head against a brick wall.

Since a hope of the resurrection of the body is stated both in Scripture and in the creeds, most Christians, if asked, will tell you that they do believe in a future resurrection of their bodies. Simultaneously, many of those same people believe that their future resurrected bodies will not be physical; they'll somehow be ghost-like. I was once part of a church where people talked about the afterlife in terms of "once we become spirit-beings." No one knew exactly what that meant, but they did know one thing for certain; we would no longer be physical. Church members used to talk about one day having bodies composed of spirit, as if spirit is some kind of a mysterious substance opposed to matter.

But terms like "a non-physical resurrection" or "a spirit body" are oxymorons. There are no such things. It's like "married bachelor" or "fat anorexic." Being resurrected requires having a body. Otherwise, we would not be resurrected.

First Corinthians 15 is known as "the resurrection chapter." Verse 44 contrasts our present "natural" bodies, which are subject to death, with our future resurrected "spiritual" bodies, which will live forever. However, this does not mean that our future resurrected bodies will be composed of some kind of substance called "spirit." According to renowned Bible scholar N.T. Wright, our resurrected bodies will not be "made" of spirit. Rather, they will be "empowered" by spirit. Quoting Wright:

The word "spiritual" in 1 Corinthians 15 comes from the Greek "pneuma." But the word is pneumatikos. Greek adjectives that end in -kos do not describe the substance out of which something is made. They describe the force that is animating the thing in question. It's the difference between saying on the one hand, "Is this a wooden ship or a steel ship?" and saying on the other hand, "Is this a nuclear-powered ship or a steam-powered ship?" And the sort of adjective is of the latter type; it's a spirit-powered body.

But it's still a body. And generations of readers have been misled -particularly by the RSV and the NRSV-into thinking that the distinction Paul is making is between a physical body, in the sense of something you can actually get a grip on, and a spiritual body, in the platonic sense of something you couldn't get a grip on (Your Spirit-Powered Resurrection Body).

Wright attributes much of the confusion to a mistranslation in both the RSV and the NRSV. For instance, according to the RSV, 1 Corinthians 15:44 reads like this:

It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

According to Wright:

Paul says [we] begin with one sort of body and then it is another sort of body. The word he uses for the first sort, which is translated in the RSV and NRSV as "physical," actually there cannot mean physical. It is a bizarre mistranslation to say "physical" there.

The first word is a word formed out of "psyche" - which is the word for "soul." If you wanted to say in the ancient world that something was non-physical, you might use the word psychekon. The point is that the present body is a body animated by the ordinary human soul, and the future body will be a body animated by God's spirit and hence not corruptible.

Wright says, "God will make a new type of material not subject to death out of the old material."