In his latest post on “Redemption and the Body,” geraldens reflects on a funeral he attended. He concludes his reflection by suggesting the following: “If redemption is tied to our bodily frailty, is it possible that the new resurrected body will also be one of vulnerability and weakness?” I want to take up this question.
Let me begin my saying that I think it is deeply problematic to our theological thinking when we equate vulnerability, weakness, fragility, (especially of the body) with sin and corruption. We think this way for a number of reasons, most simply because our language for the sinful state of creation is brokenness and corruption, and our language for ultimate reconciliation (and pre-Fall existence) is that of health, healing, reconciliation, wholeness. This kind of paradigm prevents us from thinking the goodness of vulnerability, weakness, and fragility, and their reconciliatory power (which of course is what the Gospels and Epistles show us). In this paradigm, we get a linear theology of redemption: wholeness, harmony, health -> brokenness, sin, suffering -> redemption as restoration to the original form of creation. You can also see this logic at work in the theology of the 3 friends in Job.
The question posed above reminds me of some of Peter Widdicombe’s work, exploring patristic writings on the question of whether the ascended body of Christ retains the marks of the wounds of the crucifixion. For Cyril, writes Widdicombe, “whether the glorified body retains the marks of the wounds is of great theological significance: it has direct implications for how we are to think about what it is that God has done for us in the sending of the Son and how we are to understand the process of redemption.” Cyril affirms that the risen body of Christ, and the ascended body, retain the wounds. Widdidcombe writes further: “The appearance of the marks of the wounds and the resurrected body of Christ are, for Cyril, evidence specifically of two things: the identity of the body – the body which appeared to the disciples is the same one that hung on the cross; and the physicality of the body – however it was to be conceived, what the disciples saw before them was a real body.” Now, Cyril also recognizes that a difficulty remains, namely that the marks of corruption are apparent on an incorruptible body. But again, this is an erroneous way of thinking: “He quotes the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:43: that which “is sown in weakness is raised in power”, and that which “is sown in dishonour is raised in glory,” and he concludes that there will be “no remnant of adventitious corruption left in us […]. For the human body was not made for death and corruption.” Clearly, then, whatever we are to make of the retention of the marks of the wounds, they are not to be seen as signs of corruption in the saviour’s body.”
All that is to say that, yes, not only is it possible that the resurrected body will also be one of vulnerability and of weakness, but that this is precisely the kind of transformation that the resurrection effects — the redeemed body is incorruptible and retains the marks of the wounds, and thus it is the very redeemed and risen body that is at once a vulnerable, weak, and fragile body.
All quotes are from Peter Widdicombe, “The Wounds and the Ascended Body: The Marks of Crucifixion in the Glorified Christ from Justin Martyr to John Clavin,” in Laval théologique et philosophique, vol. 59, nº 1, 2003, p.137-154.
The article is available here (pdf).