So here is the trailer for a new series on Netflix that I am planning to watch and hoping to enjoy:
One of the key elements in the story is that a person can ‘upload’ their identity so that it can be stored and then be ‘downloaded’ into another body, thus granting a certain sort of immortality.
This is one manifestation of the ancient gnostic heresy, which sees bodies as barriers to enlightenment.
Christianity, in contrast, proclaims the Word made flesh – and thus sees flesh as inherently capable of bearing divinity, thus, worthy of respect and affirmation. If you really want to protect the bodies of human beings in the world today it doesn’t help to consider them metaphysically dispensable…
Interestingly, contemporary philosophy of mind and neuroscience would concur that the idea (of disembodied intellects being the essence of who we are) is inadequate to describe our shared humanity. We do not exist apart from our bodies, and cannot exclude our bodies from our sense of self, not even of our concept of mind. No, the Biblical witness that we are embodied souls (to be resurrected one day in the body DV!) is proving remarkably robust.
So far, so uncontroversial to an informed theologian. Now for my radical turn.
Jesus was the Word made flesh, and the scandal of the incarnation is about particularity – how odd that God should choose the Jews. Jesus was a particular man who lived in a particular time and place; so far as we can tell he was very typical of a man of his time, for all of his untypical aspects are otherwise remarked upon – his teaching, his demeanour, his morally and religiously radical behaviour.
In other words, all those aspects of humanity that are tied in with a particular time and space – to be a Jew in the first century in Palestine – these also become bearers of the divine.
Which means that all our own particularities share in that potentiality; and they can only do so if they are real.
By which I mean: ontologically real. Most especially, a nation, or national identity, is a real thing. It meant something for Jesus to be a Judean. The nation is a principality, a creation of God, fallen and in need of redemption, yet also granted a place in God’s economy.
Which brings me to the Church of England, which is dying if not yet quite dead. I rather wonder whether part of the affliction from which it suffers has its root in a metaphysical blindness about the true spiritual nature of the nation which it claims to serve. That is, it would appear that, unlike the laity, almost all of the leadership has no interest or care in the salvation of England as a nation, as opposed to the individuals who live within that nation.
Might it not be the case that, if the Church of England is not to die out from lack of use, a part of the solution would be a recognition that the Church has to be for England as such?
At the moment this is just a seed of an idea. Yet it ties together so much.