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Anglican Futures: Of Frogs & Fish Part 2

Anglican Futures

“Of Frogs & Fish”

Part Two

1. We are not dualists 

Dualism is the idea that physical things are separate from spiritual things. It has a long and ignoble pedigree. 

Jesus was clear in his teaching. Physical and spiritual things are linked; “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” [2] Our spiritual and eternal destiny is not separate from our physical bodies. Rather, what we do with our bodies has great bearing on our final and eternal destiny. Jesus is not advocating surgery, but a ruthless approach to sin which means we need to control our physical bodies. 

So also the Apostle Paul, expounding this truth to the Corinthians, is clear that our body, our physical reality, is linked to the spiritual: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”[3] 

Physical and spiritual are not separate. We may see this very clearly in the various challenges to the church over sexual behaviour. We may be less sensitive to the use of money. But, similarly, our use of money, both our reception of money, and what we give to, is not unspiritual. Whilst money is no longer as physical as it once was, it has power over physical reality as we buy and sell physical things. Money is spiritual. “No-one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”[4] Jesus was clear, money and all it can do can be an alternative to God. Money can be an idolatry in which we trust a ‘god’ to provide instead of God. Again, Paul in expounding this says, regarding those who deny the power of godliness: “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money… having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people.”[5]

It is a central truth that our obedience to God, our following of Jesus Christ does not allow us to say that ‘spirituals’ and ‘physicals’ are separate for the very reason that the Son of God became incarnate. Hence, godliness is defined by the incarnation in every area of life. This is so that the life of any church, be it local or networks of partnering churches, remains as “a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”[6] In other words, the physical, down-to-earth godliness of hospitality, family life, managing the household, are patterned on the physical down-to-earth godliness of the Christ who was “manifested in the flesh”. Dualism denies the incarnation. Biblical Christianity accepts the Bible’s teaching on the spiritual nature of what we do with physical things (bodies, money, homes, work etc). We are not dualists.

The Revd John Parker of Cornerstone Church, Colchester is the author.