15 May 2012

The Renewal of our Spirits and Bodies

P1010056In 1 Corinthians Paul perceives a now-and-not-yet in human salvation. Now, the redemption of our spirits, and in the future, but not-yet, the redemption of our bodies. It is part of Paul’s inaugurated eschatology. The contrast between the anthropos psuchikos (natural/unregenerate man) and ho penumatikos (he who is spiritual) in 2:14-15 expresses the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. In 15:44, the soma psuchikon (natural/unregenerate body) is transformed into the soma pneumatikon (spiritual body). One body is animated by psuche, the other animated by pneuma. The categories applied to the inward transformation of the one who has faith in Jesus Christ are here applied to their bodily transformation. Both aspects are part of the same overall process and goal. The diagram on the right is an attempt to show this.

Hans-Joachim Kraus writes similarly in his Theology of the Psalms. In his chapter on The Individual in the Presence of God, he identifies spirit (ruah) and heart (leb) as synonymous descriptions of the inner being of humans. The ruah is ‘the wind, the breath of life, the life-giving power.’ It is equivalent to breath (nismah). So Psalm 51 contains a plea for a ‘clean heart’ and ‘a new and right spirit.’ It is a plea for a creative renewal of the human ruah, which can only be achieved through the intervention of the ruah of Yahweh himself.

ruah as a revivifying element of creation corresponds here to ruah as the divine power of new creation, or of its effect on the human spirit. The person who has been renewed in her or his ruah through Gods ‘holy spirit’ is the counterpart to the person who as God’s creature has been given life through ruah or nismah. Both aspects, however, are intimately related, because it is the will of Yahweh the Creator to renew his creation. This will is, however, first active in human beings in Israel. Here the human ruah is in need of God’s protection and guidance through the divine Spirit. ‘Let thy good spirit lead me on a level path!’ (Ps. 143:10).  p147.

What Paul sets out explicitly, we detect in God’s renewing, creative action in the Psalms. What I especially love about this quote is the salvation-historical clarity: the will of the Creator for renewal is ‘first active in human beings in Israel’! The same will of the Creator is today active in all the world! We are closer today to the goal: Behold, I make all things new!