Although Jerusalem and Athens are only about 700 miles apart, the philosophies that they gave to the world are light years apart. The Greeks taught that the physical world was inferior to the spiritual realm. They believed that the soul was eternal and that the physical body was just a temporary shell to be left behind. In fact, they saw the physical nature of life as a hindrance to becoming more spiritual.
When Socrates came to the time of his dying, he rejoiced that his soul at last would be free of what he called “the prison house of his body.” To the Greeks the soul and body were separate and unequal. Many Christians still allow this philosophy to dominate the way they look at life today.
It is not, however, what the Hebrew faith taught, and it clearly is not what Jesus lived or believed. The foundation of our Judeo-Christian faith is the creation story with which the Bible begins, in which God created all that is and pronounced it good, very good. Reading through the Gospels, one is immediately struck by the reality that Jesus was as concerned with healing bodies that were broken as redeeming souls that were lost.
The Greek heresy that divides life into physical and spiritual has infiltrated our thought in many negative and devastating ways, including being a sex negative society. There seems to be a deep fear that gay and lesbian people are having too much fun with our bodies so we must be bad, considering sex is physical and not spiritual. Done right, however, sex can be a pretty spiritual experience.
Today is Earth Day, and I believe that the way we have treated the physical world is another manifestation of this Greek heresy and our sin. How can Christians not be radical environmentalists? After all, the Bible teaches that, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof the world and all that dwell there in.” Nothing speaks louder against the heresy of the Greeks than the doctrine of the physical resurrection of Jesus.
Every church I know has the cross as a focal point. Why the cross? Why not the tomb? The cross speaks of sin and death, but the tomb speaks of new life and hope. The cross is an image of dying; the tomb is an image of new birth. We need to be mindful of the cross, but we should focus on the empty tomb. Many people before and after Jesus were crucified, but Jesus was the only one who got up. The tomb was the womb from which new life was born for us all.
Perhaps if we were more “empty tomb people” and a little less “cross people” we could treat the earth like the womb of life … and then there would be hope that life on this earth might actually have a future. Ancient Greek heretics need to repent!
Rev. Michael Piazza