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Q & R: Physicalist view of the afterlife

Here's the Q:
I have a couple questions about the physicalist view of the afterlife you have and how it aligns to the bible?

1. In I Corinthians 15:50, Matthew 16:13-17 it says that flesh and bone cannot go to heaven so how will there be a physical resurrection?

2. What will we do while our body is in the ground?

3. 2 Corinthians 5:6, Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:8 clearly shows that something will be separated from the body and will be in heaven during the afterlife not anything physical but spiritual?

4. Isn't it far-fetched that our dead bodies will somehow float up into the sky and we will basically live there it seems almost absurd to me?

5. This would also force someone to say that heaven is a physical place that can be found somewhere in the universe and heaven is obviously a spiritual place in the bible?

please respond to these questions

Here's the R:
This is an important question because it gives me a chance to address a problem I have with questions like this. When you say "the physicalist view of the afterlife you have," I'm not sure what you mean. I don't believe I've ever used the term physicalist before, and I'm not sure what definition you bring to the term. So if you were simply asking about my views of the afterlife, I could talk about that ... but I can't be sure what assumptions are hidden in the term "physicalist." (I have a similar problem when people use terms like liberal, conservative, process theology, evangelical, etc., etc.)

Physicalist (as I understand it) is not a term relating to the afterlife: it relates to how we see human life on this side of death. It differs with the old dualist/Cartesian view - ghost in a machine, soul/spirit in a body - and emphasizes the human being as a psycho-somatic unit. One could be (I think) a physicalist about life before death, and then believe in a variety of possibilities after death.

But that aside, your questions resonate with many questions I've asked about the afterlife and the Bible. I haven't written a lot about the subject because I'm still in the middle of rethinking it. I addressed it here: (link to downloadable pdf) - and in a chapter called "the future question" in A New Kind of Christianity. I also addressed it in The Story We Find Ourselves In. That's probably the best place to see my vision of how this life and the afterlife relate.

Since I'm rethinking this myself, I'll just offer a few comments on your questions.

1. In I Corinthians 15:50, Matthew 16:13-17 it says that flesh and bone cannot go to heaven so how will there be a physical resurrection?

That's a fascinating question. I'd point out that "inherit the kingdom of heaven" doesn't mean "go to heaven when you do" as I understand it. I'd also ask what "flesh and blood" means in context ... It might not mean "physical body" but it might mean "normal human systems of thought and behavior."

2. What will we do while our body is in the ground?

My best single-sentence definition of the afterlife is "to be retrieved, retained, reconstituted, and released for ongoing life by, with, and in the presence of God." Another way to say it would be "to be known, remembered, and loved by God" - here, I'm thinking of Jesus' reflection of God as the God of the living. I'm comfortable with saying, as Paul did, "to be absent from the body is to be present from the Lord." But I don't see the necessity of equating "absent from the body" with "in a dualistic, cartesian, body-soul dichotomist way."

3. 2 Corinthians 5:6, Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:8 clearly shows that something will be separated from the body and will be in heaven during the afterlife not anything physical but spiritual?

- Here the question is what you mean by spiritual. Do you mean an immortal ghost-like essence? Do you mean to be known by God? Paul might just be using common idioms to talk about being alive versus being dead ... When I say, "Those were earth-shaking election results," I'm using idiomatic language that doesn't imply I think earthquakes are caused by elections, and we should allow Paul that same freedom, I think.

4. Isn't it far-fetched that our dead bodies will somehow float up into the sky and we will basically live there it seems almost absurd to me?

I think the main proponents of physical resurrection are focused on bodies that are raised for life on earth - forever, or for a thousand years, or whatever. I can find problems with every way I've ever heard of dealing with all this ... which is why I am content to entrust myself to a faithful God in the afterlife, even though I don't have a clear or certain conception of what that will be. My "eye hasn't seen, nor has my ear heard, nor has my heart imagined...." - but I know enough of the faithfulness of God to agree with Paul: to be with God beyond this life (wherever, however, in whatever state) is "far better." So there's nothing to fear.

5. This would also force someone to say that heaven is a physical place that can be found somewhere in the universe and heaven is obviously a spiritual place in the bible?

Again, I think it's necessary to ask what assumptions you bring to the terms "heaven" and "spiritual." There are a lot of assumptions hidden in those words. (BTW - Moltmann has a fascinating chapter on the biblical meanings of "heaven" in "God and Creation.")