Edward Schillebeeckx's Position on the Resurrection and the Time Test. What Is Resurrection Today?

By Simuţ, Ramona | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Edward Schillebeeckx's Position on the Resurrection and the Time Test. What Is Resurrection Today?


Simuţ, Ramona, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


1.Introduction. A resurrection for the future

The eschatological future or the "eschatological perfection and freedom" (Schillebeeckx 1987, 29) of human beings receives at Schillebeeckx a distinctive name employed by only a few others, including Hans Küng. As the concept of humanum has been investigated particularly for the accent it receives in Schillebeeckx, it can be traced back to Church fathers like Irenaeus and Athanasius, for instance, for whom being truly human involved both deification and humanization. This means that the humanum is a hint to the sanctification in Christ and the individual's accommodation with fellow human beings as ethics within history, so that in the end they might become true sons of God (Pelikan 1977; Küng 1999; and Casanova 1992, 22, quoted in Mong 2010, 23-41). The humanum in Schillebeeckx is the perfect human society formed out of men and women liberated of all social and political barriers. (Nevertheless, this differs from South America's liberationism in liberation theology, and instead is a "liberating" state, as Schillebeeckx calls it in his reflections on Metz's political theology, see Schillebeeckx 2014b, 69-70). This subject offers Schillebeeckx in his modern social context yet another opportunity to talk about the outcome of Christ's resurrection for modern men and women, i.e. the possibility to gain freedom and to be converted from their previous oppressive way of life. In other words, the humanum in Schillebeeckx is the Kingdom of God, which is the first metaphor describing how the future of our history will look like. The second metaphor that goes hand in hand with and is the condition for this first perfect human state is thus the "resurrection of the body". Because the Kingdom of God is a perfect community, men and women living in it are called to be completely saved and happy. This calling is the equivalent of the resurrection of the body in Schillebeeckx's opinion. The bodily resurrection presupposes the "human person, including his or her human corporeality as a visible orchestration, the distinctive melody of a person which others enjoy" (Schillebeeckx 1987, 29). However, Schillebeeckx is not ready to say that a bodily resurrection implies a real body, because we are historically bound to live in the same body we were born with. The bodily resurrection rather means an elevation to the humanum state in the same body, yet transformed to please our fellow human beings. It is a body with the same characteristics "of the individual (sarx/body/flesh in the Bible)" (Schillebeeckx 1987, 29), but analyzed on a different basis, i.e. spiritually. These thoughts are especially meaningful for this discussion since the final part of this study is an analysis of Bultmann's radical position on the resurrection as a parallel view to Schillebeeckx's particular take on the subject, however without consigning it to the test of a genuine development of the doctrine. The debate envisages the possibility or impossibility of resurrection considering their respective thought on the relationship between Jesus and God in the context of a whole body of mystical interpretations of the miracles, of which the resurrection is the supreme demonstration of power displayed by divinity within the history of mankind.

If the resurrection of the body implies only a person's transformation in accordance with human ethics and expectations, it should be very similar to what Schillebeeckx describes as the resurrection of nature or "the ecological milieu". From Schillebeeckx's description of this ecological milieu it is obvious that he not only associates it with the idea of perfection represented by God's kingdom, but also identifies it with the Kingdom of God: "The consummation of the undamaged 'ecological milieu' which human beings need to live in is suggested by the great metaphor of the 'new heaven and the new earth'" (Schillebeeckx 1987, 29-30). Jesus's resurrection would thus exceed all mundane political expectations about nature and life in nature, since the results it brought upon nature are not perfectible: they are already perfect. …

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