Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Three Bodies

I recently returned from the Poets, Prophets, and Preachers conference. It was a fantastic experience. Rob did an amazing job of setting an elegant table for some really stimulating presentations. Pete Rollins and I were invited to join him, which was an honor and a joy. I loved meeting Pete. I only wish we had had more time together.

I gave two talks there - one entitled "How Technology Shapes the Sermon," and another entitled "You Are the Medium." This second presentation was new material I had never presented publicly. As a result, it generated a few questions.

This post is intended to offer some clarification.

In this presentation I argued that we as people are the most powerful medium that God could have chosen to convey God's message to the world. I then proceeded to examine the medium of the human being. One simple way to think about it, but not the only way, is that the human being is comprised of three parts or "bodies." The same way the element of H20 has three aspects (ice, water, and vapor), the human being could be thought of as having three aspects.

I call them:

1) The Physical Body: The part of us comprised of physical cells, which can be measured scientifically and apprehended through the five senses.

2) The Energetic Body: The part of us comprised of emotions, thoughts, desires, etc. These things have an energetic quality to them, they are very real but not easily measured or confirmed by scientific inquiry or the five senses.

3) The Essential Body: This is the deepest part of ourselves, the part that shares the same essence as Christ (Romans 8:11; John 17:22-23; Luke 17:21 to name only a few), and the part of us that is always and already at rest in the open stillness of God's Kingdom of grace, wisdom, compassion, and peace. This is the part of us that is easily and often forgotten. As a consequence, it is most feared and least understood.

In the simplest terms this division corresponds with the Biblical language that describes the same thing:
Physical = Body (soma)
Energetic = Soul (psyche)
Essential = Spirit (pneuma)

I deliberately chose not to use the Biblical language as it is poorly distinguished in the Christian imagination. Most people don't see a difference between "soul" and "spirit." And yet, as best I can tell, the Bible seems to think there is one.

So I intentionally played with new language to help us approach the concept with fresh eyes. While most people expressed deep appreciation, the risk was that my unfamiliar language may lead some to conclude that this is akin to New Age philosophy. Whatever the result, my hope was to rupture our assumptions and open our imaginations while remaining firmly grounded within the Biblical tradition.

In the end, whether one agrees with these divisions or language is of little consequence to me. Mostly, I hope we will come to see the extraordinary gift and powerful medium that you are for God in the world. That is one of the lessons of the incarnation. God prefers using our bodies, our beings. This is not about what you know, what you say, or even what you believe. It's about who you are.


Friar Drew said...

I was at the Poets, Prophets, and Preachers conference and was intrigued by your idea of the three parts of the person. Is there any books or other resources that you could point myself and other to that would help us wrestle with these concepts more?

pluralform said...

Hi Shane! I was at the conference too and greatly appreciated the exercise. I would also appreciate some recommendations on books on this topic if you have any. Thanks for sharing.

I also think that you should blog more often!


shannoncaroland said...

Yes, thank you for addressing this. This was new material for us too, and I did not want to dismiss it for that reason. Thanks for being patient with me.

shannoncaroland said...

The problem with this medium is that if I ask questions, it may come off antagonistic. That's not my intent. I'm just looking for clarity.

Do you understand the Kingdom within to be synonymous with the Holy Spirit? And is the Holy Spirit the essence which is unmeasurable and always at rest in God's presence? How would this apply to those who have not received the Holy Spirit?

Benjie said...

I was unable to attend the conference and I am desperately hoping that there will be an opportunity to purchase material. On the flip side I absolutely love the idea "we are the medium".

Jenna Rebekah said...

I watched the movie about a prophet named Stanley last night. This morning I read your insightful and fun-to-read essay on Magnolia. THANK YOU. It not only was enjoyable, it actually is inspiring me to revisit the dream to write and expose understanding to others that I had crossed off my list that God still has on it (the subject of the preacher in church yesterday).

Then I find you on a blog preaching at Poets, Prophets, and ???(oh yes, preachers: I suppose that's Andersen?)
as someone who researches the effect of word meaning on interpersonal communication in learning situations-- your new language is indeed helpful. One good trick as a teacher--- ask your learners what words they associate with these ideas. It helps them connect the ideas to words that resonate for them, and it all gets connected and better understood.

shj said...

Is there any way to get a copy of the talk from PP&P? I saw that Rob is only publishing his talks from the conference and I'd like to share this one w/ a few people. Thanks! sarah

Captainwow said...

I heard you say something similar to this this morning in church: "I deliberately chose not to use the Biblical language as it is poorly distinguished in the Christian imagination." poorly distinguished in the Christian imagination. I really wanted to stand up and shout "YES!" That's how you say that -- I've been looking for a way to say that!! you were talking about eternal life. anyway. thanks... and I loved this blogpost too. will be following the feed from now on.