August 3, 2005

Heaven and Resurrection

Thomas Aquinas provides a fascinating solution to an apparent contradiction in Catholic (and indeed Christian) theology. The contradiction is between the following two doctrines: first, the disembodied souls in heaven are perfectly happy; and second, the resurrection of the body at the end of time is a good thing. The problem is that, if the disembodied souls in heaven are perfectly happy, how can it be good for them to be resurrected?

Thomas Aquinas resolves the problem by carefully considering the meaning of "perfection", and, in fact, invents the term "perfectior", a comparative degree of a superlative concept, to solve the problem. He argues that there are two different meanings of perfection. One is relative perfection and one is absolute perfection. His solution will be that the both the souls in heaven and the resurrected bodies will be relatively perfectly happy, but the resurrected blessed are more absolutely happy.

Relative perfection is having all of one's potentialities actualised (or, if that sounds too metaphysical, having all of one's abilities fulfilled). So, for instance, a perfect snail has all of its snailish potentialities actualised - it is a perfected snail. However, it is still just a snail. A perfected human would have even more perfections, like a perfected intellect and a perfected love of God. It would be just as relatively perfect as the snail, since it too has all its potentialities actualised. However, it would be more absolutely perfect, or "perfectior", than the snail, since it has more perfections to have actualised.

In the case of the disembodied souls in heaven, they are perfectly happy, and they have all the perfections of the soul fully actualised, including reason, will and love of God. However, they still have less perfections than an embodied human being who also has a perfected body, perfected emotions, and perfected physical appetites. As such, the disembodied souls in heaven are perfectly happy, in so far as they are relatively perfected. However, the resurrected blessed at the end of time are even more perfectly happy, in so far as they are equally relatively perfected and more absolutely perfected than the souls in heaven. In this way, Thomas Aquinas reconciled the apparently contradictory doctrines of the happiness of the blessed in heaven and the goodness of the resurrection.

3 comments:

Hurricane Bob said...

The disembodied souls in heaven are indeed perfectly happy. But the perfect bodies will be necessary for 1000 years after the second coming of Christ.

Let me explain as best as I can:

A study of the books of Daniel, Isaih, Jeremiah, Matthew, and Revelation will reveal God's plan for the "end of the Earth" The first event to take place will be the Rapture. First of all, the bodies of all believers in heaven will be resurrected, then all living beievers will be taken into heaven. At this time the tribulation will begin. It will last 7 years. This is the period when Satan will rule the Earth through the Anti-Christ. At the end of the tribulation, Jesus will have His second coming. He will return to Earth with his Army of Believers (in their perfect bodies) and a battle with Satan will take place. The loser (Satan) will be sent to Hades with his demons for 1000 years at this point. All non-believers will go straight to hell (to use an overused phrase). Once this happens Jesus will rule over His kingdom on Earth with all the Believers (in perfect bodies) for a millinium (1000 years). So thwere is a need for the souls being happy and for them to have their bodies resurrected.

Daniel said...

Thank you for your response. I admit, I don't know very much about premillenialism. I'd suggest reading this article on the
Rapture
, if you're interested.

Tumnus said...

I contend that you will not find any Secret Rapture of the Church in any of these books. This theory has been attached to certain passages like I Thessalonians 4 and II Thessalonians 2 as if they teach it, but it is actually a theological rather than a biblical teaching. For instance, I Thessalonians 4:13-18 speaks of the catching up of the saints at the Lord's coming not seven years before His coming. I associate this passage with the gathering together of the elect in Matthew 24:31. In fact, this teaching seems to contradict II Thessalonians 1:6-10 that speaks of the saints' being delivered when the Lord comes in judgment. And the teaching about how He will come as a thief doesn't work because in Revelation 16:15 He speaks of coming as a thief in the context of Armageddon. In conclusion, I don't believe that He will come with "with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet" and "with his mighty angels in flaming fire, giving vengeance" to secretly snatch away the believers, and I challenge you to show me any place that the bible clearly teaches the Secret Rapture as it clearly teaches other things such as the deity of Christ, the resurrection, His second coming, and His creation of the world in six days.