DAVIS, Gus Howard
DAVIS, Gus Howard. Pastoral Therapy: The Pastor as Therapist in the Hospital. Multidisciplinary Scientific Journal Nucleus of Knowledge. Edition 05. Year 02, Vol. 01. pp 1099-1117, July 2017. ISSN:2448-0959
And if the spirit of him who raised Jesus
From the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ
From the dead will also give life to your mortal body
Through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Romans 8: 11
“The objective of the Pastor in the Hospital is to bring a Spiritual Presence into the patient’s quarters for the benefit of the patient. But the ultimate objective of the Pastor is to help the patient to interpret the meaning of his/her experience for his/her relationship with God.
The pursuit of these spiritual objective results in the hope based, not in the results of the treatment of the illness, but in the relationship that the patient maintains with God. An interpretation of suffering in a life is not an easy thing. Frequently, the pastors offer a simplistic response to the patient, as if all experience of suffering means the same thing.
In some sense of the word “suffering” all illness has a general meaning. Sickness is the results of a fallen world. But the intervention of God in Jesus Christ has restored the hope of reconciling us to God Himself and the promise of help and healing when we invoke His presence through prayer and supplication. But this promise, although absolutely reliable does not become sufficiently personal until we take into consideration the particulars of the pain of an individual person. The meaning of the illness of any person depends on the particular questions with which they are struggling with at the moment. The Pastor will need to help the patient to find in his/her faith an interpretation of their experience, learning to perceive God operating in our lives, opening our eyes to see the things of God in a new way, the way of faith, of hope and of love.
Any type of ministry that does not measure this standard is not worthy of this vocation. The world of healthcare is unique, demanding and challenging. In order to gain respect and recognition as he/she enters this world, the Pastoral Therapist must come prepared with highly developed skills, knowledge and other qualifications. The curriculum of study, therefore, should be designed to prepare the trainee to convey the compassion and message of Christ in pastoral care to those in healthcare facilities and programs.
The Pastoral Therapist works from the premise that God has gifted human beings with two kinds of life which we are responsible to keep in good health and treat with equal respect and equality. These two lives we think of as physical-material and spiritual-ethereal. Both are real and have real consequences for human health. This means, that whatever is done in a physical way for the physical-material to maintain and preserve health should be done in a spiritual way for the spiritual-ethereal with the same objective in mind. It only remains that the individual be conscious of the necessities of the two contexts and act with the necessary responsibility required.
I believe that the Ancient Greeks held this understanding when they established the meaning of both health and salvation in the same word. (ἀκεσφορία) healing, salvation.” (Davis, Pastoral Therapy)
STATEMENT OF PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES
The Pastoral Therapist models through a sense of presence, attitude and a quality of relationship, the ultimate purpose of the service of bringing about wholeness of mind, body and spirit to a person suffering from physical illness and terminal diseases which often result in deep isolation, a profound sense of guilt and overwhelming grief.
“Medical Science is increasingly documenting the links between spirituality and physical health. A Time cover story from June 1996 reported a study showing that one of the strongest predictors of survival after heart surgery is the degree to which American patients draw strength and comfort from religion and that people who regularly attend religious services usually have lower blood pressure, less heart disease, lower rates of depression and better health overall than those who do not.” (Time inc.1996)
“Yet the effect of spirituality on the health of individuals ignores the much greater potential benefits from links between organized faith groups and their surrounding communities.
Traditionally, religious groups have considered the primary fruits of their community outreach to be justice and charity, which focus on one’s relationship with others. But religious groups also have a central role to play in improving the health of those in the neighborhood.
Since no profit-driven system is likely to serve or finance all the basic needs of the sick and elderly, we are finding more and more that religious groups can fill the gap between those things for which a health-care system can pay and the many services it will never provide. Many congregations have found that this is an exciting and gratifying way to practice what we profess to accept from our Holy Scripture.
The effect of faith on the health of individuals is significant, but its potential impact on the health of communities is astounding.” (Time inc, 1996) But, Just as God has necessitated doctors and ministers to work together for the health-salvation of the patient, He has also required both to see Him at work in the spiritual-material makeup of our being. It is for this reason that I have undertaken to write this article, exploring some of the issues of Spiritual-Material relations so that the essential elements of Pastoral Therapy may be illuminated and understood as having effective benefits for the patient´s health.
The work of biologist have helped us to see that physically we are made up of the same elements as our external world, such as water, soil, air and sunlight, and we must submit to the same forces of order as that which governs these elements in the external world. Here begins the mystery of human existence. Because, we have a mind which binds enormous powers, we do not altogether understand nor accept the fact that we must respond to the same rule that governs trees and rocks and rivers and other forms of life in the external world. In other words, life is a mystery to both Layman and Scientist and we are not altogether informed on just what limits this word “life” imposes on human existence.
The Pastoral Therapist, then is someone like others in ministry, who has turned to God for insight on this mystery, and has placed him/herself at the disposal of patient to bring to bare the Word of God and his/her ministry to those who are physically sick. He is not there to be a divine law enforcer even though the Word of God contains both law as well as Gospel, but since human beings cannot create Gospel, and we can create law, we have access to Gospel only as it is revealed to us by God. Therefore, the Pastoral Therapist must be a competent and conscious of his/her relationship with God person to be an effective minister of God´s Word in the quarters of the Physically Sick.
One might justly ask, “what special qualities do the Pastoral Therapist possess that favor them for God´s revelation?” The answer to this question lay in the processes of the Church which set aside and endorse people who have been selected to do this ministry. In other words, Pastoral Ministry to the physically sick is a work of the Church and it is clearly reflected in the Ministry of Jesus as outlined in the Bible (Luke 4: 18-19). I am not suggesting that Pastors are Spiritual healers, they are not. They are, however, ministers of the Gospel within the hospital setting. In this regards, I am saying that healing is a spiritual process even when it is the results of the work of Doctors.” (Davis, Pastoral Therapy)
Dr. Howard Thurman once commented on this spiritual-material relation in a lecture he gave on the subject, “The Idea of God and Modern Thought.” This lecture was delivered as the 25th annual Garvin Lecture on the “Idea of God as Affected by Modern Knowledge” at the Church of Our Father (Unitarian), Lancaster, Pa., and was published by the Garvin Lecture Series, November 23rd, 1965. Dr. Thurman wrote: “The implication is that human* life is a part of a total existence, that is held together and structured by tremendous forces over which we are unable to exercise any effective control. We are a part of a larger whole, a universe, which operates on the basis of laws that are not only independent of the human Mind, but of which our life is a minor or insignificant part. The application of the Scientific method to the world of Nature has made this disclosure a part of human awareness of the world in which we live.” (H. D. Thurman 4)
The Pastoral Therapists then are conscious of their role as mediator between God, Patient and Hospital Worker; and their duty is to constantly invoke God´s mercy on behalf of the Patient as well as God´s wisdom and intervention of The Holy Spirit on behalf of doctors and hospital workers, so that conditions may be prepared for God to pronounce His all-important and hoped for final word on the Patient´s condition.
“Illness and it´s attack on human health is in general systematic and often requires technical detective work to track it down and arrest it´s invasion. But, there are also spiritual reasons involved in the Success of viral and other forms of illness attacks, and they are not always the fault of the Patient. The Biblical book of Job clearly spells this out. But these reasons can also be systemic and require technical detective work as well. For this reason, I want to add some discussion in this Article about the role of Psycho-Therapy. I am not saying that the Pastor should be prepared to practice Psycho-therapy, but he/she needs to understand the work of Psycho-Therapy and be prepared to work with these health professionals. I will say more about this later.” (Davis, Pastoral Therapy) Meanwhile, let us turn now to discuss some of the issues that are of principal concern to the Pastor as Therapist. The first of these has to do with values.
HELPING THE PATIENT TO VALUE THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
“For if you live according to the sinful nature, You will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death The misdeeds of the body, you will live, Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans (8: 13).”
The attack of disease upon the body is yet the most visible evidence of the vulnerability of the body to forces over which we do not have control nor can we resist. But, a healthy spiritual life put at our disposal other forces which are able to insulate and pressure what is most vital to our lives. We often refer to these forces as help for the body when the body cannot help its self.
“A healthy spiritual life can give to the mind a sense of peace which serves to insulate the body against fear and anxiety. Then excess energies can be released to give the body strength to resist what at first may appear to be a loss of will and an attitude of defeat; reversing these condition of the patient and putting at his/her disposal a new line of defense against the specific attack of the illness.
But, the forces are not gratuitously available to the patient. Often this requires a radical change of attitude in the patient to access these forces. The Pastoral Therapist then is there to encourage, instruct, assure and help the patient to meet the necessary condition to prepare his spirit for an encounter with God. This sense of value then becomes a sensitive expression of the givenness of God in the Patients personality.
What I want to say here is that the “encounter experience” of a person obligates the patient to give a personal response to God. Thus begins a new journey into life for the patient, who is now conscious of the new possibilities in salvation, for he/she has met God and he/she now knows that God knows his /her name.
The Pastoral Therapist then, is the handmaiden to this process, this new birth of consciousness, which has enormous benefits for the patient´s health.” (Davis, Pastoral Therapy)
“And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”
(1st Corinthians 13: 13)
The Apostle Paul has Preached in Romans 12: 4-5: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belong to all the others.” He says practically the same thing in Ephesians 4: 4-6. Essentially, Paul is saying that the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all of its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
To be a whole person means more than just having all the body parts intact. It also means having an interior life which is sound and intact. There needs to be integration between the interior life and the exterior life, there is the need to have alimentation for each according to their needs, all this is necessary to make a person whole.
In other words the interior life involves those organs which process experience and reflect on the future possibilities in the hopes, dreams and desires of the organism. As was said earlier, these organs need substance and food as well as the physical organism. And, this fact may come as a surprise to many, but this suggestion has been empirically tested, and was reported in Journals of Psychology, for example Kate Lowenthal gives us an in-depth discussion of Gordon Allport´s work in this area. She wrote the following: “In 1950 Allport published THE INDIVIDUAL AND HIS RELIGION, a study which involved in-depth interviewing of American adults including large numbers who had served in World War II, and who had experienced horrors unthinkable to their contemporaries in the USA. Allport identified a large proportion of adults (about ninety percent of his sample) who experienced a felt need for some form of religion. Most were not affiliated to organized religious groups. Many had experienced very great stress, including battle and others war experiences, and Allport was particularly interested in how individuals come to terms with such experiences.” (Loewenthal 132-133)
Lowenthal continues the discussion by pointing out that Allport had concluded in his study the existence of a distinction between the religion of
childhood where God is expected to take care of the individual and generally to take care of things nicely. She writes: “This childlike trust is generally appropriate in childhood, but Allport suggested that adults still nurturing this form of religiosity in adulthood have had to turn a blind eye to the suffering they have encountered.” (Loewenthal 133) In other words, the organism´s capacity to process those experiences shut down in the face of over whelming forces which exceeded the capacity of the organism to process the experience. As Lowenthal says, “The childlike trust that God take care of things nicely, especially as they pertain to oneself and one´s own group, is challenged by encounters with suffering and this form of faith must be revised.”
Lowenthal reports that Allport summarizes his finding as follows: “The mature sentiment is 1) well-differentiated 2) dynamic in character in spite of it derivative nature productive of a consistent morality 4) comprehensive 5) integral 6) fundamentally heuristic.
It will be seen that these criteria are nothing else than special applications in the religious sphere of the test for maturity of personality: a widened range of interests, insight into oneself, and the development of an adequately embracing Philosophy of life.” (Loewenthal 133)
This is what I mean as the definition of a “Whole Person,” for the whole person is a mature person both physically and spiritual and this requires nourishment both materially and spiritually.
The point to be made here is that intrinsic needs are nourished with spiritual food, and that it is necessary to nourish these needs or they will atrophy just as any other parts of the body which does not receive essential food, and the consequences for health can be detrimental.
Faith, hope and love are the vital features of the interior life and they are essential to physical health as well as to spiritual health. For these are the fruits of the Spirit. They are the essential gifts from God to sustain us during the dark night of illness.
COMBATING THE EFFECTS OF SIN
“but I see another law at work in the members
of my body, waging war against the law of my
mind and making me a prisoner of the law of
sin at work within my members.” (Romans 7: 23)
“Of course, the most obvious gift from Jesus Christ, as a part of our inheritance as followers of His teachings in the Gospels is the forgiveness of our sins. It seems to be fundamental to all of the other gifts we have received. So that without the forgiveness of our sins, we are barred from access to all the others gifts which Jesus has conferred on us. We are barred from access to the Holy Spirit and He is offended by us, the Peace of God becomes inaccessible to us, The Lord´s supper becomes an abomination and damnation to our eternal souls, and death invalidates our living. But with the forgiveness of sin, Jesus purchased at an extremely high price our right to heaven, to eternal life and to an honorable position in the family of the supreme God of the whole universe. Who then, in his/her right mind, would forsake all of this, for the promises of this world?
It should not be surprising then that the enemies of God would want to deny us our inheritance that we have in Jesus Christ. From the first moment that they heard Jesus pronounce the words, “Your sins are forgiven” they began plotting to take his life. Now, I believe that if any other man had pronounced those words, they would not have been too concerned, but they perceived in Jesus, one who could possible deliver on his promises and that make Him a threat, a dangerous man and he had to be disposed of.” (Davis, THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN) So, what was the threat? Why was Jesus such a problem that He had to be gotten rid of? Well, the hierarchical structure of the Temple organization claimed exclusive access to heaven and the mind of God, but this Jesus was performing miracles in the name of heaven, and in this regard, He was breaking the patent or as they say here in Brazil in Brazilian Portuguese Patentee that was the exclusive right of the High Priest. He had to be gotten rid of or the High priest would be out of business, and the whole hierarchical organization of the Temple would suffer. We see this quite clearly in the Gospel of John 11: 45-57 (International Bible Society). In verse 47, we read: “Then the chief priest and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin (The highest council of the ancient Jews, consisting of 71 members, and exercising authority from about the 2nd century B.C.). ‘What are we accomplishing? they asked. Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was the High priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people
than that the whole nation perish.” (Gospel of John). And so, they began plotting to take Jesus´ life, and we know the rest of the story.
But, how are we to understand the value of this gift from God? I mean, how does it treat me in my day-to- day struggle with life as I encounter it? How does this forgiveness of sin work in my life? Well, obviously God was concerned with this kind of questioning too. And so, He sent His only begotten Son into the world to provide us with a vision of life without sin and to show us the depth of our condition in a world where sin had gain the victory over all of creation. The history of human sin was documented in the Old Testament where Adam and Eve through their disobedience of God´s command plunged the whole creation into a condition of Sin. The Bible calls it a fallen condition, because the foundation of perfection was destroyed and all of creation fell into a condition of sin making us prisoners of sin forever even until this day. But, through the mercy of God, who sent his only Son into the world that by His death would plumb the depth of hell to restore the foundation and lead those who are committed to obedience out of the prison of sin. And every time that my mind can reproduce the drama and the theater of that dramatic rescue, my body and my soul trembles and the joy of halleluiah gushes forth from my throat. For we have been saved from eternal death and the world can’t do us any harm.
In the Gospel of John chapter 8: vs. 31 Jesus says to the Jews who had believed in Him: “If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But, some of these Jews were in a contentious mood with Jesus and they had proud thoughts, so they answered Jesus: “We are Abraham´s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sin is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham´s descendent, yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my words.” (Gospel of John).
Leon Morris, the Australian New Testament Scholar wrote that: “this is a most dangerous spiritual state. To recognize that truth is in Jesus Christ and to do nothing about it means in effect, that one aligns oneself with the enemies of the Lord.” (Morris 403) And, just as I have said to you before, this means that you are giving your power to the enemy of God. You are giving them the advantage both physically and spiritually to dominate you and you become powerless before the forces of evil because you have no resources left to yourself, you become a slave to sin.
Let us have no doubt, illness is the effect of sin! But, not necessarily the sin of the person who has the illness; sin is the condition of the world that we live in, for this is a fallen world and sin takes its toll on all even when we are in good health. In other words, sin is to our world as water is to the fish. It is the condition of our world.
The Pastoral Therapist then, must be prepared to wage an effective war against sin while enlisting the patient´s help in waging this war. The Patient then, may not be aware that the battle is raging all around him/her. Therefore, the Therapist must instruct the patient in spiritual warfare. The patient then, must come to see that the struggle with sin is going on within the members of his/her own body, just as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:23. The necessity for developing some spiritual disciplines are clearly seen here, for, only the full armor of Christ can effectively protect and restore the patient against the damages done by sin in his/her condition of illness.
Combating the effects of sin then also has to do with restoring the dream that each human being is a child of the King and keeping that dream alive requires conscious effort and spiritual discipline; for under God, the human spirit can triumph over the most radical frustration, and this no ordinary achievement.
What I want to say to you is that God has changed things; He has put a new plan into operation. Sacrifices are no longer necessary as the Jews were use to do in the Temple, because Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice and our sins are already paid for. All that is required of our physically sick is that they recognize that Christ is the Messiah who redeemed us from the insatiable hunger of death and be grateful for their freedom from sin. It is a tragedy for a person to die and not know that they have salvation. Because, it means that they have never lived. They have existed but they have not lived because there is no life in them. And like a great tree in the middle of the forest that fell sometime during the night because the leaches had eaten away everything that had potential for life in it, they died without any hope of ever seeing their creator or knowing their salvation. And, the Bible in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 10: 23) is calling for us to persevere in our faith and in our hope in Jesus Christ, because He is faithful.
So, we have this treasure in earthen vessels which God has prepared as an inheritance for us, so let us enter boldly the most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is his body.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in
our weakness. We do not know what
we ought to pray for, but the Spirit
himself intercedes for us with groans
that words cannot express.” (Romans 8: 26)
For the purpose of our discussion, I’m using here, the following definition of Spirituality. Spirituality then is the practice of those disciplines which affirms that which religion insist is the ultimate truth about human life and destiny. These disciplines speak to that which gives supreme validation to the human spirit.
Spiritual discipline is the constant practice of or, one might say, the religious practice of those disciplines which reminds the individual and instruct the individual that he/she is the child of the King. It is the bold assertion and deep conviction of Christianity that the ultimate truth about humanity is that humanity is created in the image of God and each person has the imprint of God´s image on his/her soul. To forget this or not know this is to lose the significance of living, and it is upon this fact that both health and salvation rest. Therefore, the practice of spiritual discipline has nurturing benefits for both the physical and spiritual health of the individual. I am accustom to counsel patients that Churches are like restaurants, serving up spiritual meals for the spiritual health of individuals, and those who fail to eat expose their souls to malnutrition, leaving the individual to encounter God in a condition of spiritual anemia, and this becomes a testimony against the individual in the final judgment. The individual then would have in effect condemned himself/herself in the presence of God all powerful by presenting to God such an emaciated image of God in gratitude for this life given to him/her by God.
The effects of the seduction of the soul by sin has such consequence then that reveals the limits that life has imposed on itself.
What then are the spiritual disciplines that the individual should practice? I have made reference to Spiritual food because I tend to think of spiritual disciplines as nourishment for the spiritual life. The individual then may take as his basic reference to spiritual discipline those elements which constitute the worship service of his/her Church. For worship constitute the full or complete meal for spiritual nourishment. The singing of hymns, prayer, the reading of scriptures, the pastoral sermon and the fellowship with others believers all constitute spiritual disciplines which nourish the spiritual life. This list is not exhaustive to be sure, but they are basic to what constitute a healthy diet of spiritual disciplines.
The logic here is very subtle but far reaching. For the sub- conscious mind makes a debt claim on eternity for which the conscious mind insist is not payable, for the sub-conscious insist that the image of God in an individual is uncreated an therefore external and cannot die while the conscious mind insist that death is a fact of life. It is for this reason then, that the human spirit sings: I wanna go to heaven when I die.
“The Christian view of humanity speaks of the journey of spiritual persons through the material world. It speaks of the spirit of humanity thrust into the world, in a natural existence. By this token Christianity is a religion concerned also with the material things in the world. It is concerned with the earth, on which the Son of God walked, also with the hardship, poverty, misery and labor of the earth, and with joy and harvesting in the radiant day. It petitions for our daily bread and does not seek only the health of our spirit, but of our mind and body as well. It baptizes us in cold water as well as calls down upon us the Pentecostal Fire from Heaven.” (PAUL 194)
“ What I want to say to you is that you can only understand what it is to have faith in Christ if you regard His life as contemporary with your own life, then put yourself in the dangerous position of being among those who follow Him. Not those who followed Him in the Past, they are but example from our tradition, but those who follow Him now, in the living Church, where the practice of the living presence of the Kingdom of God is practiced now. Here, you can understand the power of faith, because it is the absolute
completeness of our faith which calls Christ into action in response to our petition in prayer; acting on the language of invisible reality He Provides the radical cure.” (PAUL 189)
Our faith speaks the language of invisible reality when we encounter Christ in the absolute completeness of our invisible soul, the deep interior of our being, which some might call our integrity. Now, for some people, this might raise another question: “What is reality? What is more real, invisible reality or material, visible reality, reality that I can see with my material eyes? For me, this question is a little like asking what is more real, a person or their shadow? For Christianity argues that those things that seem so real and formidable are indeed unreal and even dead. Leslie Paul, the author of the book with the title: “THE MEANING OF HUMAN EXISTENCE,” writes: “The Objectifications of man are not the reality, they are simply the shadow of a reality. The reality is in the inward life of man. It is the inward life that creates them to communicate and to cultivate that inward life. And the objectifications are of value in so far as they serve the inward life. It is there that the absolute reality is to be found. Every effort to deny this, from whatever quarter, and to make man the product of nature or the product of his social relation is a blow to the spirit and tends towards the enslavement of man. It should be clear, that people do not belong to society like the apple belongs to the apple tree.” (PAUL 192) Humanity belong to God for God created us for that purpose and, any person who fails to feed themself on that knowledge will like a rotten apple, fall from the tree and putrefy.
It is important for Christians to know and understand that the invisibility of God is made necessary by the invisibility of human spiritual life. How else could God know the invisible soul of a person if he were visible and material as is a person? Invisibility therefore, is the reality of God, just as it is the reality of the spiritual life of humanity. If a person has no faith in the reality of God, then he/she denies the reality of part of his/her
own existence. A person could only know him/herself as a zombie, for a body without a spirit we all know as zombie, the living dead. Faith then is the process by which the spiritual life of a person interacts with God; one might call it the language of the invisible reality. Humanity communicates with God, humanity and God being the two principles of invisible reality that has the capacity to command and shape material reality. To be certain, there exist also Angles and spirits who populate invisible reality but they do not command the material reality except upon the command of either God or humanity.
Now, just as humanity constitute the paradox of being both spiritual and material so does God constitute the paradox of being beyond time and space and within time and space. Therefore, it is our task to focus our attention upon the power of faith and how this power has worked and still works for the liberation of the people of God from the powers of evil and slavery to material reality.
Now, it follows that if a person is to see God, he/she must see with the eyes of the soul and if the soul is to see God it must look at nothing in time or space for while the soul is occupied with time or space or any image of the kind, it cannot recognize God. Therefore, this encounter between humanity and God must happen in the deep interior of the person where the language of the invisible is spoken. Here, a person listens to the voice from beyond time and space and he responds with his/her whole being.
So, in the Scriptures, we read examples of this absolute completeness which the Lord requires. In those people who saw Jesus in the flesh, in time and space, there was absolute completeness, but I maintain that they could only recognize Him as the Son of God because of this prior interior encounter. Note what they said in Matthew 9: 33, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” Even His disciples didn´t know who He was, (see Matthew 16: 13-17) but Peter, looking into his inward soul discovered there the eternal and the immediate presence of the Son of God, and that is what You and I can discover also.
THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF HUMANITY
“If there is a natural body, there is also
A spiritual body” (I Cor. 15: 44b)
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ lay in His teaching that death does not have the final say over human life. This is good news because before His coming, it was generally understood that death was final and that humanity had no hope beyond the grave. But, Jesus taught that life was eternal and that a person need only to learn the process of hiding his life in Jesus Christ to access the good news of eternal life.
Here a person is brought face to face with the possibility of his/her own immortality. How is this to be achieved? How is this to be accomplished? And the unique recourse to acquire the answer to these perplexing questions is the Bible. And, while there is much evidence and many testimonies to the fact of the immortality of the human spirit, the Bible remains to be the only archive which gives definitive instruction on how to access this good news for human destiny.
In his epistle to the Church at Corinth the Apostle Paul confronts all opposition to this divine gift of immortality for the human soul as preached in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He begins his discussion in opposition to those who say that there is no “resurrection of the dead.” In 1st Corinthians 15: 12 he writes: But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
This is the direct challenge to the Pastoral Therapist in the hospital room. And, no canned faith will served the patient who is facing death. The Immortality of the Human soul is an issue that must be firmly settled in the faith of the Therapist, only then can he/she be an effective minister to the physically sick.
Matthew Henry´s Commentary on the Whole Bible gives some insightful discussion of this issue and its practical application as outlined in the Epistle of Paul to the Church at Corinth. In the following discussion Matthew Henry Writes:
“Having confirmed the truth of our Saviour’s resurrection, the apostle goes on to refute those among the Corinthians who said there would be none: If Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? v. 12. It seems from this passage, and the course of the argument, there were some among the Corinthians who thought the resurrection an impossibility. This was a common sentiment among the heathens. But against this the apostle produces an incontestable fact, namely, the resurrection of Christ; and he goes on to argue against them from the absurdities that must follow from their principle.
As, if there be (can be) no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen (v. 13); and again, “If the dead rise not, cannot be raised or recovered to life, then is Christ not raised, v. 16. And yet it was foretold in ancient prophecies that he should rise; and it has been proved by multitudes of eye-witnesses that he had risen. And will you say, will any among you dare to say, that is not, cannot be, which God long ago said should be, and which is now undoubted matter of fact?’’
It would follow hereupon that the preaching and faith of the gospel would be vain: If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith vain, 14. This supposition admitted, would destroy the principal evidence of Christianity; and so, 1. Make preaching vain. “We apostles should be found false witnesses of God; we pretend to be God’s witnesses for truth, and to work miracles by his power in confirmation of it, and are all the while deceivers, liars for God, if in his name, and by power received from him, we go forth, and publish and assert a thing false in fact, and impossible to be true. And does not this make us the vainest men in the world, and our office and ministry the vainest and most useless thing in the world? What end could we propose to ourselves in undertaking this hard and hazardous service, if we knew our religion stood on no better foundation, nay, if we were not well assured of the contrary? What should we preach for? Would not our labour be wholly in vain? We can have no very favourable expectations in this life; and we could have none beyond it. If Christ be not raised, the gospel is a jest; it is chaff and emptiness.’’ 2. This supposition would make the faith of Christians vain, as well as the labours of ministers: If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins (v. 17), yet under the guilt and condemnation of sin, because it is through his death and sacrifice for sin alone that forgiveness is to be had. We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, Eph. 1:7. No remission of sins is to be had but through the shedding of his blood. And had his blood been shed, and his life taken away, without ever being restored, what evidence could we have had that through him we should have justification and eternal life? Had he remained under the power of death, how could he have delivered us from its power? And how vain a thing is faith in him, upon this supposition! He must rise for our justification who was delivered for our sins, or in vain we look for any such benefit by him. There had been no justification nor salvation if Christ had not risen. And must not faith in Christ be vain, and of no signification, if he be still among the dead?
Another absurdity following from this supposition is that those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. if there be no resurrection, they cannot rise, and therefore are lost, even those who have died in the Christian faith, and for it. It is plain from this that those among the Corinthians who denied the resurrection meant thereby a state of future retribution, and not merely the revival of the flesh; they took death to be the destruction and extinction of the person, and not merely of the bodily life; for otherwise the apostle could not infer the utter loss of those who slept in Jesus, from the supposition that they would never rise more or that they had no hopes in Christ after life; for they might have hope of happiness for their minds if these survived their bodies, and this would prevent the limiting of their hopes in Christ to this life only. Upon supposition there is no resurrection in your sense, no after-state and life, then dead Christians are quite lost. How vain a thing were our faith and religion upon this supposition!
And this would infer that Christ’s ministers and servants were of all men most miserable, as having hope in him in this life only (v. 19), which is another absurdity that would follow from asserting no resurrection. Their condition, who hope in Christ would be worse than that of other men. Who hope in Christ. Note, All who believe in Christ have hope in him; all who believe in him as a Redeemer hope for redemption and salvation by him; but if there be no resurrection, or state of future recompense (which was intended by those who denied the resurrection at Corinth), their hope in him must be limited to this life: and, if all their hopes in Christ lie within the compass of this life, they are in a much worse condition than the rest of mankind, especially at that time, and under those circumstances, in which the apostles wrote; for then they had no countenance nor protection from the rulers of the world, but were hated and persecuted by all men. Preachers and private Christians therefore had a hard lot if in this life only they had hope in Christ. Better be anything than a Christian upon these terms; for in this world they are hated, and hunted, and abused, stripped of all worldly comforts and exposed to all manner of sufferings: they fare much harder than other men in this life, and yet have no further nor better hopes. And is it not absurd for one who believes in Christ to admit a principle that involves so absurd an inference? Can that man have faith in Christ who can believe concerning him that he will leave his faithful servants, whether ministers or others, in a worse state than his enemies? Note, It were a gross absurdity in a Christian to admit the supposition of no resurrection or future state. It would leave no hope beyond this world, and would frequently make his condition the worst in the world. Indeed, the Christian is by his religion crucified to this world, and taught to live upon the hope of another. Carnal pleasures are insipid to him in a great degree; and spiritual and heavenly pleasures are those which he affects and pants after. How sad is his case indeed, if he must be dead to worldly pleasures and yet never hope for any better!” (Henry electronic ed.)
It seems to me that the point to be made here is that human beings have a Spiritual Body as well as a Physical Body. And the Apostle Paul gives very thorough discussion of this subject in this Epistle to the Corinthians (Chapters 15: 35-58). He further discusses how this was pre-provisioned in the plan of God when He created humanity.
Matthew Henry continues his discussion to make the following conclusion:
“To God all things are possible; and this cannot be impossible.
He illustrates this by a comparison of the first and second Adam: There is an animal body, says he, and there is a spiritual body; and then goes into the comparison in several (1.) As we have our natural body, the animal body we have in this world, from the first Adam, we expect our spiritual body from the second. This is implied in the whole comparison. (2.) This is but consonant to the different characters these two persons bear: The first Adam was made a living soul, such a being as ourselves, and with a power of propagating such beings as himself, and conveying to them a nature and animal body like his own, but none other, nor better. The second Adam is a quickening Spirit; he is the resurrection and the life, Jn. 11:25. He hath life in himself, and quickeneth whom he will, Jn. 5:20, 21. The first man was of the earth, made out of the earth, and was earthy; his body was fitted to the region of his abode: but the second Adam is the Lord from heaven; he who came down from heaven, and giveth life to the world (Jn. 6:33); he who came down from heaven and was in heaven at the same time (Jn. 3:13); the Lord of heaven and earth. If the first Adam could communicate to us natural and animal bodies, cannot the second Adam make our bodies spiritual ones? If the deputed lord of this lower creation could do the one, cannot the Lord from heaven, the Lord of heaven and earth, do the other? (3.) We must first have natural bodies from the first Adam before we can have spiritual bodies from the second (v. 49); we must bear the image of the earthy before we can bear the image of the heavenly. Such is the established order of Providence. We must have weak, frail, mortal bodies by descent from the first Adam, before we can have lively, spiritual, and immortal ones by the quickening power of the second. We must die before we can live to die no more. (4.) Yet if we are Christ’s, true believers in him (for this whole discourse relates to the resurrection of the saints), it is as certain that we shall have spiritual bodies as it is now that we have natural or animal ones. By these we are as the
first Adam, earthy, we bear his image; by those we shall be as the second Adam, have bodies like his own, heavenly, and so bear him image. And we are as certainly intended to bear the one as we have borne the other. As surely therefore as we have had natural bodies, we shall have spiritual ones. The dead in Christ shall not only rise, but shall rise thus gloriously changed.
He sums up this argument by assigning the reason of this change (v. 50): Now this I say that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor doth corruption inherit incorruption. The natural body is flesh and blood, consisting of bones, muscles, nerves, veins, arteries, and their several fluids; and, as such, it is of a corruptible frame and form, liable to dissolution, to rot and moulder. But no such thing shall inherit the heavenly regions; for this were for corruption to inherit incorruption, which is little better than a contradiction in terms. The heavenly inheritance is incorruptible, and never fadeth away,
1:4. How can this be possessed by flesh and blood, which is corruptible and will fade away? It must be changed into ever-during substance, before it can be capable of possessing the heavenly inheritance. The sum is that the bodies of the saints, when they shall rise again, will be greatly changed from what they are now, and much for the better. They are now corruptible, flesh and blood; they will be then incorruptible, glorious, and spiritual bodies, fitted to the celestial world and state, where they are ever afterwards to dwell, and have their eternal inheritance.” (Henry electronic ed.)
Mathew Henry´s discussion here confirms the Bible´s testimony to the process of Immortality for the human soul.
If a person does not believe he/she will not act as if though they do believe. How then can they access the process of immortality? For to access the process of immortality, a person must lift up Jesus Christ as the light of their life; here begins the development of the Spiritual nature of a person. For, a person is greatly rewarded in their soul to be at peace with God, as a consequence of their obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Thus, a person must come to see that their spiritual life is a body. Just as their physical life is manifested in their physical body, so is their spiritual life manifested in the body of Jesus the Christ; and this Spiritual body requires the same conscious attention that is required by their physical body. The Spiritual nature of a person then is Jesus the Christ in whom our life is hidden and whom we must lift up before the whole world as the light of our lives.
It is at this time that one might ask about the degree of difficulty involved in this process. But, this question need not involve us in prolonged discussion, for the degree of difficulty can be calculated in terms of the difficulty involve in the surrender of the individual “will” to the commands of Jesus the Christ; and Jesus Himself illustrated this most dramatically in His passion at Prayer in Gethsemane with these words; “nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done!” (Mark 14: 36)
Here is the perfect example; for what could be more challenging than the struggle between obedience and death. Jesus chose obedience over death and in the process defeated death and bequeath to all humanity the triumph of life over death.
As a consequence any person who has accessed the process of immortality can in the final hours of their life, look death in the eyes and say, “take these rags of my worn out body, I don´t need them anymore, because I´m going home to live forever in the place where you cannot follow.”
Davis, Gus H. “PASTORAL THERAPY: The Pastor as Therapist in the Hospital.” São Paulo,: Hospital Chaplains Association of São Paulo, May 2002. 26.
—. PASTORAL THERAPY: The Pastor as Therapist in the Hospital. Readings in the Ministry to the Physically Sick. São Paulo,: Hospital Chaplains Association of São Paulo (unpublished), May 2002.
—. “THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN.” Unpublished Sermon,. Campinas,: None, 27 September 2009. Preached.
Henry, Matthew. “Matthew Henry´s Commentary: On the Whole Bible, electronic ed. of the complete and unabridged edition.” Matthew Henry´s Commentary. electronic ed. 1996.
International Bible Society. The Holy Bible, New International Version/ by International Bible Society. Colorado Springs,: International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984.
Loewenthal, Kate M. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION: A SHORT INTRODUCTION. Oxford: Oneworld Plublications, 2000.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John/ Leon Morris. – Rev. ed. Ed. F.F. Bruce, Gordon D. Fee, Ned B. Stonehouse. Grand Rapids,: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.
PAUL, LESLIE. THE MEANING OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1950.
—. Deep River and The Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death/ by Howard Thurman. Richmond, : Friends United Press, 1975.
Thurman, Howard, 1900-1981. Disciplines of the spirit/ Howard Thurman. Richmond, : Friends United Pess, 1977.
—. Jesus and the disinherited/ Howard Thurman; foreword by Vincent Harding. Boston: Beacon Press , 1996.
Thurman, Howard, D.D. THE IDEA OF GOD AND MODERN THOUGHT. Lancaster, : The Garvin Lecture, 1965.
 The New International Version © 1978 by NY international Bible Society
 A Time cover story June 1996
 VEJA magazine in 1992
 The Garvin Lecture, Lancaster, Pa. 1965
 The pronouns (He, and She, as well as the word Man are altered).
 The Holy Bible, New International Version © 1973, 1978, 1984
 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION: A SHORT INTRODUCTION ©Kate M. Loewenthal 2000 Oneworld Publications, Oxford press
 The Holy Bible, Romans 7: 23, New International Version © 1973, 1978, 1984
 The Gospel according to John/ Leon Morris. P. 403 – Rev. ed. (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) © 1995, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 The Holy Bible, New International Version © 1973, 1978, 1984
 HE MEANING OF HUMAN EXISTENCE © 1949, by Leslie Paul, Published by J.B. Lippincott Co., N.Y. 1950
 The Holy Bible, New International Version © 1973, 1978, 1984
 Ibid. 1st Corinthians 15: 44b.
 Ibid. 1st Corinthians 15: 12-14.
 Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary : On the Whole Bible. electronic ed. of the complete and unabridged edition. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. 1Co 15:12
 Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary : On the Whole Bible. electronic ed. of the complete and unabridged edition.
 Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary : On the Whole Bible. electronic ed. of the complete and unabridged edition.