Thinking out loud

How is it that we do not come into being as individual humans until atoms combine for the formation of our own unique DNA, and yet do not cease to exist as individual souls when our genetic material has long since decomposed into atoms which have long since become a part of the genetic creation that is a new human being?

Comments

Scott said…
And most amazing, one day those very atoms not lost by our Majestic God, purchased by our precious savior will be themselves raised up a glorious body like unto our Lord Jesus Christ who will change these lowly bodies to be fashioned like unto his glorious body. Like the kernel planted being the very same kernel is changed when it raised up a stalk and plant. I can scarcely begin to fathom it yet believe it most fully I do. Thinking out loud with you.
Jeri Tanner said…
Okay wait a minute... how can the atoms of my decomposed body become part of the genetic creation of another human being? I'm kind of thick on these things; what am I missing? :)
WhiteStone said…
Oh, Laurie, you make my head spin. lol. All I know is this...it won't be long, a few short years, and I will lay my body down. And someday Christ will raise it up again for me. My body made new, like his new body. Oh, fantastic day, when we will no longer be subject to the death and decay that Adam's sin brought into this world and made it ours.
Laurie M. said…
Jeri,

In short, to quote physicist Richard Feynman, "All things are made of atoms." That includes our genetic structure. When we die that structure almost immediately begins to break down, ultimately and eventually right down to the atomic level.

Shakespeare's Hamlet put it colorfully in describing the whereabouts of dead Polonius as "at supper": "Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable services - two dishes, but to one table. That's the end....A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm....a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar."

And finally, Bill Bryson in his A Short History of Nearly Everything provides the words which actually led to my thinking out loud yesterday evening: "Atoms, in short, are very abundant. They are also fantastically durable. Because they are so long lived, atoms really get around. Every atom you possess has almost certainly...been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms - up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested - probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name. (The personages have to be historical, apparently, as it takes the atoms some decades to become thoroughly redistributed; however, much you may wish it, you are not yet one with Elvis Presley.)...When we die our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere - as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew. Atoms, however, go on practically forever. Nobody actually knows how long an atom can survive...." He goes on to list a number larger than I can render here.

So, for our life and growth we draw atoms from our environment. When we cease this life they go back to the environment and become part of other things. Which leaves me puzzling over the nature of our resurrection bodies, which Paul describes as being as different from our current ones as trees are from the seeds they sprouted from.
Jeri Tanner said…
Thanks Laurie, I wasn't getting down to basic body functions enough. (Funny stuff from Shakespeare.)David and I enjoyed a rousing discussion on this topic in which I grew snarky as I tend to do(so impatient!!) but basically I wondered if the very same atoms must be used in the re-creation of our bodies. If the atom is a fundamental building block, and like the pieces of a tinker toy set, if you will, and it's only the unique arrangement of those atoms in each of us that make us who we are (bodily speaking, of course)... then could it be that it doesn't matter *which* atoms make up our bodies, it only matters that the right kind in the right amounts are formed back together so as to make "us"?

Until I read your post I had always assumed that it will be the very atoms we die with that God will bring together in our resurrection, but perhaps not. As for the nature of our resurrection bodies, I think the safest thing to do is look at the Lord Jesus. He was instantly recognizable as himself, including scars; he ate, he walked and talked with his disciples, etc.; he seemed to be able to appear in and leave a room pretty dramatically, though! And maybe we won't have all the same capabilities as our Master but "we shall be like him."

Probably not too much should be made of Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 15:37 "And what you sow is not the body that is to be..." I mean that he's not introducing a strange new idea. He expected the Corinthians to understand adequately what the glorified body would be like(v.35-36a)and again, he tells them to look to the Lord Jesus to see what we shall be (vss. 42-49).

What do you think?
Laurie M. said…
Jeri,

"...then could it be that it doesn't matter *which* atoms make up our bodies, it only matters that the right kind in the right amounts are formed back together so as to make "us"?"

This has crossed my mind. But, I keep coming back to 1 Cor. 15, as it's so relevant, but to this part: "So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."

I, too, have thought about Jesus' body, which certainly gives me pause. He was recognizable, but was also unrecognizable at times. He often went unrecognized until something happened to spark recognition. So, He was the same AND different. I don't know. I'm still thinking out loud and likely will be until Kingdom come. I don't really expect any concrete answer to my ponderings before then.
John Child said…
A big question. It assumes we have souls or spirits, else there would be no problem. Despite the NT scholars & theologians who say belief in souls is Greek philosophy I'll grant it is biblical (& can offer a defence but no need here). One non-biblical argument for belief in one's soul/spirit/heart/the 'I' surviving death until the resurrection is the question of continuity & identity.
If I, John (John 1), die & no 'I' survives my death, & then I, John (John 2) am resurrected, how do I or others know if John 1 is the same as John 2? There is no continuity. God could have created a totally new John 2 & given him some or all of John 1's memories. The 'I' (or my soul/spirit) provides the continuity. I die, I go to be with Christ which is much better by far & I am resurrected & will see Jesus face to face & look forward to meeting you & talking theology!
And as far as the atoms are concerned 1) the atoms in our body are recycled & are not exclusively ours; 2) our own atoms totally change every 7 years (though I've heard there is some debate whether this is true for some parts of our body); 3) the Hamlet & Bryson quotes are new to me - the Hamlet quote is brilliant & the point Bryson makes is correct though I am highly sceptical of the 1b atoms of Shakespeare in each of us; 4)& finally, Laurie, your theological instinct is correct, our resurrection bodies will consist of atoms belonging to the new creation (no effects of the fall, probably no entropy)& these will give us glorious, imperishable & immortal bodies that will never decay or die, will be full of vitality & life.
Finally, you are spot on again. Jesus' resurrection body is both the same & different, or as I prefer to say, it displays both continuity with his pre-resurrection body (he can walk & talk, eat & converse, & was recognizable) & discontinuity (appear & disappear, walk through walls & was unrecognizable at first, though that is no doubt partly due to lack of expectancy).
As ever stimulated by your thinking,
John

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