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Corporealism

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Corporealism is the view that God has a physical, tangible presence and/or body.

Arguments for corporealism

The Bible in many places implies a physical essence or nature of God. It can be seen in the following biblical references;

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of Jehovah Elohim as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from Jehovah Elohim among the trees of the garden. But the Jehovah Elohim called to the man, "Where are you?" Adam answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." And God said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? Genesis 3:8-11

Jehovah Elohim made sounds as he walked through the garden and He verbally called out to Adam and Eve, wondering where they were. In order to do those two things, he had to have a physical body.

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless; Genesis 17:1

Now Jehovah appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. Genesis 18:1

This for certain is He who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, In what form of God? Of course he means in some form, not none. For who will deny that God is a body although God is a spirit? (John 4:24). For spirit has a bodily substance of its own kind, in its own form. Whatever therefore, was the substance of the Word that I designate a person, I claim for it the name of Son; while I recognize the Son, I assert the distinction as second to the Father. (Tertullian)
Whatever is not a body is not a being. [1]

Hobbes, in an appendix to Leviathon, writes the following in fictional dialogue form to consider objections to his views expressed in Leviathon:

In ch. iv, directly after the beginning [in par. 21], he denies that any substances are incorporeal. What else is this but either to deny that God exists or to affirm that God is a body? He affirms, of course, that God is a body.

Arguments against corporealism

Main Article: Incorporealism

God is not a physical or material being, God is spirit. He belongs to the order of mind, which is not to suggest a brain but akin to the soul or self. Humans maintain a mind or soul conjoined with a body, while God is without body. The difference is infinite self-consciousness as compared to our finite mind.

Those who support incorporeality of God suggest the bodily manifestations of God as shown in the previous passages in support for corporealism, are rather metaphorical and serve as a literary device in order to better grasp the reality or personal nature of God. To take them literally we would have intense almost animal like views of God if other passages are taken into consideration.

References

  1. Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ, ch. xi.

See Also