Peter Leithart on Matter and Spirit


Discussing the question of the corporeality of angels, Herman Bavinck argues that angels cannot have bodies because that would imply they are material and “matter and spirit are mutually exclusive.” He charges that “it is a form of pantheistic identity philosophy to mix the two and to erase the distinction between them. And Scripture always maintains the distinction between heaven and earth, angels and humans, the spiritual and the material, invisible and visible things.”

This approach, however, gives far too much aid and comfort to materialism, which would seem to be premised on the assumption that matter is a self-enclosed reality, not open to transcendence or to spirit. Milbank makes a good case for saying that the distinction of matter and spirit is relativized in Christian thought because they are both created by a transcendent God.

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