On The Resurrection Of The Flesh by Tertullian
Chapter LX.--All the Characteristics of Our Bodies--Sex, Various Limbs, Etc.--Will Be Retained, Whatever Change of Functions These May Have, of Which Point, However, We are No Judges. Analogy of the Repaired Ship.
But behold how persistently they still accumulate their cavils against the flesh, especially against its identity, deriving their arguments even from the functions of our limbs; on the one hand saying that these ought to continue permanently pursuing their labours and enjoyments, as appendages to the same corporeal frame; and on the other hand contending that, inasmuch as the functions of the limbs shall one day come to an end, the bodily frame itself must be destroyed, its permanence without its limbs being deemed to be as inconceivable, as that of the limbs themselves without their functions! What, they ask, will then be the use of the cavity of our mouth, and its rows of teeth, and the passage of the throat, and the branch-way of the stomach, and the gulf of the belly, and the entangled tissue of the bowels, when there shall no longer be room for eating and drinking? What more will there be for these members to take in, masticate, swallow, secrete, digest, eject? Of what avail will be our very hands, and feet, and all our labouring limbs, when even all care about food shall cease? What purpose can be served by loins, conscious of seminal secretions, and all the other organs of generation, in the two sexes, and the laboratories of embryos, and the fountains of the breast, when concubinage, and pregnancy, and infant nurture shall cease? In short, what will be the use of the entire body, when the entire body shall become useless? In reply to all this, we have then already settled the principle that the dispensation of the future state ought not to be compared with that of the present world, and that in the interval between them a change will take place; and we now add the remark, that these functions of our bodily limbs will continue to supply the needs of this life up to the moment when life itself shall pass away from time to eternity, as the natural body gives place to the spiritual, until |this mortal puts on immorality, and this corruptible puts on incorruption:| so that when life shall itself become freed from all wants, our limbs shall then be freed also from their services, and therefore will be no longer wanted. Still, although liberated from their offices, they will be yet preserved for judgment, |that every one may receive the things done in his body.| For the judgment-seat of God requires that man be kept entire. Entire, however, he cannot be without his limbs, of the substance of which, not the functions, he consists; unless, forsooth, you will be bold enough to maintain that a ship is perfect without her keel, or her bow, or her stern, and without the solidity of her entire frame. And yet how often have we seen the same ship, after being shattered with the storm and broken by decay, with all her timbers repaired and restored, gallantly riding on the wave in all the beauty of a renewed fabric! Do we then disquiet ourselves with doubt about God's skill, and will, and rights? Besides, if a wealthy shipowner, who does not grudge money merely for his amusement or show, thoroughly repairs his ship, and then chooses that she should make no further voyages, will you contend that the old form and finish is still not necessary to the vessel, although she is no longer meant for actual service, when the mere safety of a ship requires such completeness irrespective of service? The sole question, therefore, which is enough for us to consider here, is whether the Lord, when He ordains salvation for man, intends it for his flesh; whether it is His will that the selfsame flesh shall be renewed. If so, it will be improper for you to rule, from the inutility of its limbs in the future state, that the flesh will be incapable of renovation. For a thing may be renewed, and yet be useless from having nothing to do; but it cannot be said to be useless if it has no existence. If, indeed, it has existence, it will be quite possible for it also not to be useless; it may possibly have something to do; for in the presence of God there will be no idleness.