Thoughts on Our Resurrected Psyches

There are intimations in the Bible, and speculation in sermons I’ve heard, about what our resurrected physical bodies may be like and how they may differ from our present bodies — but how about our resurrected psyches?

Surely they, too, must change. You don’t have to be a total-depravity Calvinist to recognize that every person’s inner self is a mess when it comes to harboring un-Christian sentiments and having sinful thoughts. And it would make no sense for us to bring that carry that mess around with us in Heaven. (In this post, I’m going to use “in Heaven” interchangeably with “when resurrected” even though the two there may be some lag time between the two.)

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C.S. Lewis wrote that the notion of getting cleansed of our past sins appealed to him (a Protestant’s admission that Purgatory had some appeal); whether or not you agree with him on that point, surely there is something fitting about being changed so that future sins are not committed. (Speaking of C.S. Lewis: An excerpt from chapter 16 of his Miracles is quoted to good effect in the Resurrection context here by Handbook of Christian Apologetics (page 178) by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli; see also pages 274-76.)

A greater challenge is envisioning how we can clean up our personal thoughts and our personalities and still be recognizably ourselves. A cynic might say that, indeed, it is our weaknesses that distinguish us. Cf. the famous first sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

But unhappiness is not a sin; indeed, even a flaw need not be sin. A flaw can be endearing while a sin cannot.

If we lose our vanity and self-consciousness, and insecurities and inferiority complexes, then we might have a very different take on what is essential and good in our personalities and what isn’t.

We all can — and should — ask ourselves how we can be better. Successfully making those improvements would not obliterate our personalities. Come to think of it, by the way, that’s a good self-improvement question: How can I conform my thinking and behavior now to what it will be like in Heaven?

After our resurrections, the issue of predestination (narrowly defined) is of course moot, but the broader question of the extent to which we have free will might not be. If we no longer sin, then perhaps that proclivity has been removed from our resurrected psyches, but perhaps we are free to make other choices: Why would God want to change that and, indeed, if He wanted His children to have some degree of autonomy before we were resurrected, why would He not want us to have some degree of autonomy after resurrection as well?

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We expect that our bodies in Heaven will at least be healthy, a source of particular comfort as one gets older: Those aches and pains and infirmities will end, and needless to say there will be no cancers or broken bones or rotting teeth.

Jesus had some astonishing superpowers when He came back, but that doesn’t mean we will, or even that a 98-pound weakling will now look like Charles Atlas; still, it’s often thought that our bodies will have something extra, something special in addition to just being perpetually 21 years old and in perfect health.

And — again — how about our interiors? Well, we would expect to be rid of actual mental infirmities, too, would we not? Surely the adult children of an aging parent stricken with Alzheimer’s can look forward to his mind’s restoration in Heaven. And no more panic attacks or depression, right?

But consider, too, our innate intellects. Surely we would not all become super-geniuses, but what of, say, a Forrest Gump: Would he no longer be slow? Is there Down syndrome in Heaven? Is there a distinction between characteristics we are born with (Down syndrome) versus those we acquire (Alzheimer’s)?

If so, does this distinction apply also to physical characteristics, so that a person who loses an arm in farming accident regains it in Heaven, but perhaps not if he was born that way? How about, to use a frequent Biblical references, the blind: Will there be blind people, specifically people who were blind from birth, in Heaven?

Of course, whether we have a a characteristic or not won’t matter as much in Heaven, since there will be no stigma and we will all love one another, but the questions remain.

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I don’t know the answers, of course. But I would say this: Of course we will none of us be as strong as God, or as wise, or as holy — even in Heaven. But we will be more in His image. As St. Paul said of our resurrected selves (I Corinthians 15:49): “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” And St. Peter likewise (II Peter 1:4) said that God has made it possible for us to “participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

Concluding unserious postscript: So there are physical flaws and mental flaws and spiritual flaws. And there’s also dental floss, but that’s entirely different.