Friday, September 19, 2008

The Body and Cell Biology of Christ

1Cr 12:12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ.”
The Body of Christ is an analogy which may be far deeper than I originally gave it credit for. I have now studied basic cell biology a second time and have realized that this metaphor could be extended a bit. There is a hint here of something deeper. In this entry I'll describe a bit about biology in simple terms and show that there may be far more behind the body of Christ than Paul had time to write about in 1 Corinthians.
We know that all parts of the body come from a single fertilized egg, one set of DNA. Every cell in your body has a complete and almost perfect copy of the original DNA of the original fertilized egg. As the body grows, different parts of the genome are expressed or ‘turned on.’ As the body has need, the cells differentiate and become different kinds of cells. Early on, these cells become precursors. One precursor may become a skin cell or a hair cell, but does not become a nerve cell. Parts of the DNA are turned on or off to make a skin precursor different from a nerve precursor. Much of this switch-flipping is due to context; the environment of a precursor cell helps determine what it will become. More steps occur and more switches are turned in the DNA until the cells finally become a normal body cell like a skin cell or nerve cell. All cells have different roles and characteristics. Some are rapidly dividing like skin, others are slow like parts of the eye. Some are very strong like muscles, others are soft like ears. Even within a single tissue (the intestine), there is a wide variety of cells. There are some to lubricate, some to digest, some to secrete, some to fight infection. The incredible thing we have recently discovered is that under the proper conditions, the skin cell has all the information to become a nerve cell.
This is like the Church. The original seed was Christ; the DNA was the Word. That original message has been faithfully passed down to each and every member (cell) of His body. Throughout the growth of the Church, different teachers (precursor cells) have led different types of churches (normal body cells). The churches Paul planted were probably very different from the ones Peter planted in nature and character, though unified by the message (DNA), as nerves are different from skin. The kind of Christian that is produced by any local church is highly dependent on the environment. A Christian who comes to faith in a persecuted church may be far stronger than one from suburbia, as muscles are stronger than earlobes and become what they are by the context of their developing cells. The churches themselves have variety as the tissues do; an American church is not an African church as a patch of skin is not an intestine. Also the individual members of a church have vastly different talents and interests; some do accounting and some do preaching, as some cells do secreting and some do absorbing. The main point is that every single Christian is unified in the central message of the faith: the Gospel. In a similar way, every cell in a body is unified in that it has basically the exact same copy as every other cell; they, like Christians, are unified in the central message.
Normally cells behave very altruistically and will sacrifice themselves or will limit their individual growth for the good of the whole body. If the original DNA message is perverted, a cell may change its behavior. If it doesn’t sacrifice itself for the body, or if it grows faster than it ought to, it begins to grow. It becomes a tumor and drains away nutrients from the body. If it remains in its proper place, it is only an annoyance; if the perverted message spreads (if the cancer metastasizes) it may affect other parts of the body and lead to death.
This is like pride. A single man (or angel) may grow prideful and believe his role is more important than it is. As he waxes great, he may draw away others with him. He is annoying if he stays in his place, but if he leaves his place and his doctrine spread, it endangers the entire church and not just the man's neighborhood.
Maintaining the faithfulness of the original DNA message is critical to the survival of a person. There is a great amount of energy spent to keep the original message true. When it is copied, the machine that copies the DNA proofreads. After it has been copied, other machines come along and check for errors. Some even check to see if there is evidence of tampering or damage and will cause the entire cell to destroy itself with its DNA to prevent it from being copied again. Like the copying of the Bible and keeping true doctrine is essential for the success of the Church, the fidelity of the DNA is essential to the proper functioning of the body.
The same is true of the Word. Historically at least, Hebrew scholars checked and rechecked their work. When errors were suspected, they would burn the entire parchment. Reformers and apologists starting in the first century fought for pure doctrine (Rev 2:2) and opposed any changes to the original message. The maintenance of the Gospel and the Bible has been an incredible miracle and the reason why we still have a healthy Church today.


  1. Wow, that was a HUGE insight!! I'm amazed!!

  2. Grdma says what you write is complicated. It is interesting by quite a bit above my "payscale."
    How is medical school going? Are you able to keep up.
    Hoping to take Matther & Esther to dinner tonight--

  3. "For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense." - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity