The Body of Christ Cannot Be Mummified

An oft-forgotten mummy in Scripture teaches us how idolatry deadens, but Jesus awakens.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

Over the past several weeks, I was away with a Christianity Today group, teaching through Exodus up and down the Nile River in Egypt. Along the way, I found myself in lots of temples and tombs—many of them filled with the embalmed corpses of ancient Egyptian kings and queens.

As I was there, though, I couldn’t help but think about the American church. With all the talk—some legitimate, some not—of an “exodus” away from religion, I wonder if we’ve lost the point. Maybe the American church isn’t dead. Maybe it’s not even dying. Maybe the predicament is worse than that. Maybe the American church is mummified.

Mummies are more than just a way of disposing of bodies; they represent a specifically ancient Egyptian vision of life and death. Mummification, after all, isn’t easy. Only a society as technologically advanced as ancient Egypt could accomplish embalming bodies in a way that could preserve them for thousands of years. Mummification reflects a certain stability of the powers-that-be. Pharaohs and governors, and those they choose to be with them, are those who are mummified—an assumption that in the life to come, power is defined just as power is now; the first will be first and the last will be last. Denial, as they say, is sometimes just a river in Egypt.

Christians often forget the most famous mummy in Scripture—the way the Book of Genesis ends. Joseph, the hated younger brother of the sons of Israel, was, of course, sold into slavery, reported to be dead, and then rose to power in Egypt. He was so thoroughly acclimated into the Egyptian way that his own brothers did not recognize …

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