Tonight The Marcella Project will host a salon discussion on body image. For several years I’ve been researching, noodling and studying the theological importance of the body. One of the most prolific writers on the subject was Pope John Paul II. He spoke on the body at 129 addresses within a five year period. We Protestants have some catching up to do! Recently I had the good fortune of attending Christopher West’s seminar on body theology. (More on that in a later blog.) West writes extensively on the body – much of his work stems from Pope John Paul’s teachings.
One of the questions I’ve asked is “How does the body image our Triune God?” Scripture said, “Let us make mankind in our image – male and female..” (my paraphrase Genesis 1:26-28) There’s something significant about the fact that God placed our soul, spirit,and mind into a gendered body. We are gendered embodied spirits. Plato taught the body was bad (needed to rid ourselves of it) – but in fact if we separate the body and soul – well, we are dead. Today our culture says the opposite “our bodies are everything” particularly if you’re a woman. Well – that is if they are thin enough, sexy enough and beautiful enough. You get the point. We are our bodies but we are more than our bodies too. Neither Plato nor todays media have it right.
Why did God give us gendered bodies? What about them reflects the Godhead? There’s something there because God gave us gendered embodied spirits in the beginning. Jesus came in the flesh (deity embodied) and we have new bodies in the new heavens and new earth. So what it is that’s so important about being embodied?
I confess, I haven’t fully come to it yet – I continue to dig but I found something Carlo Maria Martini in his book On The Body, both fascinating and thought provoking.
According to the Scared Scriptures, the human being is a whole and the human body is at once part of earth and of heaven. It is clay come alive by God’s breath of life, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). We usually refer to the human body as “flesh” – basar in Hebrew – flesh that lives for the “spirit,” which is ruah in Hebrew.
The human being is fashioned of earth and of life-giving breath, and both come from God and were created by God’s Word. While it is said that each living being was created “according to its species,” there is no mention of the species to which human beings might belong. For they belong to the divine species, having been created “in his image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Clay and breath are thus bound together in a state of tension because the spirit needs the flesh to express itself, and the flesh, the body, cannot transcend itself without the breath of life.” (Martini, 37-38)
Consider what he said in the last sentence. Clay and breath are thus bound together in a state of tension because the spirit needs the flesh to express itself, and the flesh, the body, cannot transcend itself without the breath of life.
What do you think this means? How does it speak to the body being a vital part of image bearer? In what way?