You Are Your Body
Matter Matters in a Christian Worldview
How we view our bodies says a lot about our worldview. Are bodies something we merely “have” or are they core to who we are?
Every time I check the weather on my phone these days, I first have to watch an ad video from a local fertility clinic. The doctor asks, “Are you ready to have children, but your body is not?” And then he goes on to describe his services.
I find his question odd. Of course, wanting to have a child and not being able to is a terrible thing to experience. So I’m not questioning that at all. What I am questioning is the assumption behind his question — that we are somehow disconnected from our bodies. And that what we feel or want is superior to our physical realities.
This assumption, by the way, permeates all expressions of the sexual revolution these days: For example, think of the man who’s had an affair but says to his wife, “it just happened. She meant nothing to me,” as if his body’s desire, which meant everything during the act of adultery, wasn’t really his desire.
Or think of the young gender confused Christian who says, “I prayed that God would make me feel like a boy, but he didn’t, therefore I must be a girl.” But wait a minute, while it’s true that God may not have changed the young man’s feelings, He also didn’t change the young man’s genitalia. Why is a change of feelings relevant, but not a change of biological reality?
Or consider this example from an article authored recently by my Colson Center colleague Shane Morris, of the Christian who justifies watching smutty movies with sex and nudity by saying, “they’re just actors,” or “it advances the story.” But the actor’s body, even when they are in character, is still their real body. Just because the character is made up doesn’t change the fact that a real person is being exposed.
These examples are just new expressions of an age old heresy — one of the first heresies, in fact, dealt with and condemned as such in the early church. Gnosticism divides reality between the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual is good, but physical matter is bad, or at least irrelevant. Gnostics within the Church taught that Jesus could not have really taken on physical flesh, because the physical is bad. He only appeared to be a man.
But the Church fathers saw this for the heresy that it was. If Jesus did not really have a body, who was crucified? And who rose from the dead? And how could he really be one who, in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin? Didn’t Paul say if Christ be not risen from the dead, our faith is pointless and we’re without hope?
Contrary to Gnosticism, Christianity does not teach that reality is divided between physical and spiritual. Christianity teaches reality is divided between creator and creation. Think of the creation of Adam. God forms man out of the dust of the ground — that’s physical — breathes into him the breath of life — that’s spiritual. And man becomes a living soul. We don’t have souls; we are souls. And to be a human soul is to be embodied. Our bodies are essential, not incidental, to our humanness.
And this goes to the heart of what for the ancient pagans was the most scandalous of Christian teachings: the resurrection of the body. Just as God raised Jesus’ body from the dead, He will someday raise our bodies, too. When Jesus says in John 6 that He will raise believers “up on the last day,” He’s talking about our bodies. How our glorified, resurrected bodies will resemble our current bodies is a mystery. But we do know the disciples recognized Jesus after the resurrection, including the wounds of His crucifixion, even though he could pass through walls. As Paul says, our bodies will be sown as perishable, but raised imperishable.
Or, to quote R. C. Sproul, “For the Christian, redemption is of the body, not from the body.”
This has huge implications for our cultural moment. It’s no little irony that for years atheists accused Christians of being trapped in spiritual fantasy, living an esoteric myth, ignoring the “real world.” But all along and still today, we’re the ones saying the physical world, especially when it comes to our bodies, truly matters.
Originally published on Breakpoint.org: BreakPoint Commentaries, May 26, 2016
Re-published with permission of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview