Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Christian Theology of the Body

One of my favorite contemporary theologians is N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, Enlgand and fourth highest bishop in the Anglican Church. He is a prolific writer and has written several books. I would highly recommend The Resurrection of the Son of God and his more popular level book, Simply Christian.

I have posted here a link to a Time magazine interview where the Time writer asks Wright several questions about his theology on the importance of the human body in Scripture. Wright, I believe, corrects a lot of wrong thinking that passes for orthodoxy in Christian circles. The link is:,8599,1710844,00.html

This link was recommended reading to me from my oldest, younger brother, Stephen. He sent me the link on Facebook and then asked me what I thought about it. Here are my thoughts below. After reading them, I would invite thoughts of your own on Wright's interview or on my own comments.


"Yeah, everything Wright said is exactly what we are supposed to believe. It is the teaching of the Bible, orthodox creeds of the early, medieval, and Reformation churches, and should be what we hold to today.

"In fact, you see doubt casted on [Wright's view] of the [End Times and our resurrection] as early as the New Testament itself, I believe. This is why the Apostle John wrote so vehemently in his First Epistle that those who are true Christians are those that confess that Jesus Christ came "in the flesh," that is, as a true human being. He was writing this to his early church community because there were false teachers among them confusing them about the human nature of Christ, teaching instead that Christ was not fully human, or only appeared to be human, like a ghost. But John understood that confessing the full, physical humanity of Christ was absolutely essential for our own salvation (Christ had to identify with those He saved) and for future, bodily resurrection.

"You see, our belief in Christ's full humanity and our value of human physicality are linked. God loves bodies so much that He created them. He loves bodies so much that He took one on Himself. He loves bodies so much that He raised Christ's body (which He still has today) as a "downpayment," or "promissory note" that He will resurrect all bodies some day in the future...some for judgment, and some destined for glory.

"But in our day, we have so de-valued the body (much as the Gnostic heretics of the second century that Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen wrote against), that we think the most important thing we have to give to the world is information. "If we can just tell them the message, give them information about the gospel, then we are doing the only important thing that matters in Christian missions."

"But a true Christian theology means that we don't just want to get a rational, ethereal, verbal message into the minds of people. We care about their bodies as well. This is why for centuries the Church has cared about founding hospitals, clinics, food banks, and education that can help people find gainful employment. The gospel is not just for our souls, a message for our minds. It also affects our bodies. It affects the way we are to treat the bodies of others now (note that Paul says our BODIES are temples of the Holy Spirit--1 Cor 3 and 6), and it affects the state of our bodies later when Christ returns.

"Modernism, the philosophical beliefs arising out of the European Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries, is the main culprit as to why we so de-emphasize and often teach heresy regarding the human body, in my estimation. Modernism told us a whole lot of things that were wrong (and some things that were right, as well). But one of those wrong things was to emphasize rational thought and the human mind as the ultimate source of knowledge, the ultimate arbiter of all truth claims, and our ultimate hope for human better-ment and salvation (hope in science, especially). With such a radical, extreme emphasis on human rationality and thinking, it is no wonder that Western man has come to exalt the mind to such an extent that we often view the body as just a temporary "earth-suit" that we will one day escape. (I have actually heard our bodies referred to as "earth-suits" by SCOPE ministries teachings).

"In my opinion--a point that Wright does not touch on much--it is the uncritical wedding of modern thinking and sub-Christian theology that has allowed so many in Christian circles to develop such unbiblical thinking about the body, soul, salvation, and the End Times.

"I look forward to talking to you more about it this weekend, if you want.

"Love ya,
Your brother."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Going for the Under-dog and Trash Talkin'

Well, one of the best football games of the year was saved for last (especially if you were a Giants fan). I normally do not cheer for the Giants during the regular season, but I was definitely going for them against the "invincible" Patriots on Sunday. So were a lot of other people.

In fact, everyone at our youth group Super Bowl party this last Sunday was a Giants fan, except for two students. And that was the case, despite the fact that only one of our students is actually from New York. What is it about this year's match up that could cause so many central Kansans to all of a sudden cheer for a bunch of "yankees"? What is it about the Super Bowl this year that brought about such an environment this last Sunday so that well over a dozen "instant-made" Giants fans (just add water) in our group stood on their feet for the last three minutes of play-clock, hoping against the odds that Eli Manning could lead his team to victory?

Well, I certainly don't want to pretend to know the minds of all the screaming fans, but I have thought about one issue that might be a cause of Giant-ism in our youth group. I wonder if so many of us cheered for NY because of the younger generation's disdain for so-called "invincibility?" In other words, it seems to me that the younger generation is instantly skeptical and instantly opposed to any so-called claim to invincibility or perfection. We don't like it when someone claims to be without fault, pretends to have it all together, masquerades as unbeatable, wearing armor reportedly without chinks. This generation hates pride. It hates the idea of someone having a status that places them far above the rest of us.

You might think that this characterizes everyone's feelings. Maybe. But I think the younger generation is even more against pretended perfection than generations before us. For the Super Bowl, that translated into many Mid-Westerners going for New York!! I know I was. I would love to hear any more thoughts on this one.

And that brings up another topic...trash-talkin'. Man, I heard some good trash-talkin' this last Sunday...especially between the many Giants fans and the two Patriots fans at our party. I heard Tom Brady called a "pretty-boy" about three dozen times. I heard the Patriots called a bunch of "cheaters" about fifteen times. I heard Eli Manning called "weak" and "incapable" of leading his team to victory. Someone told Eli Manning that his grandmother could have made a better pass than the "wounded duck" thrown by Manning to a wide-open receiver that dropped dead to the ground. I myself threatened to wrestle both Patriots fans to the ground and serve them a bowl full of pain if the Patriots scored one more time.

Gladly, I was able to do that. It felt good.

So, here is the assignment. Let me know of any good trash talkin' you heard this last weekend or during the exciting football season that just ended on Sunday. I could use some more ammo for next year.