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A Protestant Theology of the Body

A Protestant Theology of the Body September 7, 2021

We have problems coming to terms with our bodies.

This is true of secularists who now insist that sex and gender have nothing to do with the body.  And it is true of Christians, who tend to be squeamish in talking about the body.

And yet many of today’s most important issues have to do with the body:  abortion, COVID policies, health care, genetic engineering, transgenderism, sex, pornography, homosexuality, marriage, parenting, race, virtual reality, virtual communities, the metaverse. . . .

Both Christians and non-Christians seem to be caught in a web of Gnosticism, that ancient heresy that taught that the body doesn’t exist or, at most, doesn’t matter.   This worldview manifested itself in the two opposite, but related, extremes of hyperspirituality (pursuing the “spiritual” while suppressing and trying to escape from the physical) and moral permissiveness (indulging all physical desires, since only the “spiritual” counts, it doesn’t matter what the body does).  And so it is today.

Christianity counters Gnosticism with its doctrines of creation, incarnation, sacraments, and vocation.  But those teachings do not carry the weight they used to.  In order to deal with the issues it now faces and to help Christians navigate through the increasingly Gnostic culture, the church needs to cultivate a theology of the body.

The late Pope John Paul II–sorry, Saint John Paul the Great–wrote a ground-breaking treatise entitled  The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan.  This has become very influential in conservative Catholic circles.  I have dipped into it found it well-worth reading, but it is, of course “Catholic,” both in its philosophical approach to theology and in its doctrinal presuppositions.  That book has launched a myriad of other theological treatments of the body, including some from Protestants.

But now we have Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body  by the Australian theologian John W. Kleinig.  Dr. Kleinig is well-known in confessional Lutheran circles.  (I’m currently working with him on his monumental translation of J. G. Hamann’s London Writings, soon to be released. )  But he is a resource that all Christians can draw on, and, beginning with this book, published by the evangelical publisher Lexham Press, I’m sure he will be.

I can think of no other author who can take on this subject in a more Biblically-rich, Gospel-centered, scholarly, readable,  engaging, and devotional way than John Kleinig.

Here are his chapters:

  1.  Body Matters
  2. The Created Body
  3. The Redeemed Body
  4. The Spiritual Body
  5. The Sexual Body
  6. The Spousal Body
  7. The Living Body

I have bought my copy and will give the book a proper review once I read it thoroughly.

In the meantime, here is the publisher’s summary and endorsements (my bolds) from Amazon:


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