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:
- Body Matters
- The Created Body
- The Redeemed Body
- The Spiritual Body
- The Sexual Body
- The Spousal Body
- 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:
In Wonderfully Made, John Kleinig forms a properly biblical theology of our bodies. Through his keen sensitivity to Scripture’s witness, Kleinig explains why bodies matter. Kleinig addresses issues like shame, chastity, desire, gender dysphoria, and more, by integrating them into the biblical vision of creation. Readers of Wonderfully Made will not only be equipped to engage in current issues; they will gain a robust theology of the body and better appreciation of God’s very good creation.
This adventure in searching the Scriptures will enrich the reader’s ability to enjoy God’s giving us our corporality and to find in it rich grounds for thanksgiving and praise. ―Robert Kolb, emeritus professor of systematic theology, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis
Wonderfully Made is a tremendous and accessible guide for Protestants who are beginning to turn (at last!) our attention toward what it means to live in the flesh that God gave us. ―Matthew Lee Anderson, assistant professor, Baylor University and Founder of Mere Orthodoxy
Love of God and love of Christ, yes―but why love our bodies? This book places Christian teaching on sex and marriage into their true context in light of the creation, fall, and redemption of our bodies. Kleinig joyfully lifts up our bodies as God’s gift, whose purpose is to foster self-giving love, building communion with each other and with God in Christ and his Spirit. With scriptural depth, and without minimizing the ugliness of sin and death, Kleinig shows us how our bodies belong to God’s good news of salvation, love, and life. This book is an invitation not only to a more faithful practice of singleness or marriage, but also to a deeper sense of what it means to worship the incarnate Lord. ―Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
This book will surely take its place among the growing library of works that treat this fascinating subject. I cannot recommend it too highly! ―Gregg R. Allison, professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
When so much written about the body is polemical, political, or perverse, how good it is to read an author who is on the side of the angels, not the cynics. ―Thomas M. Winger, President of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario, CA
Wonderfully Made provides a welcome and worthy complement to Catholic and Orthodox theologies of the body by John Paul II and Jean-Claude Larchet. […] this book promises to become a standard go-to text on the agony and ecstasy of physical Christian existence for seminaries, teachers, pastors, parishes, and personal study. ―Adam G. Cooper, Associate professor of theology and church history, Catholic Theological College, Melbourne
Written against the neo-gnostic spirituality of our day, with its focus on the mind at the expense of the body, Kleinig’s engaging book is a powerful defence of the embodied spirituality of the Bible. Its deep exegetical and pastoral insights combine to make this a book that speaks to both the head and the heart. Written for a broad spectrum of readers from rank and file Christians to pastors and teachers of theology, the author shows that the body is indeed wonderfully made because it has been created, redeemed, and sanctified by the triune God and is destined for eternal communion with God after the resurrection. ―Jeffrey Silcock, Emeritus, systematic theology, Australian Lutheran College / University of Divinity
More than ever we need a book like John Kleinig’s Wonderfully Made. His rhapsody on the human body addresses today’s confusion over our bodies and our sexuality. ―Arthur A. Just Jr., Professor and chairman of exegetical theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN