Possibly the Most Important Theological Work of the 20th Century
Pope John Paul II’s “Man and Woman He Created Them,” popularly known as “A Theology of the Body” may be the most important theological work of the 20th century. I say this because John Paul II is not only a first-rate theologian but also because “Theology of the Body” strikes at the heart of a series of related issues that desperately need addressing today. “Theology of the Body” begins with the Pope’s Trinitarianism, a fundamental doctrine that Christians often don’t know what to do with. At the heart of his thinking, and all true Christian thinking, is God’s self-giving love that is rooted in the Trinity. “Theology of the Body” also explores the nature of what it means to be human and made in the image of God. The book is titled “Man and Woman He Created Them” because it is especially in the relationship between a man and his wife that the relational and loving identity of God is revealed in humanity. Throughout, the Pope reaffirms the essential goodness of the human body.“Theology of the Body” is thus a profound theological work that I highly recommend to pastors, teachers, and educated laymen. Be aware: it’s not an easy read! But a patient and thoughtful reading of “Theology of the Body” will, in time, become a blessing to the reader. One of the reasons it remains such a timely work is that it confronts some of the Gnostic tendencies in the Church today that spiritualize things and tend to downplay the significance and basic goodness of the body. At a time when humanistic and distorted views of human sexuality and identity abound, “Theology of the Body” provides an intelligent and profound rationale for the biblical, Christian meaning of sex, the body, and being made in the image of God.
While Protestants may think that a work written by a Pope would be too Roman Catholic for them, in reality “Theology of the Body” is a work for the whole Church and all Christians. The book is filled with profound and rare insight into who God is and who man is. It will help to complete the theology of most Christian readers and also has important practical implications.
Because the book was originally an extended series of lectures at times it can be unwieldy and difficult to comprehend. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what the Pope means in certain sections, since his writing is often dense. In spite of the difficulty in reading, it’s well worth the effort. Because of the depth and difficulty of the work, some have found it beneficial to also read “Theology of the Body for Beginners” by Christopher West.