Seven Building Blocks for a Theology of the Body

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The church of Jesus Christ was birthed in a context not unlike the twenty-­first century. The gospel embodied great vibrancy speaking into a culture mired with idolatrous images, sexual brokenness, and a gnostic view of the body. It is encouraging to know that centuries ago, the people of God had to navigate a similar context. Yet they emerged with a vitality and missional strength that catapulted this small Christian sect into the largest and most diverse movement in the world.

Over the course of the book For the Body, I have identified seven key building blocks to a theology of the body that will be needed in order to invigorate our Christian discipleship in order to regain a sense of spiritual vibrancy. I invite you into this journey of exploration.

1. Creation is good, and our bodies are trustworthy; God created us with a joyful union of body and spirit. Because the goodness of creation flows out of the very nature and character of God, the created order has inherent moral boundaries. Therefore, our bodies embody moral agency.

2. God created and fashioned our material bodies in the image of God, and they are icons once foreshadowing and now recalling the incarnation and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The physical body is the avenue through which God conveys the means of grace and unfolds his plan of redemption, including our own bodily resurrection at the climax of the ages.

3. Christian marriage between a man and a woman is an icon pointing to the greater mystery of Christ and his Church.

4. God’s design in creating us male and female, along with the reproducibility that is made possible through marriage, reflects the Trinity and allows us to partake in the mystery of God’s inner life as we become co-­creators with him and share in an intimate relational bond of family life.

5. Celibacy, and the “single focused life,” point to the in-­breaking of the future new creation and the marriage supper of the Lamb, which will be fully realized in the consummation of the ages.

6. The physical body is a beacon or sign to the world of God’s presence and redemptive purposes in the world. Our bodies are “mobile temples” with a missional presence in the world. The sacraments are not merely “for us.” They are given to us that we might sacramentally embody new creation in the present order as missional witnesses of the church to the world.

7. The daily tasks and duties of life serve as sacramental markers of God’s presence embodied in the whole of life.

This is an excerpt from Timothy Tennent’s new book, For the Body: Recovering a Theology of Gender, Sexuality, and the Human Body (Seedbed, Zondervan). Through these pages, you will:

  • Understand why our bodies matter on a host of issues
  • Discover a positive vision for human sexuality
  • Be equipped to engage culture from a positive posture

The human body is an amazing gift, yet today, many people downplay its importance and fail to understand what Christianity teaches about our bodies and their God-given purposes. We misunderstand how the body was designed, its role in relating to others, and lack awareness of the dangers of objectifying the body, divorcing it from its intended purpose.

Also available are the Video Companion and Video Study Guide for participants. In these eight (30 minute) sessions, Timothy Tennent presents the core teachings of the larger book. The Video Study Guide includes condensed narrative from the video presentations, outlines of the videos, discussion questions, and recommended reading. Together, these resources will help groups engage with the material at a deeper level and challenge us to consider the implications of the Bible’s teaching on the human body for discipleship.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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