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The “Body Analogy”

April 21, 2010

How can proper theology help us appreciate our bodies? The following is a continuation of the discussion started in “Love Your Body, Step 3: Get Theology”.

“What is the son of man, that thou visitest him, that thou not only feedest him and clothest him, protectest him and providest for him…but visited him as one friend visits another, art pleased to converse with him and concern thyself for him! ” -Matthew Henry

Divine Condescension

In the relationship between God and man, divine condescension is our only hope. We cannot rise to comprehend God in our finite, depraved, fallen state, and if God had not chosen to reach down to us, there would still remain an infinite chasm of separation.

God’s condescension manifests itself in countless forms–an ever flowing expression of His grace, by which He allows a point of contact between Him and His creation. One of the greatest points of contact is found in the human body, and one of the most effective means of comprehending God is through the analogy of our bodies.

The Analogia Entis

How can finite man relate to that which is infinite? St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of the analogia entis, or the “analogy of being” between God and man that allows for meaningful communication. “We are different from God,” explains R.C. Sproul, “but not so different that our language about him is meaningless or merely equivocal. It is meaningful because it is analogical. Analogical language about God is possible because there is some sense in which man resembles God.”

Most Christian theologians agree that the greatest sense in which we resemble God is in the non-physical realms of mind, intellect and conscience. It would be negligent, however, to dismiss the importance of the body altogether in understanding how we relate to God.

Analogical language usually refers to the words we use to talk about God. Similarly, the study of Natural Theology, refers to what humans do to understand God through the physical world.  But the analogy of the body involves something more–the human body is not merely a medium in which we see the glory of God, rather it is a great conduit by which God relates Himself to us, and we in turn experience God more intimately. 

In sacred scripture, God frequently references the human body and human relationships, to speak of Himself and His beloved. This is not a human attempt to reach God–God started it! 

We read of His hands, eyes, ears, and mouth; we are called His bride, His sons, and His daughters.  The Lord sculpted our flesh into a biological wonder and wrote into our bodies the language of physical unity. He then proceeded to use these models as living parables–means of dialogue–and wellsprings of a thousand illustrations of God. 

What manner of love?

We are told that God is love, but would we have known the nature of that love if He had not condescended to delcare, “…I took them in My arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws. And I bent down and fed them.” (Hosea 11:3-4)

How would we have understood that an infinite love is not an impersonal love, unless He had spoken, not only of the invisible, but of that which is physical? “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

“See”, the Lord commands: test Me on this one! It is as if in desperation the eternal God calls out to us, “What else do I need to prove? Look at my hands!”

But we could not see His hands, for God is Spirit. And yet the helpless sinner drank in this imagery, and all the more, we longed to clothe the God of the universe with human words. 

But our Lord went beyond this. At the appointed time, the Son–the WORD–became clothed, not with human imagery, but with human flesh. Now we could see His palms. And to him who was storm-tossed with doubts, the offer stood, not just to see His hands, but to touch His side: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)

Christ then gives a blessing to all those who believe without seeing: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) And yet we all have doubts, we all wonder if God truly loves us, not just “the world” in generalLike a Doubting Thomas, we long to see the palms of God with our names engraved upon them. 

The Man in the Glory

But here is the hope of believers: we now have a “Man in the Glory”, the resurrected human body of Christ sitting upon the throne. (“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” -1 Corinthians 15: 21). Our forerunner, having offered the perfect sacrifice for our sins, has taken His seat upon the throne, and one day we will see Him face to face.

For now we see this glorious truth through a mirror dimly, but even while on earth, we have the privilege of existing in this beautiful, though shattered and weary, reminder of God’s gracious condescension: His masterpiece, the human body.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ed Mohs permalink
    April 24, 2010 5:48 pm

    Terra,

    I am truly inspired by your gift of writing. Thank you!

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