I’m just going to come right out with it. My lifelong understanding of what the human body is, what my body is, has been dangerously contrary to the teaching of the Bible.
Yep. I’m 36 and although I’ve been a Christian since I was 12, I’ve held to false doctrine about my body. This false doctrine has had a profound negative effect on my body image and I know I’m not alone. Seeing what the Bible actually does say about my body has utterly stunned me and I know I am only just beginning to grasp the impact.
I bawled–right there on my sofa with my bible and my study books. I’m inviting you to join me in this series on body theology because I believe it can flat out transform your view of your body, in an instant, just like that. No gimmick, no resolution, no steps to be a better you. Just God’s truth breathed over your soul.
Body Theology 101—Your Body Is Not a Container.
“It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
“I wish he/she could look past my body and see who I really am.”
“Eat for fuel, not for fun.”
“My gym time (or dieting, or sexuality) is just physical, God is much more concerned with the spiritual.”
ALL of these are at least partially wrong and based on the same false belief that you and your body are separate things and of differing worth or importance. I know it’s a serious assertion, so if you are unsure just sit with me and hear me out. This little bit of theology has a big, big impact.
Most of my life I have believed that I am comprised of three separate things; body, soul, and spirit. I also believed that my body, soul, and spirit were valuable in ascending order with my body being temporal and least valuable. A lot of Christians hold this view and I believe it’s unbiblical—Gnostic Trichotomy is what it’s called. Let’s define it. Gnosticism is an ancient Greek religious philosophy soundly refuted in the New Testament (See Colossians 2:8-23, and 1Timothy 4:1-4 and 6:2). It centers on the belief that spiritual things are good and more important than physical things, which are to be avoided, fought, or transcended. Trichotomy is the belief that three separate elements make up a human. Not all trichotomists lean towards Gnosticism in their value of what makes us human, but I did, and it’s a common thought in modern Christianity. The longstanding Christian view, which is much more widely accepted by biblical scholars is dichotomy—the belief that humans are comprised of two UNIFIED elements; body and soul or spirit, which are synonymns.
So there are two questions:
- Did God create man with two elements or three?
- Does God consider the physical and immaterial elements of man separate and of differing worth, or are they unified and of the same worth?
I don’t have space here to do question one justice. In brief, Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” helped me to understand the difference between the two-part and three-part interpretations held by Christians. It also helped me see how, in Scripture, literary device best explains the handful of verses where both “spirit” and “soul” are used together because, in listing the properties of each according to scripture, the same descriptions of both “spirit” and “soul” are used throughout. Grudem also cautions against Gnostic interpretation of trichotomy. If you would like to study that further, read about the essential nature of man. It’s fascinating.
My primary aim is to address question two–whether the elements of our nature were created separate and of differing value–and the Biblical answer is no. Nowhere in scripture does it say that our bodies are separate from or more evil than our souls. In Genesis 1:27 God breathed life into Adam and he became one UNIFIED living being, and it was very good. The Bible doesn’t say that God formed a perfect, valuable soul and then placed it in an arbitrary vessel called a body. He made me (and you) all one thing—one incredible HUMAN. This was a revelation to me. In segregating the elements that make me human, depreciating my body in an unbliblical way, I made a serious error. As a result, I disrespected my body. My body was my enemy. My body was a test from God and I failed to master it, to subdue it into thinness and beauty.
R.C. Sproul addresses Gnostic thinking about the body this way,
“The early church rejected Gnosticism, but certain aspects of Greek thought linger even today. Many believe our bodies are just shells for our souls — the “real” us. Yet though our souls are with the Lord at death, we are incomplete without our physical bodies, and we look forward to the resurrection of the body on the last day (Dan. 12:1–2). In creation, God blessed our bodies, and the way we treat them reflects our understanding of this truth.”
We say, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” in an attempt to console hearts beaten down for not being beautiful according to cultural standards. It isn’t true. You are not two separate things. You are one UNIFIED being with more than one inseparable element that has been hand-crafted by a God whose very name is Love.
Did you hear that? You are hand-crafted. Your whole self counts by the declaration of the Lord God Almighty.
Your whole self is good and redeemed fully by the sacrifice of Jesus, and you will be incomplete in heaven without your body, which is why there is a resurrection.
God was after all of you. He still is. You–body and soul together–are truthfully beautiful for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with comparing body fat percentages, shape, or size with other created humans. All of you counts, the opinion of your culture doesn’t, and even your own opinion can’t change that.
Your body is NOT a container for the real you. You are one thing. One marvelous, valuable, breath-taking, loved, accepted human. No matter what you look like, your body is not bad. It’s not unspiritual. Sons and daughters of God listen to me: God loves your body and he cares how you feel, think and talk about it. He cares about the choices you make with it. He has blessed you, body and soul, to bear his image on earth and that means your body is as priceless and holy before God as your soul. The gospel means you don’t need to look different to be worth something, worth everything.
Do you excuse your disordered relationship with food, dieting, or exercise on the basis that they are just body decisions that have no impact on your spiritual life?
Do you think, “I like myself, I just hate my body”?
I did too, and I’m so grateful for correction and repentance, which help me to embrace his word about who and what I am: a hand-crafted daughter, completely accepted and declared good, body and soul, by faith in Jesus.
Mindy Pickens a wife and mother who loves Jesus, her husband, their two daughters, coffee, books…and coffee. She spends her time homeschooling, tutoring in her homeschool community, and trying to figure out this whole home-maker thing. She’s a regular woman who is captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ and is learning to surrender to the grace and goodness of God. Read Mindy’s other posts here.