We Were Made to Feel Comfortable in Our Skin
December 9, 2015 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: Theology
During the Advent season Christians anticipate two things. First, the arrival of Christmas Day that celebrates the First Advent of the Old Testament longing for the Messiah. This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ as the Incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity. Second, there’s reflection on the promised return of Jesus or his Second Advent. The colossal revelation about these events is that Jesus has been incarnated in the same form that God created the first human beings in their physical integrity.
The Judaeo-Christian view of the body is in sharp contrast to the blunder of ancient Greek philosophy—Aristotle, Socrates, Plato—that proposed dualism. That was the notion that the mind, or spirit, was important but that the body was not. They devalued it to the point where some thinkers also taught that the body was actually evil. So, what’s the “dif” if you mess it up? During early Christianity this notion resulted in the heretical movement of Gnosticism—spirit good; body bad.
Now let’s play this devaluation of the body forward. I read of a disturbing trend among certain people who are dissatisfied with how their bodies have been put together. And like so many other oddities that emerge in our culture, there’s actually a name for it. It’s called transability.
Alexandre Baril, an expert on the issue and speaking at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Ottawa defines transability “as the desire or the need for a person identified as able-bodied by other people to transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment.” He says, “The person could want to become deaf, blind, amputee, paraplegic.”
Of course, I say to myself that a doctor would never lop off a perfectly healthy limb. Furthermore, there would be strong voices in our society that would rail against such a bizarre notion. But then I think about how contemporary society has drifted into so-called “self-definition.” In our post-modern society it seems as if any trending is possible. If you voice objections to it you’re considered insensitive or judgmental. Even in the church, when hot topics are discussed sentimentalism trumps biblical teaching on the subject.
So, when it comes right down to it, is transability wrong in a culture that promotes self-recreation? Why? Who’s to judge? And under what moral authority? For most people, the idea of removing perfectly healthy limbs or “disabling” sight or hearing is a macabre notion. Nonetheless, it has been given a clinical name: “body integrity identity disorder” or BIID. BIID is an overwhelming desire to have a healthy arm or leg, or all of them, amputated or a spinal cord severed to permit an able-bodied person to become a disabled person who they believe themselves to be. BIID places a clinical label upon the condition to suggest that there’s nothing abnormal (in this case, having an able body!) that can’t be fixed. That a fully functioning body can be “made normal”—just amputate an arm here, take out an eye there, et cetera, and you’re good to go!
Can theological clarity be brought to bear on such confusion? Can a biblical worldview cast corrective light on this distorted perception of the human body even if, from a secular standpoint, it’s considered only from a clinical perspective? Is it a distorted perception? Scripture reveals that God created man and woman, humans, as a composite of spirit and body (Gen. 1:27; 2:4). In other words, both have been divinely created to fulfill God’s purposes.
As a result of the Fall, not only the body fell from perfection. The mind fell too. And how the mind thinks about the body. Which means there will always be a suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:18-20). That certainly includes the body as God has revealed it. Granted, we are now brought into an imperfect world, through imperfect biological processes which is the fallout from original sin—post-Fall. So, some people are faced with physical abnormalities that were not meant to be there when God created the first human being. But it just doesn’t follow that a perfectly functioning body is to be willfully flawed by its owner despite how they “feel” about its suitability for life. That’s the result of a fallen mind. Certain things are axiomatic; that is, a perfectly functioning body should remain that way.
From a Christian worldview? First, to bring glory to God and therefore glory to his creation—that includes people. And, second, to fulfill God’s redemptive plan for mankind. (Gen. 1:28)
Christ’s incarnation was in a functioning human body to fulfill his ministry. There is nothing in the pages of Scripture to suggest he was otherwise. He was resurrected in a spiritual body. While the New Testament doesn’t provide much detail about how Jesus looked post-resurrection, he apparently displayed the body’s physical identity and integrity but in a spiritual state. We are offered a hint with the report of Jesus’ transfiguration in the Gospels (Matt. 17:2; Mk. 9:2). We are promised new bodies as well which will not bear the imperfections of a mortal body (1 Cor. 15:40, 42-43).
Yet, here we are in these kinds of physical bodies in this temporal phase of our existence, awaiting Christ’s Second Advent. Undoubtedly, there’s no lack of personal views about body makeover trends or even about the notion of transability.
However, for the Christian, the motivation for either is to be based on God’s assessment of his creation. What God says about the importance of the body is found in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (NIV)
In other words, a Christian is accountable before God and must be prepared to answer the question about any of God’s gifts: “What did you do with what I gave you?” And that includes the body.
Jesus didn’t distort the body that the Father gave him during his first Advent, even though He was tempted in every way but remained sinless (Heb. 4:15). Following Jesus means that either distorting the body or being a good steward of it is a witness to the world about God. With Christmas approaching, we are privileged to celebrate Jesus who was spirit and also body―the same incarnated body with which the Father made us.
Even in our post-modern world that abhors what the Bible teaches about certain topics, Jesus Christ has a promise. It is to answer the cries of our hearts with the reassurance that God has not given you too little or too much—neither in your body nor in the ability of your mind to know that He is the true source of your identity.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13–16 (NIV)
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.