Body: Editorial

July 03, 2024

Body: Editorial

William L. Peirson

‘The Word became flesh.’

Embodiment is at the heart of the Christian gospel: God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. He was born a helpless baby, just like the rest of us. He lived with the joys, pains, and constraints of a physical body with its endless needs. He died a physical death. And perhaps most astonishingly, he rose bodily from the dead. Jesus’s resurrection body is not exactly the same as the body that died—some of the earlier constraints are gone—but it is still a human body, a man’s body, a scarred body.

Bodies are not mere ‘meat sacks’ weighing us down until we can free ourselves from them. Yes, the bodies we have now are imperfect. Someone close to me is terminally ill, and I am constantly aware of the brokenness of our current bodies. We long for the wholeness that the resurrection of Jesus secured for us, but it is bodily wholeness, not disembodied escape, that will end our suffering.

But escape from the body can look appealing. We constantly need to feed our bodies, clean them, exercise them, rest them. We often don’t like the way they look; the desires they give rise to—especially when we can’t satisfy them; the limitations on our physical and cognitive functioning; the pain and discomfort.

In this edition we look at some attempts to sidestep the God-given purposes of our bodies in the name of convenience, how different technologies have facilitated this, and the consequences that follow.

Leisa Aitken points out the mental health impacts for adolescents whose childhoods have been stripped of resilience-building risky free play. It’s much easier for parents to hand over a smartphone, and much safer to have them sitting safely in sight than playing outside and courting all manner of accidents! So clear is this connection that we are starting to see political action. In the last couple of days the U.S. Surgeon General called for health warnings on social media in response to the youth mental health crisis, and the Australian government is actively discussing the best way to introduce age restrictions.

The solution pornography offers to sexual desire is another example of a ‘quick fix’ that backfires. And as Marshall Ballantine-Jones argues, current tech-enabled forms of porn mean the collateral damage is more serious and widespread than ever before: addiction, undermined capacity for normal sexual function, and a destructive impact on real life sexual relationships.

Two further articles look at the significance of sexual dimorphism for Christians, and for society more broadly. Galatians 3:28 is often cited to suggest that being male or female is no longer significant in the church—only our shared status as saved humans matters. Rob Smith helpfully evaluates different interpretations of the insignificance—and ongoing significance—of masculinity and femininity in the gospel.

Differences between males and females are also at the heart of an emerging women’s movement that is questioning forms of feminism that have fought for society to treat men and women as interchangeable. Again, this attempt to dismiss real bodily differences has been (and is being) facilitated by technologies, starting with the contraceptive revolution of the 1960s. Dani Scarratt unpacks three recent accounts of how ignoring sex differences—despite promising a better world—has ultimately proved harmful, especially for women.

When Jesus returned to the Father he didn’t leave his body behind. And when he returns to establish his eternal rule over the new heavens and the new earth, he will be an embodied king ruling over his renewed embodied people in a renewed physical world. Bodies matter.

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