Over the last several years, there has been growing recognition of the body in Christian circles, which is greatly needed. My PhD work focused on systematic theology with a minor in biblical counseling. In my dissertation, I devised a theology of the body (TOB) that I used to create a framework for understanding body image. Compared to other doctrinal topics, there were few resources on a TOB and even less on body image within biblical counseling. This disparity shows that the church still has a ways to go to think rightly about the body.
In the biblical counseling world, take the phrase soul care (or care of souls) for example. While I don’t disagree with the statement, I find it unhelpful. This phrase inherently communicates value to the soul, while disconnecting that same value and care for the body. It portrays the soul as the consequential aspect of humanity and negates the physical realities that also contribute to counseling issues.
Not only do we need to recover a biblical understanding of the body, but we also need the ability to articulate a pro-body view from Scripture. This ability is even more important for those who seek to help others walk through difficulties that impact them as embodied beings. (Embodied reality involves the constitution of a unified person who is distinctly immaterial soul and material body.)
Just as counselors encourage their counselees to love God with their whole selves, so counsel must be given with the whole person in mind. Not to mention, God created his image-bearers with psychosomatic (mind and body) interaction, a connection that enhances our experience as embodied beings who live in a created world and are made to commune with their Creator. This reality is why biblical counselors need a theology of the body.
While the following is not a comprehensive list, it does present a biblical argument for valuing physical existence and designating the body with the same dignity and distinction of bearing God’s image as the soul.
- We are created in the image of God as embodied, material and immaterial, beings. Genesis 1:27, 2:7
- We experience life as embodied beings. Genesis 1:28
- Sin impacts us as embodied beings, manifesting in the activity of both mind and body. Ephesians 2:1-3
- Suffering affects us as embodied beings, causing both mental and physical anguish. Ecclesiastes 11:10
- We are redeemed as embodied beings whose bodies belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
- The Holy Spirit indwells the believers’ bodies, empowering them for holy living as embodied beings. 1 Corinthians 6:19
- We are sanctified as embodied beings. Romans 6:11-14
- We surrender ourselves to God as embodied beings. Romans 12:1
- We are to glorify God through our bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:20
- We hope in the promise of bodily resurrection when we will be gloriously transformed and exist as perfected, re-embodied beings. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
In a longer post here, I explore each of these ten points in greater detail.
You can read more about ‘treating the body well begins with thinking well of the body’ over on Lainey’s blog at laineygreer.com.
Lainey Greer is an author, speaker, and personal trainer with over 10 years experience working in the local church. Her masters in Christian leadership and doctorate in theology were formative to her academic journey. She is most passionate about how Scripture addresses the human body. Lainey is also a Teaching Fellow with the BibleMesh Institute.