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A Response to Luke Timothy Johnson's Critique of John Paul II's "Disembodied" Theology of the Body

CHRISTOPHER WEST

The Theology of the Body has already begun what's being called the counter-sexual revolution. But, unfortunately, judging by his article "A Disembodied 'Theology of the Body'" it's a revolution that Luke Timothy Johnson doesn't understand, isn't ready for, or doesn't desire.

I discovered John Paul II's theology of the body (TB) in the early 1990's. As a Catholic who had rejected what I perceived to be the Church's antiquated teaching on sexuality, the Pope's TB was a revolution for me. It opened my eyes to the beauty and grandeur of an authentic Catholic understanding of sex. I knew it had the potential to change the Church and the world — if people were only able (and willing) to "take in" what the Pope was saying.

I also knew I would spend the rest of my life studying the TB and sharing it with the world. I now travel nationally and internationally lecturing on John Paul II's TB. Everywhere I speak I see lives transformed by this message. When the Pope's teaching is proclaimed as the good news that it is, the blind regain their sight and captives are set free.

Yes, the TB has already begun what's being called the counter-sexual revolution. But, unfortunately, judging by his article "A Disembodied 'Theology of the Body'" (Commonweal, January 26, 2001, pp. 11-17) it's a revolution that Luke Timothy Johnson doesn't understand, isn't ready for, or doesn't desire.

Get ready Luke Timothy Johnson. It's spreading. And it can't be stopped. It's like the revolution that brought the fall of Communism. It starts slowly, quietly, behind the scenes in human hearts — hearts that are open to hearing the truth that this Polish Pope proclaims about the human person. Then it grows and it spreads from heart to heart gathering a great multitude who glimpse their true dignity and will not rest until the shackles of dehumanizing ideologies (political, sexual, or otherwise) are broken.

Johnson divides his critique of the TB under three headings: Preliminary Observations; What the Pope Leaves Out; and Revisiting Humanae Vitae. I'm going to follow Johnson's lead and divide my response to his article under the same main headings, with some additional subheadings.

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS

The first thing I recognized in reading Johnson's article is that he simply hasn't penetrated the Pope's project. For anyone familiar with the content of the TB, Johnson's comments are like a slick stone skipping over the surface of a deep lake but never "sinking in."

He boasts of having "devoted considerable time (and as much consciousness as [he] could muster) to reading through the 423 pages of collected conferences." Admittedly, that is a feat in itself. Few have taken the time to wade through these dense addresses. So I give him credit for that. But, in layman's terms, he just doesn't "get it."

The Need for A Paradigm Shift

The TB calls us to look deeply into our own hearts, to look past our wounds and the scars of sin, past our disordered desires. If we're able to do that we discover God's original plan for creating us as male and female still "echoing" within us. By glimpsing at that "original vision," we can almost taste the original experience of bodily integrity and freedom — of nakedness without shame. And we begin to sense a plan for our sexuality so grand, so wondrous, that we can scarcely allow our hearts to take it in.

But getting "behind those fig leaves," so to speak, is difficult. It demands a radical paradigm shift. It demands that we recognize that the way men and women relate today — what we just consider "normal" — is so often based on the loss of the original grace of our creation.

We don't like change. We don't like paradigm shifts. We like life — even with its sufferings and disillusionments — as we know it, "Thank you very much."

If someone approaches the TB without a willingness to let go of "life as he or she knows it," that person will miss altogether the revolution that the TB affords. Christ himself, in speaking of the "one flesh" union of marriage, calls us back to God's original plan (see Mt. 19, Mk 10). Christ came to restore us to the purity of our origins (see CCC 2336). He came to preach good news to the poor, give sight to the blind, and freedom to captives (Lk 4).

The tragedy is that — for lack of knowledge and experience of anything else — we tend to "normalize" our poverty, our blindness, and our enslavement. By doing so, we miss the good news of the gospel altogether. Likewise, we miss the revolution of John Paul's TB altogether if we normalize the common experience we have of our bodies and sexuality in a fallen world.

If we are to understand the meaning of sexuality as God created it to be, then we must penetrate the experiences of the first man and woman before sin distorted their relationship. This is the gift of the TB. John Paul, if we are willing to go with him, takes us behind the fig leaves and enables us to behold God's original plan for sexuality with unprecedented clarity and insight.

Of What Experience Are We Speaking?

One of Johnson's main criticisms of the TB is that John Paul remains "at the level of abstraction" and "seems never to look at actual human experience." I find this quite ironic since one of the main criticisms leveled against the TB by modern Thomists is that John Paul (despite the fact that his foundation remains Thomistic) makes a far too explicit appeal to human experience. Go figure.

Johnson also states that "Solemn pronouncements are made on the basis of textual exegesis rather than living experience." I find this doubly ironic since the Pope has taken severe heat from various biblical scholars for trying to link biblical revelation and human experience.

John Paul states in his own defense, "In the interpretation of the revelation about man, and especially about the body, we must, for understandable reasons, refer to experience, since corporeal man is perceived by us mainly by experience" (TB, Sep 26, 1979). In the second footnote of this same address, John Paul insists that we have a right to speak of the relationship between experience and revelation. Without this we ponder only "abstract considerations rather than man as a living subject."

But of what "human experience" are we speaking? Johnson is speaking of the "messy, clumsy, awkward, charming, casual, and yes, silly" experiences of the body and sexuality. That's fine. We can all relate to those experiences and learn from them. And I think Johnson is right to say that carnality "is at least as much a matter of humor as of solemnity." (I'm reminded here of the number of "pious Catholics" who have come to my talks or listened to my tapes and been offended by my own earthy sense of "body humor." My response? Loosen up a little.)

John Paul is speaking of experiences of the body and sexuality much more profound than what we find at the surface. If we trace all those "messy, clumsy, awkward" experiences of the body back to their origins, we discover the extra-ordinary side of the ordinary (see TB, Dec 12, 1979). But to get there, we must, in some way, cross the threshold of our hereditary fallenness. Then, and only then, are we able to assess what the project of the TB is all about.

The Main Problem

This is the main problem of Johnson's assessment of the TB. He never crosses that threshold. He never makes the paradigm shift. He evaluates what the Pope is saying while remaining clouded in his thinking by an abnormal, fallen view of the body and sexuality which it seems he prefers to normalize and justify.

How tragic that even a bright biblical scholar such as Johnson has not let the gift of redemption fully inform and transform his view of sexuality. What hope we have when we realize, as John Paul stresses, that the heart is deeper than the distortions of lust, and Christ "reactivate[s] that deeper heritage and give[s] it real power in man's life" (TB, Oct 29, 1980).

Johnson poses the question: "Should not a genuine 'theology of the body' begin with a posture of receptive attention to and learning from our bodies?" John Paul would respond, "Absolutely." But John Paul's point of departure for learning from our bodies is God's revelation and the experience of man and woman before sin. Johnson's point of departure is the experience of man and woman affected by sin, and seemingly "stuck" with sin.

From this perspective it seems to Johnson that the Holy Father observes human sexuality "by telescope from a distant planet." Locked in his fallen view and unable to cross the threshold back to "the beginning," Johnson can't relate to what the Pope is saying. He hasn't tapped into those "echos" in his own heart of the original experience of the body. Thus, the effect of John Paul's analysis for Johnson "is something like that of a sunset painted by the unsighted."

The irony here is uncanny. It is Johnson who is offering an analysis and critique of something that he can't see. Johnson is, in fact, the blind man telling the Pope, a man with sight, that he doesn't know what he's talking about; Johnson can't see the original experience of the body, but the Pope can and does. Thus, the effect of Johnson's analysis of the TB is actually "something like that of a sunset painted by the unsighted."

Cursory Reading

Johnson claims that the pope "minimizes the flat internal contradictions among the conferences. For example," he says, "on October 1, 1980, the pope declares that a husband cannot be guilty of 'lust in his heart' for his wife, but a week later, in the conference of October 8, he states confidently that even husbands can sin in this fashion."

However, Johnson entirely misreads what the Pope is saying on October 1, 1980. John Paul presents the typical interpretation of Christ's words about lust in the Sermon on the Mount — that these words do not apply to the way a man looks at his own wife. The Holy Father even admits that this interpretation "has all the characteristics of objective correctness and accuracy."

But he immediately adds that there remain "good grounds for doubt" as to whether this interpretation is correct. In other words, contrary to Johnson's claim, the Pope is not guilty of doublespeak from one week to the next. On October 1, he is simply stating the interpretation that he is going to refute on October 8. This should be evident to any reader who is trying to understand the Pope's train of thought.

Johnson implies that there are several internal contradictions among the audiences of the TB. I'd like to encourage him to give the TB another reading — a fair reading — and ask him then if he would make the same claim. I've read through the entirety of the TB probably seven or eight times with intense examination and study, and, while the audiences aren't without some weaknesses, I've never been struck by any "flat internal contradictions."

Here's another example of what appears to be Johnson's cursory reading of the audiences. Johnson criticizes John Paul for repeatedly using the phrase "theology of the body" but not examining the implications of embodiedness other than sexuality. Johnson then cites a few examples of this lack in John Paul's project such as the disposition of material possessions, our relationship to the environment, and suffering.

Johnson is right to see the implications of a theology of the body for these other areas of life. And had he paid more attention in his reading of the audiences, he would have seen that John Paul is the first to admit that. The Pope makes it entirely clear in his summary comments of his final address that the scope of his project was simply to reflect on the redemption of the body as it applies to the sacramentality of marriage.

"In fact," the Holy Father stresses, "we must immediately note that the term 'theology of the body' goes far beyond the content of the reflections that were made. These reflections do not include multiple problems which, with regard to their object, belong to the theology of the body (as, for example, the problem of suffering and death, so important in the biblical message). We must state this clearly," the Pope says (TB, Nov 28, 1984).

And it must be added that John Paul has spent the rest of his pontificate applying his theology of the body to these other themes in his numerous apostolic letters and encyclicals (see in particular his social encyclicals, Laborem Exercens, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, and Centisimus Annus and his apostolic letter on the Christian meaning of human suffering, Salvifici Doloris).

WHAT LUKE TIMOTHY JOHNSON LEAVES OUT

John Paul II's Thesis

Johnson's most conspicuous omission in his critique of the TB is the thesis of the Pope's project. He never mentions it. He never summarizes it. He never even discusses the TB's main themes. While Johnson seems happy to assert that the Pope's TB "is fundamentally inadequate to the question it takes up," he never takes up the question the TB takes up.

Johnson says the TB "simply does not engage what most ought to be engaged in a theology of the body. Because of its theological insufficiency," he continues, "the pope's teaching does not adequately respond to the anxieties of those who seek a Christian understanding of the body and of human sexuality...."

But this prompts a question that Johnson never answers. What is a theology of the body? What is a Christian understanding of the body and of human sexuality? Contrary to Johnson's claims, the Pope does answer these questions — in great detail and with profound insight.

We find John Paul's thesis statement in his audience of February 20, 1980. "The body, in fact, and it alone," he says, "is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer in the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it."

The body is sacramental, revelatory of the mystery of creation and the mystery of the Creator. According to the Holy Father, the human body — through the reality of sexual difference and our call to sexual union — possesses a "language" inscribed by God that proclaims his own eternal mystery and makes that mystery present, visible, experiential in our world.

What is this mystery hidden in God from all eternity? It's the mystery of God's plan to unite all things in Christ (Eph 1:10). In a nutshell (as if it were possible to put God in a nutshell...), it's God's Trinitarian Love and Life, and his amazing plan for us to share in this Love and Life through Christ as members of the Church.

This is what the "great mystery" of the "one flesh" union symbolizes and reveals — the "great mystery" of Christ's union with the Church (see Eph 5: 31-32). And this is what John Paul means, fundamentally, by speaking of a theology of the body.

This doesn't mean God is sexual. But it does mean our sexuality reveals something of the mystery of God's inner life and his plan to grant us a share in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4).

A theology of the body in this sense is difficult for many people to swallow. It's almost too grand. How could something as "earthy" as the body be meant to reveal something so heavenly? But it all comes to light in the embodiment of God himself: the Word made flesh. And, as Christ says, this is something we must swallow — quite literally — if we are ever to have life in us (Jn 6:53).

As John Paul puts it: "Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh the body entered theology ...through the main door" (TB, April 2, 1980). Christ, then, is the focus of any authentic theology of the body. Christ is the focus of a Christian understanding of the body and sexuality. For it is Christ — in and through his body given up for us — who fully reveals the mystery of the Father and his love, and fully reveals man to himself (see Gaudium et Spes 22).

"Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). This is the summary of the Gospel. This is the very meaning of life. And, according to John Paul, this call to love as God loves is revealed to us "from the beginning" through what John Paul calls "the nuptial meaning of the body." Hence, John Paul can say that if we live according to the nuptial meaning of the body, we fulfill the very meaning of our being and existence (see TB, Jan 16, 1980).

Sexual morality, then, is all about speaking the language of God's love through our bodies. John Paul even speaks of the "prophetism of the body." The body is "prophetic" because it proclaims the truth about God. Or, at least, it is meant to proclaim the truth about God.

This is a stunningly beautiful and dignified vision of sexuality. Even so, our fallen humanity tends to resist it. For embracing it means we must also embrace the demands it places on us. It means we must never speak the "language of our bodies" in a way that contradicts the sacramental meaning of our bodies. This would make us "false prophets." Sexual sin consists precisely in this.

A Christocentric theology of the body has some obvious implications for sexual behavior. The Church is not simply obsessed with pelvic issues. She is concerned with protecting the "great mystery" of Creative and Redemptive Love revealed by the "great mystery" of nuptial union. It seems to me that Johnson completely avoids John Paul's thesis on the sacramentality of the body because he doesn't like where it leads.

John Paul II's Dramatic Development

Johnson criticizes the Pope for not paying enough attention to the first creation account in which we are created in God's image as male and female. While it's certainly true that John Paul spends more time unpacking the second creation account, Johnson fails to recognize the dramatic development of thought that the Pope is making in his TB regarding how we image God.

Traditional formulations posited man's imaging of God in various trinitarian breakdowns of an individual's soul (e.g., memory, understanding, and will). But for John Paul, "man became the 'image and likeness' of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning" (TB, Nov 14, 1979).

This is a bold theological move on John Paul's part. Through his TB, and even more authoritatively in later statements (see, for example, Mulieris Dignitatem 6-7 & CCC 357, 1702), John Paul brings the once dismissed idea that man and woman image God in and through their communion into the realm of Magisterial teaching.

And, just in case we need clarification, John Paul stresses that from the beginning, this is an incarnate communion, i.e., it's a communion in "one flesh." Yes, John Paul sees sexual union as an icon of the inner-life and love of the Trinity. He even goes so far as to say that this "Trinitarian concept of the 'image of God' ...constitutes, perhaps, the deepest theological aspect of all that can be said about man."

It's curious that this dramatic development isn't even mentioned by Johnson. Of course, once again, if you accept this, you have to draw some lines in the sand with regard to sexual morality. Some, indeed many, sexual attitudes and actions do not image God's life-giving love. And men and women can never fulfill themselves by contradicting the image in which they are made.

Mystical Union & the Joys of Heaven

Much more could be said about what Johnson omits in his critique of the TB, but I'll cite just a few more examples. Johnson faults the Pope for not appreciating how sexual energy pervades a Christian's life of prayer. Yet he fails to mention that John Paul describes true sexual intimacy as a mystical and even liturgical experience (see TB, Jul 4, 1984).

Johnson claims that John Paul reduces "sexuality to 'the transmission of life.'" Yet he remains silent about the Pope's pervasive theme that "the human body ...is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation, ...but includes right 'from the beginning' the 'nuptial' attribute, that is, the capacity of expressing love" (TB, Jan 16, 1980). Elsewhere, John Paul says that if the only reason a couple is having sex is to transmit life, then they may be in danger of using each other rather than loving each other (see Love & Responsibility p. 233). I can't help but wonder if Johnson is more interested in reinforcing stereotypes than in clarifying what John Paul really teaches.

Furthermore, Johnson claims that the Pope has little to no appreciation of sexual joy and pleasure. Yet he fails to mention the fact that John Paul describes the "beatifying experience" of conjugal union as a foretaste of the joys of heaven (see TB, Dec 16, 1981 and Jan 13, 1982). In Love & Responsibility, Wojtyla raised more than a few eyebrows by his detailed discussion of the husband's responsibility — out of authentic love for his wife — to see that she achieves sexual climax (see Love & Responsibility pp. 270-278). Johnson shows his ignorance of this when he lumps John Paul II in his statement that papal teaching sees sexual passion "mainly as an obstacle to authentic love."

And as a final example, Johnson claims that John Paul's interpretation of Genesis doesn't uphold women as moral agents sharing the same dignity as men. Such a claim demonstrates the depth of Johnson's misreading of the Pope's project. The Holy Father's claims about the meaning of original solitude and unity would collapse if they didn't rest on the sure foundation of man and woman's equal dignity as persons. John Paul goes to great lengths to demonstrate this (see TB, Nov 7, 1979, in particular). Furthermore, a veritable "eulogy of femininity" pervades the Pope's entire catechesis (see TB, Mar 12, 1980, Oct 8, 1981, Aug 11 — Sep 1, 1982).

REVISITING HUMANAE VITAE

And now we arrive at what seems to be the real reason for Johnson's objections to the TB. While Johnson criticizes John Paul for gearing all his addresses toward a defense of Humanae Vitae (HV), he is oblivious to the irony of the fact that he himself gears his whole criticism of the TB towards his own rejection of HV.

Johnson is right on one thing. He has to attempt, as best he can, to discredit the TB if he is to maintain — and allow his readers to maintain — the morality of intentionally sterilized sex. As John Paul says, questions come from HV that "permeate the sum total" of his reflections on the TB. "It follows, then, that [a reflection on HV] is not artificially added to the sum total, but is organically and homogeneously united with it" (TB, Nov 28, 84).

Johnson's claim that there is "virtually nothing" in the preceding addresses that strengthens a defense of HV seems like a blatant smokescreen. It's certainly true that there is virtually nothing in Johnson's presentation of the TB that strengthens a defense of HV. But he wouldn't want to include anything that did (say, like, the Pope's central thesis...), would he?

In fact, the TB places the teaching of HV on the surest foundation possible — God — and his revelation that we are created in his own image and likeness as male and female. For those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit to understand the "great mystery" of nuptial union as an icon of the inner life of the Trinity and a sacramental sign of Christ's union with the Church, contraception is simply unthinkable.

It is no exaggeration to say that such a couple would prefer to die martyrs deaths than to engage in contracepted intercourse. Yes, that is the seriousness of the matter. As John Paul says, such couples have a "salvific fear" of ever "violating or degrading what bears in itself the sign of the divine mystery..." (TB, Nov 14, 1984).

But, of course, they don't live in fear. They experience conjugal union on a level that is mystical and even liturgical. When they become "one flesh," they "fulfill the very meaning of their being and existence" by loving as Christ loves. Therefore, they are filled with the eternal joy that Christ himself promised (see Jn 15:11).

Insert contraception into the language of the body and it changes everything. Nuptial union is meant to proclaim the mystery of the Trinity — that "God is a life-giving communion of love." However, an intentionally sterilized act of intercourse proclaims the opposite: "God is not a life-giving communion of love." Contraception changes the "language of the body" into a specific denial of God's Creative Love, making the spouses "false prophets."

Nuptial union is also meant to be a sacramental sign of Christ's union with the Church. Insert contraception into this sign and (knowingly or unknowingly) a couple engages in a counter-sign of Christ's union with the Church.

If the husband is to be a true symbol of Christ in the "one flesh" union, then he must speak the language of Christ: "this is my body given up for you" (Lk 22:19). And if the wife is to be a true symbol of the Church in the "one flesh" union, then she must speak the language of the Church (as modeled by Mary): "Let it be done unto me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

However, contracepted intercourse says: "This is my body not given up for you;" and, "Let it not be done unto me according to your word." Whoa! That's a contradiction of the very mystery of redemption. That's precisely John Paul's point.

And in anticipation of the criticism of biologism, or reducing spiritual realities to mere physical realities, I respond with that first statement in John Paul II's thesis: "The body, in fact, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine."

This is not biologism, this is the very economy of the sacramental order. For sacraments to convey spiritual realities, the physical must accurately symbolize the spiritual. Changing the physical symbol, in fact, invalidates the sacrament. This is why an intentionally sterilized act of intercourse can never consummate a marriage — it is a contradiction of the very essence of the "great mystery" of the sacrament.

Which brings us to the irony of the title of Johnson's article. Johnson and all those who accept contraception are the ones who are living a "disembodied" theology of the body. They must, by necessity, disembody sexual love in order to claim that intentionally sterilizing their bodies has no bearing on what they are saying about themselves and about God.

Johnson claims that it's the overall disposition of "openness to life" that matters and we needn't burden ourselves with evaluating individual sexual acts. Does this same logic apply to the marital commitment of fidelity? Is it ever okay to commit adultery, even once? Does the overall commitment of fidelity somehow make that individual act of adultery okay? To use Johnson's own words, "this is simply nonsense."

When we override the divine language written in our bodies with contraception, we speak against the "great mystery" of God's life and love that our bodies proclaim. We blaspheme. And it is never okay to blaspheme. Not even once.

Conclusion

John Paul's TB makes some bold claims about the meaning of life, the meaning of sex, and the meaning of contraception. Bold is an understatement. These claims break the needle on the Richter scale. It's unnerving — downright frightening — to see how casually Johnson tosses them aside in favor of condoms and diaphragms. He simply knows not what he does.

 

Other articles by Christopher West

What is the Theology of the Body & Why is it Changing so Many Lives?
A Basic Theology of Marriage
The Theology of the Body & The New Evangelization
God, Sex, & Babies: What the Church Really Teaches about Responsible Parenthood
A Response to Luke Timothy Johnson's Critique of John Paul II's "Disembodied" Theology of the Body
John Paul II's Theology of the Body: Key to an Authentic Marital & Family Spirituality
In-Vitro Fertilization and the Hermeneutic of the Gift
Celibacy for the Kingdom & the Fulfillment of Human Sexuality
Interview
Attraction to Infinity: A Review of God at the Ritz

 

If John Paul is right, contraception can never be the solution to our problems, but only the beginning of a terrible setback for humanity. Whether we're talking about a woman who's stressed out with the six kids she already has, or the spread of AIDS in Africa, a return to the "great mystery" of God's plan for life and love that's stamped in and revealed through our bodies is the only real solution to the problems we face.

Johnson is right to recognize that millions of Africans are enslaved by a sexual pandemic. So are millions of people in other parts of the world, including right here in good ol' USA. But AIDS isn't the slavedriver. The tyrant here comes in the form of a sexual ideology that is bent on divorcing men and women from the "great mystery" of God's plan to grant us a share in his own Life and Love.

Gee, exactly who is it that is bent on keeping us from God's Life and Love? Who's the slavedriver here? As the Church Lady might ask, "Could it be... Satan?" If John Paul is right, those who dissent from HV are (unwittingly, but no less effectively) playing right into the devil's age-old plan to divorce us from God's nuptial love.

Give people condoms, and you keep them in their chains. Give them the "great mystery" of God's plan for life and love as proclaimed in John Paul's TB and you set captives free. You give them the path for fulfilling the deepest desires of the human heart. You change the world.

This is why George Weigel describes John Paul's TB as "a kind of theological time bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the Church." (Witness to Hope p. 343). Johnson asks, "Is Weigel right? Have the rest of us missed out on a theological advance of singular importance?"

Uh, yea, you have. But why? Johnson is a bright guy, respected by many. But, like so many, when it comes to sexuality, he's embraced the wisdom of this age which is doomed to pass away.

John Paul II imparts a secret wisdom, hidden in God from all eternity and destined for our glorification before time began. He imparts it in words not taught by men, but taught by the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not understand the Pope's message. It is folly to him because his mind is not enlightened by the Spirit.

I paraphrase St. Paul not to be clever. It's fitting (see I Co 2). John Paul's TB brings us into the heart of the "great mystery" of God's love affair with humanity. Only the Spirit of Truth searches the depths of this "great mystery." And, according to John Paul, this "'great mystery,' which is the Church and humanity in Christ, does not exist apart from the 'great mystery' expressed in [man and woman becoming] 'one flesh'" (Letter to Families n. 19).

As it is the Holy Spirit who has spoken through the prophets, it's the same Holy Spirit who speaks through husband and wife in the prophetism of the body. Every time a husband and wife become "one flesh" they are called to open themselves to the Spirit of Truth who knows and proclaims this "great mystery"- the Holy Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of Life.

Those who close their union to the Lord and Giver of Life close themselves to knowledge of the "great mystery." No wonder Johnson doesn't "get it." Those bent on justifying contraception can't "get it." By their very actions they close themselves to the "great mystery."

Does Johnson really understand what his determination to justify contraception amounts to? If John Paul is right, it demonstrates a preference for the momentary pleasure of sterilized orgasm over the opportunity to participate in the inner life of the Trinity. Bad choice.

Who gives a flyin' hoot about the sacrifice required? I'll take the Trinity. And if Johnson really understood John Paul's theology of the body, I think he would too.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Christopher West "A Response to Luke Timothy Johnson's Critique of John Paul II's "Disembodied" Theology of the Body."

Reprinted with permission of Christopher West.

THE AUTHOR

Christopher West teaches the theology of the body at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Australia. He also serves as the Theology of the Body Staff Advisor for the GIFT Foundation. He is the author of Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to Pope John Paul II's Sexual Revolution, Good News about Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching and Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul II's "Gospel of the Body". Christopher West is married to Wendy and has three children. For other resources, books, CDs, DVDs, and Videos, click here. Visit his web site here.

Copyright 2005 Christopher West

 

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