Creation Is the Body of God

Creation: Week 2

Creation Is the Body of God
Monday, February 19, 2018

This week I’m drawing from several theologians and spiritual teachers I respect. I hope these introductions will inspire you to seek out their work and learn more! Today I offer Sallie McFague’s (b. 1933) excellent model of creation as God’s body. I could never say it as well as she does:

[This model of the universe as the body of God invites] . . . us to do something that Christians have seldom done: think about God and bodies. What would it mean, for instance, to understand sin as the refusal to share the basic necessities of survival with other bodies? to see Jesus of Nazareth as paradigmatic of God’s love for bodies? to interpret creation as all the myriad forms of matter bodied forth from God and empowered with the breath of life, the spirit of God? to consider ourselves as inspirited bodies profoundly interrelated with all other such bodies and yet having the special distinction of shared responsibility with God for the well-being of our planet? Such a focus causes us to see differently, to see dimensions of the relation of God and the world that we have not seen before.

. . . Incarnation (the belief that God is with us here on this earth) [goes] beyond Jesus of Nazareth to include all matter. God is incarnated in the world. . . . [This] suggests that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, for God is the breath or spirit that gives life to the billions of different bodies that make up God’s body. But God is also the source, power, and goal of everything that is, for the creation depends utterly upon God. . . .

What postmodern science is telling us—that the universe is a whole and that all things, living and nonliving, are interrelated and interdependent—has been, for most of the world’s history, common knowledge. That is, people living close to the land and to other animals as well as to the processes that support the health of the land and living creatures have known this from their daily experience. We, a postindustrial, urbanized people, alienated from our own bodies and from the body of the earth, have to learn it, and most often it’s a strange knowledge. It is also strange because for the past several hundred years at least, Christianity, and especially Protestant Christianity, has been concerned almost exclusively with the salvation of individual human beings, (primarily their “souls”), rather than with the liberation and well-being of the oppressed, including not only oppressed human beings, body and soul (or better, spirit), but also the oppressed earth and all its life-forms.

In the model of the universe as God’s body, not only does postmodern science help us understand the unity and diversity of the body in liberating ways, but divine embodiment makes sacred all embodiment: neither perspective alone is as rich as both together.

Reference:
Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Fortress Press: 1993), vii-viii, xi, 31, 83-84.

Image credit: Winter Leaf II: CAC Gardens (detail), by Nicholas Kramer.
The Divine Presence is happening in, through, and amidst every detail of life . . . penetrates all that exists. Everything in virtue of coming into existence is in relationship to this Source. Thomas Keating
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