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30 Jan What is Theology of the Body?


A major component of the John Paul II Culture Centre is to share Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching which is known as the Theology of the Body (TOB). So I would like to take just a couple of minutes to explain what the Theology of the Body is.

A textbook answer to the question; what is TOB is that the Theology of the Body? would go something like this. The Theology of the Body is a collection of 129 Wednesday Audience addresses that John Paul II gave in St. Peter’s Square between September 1979 and November 1984. The theme for these talks was the topic of human sexuality. TOB is John Paul II’s biblical reflection on human embodiment. The goal of the Theology of the Body is to answer the question why did God create us male and female?

The Theology of the Body is an extensive teaching on human sexuality. John Paul II reflects on the whole of salvation history as it is laid out in Scripture and expands on key themes in the story of salvation to help us to better understand the origin, history and destiny of humanity.

According to Christopher West, a leading scholar and author who works to popularize the Theology of the Body, the central thesis of the Theology of the Body is that the human “body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.

The 129 talks that make up the Theology of the Body are divided into two main parts each with three subsections. The following is a quick breakdown of the 129 talks.

Part 1: Establishing an Adequate Anthropology

• Original Man – Reflection on Genesis 2 and the creation of man and woman.
• Historical Man – Reflection on human life after Original Sin.
• Eschatological Man – Reflection on the end times when history is fulfilled and Christ returns.

Part 2: Applying an Adequate Anthropology

• Celibacy for the Kingdom – reflection on the celibate vocation.
• The Sacramentality of Marriage – Reflection on the vocation of marriage.
• Reflections on Humanae Vitae – An explanation of Pope Paul’s encyclical from 1968.

The Theology of the Body is an extensive teaching that covers virtually every aspect of Christian teaching. George Weigel, John Paul II’s biographer, has said

“The Theology of the Body is “one of the boldest reconfigurations of Catholic theology in centuries. It has barely begun to shape the Church’s theology, preaching, and religious education. When it does, it will compel a dramatic development of thinking about virtually every major theme in the Creed.” – George Weigel, Witness to Hope, pg. 336, 853.

In his 1990 encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio John Paul II called for a New Evangelization. What he meant by this is that we are called to re-evangelize nations that were founded on Christian principles. What he was calling for was a new way of presenting the Gospel of Christ in the modern world. The New Evangelization is a call by John Paul II to use new language to share the same teachings the Church has been proclaiming since the time of Christ. In the Theology of the Body, John Paul II gives us the new language for presenting the Gospel to men and women living today. TOB is a teaching for everyone. It is the New Evangelization. It is the future of the Church. That is why we, at the John Paul II Cultural Centre, want to share the Theology of the Body with everyone. We want to incorporate this teaching into every aspect of what we do.

There is of course a lot more to the Theology of the Body and I will be writing a lot more blog posts on this topic, but I hope that I have been able to give you a sense what this teaching is about. If something is unclear or you have questions please leave a comment in the section below.

If you want another quick introduction to the Theology of the Body please check out this video by Margaret Motto, a friend of mine, and a fellow student at the Theology of the Body Institute. Margaret gives a bit of a different approach to answering the question; what is the Theology of the Body? I encourage you to take a look.

Video Link:

God bless!