What Your Body Knows About God

I have always appreciated those Christian traditions which include the body in the experience of knowing God, whether it be kneeling, raising hands, ascetic self-denial, stillness, etc. What we experience in the soul (heart, mind, spirit) affects the body. But I also think it goes the other way around. How we treat our body can directly affect the felt presence of God and thus the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Some Christians are very suspicious of this. They see it as too Roman Catholic and ritualistic, too Buddhist or Daoist, too new agey. They quote Roman 12 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I will not argue against the priority of knowing that poses to the will its choices. I simply argue that the disciplined and controlled use of the body affects those dimensions of experiencing God and is affected in turn by them.

The Scriptural exhortations to pay much attention to the body go without enumerating. But most Christians read these texts has primarily holiness codes focusing on morality. Actually some of these exhortations are rooted in the usefulness of the body in knowing God, not as primarily a vehicle of morality but a vehicle of seeing and sensing God. In bringing the body into a disciplined life and refusing the casual attitude of the libertine where the body is irrelevant to spirituality, we enlarge the opportunities to a spiritual seeing. A body that is not disciplined will urge all of its desires on the spirit of a person, interrupting communion with Christ with its urgencies and its crises of wanting, wanting, wanting.

The early church’s predisposition toward Platonism did much to create a division between the physical and the spiritual that in the long run has bequeathed to us a host of problems. The resurfacing of Aristotelianism did much to redress these imbalances with its emphasis on the physical world as a carrier of God’s presence and speaking. Gaining ascendency over the physical and making it our servant in the knowing of God is a Christian duty – the seeing, hearing, feeling, touching and tasting.

I have read a sample of What Your Body Knows About God: How We Are Designed to Connect, Serve and Thrive by Rob Moll. This is the direction in which he seems to be going. More on the book later on when I finish it. Lent seems, at least partially, to be what this is all about, bringing the body into the spiritual experience and making it an organ of spiritual discovery and sensing. This is why for the last decade or so I have observed Lent more and more intentionally and have become more and more aware how the physical aspects of my nature need to be harnessed in the knowing of God. Yes, the body is corruptible and must someday be put off. But it is still part of the image of God and thus a part of knowing him

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