Summary of Our Bodies Tell God’s Story by Christopher West

Here are some key ideas I got from the book:

“Our bodies tell the story.”

“Looking for the meaning of life? Looking to understand the fundamental questions of existence? Our bodies tell the story. But we must learn how to “read” that story properly, and this is not easy” (6).

“This means that when we get the body and sex wrong, we get the divine story wrong as well.” (4)

In order to “read” the story properly, I’ve categorized all of my notes into the 4-part kerygma: Created, Captured, Rescued, Response.

1. CREATED: Before the Fall: Our bodies clearly told God’s story.

In the beginning, Adam & Eve clearly understood that their bodies were created, as male & female, to tell a story of God’s love.

Think about it: God is an eternal exchange of self-giving love and He created us to share in this love story forever in heaven.

To communicate this story to us, God made Adam & Eve in His “image and likeness” (Gen. 1:27) and called them – in their sexual difference & complementarity – to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28)

When Adam & Eve freely chose to become “one flesh” & “be fruitful and multiply,” they opened themselves up to a new person in the story – the mystery of a “third” person proceeded from them both.

By making a sincere gift of themselves to each other in spousal love, Adam & Eve discovered the divine love story in their own bodies – a true “theology of the body.”

“Think about it: A man’s body makes no sense by itself. Nor does a woman’s body. But seen in light of each other, sexual difference reveals the unmistakable plan of God that man and woman are meant to be a “gift” to one another in spousal love” (38).

In this original story of creation, Adam and Eve’s sexual desire (eros) became not only the power to love as God loves (agape) – freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully – but also the prologue to the climax of the story that awaited them in heaven.

2. CAPTURED: After the Fall: Our bodies could not tell God’s story.

Satan, a fallen angelic being who was envious of God’s plan for humanity, deceived Adam & Eve into rebelling against God’s story for them.

Adam & Eve were “captured” by Satan, who tore up the previous story of God’s love & now wrote a new story of erotic desires gone wrong – distorted by sin, shame, and lust (i.e. the icon of the body became an idol).

“Ponder this for a moment: if the union of the sexes is the original sign in this world of our call to union with God, and if there is an enemy who wants to separate us from God, where do you think he’s going to aim his most poisonous arrows? If we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look for what is most violently profaned” (18).

Although Adam & Eve were still made in God’s image and likeness, they were spiritually dead and not capable of either expressing God’s self-giving love in their bodies (i.e., you can’t give what you don’t have) nor of participating in God’s eternal love forever in heaven.

3. RESCUED: After the Redemption: Our bodies can tell God’s story in Jesus.

In order to clearly tell God’s story once again, God Himself wrote a new chapter in the divine love story – a new character entered the play: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

By the incarnation of the Son of God, God Himself was able to tell us in His own human flesh about a new and beautiful story of God’s plan for the body and sexuality, rescuing eros & restoring it as “the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful” (43).

“Christ took on a body to redeem our bodies; Christ loved us with a human heart and human desire to redeem our hearts and our desires” (42).

Spoken to us most profoundly in the divine Bridegroom’s love for His Bride on the marriage bed of the Cross, God revealed a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful – a love that conquers death.

“What’s human history really all about? Marriage . . . to God. This is why we exist: to participate in the eternal exchange of love found in God by being wed eternally to his Son. This is why we have that ache inside of us that never quits in this life. That something we’re looking for is the eternal bliss of being one with God” (77).

By ascending into heaven in a human body, Christ gives us assurance of our ultimate goal: “the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). One day, Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20–21) and we will experience the perfect reunion of our bodies and souls forever in heaven.

4. RESPONSE: Our bodies can tell God’s story today.

We often think, due to original sin and our own experience of sin, that there are only 2 stories we can tell with our bodies:

1st Story: Repress: starvation diet

We try to “turn down” our body’s desires. This “starvation diet” suffocates eros & leads to a dull life.

2nd Story: Indulge: fast-food diet

Because we can only starve ourselves for so long, we often opt for this 2nd story – indulgence and giving in to our body’s erotic desires. This “fast-food diet” – which promises immediate gratification & the indulgence of desire – although popular – always leads to using others for our selfish pleasures.

“When we lose sight of that infinitely greater union, we inevitably treat the icon as an idol. In other words, when we lose sight of the joys of heaven, we tend to view sexual union and its pleasures as our ultimate fulfillment. Welcome to the world in which we live” (78).

Are those the only two options?

Well, that’s what Satan wants us to believe! Why? Because Satan hates the divine love story that was told in Jesus’ body and He doesn’t want that story repeated in our bodies.

Death by starvation (mal-nutrition) or death by food poisoning (poor nutrition).

“If God designed the body to be a sign of his own love and life, the enemy wants to counter that sign with lust and death” (119).

But there’s hope! There’s a 3rd option:

3rd Story: Transform: Banquet diet

When we surrender our erotic desires that are distorted by lust to Christ, we allow Jesus to crucify these desires.

As we experience this crucifixion, we will also experience a resurrection of our erotic desires – a “turning up” of our desires – and a newfound ability to love as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully, fruitfully.

“We are called to love as Christ loves. This is the new commandment Christ gives us: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). How did Christ love us? “This is my body . . . given for you” (Luke 22:19). With these words spoken at the Last Supper, Christ not only shows us the meaning of love. Through his death and resurrection, his body also empowers us to love others in the same way and to recognize that this is the “story” our bodies tell” (111).

Seen through this new story, authentic Christian morality is “nothing but a call to embrace our own “greatness,” our own true dignity” (136) and Christian marriage is nothing but a commitment to “become more and more a true image of Christ’s love for the church” (116) & our Christian life is nothing but a prefigurement of the glory, ecstasy, and bliss that awaits us in eternal banquet of heaven (see Eph. 5:31–32).

Ultimately, from an authentic biblical perspective, all questions of sexual morality come down to one very simple question: Does what we’re doing with our bodies image God’s free, total, faithful, fruitful love, or does it miss the mark? If it misses the mark, is the solution to adjust the target or to adjust our aim? (133)

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