02 March 2010

The Perspective of Redemption

General Audiences of 5, 12, 19, and 26 September 1979

At the same time that man falls into sin he also begins to live in the theological perspective of redemption.

This is a particularly interesting and novel thought for me. JP2 says “He [man] is thus not merely shut out from original innocence due to his sinfulness, but also at the same time open to the mystery of the redemption realized in Christ and through Christ” (144). Mankind participates not only in the history of human sinfulness due to our inheritance from Adam and our own actions. We also participate in the history of salvation, as both its subject and co-creator. This is an awesome idea, that we partially author our salvation by exercising our free will to sin. It gives us both a lot of culpability and a lot of credit.

Paul expresses this perspective of redemption in his letter to the Romans, when he writes, “We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for…the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23). John Paul II uses this Scripture quotation in a very interesting way. He says “the perspective of the redemption of the body guarantees the continuity and the unity between man’s hereditary state of sin and his original innocence” (144).

This makes the body very important, and I suspect is why JP2 chose to begin his Theology of the Body the way he did. His exploration of Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees, the two creation accounts, and Paul’s reflection on the redemption of the body lead to the conviction that our bodily experience can be a legitimate means for theological interpretation. The trick, then, is to combine experience with revelation and see where it leads us. Thus is born ToB.

I think the idea of combining experience and revelation is very intriguing. Obviously experience is subjective, so there must be some way of isolating experiences to find ones that are universal to all humankind and using those to inform theology. I imagine that JP2’s use of the body in theology will draw skepticism from some parties too, who believe that theology should be limited only to Scripture. I personally find it really empowering to think that God made our bodies as a tool to help us discover His will and intentions in creation. Scripture is the source of most revelation and, as such, is incredibly important for theology and for our individual relationships with God. But sometimes it can seem a bit distant and inaccessible. Our bodies are by definition never distant or inaccessible, so I imagine that the Theology of the Body will be very compelling and resonant. I am excited to read more.

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