“I know I’m somebody,” reads the sign over the secretary’s desk, “cause God don’t make no trash.”

The sign says a lot. The affirmation is true. And it is as true of my body as it is of my soul. Body and soul belong together, as aspects of the total person, and Scripture actually uses both words on occasion to refer to the whole psychophysical reality of the human being. It would be wrong to view the soul without the body as the essence of me, just as it would be wrong to view my body without my soul as the essence of me. You may call me an ensouled body or an embodied soul—both are correct. My body is as truly me as my spirit is.

But the sign also betrays a terror. We can be reduced to trash. Our civilization is in crisis, and the crisis, in part, has to do with the estimate and treatment of the human body. The crisis is worldwide because we live in a day of universal history. We have been drawn into one oikumene—one inhabited world: one ecological, ecumenical body. Each exultation, each degradation of the human person is seen by all.

Moreover, we live in an age of unprecedented adoration of, and attack on, the human body. Our ultimate understandings of the human body are therefore at stake. Is the body an end in itself? Does its value lie in expedient usefulness, or does it proceed from, belong to, and return to its Maker? Is the body holy or expendable? Is it destined to extinction or to eternity?

I, for one, believe that the body is holy and, in some transmuted form, is destined to eternity. Accordingly, I am concerned about the degradations of the human body that masquerade as fulfillments, degradations embodied in the four idolatrous cults of Nimrod, Narcissus, Natura, ...

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