Our Wonderfully Made Bodies —Dr. John W. Kleinig

A summary of Dr. Kleinig’s presentation from the 2022 Concordia Theological Seminary Symposia: The words and opinions are my own, based on my notes taken in person. —ed.

Dr. Kleinig appeared virtually on a screen from Australia, with just a few minutes lost due to a technical snafu. An outline was handed out thankfully. His presentation is named and details the content of his 2021 book: Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body. This presentation was more informal and highlighted some issues our modern world has with bodies in regard to Christian theology.
Many today think that their body has nothing to do with who they are as people. “We do not have bodies, but we are bodies.” What is called gender dysphoria today is very much the “neo-gnostic dissociation of souls from bodies,” which was common in the early church. The spiritual is thought to be incompatible with the material, so that they are made polar opposites. Dr. Kleinig said the most contentious issues Christians face today deal with the body.

The world as God’s creation for the support of the body and life in general was laid out as a starting point. God made us in His image with a male or female body. God continues to provide and order human life around marriage—the purpose for which we are made male and female.
The “cosmic ecosystem” for life support was created by God. The earth is finely-tuned, calibrated, and ordered to support human life. This includes the polarity of male and female. It was confessed that sexuality is a good gift that God approves of, so much so that we will have a body in heaven. God uses His Word to give and sustain life. He pointed out 12 divine utterances in Gen. 1, divided into creative, productive, and reproductive categories. In this vain, it was noted that God tells the earth to produce. God does not immediately create everything, but does so by means of His already created earth.
The most helpful point was in addressing the “ecological panic” with God’s promise: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22). God upholds the world by His creating Word—without His word to sustain the universe, it would collapse. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).
God created the whole person, body and soul. We are to reflect God’s image sexually—both single and married Christians. His point about single people living sexually (celibate, of course) lives to God was insightful. Marriage as God’s arrangement cannot be changed by man: “Human legislation cannot establish same sex marriage.” Male and female are both made in God’s divine image and likeness.
In discussing marriage, the most illuminating portion was simply a reading of part of Ap 23, since it explains the Lutheran understanding of natural law, specifically children within marriage, most clearly. Here is a sample of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession on the marriage of priests: “Nor is it in man’s power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter this creation. For it is manifest, and many have confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted (from the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end. Therefore, those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to contract matrimony. For no man’s law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God.”
Because marriage is God’s order, “only He can truly separate” a married male and female, though of course, man does it in sin. God uses the world and other people He has made to provide for us. We receive His gifts. Dr. Kleinig’s presentation was not an academic paper, but more a conversation on the basic Christian attitude. It did not, however, go into doctrinal detail about the nature of faith in regards to these natural gifts, especially when they are seemingly not as abundant for believers.