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A Theology of Sexuality and its Abuse: Creation, Evil, and the Relational Ecosystem, Part 1

The push to define “image-through-equality” (true as that may be), especially in recent Trinitarian theologies has, unfortunately and unnecessarily, resulted in minimizing *corporality or ignoring the embodied realities of personhood altogether.97 While gender identity is more fluid, it nonetheless “stands in marked contrast to the stable difference of sexed bodies.”98 Both representing (via relationship) and resembling (via corporality) are vital to a theology of image. Those who would minister to the sexually traumatized must include the somatic referent in their definition of imaged personhood, corporality with equality.99 It is the body, not the soul, that is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19–20). But re-dignifying the body can be difficult for survivors whose personal bodies can feel like “crime scenes,” bodies prone to *dissociation. The somatic referent is the warrant, both for the victim’s *complex PTSD (*post-traumatic stress disorder) as well as the sophisticated care of the trauma counselor, a child’s *play therapist, and the victim’s healing journey through constructive means of *self-soothing (e.g., a craft, gardening, dance).

Finally, regarding personhood and *eschatology. A strong argument can be made that heaven for the believer will still be realized as a gendered reality, since gender is part of personhood. The role of sexuality may be different (cf. Matt 22:30), but as Volf explains:

Paul’s claim that in Christ there is “no longer male and female” entails no eschatological denial of gender dimorphism. What has been erased in Christ is not the sexed body, but some important culturally coded norms attached to sexed bodies … The oneness in Christ is a community of people with sexed bodies and distinct gender identities, not some abstract unity of pure spirits or de-gendered persons.100

Similarly, Joel B. Green refers to life-after-death as “re-embodiment … provid[ing] the basis for relational and narrative continuity of the self.”101 Paul’s descriptions of being “with Christ” and “in Christ” (Phil 1:23; 1 Thess 4:16) elevates simple prepositions to profound relational realities.102 But this continuity of personhood may be both frightening and liberating for abuse survivors. Competent spiritual guidance is needed as survivors work through these eschatological implications of personhood. In this life and the next, our relationship with God is realized through gendered expression, even if it is a heavenly version. Thus, heaven as The Great Healing is not a release from the material body into “nakedness”—just the opposite!—it is into the “clothing” of a new soma, an unmolested body (2 Cor 5:1–3, 8).103 In light of this eschatological reality, a reminder of what nakedness can mean is helpful. So we briefly return to the Eden narrative of Genesis 2.

Nudity and Innocence vs. Nakedness and Exploitation

When we contemplate the relational innocence and safety of Eden, the narrator has succeeded in the use of implied contrasts—nudity and safety don’t compute this side of Eden!104 The beauty and fertility of the garden sanctuary (2:10–14) matches the innocence and fecundity of the garden’s keepers (2:15). Nudity is a powerful concept biblically (2:25); it speaks of vulnerability (cf. Gen 9:22; Isah 47:1–3). Some of humankind’s deepest relational dignities and social boundaries are at stake, so stripping someone was intentionally degrading and profoundly humiliating (2 Sam 10:4–5; Isah 20:4).

Clothing is also such a boundary for the physical body, which is a microcosm of the social system. Nudity means the complete absence of boundaries; the body is accessible to any and everyone, thus destroying its exclusivity as something “set apart.” [In the Old Testament] nudity erases social clues and so is unclean.105

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Summer 2013

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011), a contributor to numerous books including Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books, 2017), The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody, 2008), Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel, 2016), Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Moody, 2016), and Genesis: See Our Story Begin (NLT Study Series). He is one of the editors of The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody, 2013), and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He can be reached at aschmutz@moody.edu.

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