Dr. Daryl Sas is a professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biology at Geneva College. Dr. David Essig is an associate professor of biology and college coordinator of the cardiovascular technology program (CVT). Geneva College offers the CVT program in association with the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute (IHVI) in Fairfax, Virginia.
As Christians, how should we view our bodies?
DS: They are valuable. I Corinthians 6:19 calls our bodies "temples of the Holy Spirit." The direct context is sexual immorality, making that sort of activity a trashing of the Holy Spirit′s temple. Our bodies are also created fallen (oh, so fallen), but redeemable. God values our bodies enough to resurrect them.
DE: Humans are the crown of God′s good creation. Of all his creation, we alone are called to be his imagebearers. Scripture teaches us that reflecting God′s image (at least in part) involves being caretakers or stewards of His world. Because we are God′s imagebearers and temples of the Holy Spirit, we should take care of our bodies. They have value and worth in God′s eyes. But of course, all of creation, including our bodies, has been affected by Adam′s sin.
Is it important for us to understand how our bodies work?
DS: Absolutely! In order to counter the effects of the fall by treating disease, we have to know how the human body works. Otherwise we end up with treatments that are counter-productive, such as blood-letting to treat cholera, as was done in the early 1800s. It took enormous amounts of knowledge about how the immune system works to make organ transplants possible. We can share in the work of redemption by learning how to treat disease. That′s what makes a research scientist′s job just as valuable to God′s kingdom as a youth minister′s.
DE: Understanding is the key to stewardship. I think that we as a society need to have a body of knowledge upon which we can continually base decisions regarding the care of our bodies. We don't all have to be biologists or doctors, but it′s a good idea for everyone to possess a basic understanding of the human biology, including genetics. With a better understanding of the human body and the role of family history in our health, we can all make wiser, more informed health care decisions.
Isn't the spiritual more valuable and lasting than the physical?
DS: No. That sort of hierarchy reveals a dualistic worldview, which is contrary to a holistic biblical perspective in which both body and spirit are created, fallen and redeemable. Jesus commands us in Mark 12:30 to "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Heart and soul may be spiritual, but mind and strength are clearly physical and just as important. Jesus didn't just forgive sins; He healed bodies, too. God cares enough about our bodies to resurrect them and create a new earth for them to inhabit.
DE: Our physical bodies are to be of no lesser or greater value than the soul.
Biblically, the relationship between body and soul is a very close unity which results in a whole person. Some traditions view human beings dualistically, seeing body and soul as separate entities, with the soul valued above the physical body. But our understanding is that physical body and soul function together and reflect the image of our Creator God. And while our bodies and souls are corrupted by
sin, they are redeemable by the work of Christ on the cross.
How does the way we care for our bodies impact our service in God′s kingdom?
DS: Striving to have a fit body can be very self-centered, but as I say in my biomedical ethics course, "motivation matters." If you are working out and keeping in shape to draw attention to yourself, "you have received your reward in full." But if you are keeping in shape to be better able to serve God and your neighbor, then your focus is not on yourself. It′s hard to serve God or your neighbor if you have made yourself unhealthy. By staying in shape you are witnessing to the fact that bodies matter to God.
DE: Regardless of vocation, living as a passionate kingdom builder is physically demanding. As a result, we should invest in wise health practices (exercise, diet, rest). However, good health should not become obsessive or take on the role of an idol. Because of sin and God′s disciplinary love in our lives, there will always be periods of sickness and suffering from disease.