What is Embodiment?

The natural form of humanity.

Humans are embodied beings - existing as united body and soul. Life is experienced in a body, with a body, and through a body. Plainly, human existence requires embodiment.

“Embodiment, therefore, is the state of human existence between conception and death, and again after the resurrection of the body and for all eternity.” -Dr. Gregg R. Allison

Embodiment is a facet of a theology of the body – in others words, doctrinal beliefs that the bible presents regarding the body. Scripture teaches about the body, so Christians must allow these truths to inform their daily, embodied reality.

To rightly consider embodiment, followers of Christ need to recognize what role the Godhead – the Triune Father, Son, and Spirit – plays in affirming the human body.

As Creator, God the Father created humanity in the Imago Dei, image of God. He intricately designed embodied human beings, weaving their bodies together in their mothers’ wombs, as David proclaims in Psalm 139. Thus, he established embodiment to be the means by which humans carry out their lives. Bearing God’s image then becomes a fundamental facet of embodiment as it comprehensively reveals all the ways we are like and represent God.

The incarnation of the Son of God – Jesus Christ as an embodied human being – validates the believer’s embodied life as significant. His embodiment authenticates our own. To secure salvation for sinful men and women, Christ had to be embodied. He bodily accomplished the work of salvation by his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Proper understanding of Christ’s embodiment substantiates human embodiment, which should lead to greater value placed on the body – one that is intentional and God-honoring.

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, is also involved in the embodied life of a believer. By his indwelling presence, the Spirit confirms the Christian’s body as his temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). Through the Spirit’s divine enabling, regenerated men and women grow in holiness, as they strive by the Spirit’s power to walk according to his desires and not the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-26). So, the believer’s body becomes an avenue to honor the Lord as he or she submits more to the Holy Spirit and less to the flesh – like Paul argues in Romans 6.

Additionally, when considering embodiment, it is important to point out that the soul is not disregarded. Scripture speaks to the human person – comprised of body and soul – as a unified, yet dualistic being possessing both physical and spiritual aspects. Christians cannot make the mistake of viewing body and soul as totally separate entities. The danger is falling into the Gnostic belief which holds the good, immaterial soul as trapped in the bad, material body. As a result, the body is hated, seen as the source of evil, and a mere shell cast off at death. This mindset about the body is far from what Scripture teaches.

When we understand our own embodiment and that our bodily lives are meant to glorify God, other aspects of life are impacted like…

body stewardship: accepting responsibility for the body by appropriately caring for its needs

body image: how an individual views his or her body

adequate rest

sufficient physical activity

proper nutrition

stress management

In upcoming posts, I will explore these topics and several others mentioned in this blog – what the bible teaches about the body, how Gnosticism’s detrimental understanding of the body still influences the church today, and how Trinitarian involvement with the body confirms human embodiment.