A contrasting view

Daily Reading for August 29

Augustine’s influence was particularly harmful in relation to sexuality. While he did not actually identify concupiscence with sexual desire, his general orientation—and even more, that of his successors—did lead to a devaluing of sex. Sex was in fact basically bad, but tolerable for the purpose of procreation. For, in Augustine’s view, the essence of the fall was loss of control of mind over body. On this view, all sexual acts have the nature of sin, because they are inherently lustful. The view that original sin was actually transmitted by sexual intercourse was accepted by Thomas Aquinas, and has remained a powerful strain within conventional Western Christianity to this day.

By contrast, incarnational theology involves the acceptance of the goodness and wonder of our physical bodies, and more than acceptance: a joyful, awesome, tender joy in them. Sebastian Moore, in a moving prayer-poem, speaks of the ‘accuracy of the flesh’, the place of knowledge:

Christ! I’m ready now

ready to get lost in the evangel of people’s bodies

accuracy of the flesh

kiss of truth

we cannot say what we are

we can only be to each other

touch each other with truth.

He goes on:

Having known deeply and quietly the goodness of the flesh

I cannot follow the safe self-crucified men who say ‘God alone’.

From Experiencing God: Theology as Spirituality by Kenneth Leech (Harper and Row, 1985).

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