Author: Rev. John Kleinig
Publisher: Lexham Press
For those with even one finger on the pulse of our culture, it is evident that we find ourselves in a weird mix of both gnostic and hedonistic ideologies. Much of the culture pushes the notion that there is no spiritual world, no life after death, and no God, leading to such materialism and hedonism as rarely seen before. Yet people have begun to notice something “missing,” a center (or soul, one might say), leading them to find a new identity separate from the bodies they have, resulting in a disassociation with their bodies and a thirst for something “more,” whatever that might be. Still, we have come to both idolize our bodies and despise the gift that they are, leading to a seemingly endless cycle of guilt, shame, and debauchery. But in all of that mire, there is a glimmer of hope. We find this hope in the Gospel, which gives us a right view of all these things, especially in light of our embodied souls. And such a comforting message is found in Rev. Kleinig’s Wonderfully Made.
In truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. While I did want to read it, I was prompted to read it so soon because it was chosen for a reading group I am a part of. It looked oddly academic, yet it came from a pastor, thus implying a strong theological bent. And both of those elements came out in reading this book in the most perfect way. This is one of the most pastoral books I have ever read, weaving law and gospel effortlessly, while simultaneously teaching truths about our everyday lives as if he knew the reader personally. I was comforted, convicted, and brought to a better understanding of my neighbors in order to empathize with them and even forgive myself. Yes, that is such a whirlwind of emotions and ideas. There was a lot to take in with this book. Yet it was not a difficult read, and I sometimes found myself wanting to read more than the set reading for the week.
Rev. Kleinig breaks down the book into seven fleshed-out chapters, each dealing with what we are: an embodied spirit, a jointed whole, and what that means for our present and eternal lives. He begins by explaining why the body matters and what it is. Not just its construction but also Who made it, why, and for what. He demonstrates where our worth comes from and to Whom we belong. He continues by discussing our created bodies. Our obsession with our bodies has led us to disdain them, these gifts God gave us. It shows a disdain for our Creator. Yet God has not left us to ourselves but sent “this human hand” to offer “divine help to people in need” through Jesus. “He became one of Adam’s children like us so that we can become children of God through Him,” Kleinig writes. Jesus has redeemed us, body and soul, through His death and resurrection and our baptism. What a promise! Kleinig emphasizes that we can only understand our redeemed bodies when we remember that God sees us through the holiness of his Son’s body.
Building off of these points, Kleinig digs deeper into the spiritual body (noting that we become neither angles nor the living dead when we die), the sexual body (providing much healing for the sexually abused, the sexual confused, and the sexually celibate), before finally engaging with the spousal body. To discuss even part of the points he brings up in these sections would not do the book justice. It was in these sections specifically that I found much healing and understanding. But what I loved about his writing was how he always brought the reader back to the point about how God regards our bodies and that He cares deeply about what we do with them and others’ bodies. We were bought at a price, and so was our neighbor. We are embodied souls, and Christ died for us. We should remember that, especially as we live here on earth and we think about the life to come.
As the wife of a church worker, and as someone who grew up with purity culture (not that this book is directed at that, though he mentions it briefly), I have frequently heard how we need to talk about the “tough subjects” with youth. What does that mean? To each parent, it could mean a lot of things. College, the future, and also that icky sex stuff that we don’t want to talk about. But the church can do that, right? Yes and no. No, parents should be the ones to talk about these things with their kids. This book can be a great place for parents to start. We also must recognize that we start talking about all the things involving our bodies (and our souls, in some cases) way too late. And yes, we need to talk more about this subject, but how? What words do we use? How do we teach? This book provided so many answers to those questions and offered the language to use to talk about these subjects. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read. But don’t forget all of the reasons mentioned above.
This is a great book for the concrete, scientific reader to understand more about spirituality. This book is also for the philosophic reader to help them better understand more about the spiritual connection to the physical. Best yet, this is a good book for any layman. A final point to come back to, Rev. Kleinig says, we are an embodied soul, a joined whole. We are not one or the other but a being of flesh and spirit, a unique creation of God, loved by Him dearly. If you want to learn more about your wonderfully made self of flesh and spirit or better understand those around you, pick up this book. Read it, digest it, and consider how it might affect how you view yourself and other people. And before you’re done, say a prayer of thanksgiving to the God who made you and loves you.
Blessings to you and yours,
~Madelyn Rose Craig