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Body and Gift (Pope John Paul II's)
Christopher West; Sam Torode
Philokalia Books, 2021
74 pp., 21.95
By Laura Merzig Fabrycky
Theology of the Body
When George Weigel published Witness to Hope (1999), his bestselling biography of John Paul II, he made a plea for more accessible secondary literature that explored the pope's groundbreaking theological work on the human body and marital relations as "an icon of the interior life of God." Weigel anticipated correctly that this teaching would have explosive reverberations throughout the world: "These 130 catechetical addresses, taken together, constitute a kind of theological time bomb set to go off, with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the church."
Sam Torode is an accomplice, if you will, in this benignly subversive enterprise. Already credentialed in the field through Open Embrace (Eerdmans, 2001), a Protestant consideration of natural family planning co-written with his wife Bethany, Torode takes language typically reserved for philosophers and theologians and makes the pope's insights available to the general reader.
I am grateful for his efforts, although some may want to go straight to the source, which is The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan (Daughters of Saint Paul, 1997). My introduction to this theology was through Catholic friends who talked about it as if they were on fire with good news, irrespective of their marital status. One gave me a copy of The Theology of the Body, and—expecting to be pulled in with similar verve—I was surprised to find myself working hard through dense reflections. Along with the valuable work of Christopher West, who has labored to explicate the theology of the body to a more popular audience, we now have Sam Torode to thank for offering such lucid re-workings, the first two installments in a four-volume set that will, when complete, present the entirety of The Theology of the Body in an "everyday English" version.
Evangelical Protestants who pick up these books in their local Christian bookstore may be skeptical or suspicious. The very term "theology of the body" is likely to set off ...