Ok, so I’ll be honest. I don’t actually know if this is the shortest summary ever – I haven’t looked up every single summary of TOB to make sure. But it’s one blog post, which in TOB terms is very, very short.
So here goes, everything you need to know about TOB to know you want to know more…
Please keep in mind such a short summary of TOB is necessarily very simplistic, which TOB is anything.
What is TOB?
TOB stands for Theology of the Body. That’s the name given to a collection of talks (or more specifically, Wednesday audiences) given by Pope John Paul II between 1979 and 1984. (Actually JPII wrote the talks as a book first and when he told he wasn’t allowed to publish it he broke it up into talks (omitting some talks he thought might be too racey for a general audience) so if you’re reading the most up to date compilation it will include sections that were never publicly spoken).
It’s been named Theology of the Body because it shows how God is revealed through the human body.
What is TOB about?
The purpose of TOB is to explain the meaning and purpose of human sexuality and how to apply it in every day life.
In looking at the purpose and meaning of sexuality JPII examines:
What we were created for – relationship with God and each other.
What happens when sin enters the world – basically why we have so may problems with relationships with God and each other; and
Why we don’t need to settle for less than were were created for, even though sin has changed things. We can strive for true love and real joy! And with the help of Jesus, we can actually reach some measure of that love and joy this side of heaven.
JPII then looks at how we live this vision of love and sexuality as a celibate person, as a married couple, and specifically in relation to openness to life.
What’s the big fuss?
JPII asks us to look at our own experiences and those around us and compare it to what he’s presenting. This makes the whole thing incredibly accessible and incredibly powerful. Instead of giving us a list of dos and don’ts he asks us to look inside and see what it is we really want.
He asks us to look at our own experiences – If a stranger walked in on you in a shower block, would you cover up? Do you want to feel loved and looked upon with dignity? Do you ever feel used after sex? Do you think you should feel that way or is sex supposed to be more than that? Do you ever feel lonely? Do you wish you could share your life with someone?
The difference it makes
TOB explores some big ideas that will change the way you look at your life, like:
You are made in the image of God who is love – this means you’re made to love
You are made for relationship with God and others
You are designed to make a gift of yourself to others
We speak with our bodies, and so what we do with our bodies not only matters but communicates profoundly.
Is it a new teaching of the Church?
No. It’s not a new teaching, but it is a different way of understanding what the Church has always said. Church teaching grows and develops. This is one of those developments.
Check out more on TOB if you want:
answers to questions like – “what am I created for”?
relationships that don’t end in tears, depression, and a bucket of ice cream
Next time someone asks, “What’s Theology of the Body anyway?” You can tell ‘em! Or just send them here. And I hope you find that past and future blog posts show just how beautiful and freeing this view of human sexuality really is.