2019 Symposium Paper Abstract 1: Hans Boersma on "Body, Gender & Sex: Lessons from St Gregory of Nyssa"

Feast of St Lazarus the Wonderworker

TWO KEY convictions drive contemporary debates about body, gender, and sex. The first is that the body is an unmitigated good. Common sentiment, both among Christians and non-Christians, rejects any sort of devaluation of the body. The second is that what we do (or do not do) with the body is strictly a matter of individual choice—as long as we don’t unduly harm others in the process. This has resulted in the broad cultural acceptance of gay sex and, more recently, of transgenderism. The fourth-century mystical theologian St. Gregory of Nyssa seems to speak directly into this situation. He offers a sane word of caution, reminding us that the body isn’t quite the unproblematic gift we sometimes think it is. For Gregory, our bodies (the post-fall ‘garments of skins’) are largely a hindrance that must be changed by putting on the ‘holy garb’ of Christ, so that we may share in his capital-V-Virginity.

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