The following is adapted from a short essay written for a course on Gender & Sexuality at Fuller’s School of Psychology, responding to the prompt, “Some say that spirituality and sexuality are ‘two sides of the same coin.’ Discuss.” You may first want to read pt. 1 and pt. 2.
Grenz (1990) also considers sexuality to be basic to our experience of embodiment: “Our sexuality is a basic datum of our existence as individuals… Through sexuality we give expression both to our existence as embodied creatures and to our basic incompleteness as embodied persons in our relationships to each other and to the world” (p. 8). With this statement, I can agree in part. Yes, as embodied creatures we have genital sex, which contributes heavily to various experiences of our personhood and social relationships, including our gender identity, gender role, and sexual orientation. However, being embodied involves much more than the sexual. Eating, sleeping, walking, and physical acts of service all involve our bodies in decidedly non-sexual ways. Sexuality is an important aspect of embodiment, but it is not everything. Our language should make this distinction.
Not only is it inappropriate to consider sexuality an appropriate stand-in for embodiment, it is equally inappropriate to see spirit and body, generally, as “two sides of the same coin.” To do so merely continues a mind/spirit-body dualism, even though respectable Christian cases have been made for differing views of human personhood, such as nonreductive physicalism or the constitution view of persons (for example: Green and Palmer, 2005). Seeing as I tend toward a more “constitution view,” I find insistence on sexuality and spirituality as two essential and corresponding parts of the human experience inadvertently creates a false dichotomy—even if we are looking towards how the two are really united. Regardless of how connected one views spirituality and the body, this language presupposes a spirit and a body exist to begin with, an idea to which I do not subscribe.
If one is taking “spirituality” to mean anything relating to morality or to God, rather than that pertaining to a “spirit,” per se, I still object to this language, because then we are stating the obvious. Of course our bodies are connected with spirituality, because God is putting everything under his good reign—what we do with our bodies always has to do with how we relate to God and his kingdom, because everything somehow relates to God and his kingdom. “Two sides of the same coin,” however, becomes quite nonsensical under such a framework. There are no “two sides,” to be experienced, only one ultimate reality of new creation, under which everything is subsumed. Even more so, distinguishing the sexual apart from the rest of our embodied lives as somehow uniquely significant to this new creation seems arbitrary.
Want more? Jump ahead to pt. 4.
Grenz, S. J. (1990). Sexual Ethics: A Biblical Perspective. Dallas: Word.
Green, J. B. and Palmer, S. L. (2005). In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.