Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TOB Tuesday: Is TOB just a proof-text?

An earlier post for TOB Tuesday inspired a comment:
Will you discuss the question that TOB is based on proof texting? I'm bothered about that possibility.

Here's what I answered in an off-the-cuff way:
     Re: proof texting, I assume you mean TOB is an attempt to establish a scriptural foundation for the 1968 document "Humanae Vitae."
     It is clear that Pope John Paul intended to give the Church just such a gift. But did he do so after the fact, relying simply on the appeal to proof-texts as his only basis?
     If you read "Love and Responsibility" first (published in 1960) you see that Karol Wojtyla had been doing studies in the area of marriage and sexuality for many, many years. That is why he was part of Paul VI's commission on the birth control question: he was an acknowledged authority on human sexuality before there even was such an area of study. Both the documents of Vatican II and "Humanae Vitae" itself reflect some of Wojtyla's characteristic phrases with regard to marriage.
     TOB was actually written before he became Pope; it is the "biblical" companion volume to his more philosophical Love and Responsibility. (Since he could not publish the work in book form on being elected, he adapted the content to deliver it in person, by word of mouth).
     He did not make this stuff up in the quiet of his office; couples who had been college students during his time as a campus minister were sharing their stories and experiences with him--for decades. The real authors of Theology of the Body are those Polish couples who bared their souls to their pastor and friend. TOB is the distillation of those families' lives, put in conjunction with the Scriptures through the heart of Karol Wojtyla.
     Simply reading the Theology of the Body would be enough, I think, to override the accusation of proof-texting. The content and correlations are simply too deep. Proof-texting is necessarily superficial and disconnected; there is no inner logic or harmony among proof-texts as there is in a genuine sapiential reading of Scripture (which is what Marquette scripture professor William Kurz, SJ, calls TOB).
     I hope you will join us for the program! Even if you missed the first classes Saturday, you can catch up by using the archived files.

Later, I put a link to the post and comments on Google+ and got this input:
...a comment that Alice von Hildebrand made about TOB once struck me very strongly -- that TOB is about much more than birth control, much more than sex or marriage.  The parts of TOB relating to the glorious body, for example, go far beyond these narrow issues.  Could reducing most TOB conversations to birth control/sex feed the argument that it's an after-the-fact excuse for Humanae Vitae?  Maybe.

Good point! The sections of Theology of the Body that don't deal in an explicit way with marriage are often completely ignored, giving the impression that TOB is only about the hot-button issues. I am afraid I have been guilty of continuing that impression, assuming that these are the only areas in which most people have reservations about Church teaching that TOB addresses. There's not a whole lot of controversy right now with the resurrected life. Maybe there ought to be: Sister Helena tells me that in her work with young adults, there is very little recognition that that line in the Creed ("I believe ... in the resurrection of the dead") is about our future, body and soul.

What do you have to add to the conversation?