POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

A Theology of Touch

So much could be said about the tactile sense of touch. Of the five senses, the sense of our skin can sometimes be left forgotten. For the simple fact that we know that our universe was created by a God who is wise, and who does not act whimsically, we know that we have a sense of touch for a reason. What follows is by no means an exhaustive treatment, but more the wanderings about what it means for human beings to experience the world through a sense of contact. Moses and Holy Ground The scriptures are rife with examples of standing. Standing, walking, running are all themes throughout the Bible which give us the groundwork for building a general theology of "presence" - how embodied beings we move through life in our world. But standing seems of utmost importance. People have stood in God's presence (Gen 18:22), we stand in the midst of temptation (Eph 6:10-20), people will stand in worship in the heavenly Kingdom (Rev 15:2-4) and at some point we will all stand before God's holy judgement (Rev 20:12) - we will all appear before him, in bodies. There is an interesting account of standing found in the Old Testament account of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3:5:
Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version
Moses is asked to take of his sandals, to remove his shoes, to place his feet directly on the earth, to feel the ground he is standing, to show respect by taking off dirty and dusty shoes. It was customary in this day for holy men to take off their shoes to not drag impurities into temples, a show of respect for that which is holy. The interesting thing here is that God wanted Moses to do something, to remove his shoes, so that Moses would know - God is holy, this is a holy place, this is holy ground, and his feet would be directly on it. The sense of feet touching the earth, without shoes, shoes a purity, a sort of nakedness before God - a feeling of the reality of the immensity of God before him...Moses' feet felt the earth and this was part of the moment - to know the holiness of God involved seeing (the bush), hearing (God speak), smell (no doubt) and touch (feet on the ground). God met Moses, and moses experienced this through his senses, understanding with his mind, moved in his soul. The Incarnation No where else in the Bible does the body, and its senses, receive more exaltation than in the Incarnation of Christ himself. Listen to the words of the apostle John
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14, The Holy Bible : English Standard Version
Jesus, the unique Son of God, took on a body, where he embraced people, touched people with his hands to heal them, placed his hands, feeling hands, underneath the harsh nails of Roman crucifixtion. Human Embrace and Holy Kisses There is much to be said about being able to embrace another, to confort one with touch in the midst of sadness, to hug in the midst of joy, to hold a newborn baby, to high five. The early Christians, and many today, customarily would greet each other with embraces and holy kisses (Rom 16:16, 1 Cor 16:20, 2 Cor 13:12, 1 Thess 5:26). What can we learn from this? There is something of the soul that feels much more when embraced. As embodied beings, we love to talk to someone face to face. There is a presence that is comforting, there is an intimacy in looking into the eyes, there is a realness, and authenticity to giving yourself to another. In fact, such language is used to speak of our longing for God - that we would see him face to face (1 Cor 13:12). A shoulder to cry on, a hand held in comfort all point to the importance of touch in our lives. Finally, the very act of marital love, the sharing, touching, and connection of bodies brings an intense intimacy that is not possible without physical presence. Touching, the intensity of presence in human relationships, are all pointers to a higher intimacy, a higher relationship, where the infinite God touches our finite being - gathering us under his wings, embracing us as his own, yes even calling us as his bride. The small embraces are ever pointing to a deeper embrace from the living God. Thomas and the Resurrection The most glorious of all touches took place after the most glorious of miracles. The resurrection of Christ, for our justification before God, was bodily, real, fleshy, tactile - God could be touched. Such an amazing truth was and perhaps always be doubted by some. Thomas' always abound, yet the Saviors own hands and pierced side are ever present to be examined and touched. Jesus' felt pain, bore our sins upon his own body, was crushed for our transgressions with not a gentle touch from evil men. And his invitation is ever before us, come and see, taste, yes even touch - and in our souls he calls to us - Believe

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:27-31 Holy Bible: English Standard Version