Click here to see what Christians throughout the ages have thought of circumcision.
Parents might give many reasons for having chosen circumcision, but underlying almost all of them is a negative view of the foreskin.
After all, if the foreskin was seen as a good, healthy, purposeful part of the body then why would we ever seek to have it removed?
Our culture tells us that the foreskin is dirty, disease causing, gross, useless, or even ugly – just something that males are better off without – and many American parents believe these things. Because of this, they allow their doctor to surgically remove their son’s healthy foreskin when he is born. As Christians, this attitude should give us cause for concern.
Believing that God is the Creator who fashioned our bodies helps us to order our thoughts concerning our bodies and their value. Throughout the Bible we can see how wonderful our bodies are and what an amazing job God has done in designing them.
Genesis tells us that God saw everything that He had made and that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
David praises God for the way he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by Him (Psalm 139:14).
Paul uses an analogy to explain to the Corinthians how God has “arranged every part” of the body just as He meant it to be (I Corinthians 12:18). This was to help them understand how the body of Christ works together – but the analogy only works because God arranged our real bodies in the same way in the first place, in just the way He meant them to be.
Understanding what the Bible says about how God lovingly and purposefully created our bodies, is it then consistent to believe that the male foreskin only is somehow inherently bad? To believe that males are better off not having this part of their body that God purposefully gave them? That God made something that is disgusting and dirty and useless? No, it isn’t.
- A biblical view of the body is one where we view all of our body as good – because God is the one who designed our bodies.
- A biblical view of the body is one in which all parts are valued and their purposes understood and respected.
- A biblical view of the body calls us to care for our body parts properly (e.g. I Corinthians 6:19-20) and to do all we can to preserve the body that God gave us, only turning to removing body parts when they are causing issues which are not able to be taken care of in any other less invasive way.
- A biblical view of the body causes us to praise God for His amazing design of every part.
- A biblical view of the body accepts God’s design rather than seeking to alter it and leave part of the body in a state that God never meant for it to be in.
Taking a biblical view of the body leads us to say no to circumcision.A biblical view of the body leads us to say no to circumcision.Click To Tweet
But wait a second – isn’t circumcision in the Bible? How can we claim that practicing circumcision has no place among Christians when the practice of circumcision was commanded by God and is recorded in the Bible itself?
1. First, we need to make a distinction between modern circumcision (brit periah) and biblical circumcision (brit milah).
The type of circumcision referred to in the Bible was a procedure that did not involve removing the entire foreskin, did not expose the glans, and actually preserved the functions of the foreskin since much of it remained intact. Biblical circumcision involved “blunting” or “clipping” the end of the foreskin and did not include separating and removing the rest of the foreskin from the glans, to which it is firmly attached (by God’s design). Modern circumcision, by contrast, does separate and remove. (Click here for a diagram depicting the difference.)
The modern circumcision procedure practiced in America leaves the glans in an unnatural exposed state, rather than remaining an internal organ most of the time, as God designed it to be. Modern circumcision does not preserve the important functions of the foreskin which God purposefully designed it to include. Instead, it permanently destroys these functions.**
It’s inappropriate to attempt to use the Bible to justify modern circumcision because the practices are not the same thing.
2. Furthermore, biblical circumcision was a religious ritual which had nothing to do with a belief that the foreskin is bad or dirty. It had to do with God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Today it is common to hear people in America, even Christians, talk of how they perceive the foreskin to be so dirty and problematic, but that is not why God commanded circumcision and that view of the foreskin is not found anywhere in the Bible. God’s covenant of circumcision with the Israelites was not based in the idea that the foreskin is bad, or that it’s better to remove it from the body – it was a sign of His covenant with them (Genesis 17:11).
In fact, you could very well argue something that was bad or unclean would have never been used as a sign of God’s covenant in the first place. The sacrifices God required were always the best parts of something – the things that should be the hardest to give up – never the leftovers.
God doesn’t view the foreskin as bad, and we shouldn’t either.
3. God has only ever asked one group of people, for a certain period of time, to cut off the end of the foreskin as a sign of His covenant with them. He did not ask them to do so for any other reasons beyond this sacrifice. God has never made a covenant of circumcision with Christians, nor has He commanded us to undergo biblical circumcision for any other reason. If anything, the New Testament tells Christians not to practice circumcision (1 Corinthians 7:18-20; cf. Acts 15:5-10, Galatians 5, Philippians 3). Christians throughout history have agreed. The modern form of circumcision especially has never been in God’s plan or design for our lives.
As Christians we need to make sure that we are using our faith and the Bible as our starting point when evaluating cultural practices, and modern circumcision is not consistent with a biblical view of the body and of God as our wonderful creator. Rather than valuing the body that God designed, modern circumcision actually destroys part of God’s design, and viewing the foreskin in a negative light implies that God did not know what He was doing when He designed man and that we can somehow improve upon His design by altering it.
If you understand the foreskin to be a good, healthy, normal part that God purposefully designed into the human body, then you have no reason to seek its removal. If you think the foreskin is gross, dirty, or useless then you don’t have a biblical view of the body. Please take the time to understand the foreskin and its purpose in the body – and in all things, praise God for His wonderful design!
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