Christopher West and his Approach: Love it? Hate it? THIS is the proper thread for such comments, not the other one


Fire away, ladies and gentlemen.


So I may be a hypocrite for saying this but I haven’t started reading his work yet but heard that it’s upfront and blunt.

And I LOVE blunt…no other way I’d take it! So yes, I like this approach.


I’ve only seen a view snippets from youtube and on one of the religious channels a year or so ago. I guess if he helps a few lost folks, there’s no harm.

After I saw his stuff, I pretty much dismissed him as another Dr. Phil-esque type that spends thirty minutes to state the obvious. They are a dime a dozen these days. It’s all positive feel good blather: the same mode of expression and rationale that has failed over the last several decades.

In all fairness, I haven’t heard him go too far out there, but I haven’t really followed him much. Apparently, there was/is a controversy over his appearance on Nightline. I guess the real news there is that people still watch the network news broadcasts/news programs.


copied and pasted from another thread. I neither love nor hate Christopher West's works. I simply take issue that people think he or someone else developed theology of the body.

[quote="gardenswithkids, post:27, topic:199739"]
I'm going to take issue with the very premiss that JPII came up with "Theology of the Body". I go to Mass. At every Mass (long before John Paul II, Christopher West or Dietrich and Alice Von Hildebrandt even came into existance,) the priest holds up the Host and consecrates It saying, "This is My Body, given up for you."

Theology of the Body is** not new**. It is not JPII's theology or Christopher West's theology. It is Christ's theology. It came from Him. Theology of the Body explains for people in modern times that what we do with our bodies matters--and that includes sexual matters. What Jesus did with His body for us mattered. He gave Himself up for His Bride, the Church, (that's us:).) It is truly a matter of life and death--both spiritual and physical life.

Modern people try to somehow separate sexuality from the rest of our lives--separating the very act that creates life from the generation of life. We may need to hear the gospel message about life targeted at sexuality right now, but it is certainly not a new gospel message. We are human, body and soul united. What we do with our bodies can affect our souls; what we do with our souls can show through on our bodies.

Is there any book by JPII called "Theology of the Body" that I've somehow missed? He discussed this in presentations and in his many encyclicals, but he only proclaims and explains the gospel. Nothing new there. Christopher West tries to interpret and summarize JPII's writings and talks. I understand Alice Von Hilledebrandt, (widow of Dietrich Von Hildebrandt), takes issue with Christopher West, perhaps because he phrases some things in more cruder terms than she, her husband or JPII did. I think West writes in cruder times, (to an audience more familiar with vulgarity) than her husband did. But neither West, nor Von Hildebrandt, nor John Paul II came up with this theology. All of them write from secondary or tertiary sources.

The original source comes from Jesus, as told to us in the Gospels and proclaimed at Mass. "This is My body, given up for you. Do this in memory of Me." Not just a symbol. God gives Himself for and to us Really, Truly and Fully; He asks the same from us in return.



And maybe it’s just me but I don’t have a problem with the vulgarity…I hate it when people beat around the bush trying to get a point across. Not in front of kids, of course, but adults should be able to handle it.


I saw him in person. I read, Good news about sex etc,

I follow his website.

I have a positive view of him in general.

In his presentations, I haven’t heard him be crude…(but I grew up in the Bronx, so I might be jaded ;))


I agree. Which is why I say that West’s approach is good for the particular audience he is catering to. However, West’s approach is not suited to the “spiritually mature”. The “spiritually mature” can get some good things out of it and enjoy it, but they can also be rightly bothered by some of the things he says and see them as problematic.

The “spiritually mature” need rather to be “feeding at the banquet”, to use West’s own analogy. West is feeding people with banquet food, but he is tossing it in a picnic basket and carrying it off to the back alleys, which by the time it gets there is not as “good”, not as “pure”.

West must over-simplify and he must also speak the lingo of the man eating out of the dumpster. But eventually those people should be led to a point in their spiritual journey where they too find that language vulgar and offensive.

This argument was really a non-argument from the start. Dr. Schindler is right and Dr. Smith is right. What they both missed was this: West is perfect for those immersed in our secular culture. West is problematic for those who have attained a spiritual and sexual maturity.

The problem is, the Bishops did not properly discern this, and thus (and yes, Chaput was imprudent in this regard, Lotus) they believed that West was suitable and even perfect for all audiences.


I hope your intent was not to insult a large number of people. How elitist.

If West is problematic for some, he is problematic for all. If he is vulgar, he is vulgar.

If his books have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, then don’t second guess it.

My problem is that people mistake West as the original source, instead of the secondary source that he is. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as one understands one is hearing Christopher West talk about Church teaching, not about West teaching.

  1. It was not my intent to insult a large number of people, or anyone for that matter.

  2. There is nothing wrong with “vulgar” per se (see dictionary definition). But used in the wrong context, it is at best imprudent and at worst dangerous. Language varies based on audience - that holds true in daily life and in the Church’s mission to evangelize. I can say “how’s it goin’” to my best friend when he pops over for a brewskie. I would never say it to the queen at Buckingham Palace with the media present and the cameras rolling. I would be thrown out on my ear and rightfully so.

  3. Imprimatur and Nihil obstat only mean there are no blatant heresies in the book - they do not mean the book is free of theological errors, which can still be found in such books (we must distinguish between “dogma” and “theology” here). These designations also do not mean that the bishop who gives it agrees with everything the author says. The designations also do not mean every point the author makes is correct.

  4. In my opinion, the problems run a bit deeper than that, as I outlined in a recent post, which can be found on this thread, beginning on page 4, which I will link to:
    I mention a few more things in pages 5 and 6 as well.


To be blunt, though, I see myself as being spiritually advanced and yet I still intend to read his works. I really don’t care about the vulgarity especially if it helps get the point across. The vulgarity doesn’t bother me.

I still take issue with this statement, particularly the last point. Yes it may be wrong for certain audiences (children, perhaps) but any mature adult such as myself shouldn’t have a problem with it (as with any vulgarity). They should be capable at this point of sorting through things and removing what is bad.


I am only familiar with Good News about Sex and Marriage so my comments are meant within that context.

I am not familiar with West using vulgarity. In his book, he is clear precise and up front about topics of sexuality. He uses Church teaching to explain that sex has a rightful context only in marriage.

From that one book, I would say I disagree with some of the above posters who talk about him being useful for just his audience. His book is widely applicable and helpful for the spiritually mature as well, unless you already knew what he would say.

As for JPII, Catholicism does not teach new material =). I mean our own learning experiences always brings us new insight and a deeper understanding of the faith. But the faith is so vast, no person can learn all of being a Catholic. There is no need nor possibility of new information. Our Venerable Pope JPII explained it for us. He deserves credit for being our universal pastor and teaching us Christ’s teaching. Thus, I also disagree with the comment that has the intention of removing JPII from the teaching picture.

If there are works of West that are incorrect spiritually or vulgar, I will say I am glad to dodge those and only read what has been beneficial to me. However, from my experience, West’s book on Sex and Marriage is a fine reading and very useful to have in the household, particularly one that has or plan to have children.

Addendum: Comments made by West regarding “eating out of the dumpster” and other comments do not present to me as vulgar. The beauty of love is so far ahead of the beauty of misunderstanding love. While the phrasing can be different to different people, the concept of one act being of true beauty and another being of harm and self-exploitation shows through in his phrasing.


I never heard the Playboy comment directly, but only read second hand references to it.

That said, years ago a friend of mine was VERY into Theology of the Body and was constantly handing out Christopher West books and CDs. She organized a study group at our parish.

I think he wants to lead people to the truth; I give him the benefit of the doubt there. BUT…for me he gets too worked up and emotional, AND he shares too many details of sexual sins from his past. How is that helpful, for him to share all of that?

Another friend of mine said she heard him speak in person, and he was down on his knees apologizing for all men, for what men have done to women. She believed this was totally inappropriate. He is not able to apologize for all men.

I do believe he wants to do good, but just don’t care for his approach. It has nothing to do with any reference he made to Playboy or Hugh Heffner, or reactions to him by any other person.


JPII may not have “developed” the theology of the body but he sure studied that theology and tried to share [as its Shephard] that insight with the chruch … and West [like his work or detest it] has tried to bring the insights of the Holy Father on this subject to the Church as well …

I do not recall West ever claiming that he ‘developed’ the theology of the body …

Would you charge those that are inspired of sharing their insights on Scripture with thinkinh that they ‘developed the bible’ … ? :confused: … I have heard and rread many commentaries - some taught me much - others taught me less, some I agreed with and some I did not … most are a mixture … and that can be the result of where I am in my journey and the presentor … or both …

the work of JPII and Mr. West - I think is much the same … powerful for some people - less so for others … might reach for you on this day - not reach you on another … some ideas could really get your attention - his next point go over your head …

I don;t know about you but I have read some books or tried to … they were just too complex, too simple, did not catch and hold my attention [substitute your own description here] etc :blush: … only to a month or so later [years in some cases and in some after many attempts] to pick up the same book and find it wonderful, unable to put it down, gripping :thumbsup:… go figure :shrug:


He’s a horndog? That’s why he talks about it. :slight_smile:

Plus, imo, he looks like a used car salesman, and him talking about his sexual past is a huge turnoff. I don’t want to picture that. Eew.



I respectfully disagree. You do not have to stoop to the level of vulgarity to reach another person’s heart. Did John Paul II do this? Did he use vulgarity to reach some people who may be at that level? No. Patrick Madrid, on his radio call-in program, answers a broad range of questions from listeners. He does not dodge topics, but never, never uses vulgarity. It’s not necessary. He speaks in a way that is easily understood, but is always a Catholic gentleman.

Christopher West could do this as well. He could speak in plain language, in an easily understood manner, without the vulgarity. No one is helped or enriched in any way by hearing vivid details of his past sexual sins.


[quote="PilgrimSong, post:15, topic:199832"]
I respectfully disagree. You do not have to stoop to the level of vulgarity to reach another person's heart. Did John Paul II do this? Did he use vulgarity to reach some people who may be at that level? No. Patrick Madrid, on his radio call-in program, answers a broad range of questions from listeners. He does not dodge topics, but never, never uses vulgarity. It's not necessary. He speaks in a way that is easily understood, but is always a Catholic gentleman.

Christopher West could do this as well. He could speak in plain language, in an easily understood manner, without the vulgarity. No one is helped or enriched in any way by hearing vivid details of his past sexual sins.


John Paul also is not widely read.

West does not give vivid details of his past sexual sins. Or any for that matter.

Where do people get this stuff? More and more I see criticisms of West by people who haven't actually heard him speak or read his stuff.


I have never seen him in person, but have watched him on DVD and listened to him on CDs. The reference to his sexual past was on one of his recorded talks.


yes…a reference. In which he redeems and talks about his conversion and helps others to overcome it as well.

It is NOT “vivid details of his past sexual sins”


I didn’t mean reference as in “a passing reference”. He did give details that were unnecessary. I am not a prude or squeamish, but was very uncomfortable listening to him recount things from his past. I don’t need to know this about him.

I’m not saying he hasn’t done good things. I’m not saying he’s an evil person. I just know what I heard, and it was not appropriate or necessary, that’s all. He can talk about being forgiven and redeemed without giving the details.


Perhaps not, but he had a wide audience when he spoke.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit