Thursday, 18 August 2011

Matthew Lee Anderson on Our Bodies

I’m looking forward to getting to Matthew Lee Anderson’s Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011) when it comes to the top of my ‘to read’ pile.

Meanwhile, I suspect a flavour of his reflections will be available in a recent Christianity Today piece – ‘God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Body’ – and a conversation with Trevin Wax on ‘Thinking Theologically about the Body’.

In the latter, Anderson claims that ‘evangelicals have not given enough attention to the body from a uniquely theological standpoint’.

In the Christianity Today article, he suggests that evangelicals have tended to offer piecemeal approaches to the body, with ‘Jesus-approved’ versions of whatever happens to be in vogue at any given moment, whether related to sex, diets, or yoga.

He says:

‘While Christianity clearly impinges on every aspect of our bodily lives, the piecemeal approach to a theology of the body has significant drawbacks. Beyond the fragmented understanding of the body that comes from attending only to diverse activities and functions, the absence of an overarching theological backdrop risks reducing our ethical teachings and pastoral care to mere legalism. We lose the sense that Christianity proposes more a distinct way of life than a moralizing list of dos and don’ts.’

He suggests that evangelicals might learn from Pope John Paul’s significant work on the theology of the body, which ‘manages to merge theology, pastoral reflection, and practical teaching in a way that orients the reader toward genuine transformation’.

The brief conversation with Trevin Wax ranges widely over theology, gender, and sexuality, concluding with some takeaway thoughts for everyday living, including this:

‘One of the most pervasive counterfeit approaches to the body is rooted in a repudiation of all limits and a desire to overcome them through technological enhancement. On the extreme scale that leads to transhumanism. But for some of us, that just means rejecting the limits of sleep and depending on Red Bull to carry us through the day. My hope is that as we think theologically about the body we will see some of those limits as good for us, rather than repressive.’

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