Evangelical Engagement of the Body

My friend Matthew Anderson has a noteworthy new book out, Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith.

I'm looking forward to diving into the book for a number of reasons. Matt is a graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola, an institution whose faculty, staff, students, and alumni continue to impress me the more I become familiar with them.

One of the things that Matt does that is important in this book is dialogue extensively with Roman Catholic thinking, especially that of John Paul II. Deep and principled engagement with Roman Catholic thought on these kinds of questions can be nothing but positive and challenging for evangelicals, especially if it forces evangelicals to mine their own rich traditions for characteristic and normative approaches to many social and ethical questions.

It seems to me there have been two basic trends characterizing evangelical approaches to the body in particular and material realities in general.

The first is to derogate the body and bodily matters as unimportant, especially as they relate to more important spiritual realities. The second is to place too much emphasis on materiality. If fundamentalism and "other worldly" impulses result in the former, the physicalism/materialism of other evangelicals (both philosophically, hermeneutically, and politically) results in the latter.

I expect Matt's book to be a corrective to both errors and to point constructively toward a rich and comprehensive evangelical anthropology, one that properly relates bodily matters to spiritual realities.

You can check out Matt's extensive essay along these lines at Christianity Today to see where he's going, and be sure to buy the book for the whole story.

Matt is also the founder of Mere Orthodoxy, a blog you should add to your RSS list if you haven't already.