God Become Man: Toward a Richer Theology of the Incarnation

For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. —St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation

A Mistake

It has been common these past few years to speak of “incarnational theology” as a way of describing the Christian mission to the world: we ought to “incarnate” Christ to the world as Christ “incarnated” the Godhead to us.[1] There is much to appreciate in this sentiment. It represents an appropriate recognition that humans are God’s image-bearers. It pays heed to the New Testament’s assertion that Christians are the body of and ambassadors for Christ. It takes seriously Paul’s shocking language of “filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). It rightly points to the synthesis of missionary activity and social activism that represents the best of evangelicalism.

Yet for all that, I think that applying the language of incarnation to believers is a serious mistake. It is not that this way of speaking is wholly wrong but that it tends to blind us to the uniqueness of the Incarnation of Christ. God becoming man was an astounding event, a greater thing than any of our philosophers or poets had imagined. Thus Lewis wrote, “It was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about” (Miracles). When we speak of ourselves “incarnating” Christ, we begin to blur out the sheer shock of the event. When Jesus came, God was here with us, but now we stand in the time between the times, waiting for him because he is not—not as he was, and not as he will be.[2]

Moreover, incarnational language is a hermeneutical failure: it is a misapplication of the New Testament “body” metaphor for the church. Whenever the apostles use bodily language to talk about the church, they do so to point to the unity of the people of God, not to the evangelistic impulse. The authors of the New Testament chose other images instead: fishermen, or servants working in the absence of their master, ambassadors and representatives to name just a few. Indeed, at no point does the Bible use the metaphor of the body describe Christian witness to the world. So we would do well to set aside the idea that we “incarnate” Christ. We do not incarnate him, because we cannot—the Incarnation was unique—but that does not negate the instincts of which the theology of the last few years has been an expression. It simply means that we need to do better in expressing those ideas.

Important as these semantic issues are, though, there is a much more significant problem: namely, how much we miss when our incarnational theology is about us instead of about Jesus.

On the Incarnation

I have come to tears in a class only once in my life—a few weeks ago, listening to my theology professor exult in what Christ did for us in the Incarnation. In evangelical churches, we often discuss Jesus’ death on the cross, and sometimes his perfect life or his resurrection.[3] Rarely, however, do we speak of the Incarnation. It usually only gets a mention at Christmas—usually when we talk about how the Virgin Birth was necessary for the fulfillment of prophecy, one of many confirmations that Jesus was indeed the foretold Messiah.

But the Incarnation means more than this. It always has. That God became a man is bigger than paying for our sins—marvelous though that alone would be. The language is there throughout the whole New Testament:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

—Luke 1:76–79

Zechariah’s prophecy includes salvation from sin, yes, but it points to something more: light coming into the world, death’s power ending, and peace reigning. How does Christ’s work accomplish those? It seems to be at least partly in his coming into the world.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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 bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

—John 1:11–18

John couples the Incarnation of Christ—not his death or resurrection, but his becoming flesh—to our becoming children of God once again. His description of the Incarnation points to our adoption.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

—Colossians 2:9–10

Paul goes on in Colossians to talk of the penal substitutionary aspect of Christ’s work in very definite terms—but he starts here by showing how we are filled in Christ even as the “whole fullness”[4] of deity dwells in him.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

—Hebrews 2:14–18

Hebrews shows us Jesus as propitiation for our sins—hallelujah!—and it also shows us his help for us because he has suffered under temptation just as we have. More: his death delivers us not only from the penalty from sin, but also from death and the power of the devil.

We could go on, and on, and on. The Incarnation matters, and it matters as more than a means of getting Jesus to the cross so that he could die for our sins. We evangelicals too often reduce everything to penal substitutionary atonement. Yes, the atonement is incredible and amazing. It is one of the central affirmations and joys of the Christian faith: our sins are paid for! Glory to God! But Jesus did more than that, and he is worthy of yet more praise. He did not stop at paying the price for our sins while leaving our bodies subject to corruption. He did not content himself with performing a judicial act while leaving our wills broken, certain to turn again to the same sin that led to our death in the first place.

Redemption is not less than substitutionary atonement, to be sure—but it is more, much more. Redemption is the forgiveness of sins. Redemption is the cleansing from unrighteousness—not only from its guilt, but from its corrupting stain on our souls. Redemption is our wills being unchained from the power of sin. Redemption is partaking in the divine nature. Redemption is resurrection from the dead—not a rescuscitation from which we will only die again, but being raised to immortality. Redemption is the mending of our communion one with another. Above all, redemption is the restoration of fellowship with God: Jesus took up our flesh that he might unite humanity once again with the Triune Godhead.

As we were in the beginning, so shall we be again—but better.

Saint Athanasius said it best long ago:

For being Word of the Father, and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father….

He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery— lest the creature should perish, and His Father’s handiwork in men be spent for naught— He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours….

And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father— doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord’s body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.

—Saint Athanasius, On the Incarnation

If Christ did not unite every corner of what it is to be human with his divinity—without the Incarnation—we remain guilty, foolish, wicked, common, enslaved, indebted, dead. But with the Incarnation, we have everything. We have been transformed from guilt to innocence, folly to wisdom, wickedness to righteousness, commonness to holiness, slavery to freedom, debt to heirdom, death to life. All of that in the Incarnation, where the God-man remade us as humans-with-God. Hallelujah.

If you have not read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, you should. It is one of the most important books in the history of the church, and therefore in the history of the world. It is also short. Do yourself the great favor of getting a copy and reading it well. For my part, I have made a commitment to read it on March 25—the day on which the church has traditionally celebrated the Annunciation of Christ to Mary—every year for the rest of my life. I think it is that important.

  1. The use of the adjective as a verb is annoying, but perhaps tolerable in light of the lack of a suitable alternative.  ↩

  2. Yes, the Spirit indwells us, and yes, God is everywhere. But the picture we have in the consummation of all things is God with us in a deeper way—and we do not have that yet.  ↩

  3. Though we spend far too little time on either Jesus’ life or resurrection.  ↩

  4. What a phrase!  ↩

Less Noisome Insistence, More Joyful Exuberance on Heaven

Heaven is a hot topic these days, thanks to N. T. Wright and some of his noisier interpreters.

On Thursday, Matt pushed back a little on some of the more sweeping criticisms of the evangelical view of “heaven,” arguing that most evangelicals really do have a pretty healthy view of it.  We believe in our future resurrection, and we see heaven in personal and communal terms. That far, I think he’s right, and I’ll even grant that many of Wright’s followers have gotten a bit pushy on the issue of the “new heavens and the new earth.” When every use of the word “heaven” seems to invite an immediate correction, we’ve missed the point.

So I think Matt’s push back here is warranted – but I also think we could advance the conversation by asking why so many people are so pushy about the new heavens and new earth.

I was in a Sunday school class a month or so ago in which we were discussing “heaven,” and people were struggling to reconcile a sort of dualism (seeing earth and bodies as bad and spirits as good) with our right and natural affection for this glorious home and these marvelous bodies. The reminder that we are destined not just for some ethereal, floating existence but for resurrection cut right through that knot.

The people in my class all knew that we are headed for resurrection, but it didn’t shape the rest of their theology. The reminder still surprised them.

I doubt, then, that most evangelicals have a particularly robust view of resurrection. That is not to say that we are unorthodox – just that we don’t necessarily expend much mental energy on this point. The hope of resurrection is central to Christianity (else, why is it on the resurrection that Paul hangs his argument in 1 Corinthians 15?), but not so much to the ways we evangelical talk or think about life.

This should sound familiar; Matt sounded much the same note about the evangelical view of the body in Earthen Vessels. As he put it there:

The evangelical legacy with respect to the body seems to be more one of inattention than outright rejection or even a conscious ambivalence. If we are uncomfortable with the body, we are so tacitly. When we go on the record about the body, we do so in an orthodox fashion: God created the body as good, it is currently tainted by the presence of sin (but it is not the source of sin per se), and God is going to raise it up again on the last day. In our understanding of heaven and our theological anthropology, we have emphasized the presence of God, which is the right thing to emphasize….

If we do not cultivate a strong and thoughtful evangelical understanding of the body and enact practices that integrate this understanding into every part of our lives, then we will end up incorporating ideas and beliefs into our systems that are contrary to what we would consciously affirm.

Substitute “heaven” for “the body” in this passage and I think you’ve got an equally accurate picture of evangelical views of the resurrection (indeed, Matt touched on the point in that passage). Is it possible that we are orthodox, but not careful? I suspect we evangelicals do not so much think wrongly about the new heavens and the new earth as not think of them at all.

Matt may be correct that “heaven” is often shorthand for “resurrection bodies in new heavens and a new earth when we dwell in the presence of God and all tears are wiped away.” But shorthand, left too long as shorthand and without ongoing careful reflection, can become the extent of our thought about a subject. That’s been all too common in my own experience with other believers in the last few years – and we can’t afford to miss out on the hope God has given us here.

Now, this does not excuse the noisome insistence on the part of those making this point. Perhaps we can chalk it up to the same sort of thing that gives rise to the “cage phase Calvinism”: not (necessarily) a defect in the theology, but rather a mix of delight at having discovered truth more clearly and frustration at never having heard it taught. (Note: I’m not getting into the question of Calvinism’s veracity here; I’m explaining why people respond this way.) I suspect that for many, Wright’s work is their first exposure to a more full-throated declaration of the heavens-and-earth promises of God.[1] Feeling the importance of the point, many suddenly feel the need to shoehorn it into every conversation, however awkwardly or inappropriately.

Exuberance is one thing; rudeness another. Like Matt, I could do with less of the latter, but let’s not toss the baby out with the bathwater. I want more hope in our coming resurrection, not less. I simply want that hopeful joy communicated kindly and judiciously. We don’t need to become eschatological language police, but we can and should encourage each other to be careful and joyful in our thinking about resurrection.


1Randy Alcorn has also provided a good introduction the new heavens and new earth for many evangelicals, and I like Alcorn’s approach better than Wright’s. Though it’s been a few years since I read it, I recall that he spends Heaven almost entirely on hopeful description. This approach is more effective and sets the tone of ensuing conversation better than Wright’s critical stance. In fact, if Wright has a major rhetorical weakness, it is that critique is his default position. He is at his best when he forgets to attack other positions and simply revels in the glorious work of God. In any case, Alcorn makes Matt’s point about shorthand admirably in a book that does a great job on resurrection and the new earth he titled simply Heaven.

Dwight Moody, Heaven, and the Resurrection of the Body

N.T. Wright’s works have had many good effects.  Inspiring eager readers to police people’s use of heaven is not one of them.  “Heaven” in much of evangelical discourse functions as shorthand for a whole nexus of ideas that are, well, pretty Biblical and not nearly as opposed to the body as Wright made it seem.  The difference is one of emphasis, which is important but not everything. 

To underscore the point, I decided to excerpt a little from Earthen Vessels about D.L. Moody’s understanding of the body. 

English: Dwight Lyman Moody, founder of the No...

English: Dwight Lyman Moody, founder of the Northfield Seminary, Mount Hermon School, and the Moody Bible Institute, circa 1900. Edited image from the Library of Congress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

D.L. Moody was one of America’s most famous preachers in the early 1900s and a central figure in one of evangelicalism’s dominant strands: the revivalist movement. The revivalists have been (often justly) criticized for developing a theology that was inwardly focused and a piety that is wrapped up in spiritual experiences; all the sorts of things that generally accompany distaste for the physical body.

Moody, however, has a more nuanced view of the body than we might expect. Consider what he wrote before dying, a passage that his son would use to open his biography:

Someday you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.[39] It is as clear a statement about the hope of the resurrection as one could possibly hope for.

When it comes to the afterlife, N. T. Wright is correct that Moody’s focus is on “heaven,” which Moody thinks is “up there,” and that it is a place where we will someday “go.”

But even though Moody reads John’s description of “streets of gold” rather literally, heaven is not a glorious place because of the stones or the physical splendor but because of the presence of the triune God. Throughout his sermons, Moody is always focused on the center of theology—God. But the center doesn’t consume everything else, and Moody never rejects the resurrection of the body. In fact, in his sermon on the resurrection of Jesus, he suggests that it and the cross are the “chief cornerstones of the religion of Jesus Christ.” And that has serious implications for us as believers:

We shall come up from the grave, by and by, with a shout. “He is the first fruits;” he has gone into the vale, and will call us by and by. The voice of the Son of God shall wake up the slumbering dead! Jacob will leave his lameness, and Paul will leave his thorn in the flesh; and we shall come up resurrected bodies, and be forever with the Lord.

Moody clearly isn’t bashful speaking about the resurrection of the body, even though he emphasizes the presence of God in the afterlife rather than the resurrection of our physical bodies.


The Limitations of Neuroscience

Roger Scruton warns that the neurosciences are creeping into other disciplines:

In 1986 Patricia Churchland published Neurophilosophy, arguing that the questions that had been discussed to no effect by philosophers over many centuries would be solved once they were rephrased as questions of neuroscience. This was the first major outbreak of a new academic disease, which one might call ‘neuroenvy’.

If philosophy could be replaced by neuroscience, why not the rest of the humanities, which had been wallowing in a methodless swamp for far too long? Old disciplines that relied on critical judgment and cultural immersion could be given a scientific gloss when rebranded as ‘neuroethics’, ‘neuroaesthetics’, ‘neuromusicology’, ‘neurotheology’, or ‘neuroarthistory’ (subject of a book by John Onians).

The entire essay is worth a read and probably a second after that.  The key graph comes here:

So just what can be proved about people by the close observation of their brains? We can be conceptualised in two ways: as organisms and as objects of personal interaction. The first way employs the concept ‘human being’, and derives our behaviour from a biological science of man. The second way employs the concept ‘person’, which is not the concept of a natural kind, but of an entity that relates to others in a familiar but complex way that we know intuitively but find hard to describe.

Through the concept of the person, and the associated notions of freedom, responsibility, reason for action, right, duty, justice and guilt, we gain the description under which human beings are seen, by those who respond to them as they truly are. When we endeavour to understand persons through the half-formed theories of neuroscience we are tempted to pass over their distinctive features in silence, or else to attribute them to some brain-shaped homunculus inside. For we understand people by facing them, by arguing with them, by understanding their reasons, aspirations and plans. All of that involves another language, and another conceptual scheme, from those deployed in the biological sciences. We do not understand brains by facing them, for they have no face.

There’s a lot to unravel here, but let me add a few hasty observations.

First, there is a temptation to treat the deliverances of science, especially the neurosciences, as authoritative and settled.  This danger seems like it would be particularly strong for evangelicals who are working to overcome the anti-science hangover we have heard so much about.  To question the presuppositions of contemporary neuroscience is to invite the charge of joining the leagues of the hopelessly regressive.  (Or, you know, of being Roger Scruton.)

Second, Scruton’s argument is that the cognitive sciences can show us the facts, but that they cannot give us the meaning.  As he puts it, “the subtle features of the human condition” are those which the humanities are oriented toward elucidating.  Interestingly, the problem he lays down goes beyond the fact that the neurosciences cannot adequately capture the constitution or nature of the human person.  The problem is also pedagogical:  we can not learn the nature of humanity from the neurosciences, either our own or that of other people.

This pedagogical uniqueness stems from a personal, relational dimension to the human experience:  there are thoughts that arise “face to face” that cannot be explained except through the deeper, more holistic understandings of humanity that are on offer in art, literature, and hopefully theology.  The claims of the nuerosciences, universalizing and totalizing as they must be, strip away this personal dimension and as such can only be stunted and reductionistic.

Love is Still Orienting: Andrew Marin on DVD

My friend Andrew Marin of Love is an Orientation fame has turned the book into a DVD curriculum for small groups, which is the publishing industry’s stamp of being a bonafide publishing rockstar.  The book, in case you haven’t heard, sold a lot.

Marin’s effectiveness as a communicator is on full display in the DVD’s, such that I’d be tempted to recommend them to someone over the book.  Andrew has an infectious cheerfulness that is pleasant to be around and that is almost un-self conscious.

Andrew’s ministry is premised on the ambiguous idea of “elevating the conversation” between the gay and Christian communities (granting that those are sometimes overlapping descriptions).  I’m sometimes tempted to give myself over to my cynical, cranky side and joke about how Andrew just wants everyone to hug.  But then I realize that if anyone could make that happen, it’s probably this guy (the clothed guy, that is–Andrew).

But the DVD’s and the corresponding booklet, which I take to be an excellent model for the genre, reinforced my lingering questions about Andrew’s approach to this issue.

For instance, Andrew comes close to giving up on the possibility of persuasion altogether.  At one point in the DVD, he says that he grew tired of people trying to convince him what to believe and that he needed to know how to engage the issue without persuading others.  I understand that he is standing against the clumsy approach that folks might have deployed in the past.  But then, many of my friendships with folks in the gay and atheist communities began not in a moment of validation of the other person’s narrative but of disagreement over the truth of their beliefs.  We need not jettison persuasion, in other words, so much as show a more excellent way toward it.

This sort of looseness is reiterated later on when Marin suggests that moving forward in a dialogue is impossible if you’re stuck on believing you’re theology is right and that others need to agree with you if you’re right.  There are some loose moments in the DVD, as Marin seems to be speaking from notes.  So I offer the concern with that qualification.  But we have no other option than believing our theology is right, and while we ought to give others and ourselves plenty of freeodm to be wrong, it’s not clear to me that the conversation needs us to downplay our convictions in this way to go forward well.

In short, love may be an orientation, but it also has a direction.  Consider Marin’s rules for conversation, which are straightforward and fairly simple:

  1. We’re not here to convince.
  2. Everyone’s story is legitimate in their own eyes.
  3. Everybody needs to talk.

Perhaps I’m too much the Platonist, but it strikes me that the best sort of conversations are those where both people are inquiring and oriented toward the truth and that when one person has found it everyone else follows.  Those sorts of conversations aren’t divisive:  they are central to the development of genuine friendships, especially with those who we disagree with.   Yet they have a direction, a goal beyond the conversation and the participants that orders them both together.

Still, Andrew sits in a unique space within the evangelical world and that makes him an interesting interlocutor and more qualified observer of these things than I.  Whether you agree with him or not, his work and devotion to his mission contain much that is commendable.  And in this DVD set, those virtues are on full display.

What Robertson Means for Marriage

Part two of my thoughts on Robertson and marriage, over at the Washington Post.

My basic argument there is that the reaction should be seen as a genuine sign of hope for evangelicals and Americans:

Evangelicals are hardly a perfect lot, a fact which we are often reminded of and have internalized well. And our cultural indignation is only sometimes righteous. But the evangelical reaction against Robertson’s errant and unfortunate remarks is a hopeful sign not just for evangelicals, but for those who are concerned about the public viability of the institution of marriage. If we can bracket, if only for one moment, the thorny question of who should get married, we might be able to see here the seeds of consensus about the sort of thing marriage should be.

The backlash against Robertson’s remarks by evangelicals and those who also recognized their corrosive effects may not be marriage’s finest moment. But it may provide hope that the civic and religious virtues needed to make the institution of marriage strong are not yet as far gone as cultural critics are sometimes tempted to think.

Read the whole thing.  And then let me know what you think.

Pat Robertson, Bodies, and Divorce

That’s the subject of my short essay over at Relevant Magazine.

I sound a note that will doubtlessly be a familiar one to readers of Mere-O and of Earthen Vessels, but the brouhaha affords evangelicals an opportunity to re-examine our own understanding of the relationship between marriage and bodies.

And so I did.

Marriage requires a covenant in part because loyalty is the lifeblood of love. But the body will decay, and the temple will come to ruins. We may not wear the bottoms of our trousers rolled, to quote T.S. Eliot, but my wife and I will almost certainly grow old. And in the slow corruption of our flesh, the vow takes on a new dimension, making it possible for us to imitate the sacrifice of Christ’s body through the giving of our own. It is the cross that is the shape of love in a broken world, and it is the cross we must carry in order to love broken bodies.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Mere-O @ Acton U

I’m currently in Grand Rapids, Michigan attending the Acton Institute’s “Acton University”—an annual four-day conference focused, broadly, around two topics: Religion and Liberty. Acton is often pegged as a free-market think-tank, but after two days of discussion, it is evident that any discussion of economic theory within Acton is first and foremost a discussion grounded in a robust Christian anthropology.

Acton University gathers a wide demographic of people from across the world and across the great traditions of Christendom and immerses them in a cross-section of lectures taught by a stellar grouping of world-class scholars on issues ranging from Christian political theology, anthropology, economics, and their effect on virtuous Christian citizenship.

For myself, yesterday’s schedule consisted of four fundamental courses:

  • –       Christian Anthropology
  • –       Christianity and the Idea of Limited Government
  • –       Economic Ways of Thinking
  • –       Scriptural Foundations of a Free and Virtuous Society

It is popular to remark how “the church” lacks serious theological reflection—as if that generalization itself is even fair. If the people gathered at Acton are any indication of the layman’s interest in complex theological matters, vague broadsides against “the church” fall flat. The 625 individuals at the conference, it is apparent, have chosen to attend this conference for a purpose. As a result, the intellectual seriousness and gravity of the issues at hand presents a palpable sobriety within the conference rooms. It’s not “the Christian worldview” that’s in crisis for Acton participants, but justice, goodness, liberty, and freedom. Participants recognize that healthy civilization and liberty is at stake and that Christianity has long stood as the greatest catalyst for economic and political liberty.

I have been particularly struck by the ecumenical nature of the conference and the respectful tone offered by the different traditions (Protestant, Reformed, Orthodox). The presence of all three traditions leaves me hopeful that the body of Christ is still intensely interested in the different lands we inhabit. No one has expressed a tinge of lament, but a careful optimism that the Church is indeed resurgent and triumphant, even when statistics in Western Europe and America tell of the opposite.

Father Sirico kicked-off the event on Tuesday evening with a keynote address on the importance of establishing a proper basis for the week’s activities: Failing to address the identity and essence of man, Father Sirico stated, will result in a failure of offering any meaningful prescriptions on how to advance an understanding of liberty chastened by a proper morality. Is man autonomous? Is man material? Can man transcend himself? Does man inhabit his body? All these questions and others like them depend on getting man’s essential nature correct. There’ll be further reflection on my time at Acton, but for now, I will end my remarks by saying how refreshing it is to involve one’s self in discussions about economics and statecraft that begins not with addressing debt and deficits or political parties, but with theology.

Theology matters.


Earthen Vessels: The Endorsements (Pt. 3)

The final round of endorsements:

“What does Christianity have to say about the body? Much more than you might think. Matthew Lee Anderson—one of evangelicalism’s brightest young writers—is a serious student of God’s Word and God’s world, and in this book he patiently and insightfully explores a theology of the body from numerous angles. Rightly seeing the body as a gift from God for our good and his glory, Anderson insightfully shows us what a biblical worldview has to say about the body in relationship to community, pleasure, sex, sexuality, tattoos, death, prayer, and the church. Anderson’s arguments deserve careful consideration. I suspect that many of us will think differently—and more biblically—about the body as a result of this very fine work.”

Justin Taylor, Managing Editor, ESV Study Bible; blogger, “Between Two Worlds

“We evangelicals don’t think we care about the body, but we really, really do. And Matthew Anderson—one of the brightest lights in the evangelical world—helps us care, ponder, think and pray more wisely as we give our bodies as a living sacrifice to Christ.”

Mark Galli, Senior Managing Editor, Christianity Today

“I love to think. I love to be challenged. Mission accomplished in reading Earthen Vessels. In it, Matthew Anderson takes on prevailing cultural assumptions about the human body that have been uncritically adopted into the church of Jesus Christ. This book is for the church who is in the world. It is a truth-balm for a broken culture addicted to body image. Be challenged to forsake your “quasi-gnosticism” and embrace the divine dignity of your body so that you can worship well.”

Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor at The Journey and author of Church Planter

The book, naturally enough, is here.  And just for kicks:

Earthen Vessels: The Endorsements (Pt. 2)

Strap in, because the next few weeks might be an onslaught of shameless self-promotion for this book.

I hope to write some more personal reflections about the process, what I learned, etc. so if there’s something you want to know, drop me a comment.  But in the meantime I thought I’d roll out the endorsements for it.  Here’s round two, which is the academic round.  The first endorsements were here, don’t miss the trailer, and don’t forget to, you know, buy a copy.

“Earthen Vessels is a turning point in the evangelical conversation about the meaning of bodies. If you didn’t even know such a conversation was going on, you are lucky to have Matthew Anderson introducing you to it. If you’ve already been listening in and are as confused as the rest of us, you’ll appreciate the way this book sorts things out, settles accounts, debunks myths, digs for sources, raises neglected issues, and points out the way forward. On nearly every page you can find two virtues rarely combined: surprising new insights and good old common sense. Here is good counsel (solid, soulful, scriptural) about how to be humans, in bodies, under the gospel.”

Fred Sanders, Associate Professor of Theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

“Ours is a befuddling age. We’re “friends” with people we’ve never met, we read books that have nomaterial substance, and we store precious material in something rather ominously termed “the cloud.”Physicality is out; incorporeality is in. Earthen Vessels is a needed contribution in such a time. Thetext is at once an elegant meditation on the body, a fresh study of Scripture, and a celebration of thewestern tradition. Here is philosophical theology that will foster debate, critical thought, and praise of the Savior whose physical sacrifice won our salvation.”

Owen Strachan, Instructor of Christian Theology and Church History, Boyce College

“Matthew Lee Anderson makes an important contribution to the evangelical dialogue about the importance and role of the human body that is both scholarly and accessible. Too often evangelical discourse on this subject has been either defensive or simply followed cultural trends. Anderson is both robustly Christian and willing to listen when other traditions may have something to contribute. Christians will learn from this book that the body is important, but that we are not just computers made out of meat.”

John Mark Reynolds (Ph.D.), Director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University