We’re about six weeks into Earthen Vessels being available, which means that reviews are starting to trickle in.

I am so thankful for everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on the work.  Even though I haven’t been able to respond to everyone, it’s been the highlight of the process.  If you have read the book, I’d appreciate you leaving an Amazon review and a review at your blog.  And if you haven’t, well….

That said, highlighting reviews is a little weird, as people have said some overly nice things.  There’s all sorts of genuine spiritual dangers here for an author, including (and especially!) doubting the good reviews and clinging to the bad ones, or holding too closely to the good ones and defensively combating the critiques.  It’s a minefield, but traversing happens one step at a time.  Lord, have mercy.

To it, then.

James Arnold points out that reading the book provides a similar experience as I had writing it:  people are more interested in the “body of Christ” than the human body:

Matt describes his experience of discussing the book during the writing process with fellow church-goers by relating that the follow up question was always “You mean, like, physical bodies?” My own experience, when I say “Oh, I’m reading this book called Earthen Vessels. It is about the body,” I have almost universally received the response “You mean, like the Body of Christ?”

Watch James’ blog for more, as I will be.  He’s a sharp guy who graciously assisted the making of the trailer.

Second, friend of Mere-O Ben Simpson (who was kind enough to comment on a draft) had this to say over at the new hub FaithVillage:

The body has been an overlooked subject for critical reflection among evangelicals, and in this account, Anderson begins to fill in the noticeable gaps on a topic that is important for discipleship and for apologetics.  A robust account of our embodied, fleshy existence, I believe, is critical for the church’s witness before the watching world.

I’m hoping for a more substantive critique from him, which I know is coming soon.

But, more tomorrow.  In the meantime, please do tell a friend or pastor about the book.  Your kind support is appreciated.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

8 Comments

  1. Matt,
    The kinds of spiritual dangers you discuss are exactly what I experience as a pastor. If I’m given an attaboy, I think I’m great. If I’m given a critique, the world has ended. Of course, one gets 10 attaboys for every critique but the focus is always on the critique. It’s just one more reminder each week that I need to(or rather, need to let God) drive the Gospel deeper into my heart, because clearly I don’t believe in justification enough if I’m trying to earn the approval of others.

    Looking forward to having you in a few weeks. I’m starting the electronic ad buzz today.

    Dave

    Reply

    1. Matthew Lee Anderson July 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      This is exactly right, David. Thanks for putting it that way and of reminding me of my need for grace. Welcome words these days. : )

      Reply

  2. Matt,

    I appreciate your candor about the spiritual dangers for an author. Interestingly, one high-profile Christian writer and scholar, whose name I deliberately withhold, said he NEVER reads reviews of his work because it has a tendency to promote narcissism. That’s admirable self-control. I’m not sure I could plug my ears like Odysseus when the sirens sing.

    I often think about how the immediacy of the Internet has changed things. In the past, a book was published and reviews came in several weeks or months after the release date. Authors almost never replied publicly to the reviews as a matter of protocol. Now it’s possible to review a book before it has been released (e.g., Rob Bell brouhaha). Blogs and websites provide an opportunity – good or bad – for authors to jump into the fray, defending themselves or rebutting criticisms.

    You remark that a Mere-O friend reviewed your book. In journalism school, I took a course in critical reviewing where we learned that it is a “conflict of interest” for a friend or supporter to review a work. The goal of impartiality can be compromised by the relation. Some publications prohibit such reviews while others do not. In the age of the Internet, few people think about media ethics, let alone practice them. What are your thoughts on this topic?

    Christopher

    Reply

    1. Matthew Lee Anderson July 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      Christopher,

      I do think that looking at reviews can be narcissism (and, in my case, probably is). But I also think there’s an earnest desire to see the book discussed not because it’s mine, but because it’s got ideas that are worth discussing. The dialectician in me cares to see that go on. The goal isn’t to rebut or defend, but (really) to grow and understand so that if, God willing, I am old and issuing a retractions, I can have lots of material that others taught me.

      As for reviews, I’ll save that for another post.

      matt

      Reply

      1. In the absence of a classroom where discussion abounds, I wonder if the author-dialectician craves reviews.

        Reply

        1. Matthew Lee Anderson July 28, 2011 at 9:24 am

          Yes. : )

          Reply

  3. Matt, you are correct to assume that a more lengthy, critical review is forthcoming. I may even have to give you a second reading before I compose a fuller treatment. After having read some early chapters, it was interesting to witness the evolution of your manuscript.

    Good work my friend.

    Reply

    1. Matthew Lee Anderson July 28, 2011 at 9:27 am

      Ben, I was hoping that you’d chime in with a more substantive response. : ) In fact, I’m very eager to read it.

      matt

      Reply

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