Chris Krycho knows how to ask hard questions, and he simply does not pull punches in his interview at his blog Pillar on the Rock.
First, start with Chris’ balanced review, where he concludes with this:
Earthen Vessels is an important book for the evangelical community. The human body matters, and God has said a great deal about it. We would do well to pay attention. Matthew Anderson has done the evangelical community a service in writing a book that is thorough, well-written, and solidly grounded in the gospel and a health focus on God himself. Good as the book is, it isn’t comprehensive—it couldn’t be, and was never meant to be. It’s a conversation starter. I, for one, hope the conversation is a lively one.
That last line turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Chris brought heat in our conversation.
Part one covers healing and a whole host of other things. By the time I hit part two, I start trying to tap out. Chris squeezes me into some tight corners, and evokes me to beg for mercy: “Can I have the easy questions now, please?”
In part three, we talk sex and worship and I roll out my reply to those who claim louder music leads to better singing:
It’s true that loud music might make some people feel more free to sing loudly, but you know what else might make them feel free that way? A congregation around them that is singing really loudly. Especially if a few of those voices are not was perfect as the one’s on stage. That sort of congregational singing communicates that this is a place where people sing and are welcome to sing, but I’m not sure that loud music communicates that as well (in fact, it often communicates the opposite–this is a place where the band sings and people watch and nod their head). So to presume that the technological solution is the only one to engage all the members of the congregation is, I think, wrong. And if people are judgmental about the quality of people’s singing in the congregation, well, that’s a spiritual problem that an amp isn’t going to solve either.
This is the first of a series of interviews that I’m going to link to, including those at Faith Village and Trevin Wax’s blog. If you’re interested in doing an interview with me on your own blog, send me an email and we’ll make it happen.
Don’t let him fool you, people. I asked hard questions, but he delivered some solid answers. Enjoy the review and interview, and leave a comment over at my place!
You said: “…a lot of times, ‘incarnational’ gets separated from the Incarnation and we end up with blanket affirmations of ‘engagement’ rather than a more narrowly construed understanding that takes its lead from the specific revelation of Jesus. As Karl Barth points out, the Gospels are almost wholly unconcerned with depicting the ‘normal affairs’ of Jesus’ earthly life and almost wholly consumed with his status as Lord and his unique mission. That should be instructive for thinking about our own bodily lives, I think.”
Please elaborate on HOW “that should be instructive for thinking about our own bodily lives.”
We should think less about our own bodily lives, and more about Jesus’. : )
You write: “[Our] fitness and our fashion needs to take its cues from the cross and the resurrection.” That’s a nice talking-point, but it’s extraordinarily vague. You provide little to no specific details – and none that are obviously related to the cross and resurrection. I’m skeptical about this kind of Christianizing impulse. To speak of “Christian” (or cross-centered) fashion or fitness risks judgment on matters for which Scripture does not bind the conscience. Reformed theologian David VanDrunen warns against this impulse: “God therefore leaves much to the wisdom and discretion of Christians as they make their way in the common kingdom and interact with unbelieving colleagues. Every Christian has the obligation to make morally responsible decisions about his cultural endeavors. But Christians must also be on guard against condemning other Christians’ decisions about matters for which Scripture does not bind the conscience. We should be modest about claiming our own decisions and views about such things as the Christian view.”
Yes. I disagree with Van Drunen. As you will discover when you read Earthen Vessels. : )
See Oliver O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order for more.
It’s an annoying but understandable reflex when authors respond to inquiries by saying “Read my book.” I think it’s the responsibility of an author to explain or distill what’s in his book. You’ve alerted readers to your interviews so what you say there is open to scrutiny – apart from your book.
The answers – if we even want to call them that – to both of my comments on Mere-O are unsatisfactory. I earnestly want to know how this – “the Gospels are almost wholly unconcerned with depicting the ‘normal affairs’ of Jesus’ earthly life and almost wholly consumed with his status as Lord and his unique mission” – is instructive for our bodily lives and it’s not adequate to say “we should think less about our bodily lives, and more about Jesus.” Just because the Gospels are wholly unconcerned with depicting the normal affairs of Jesus’ earthly life doesn’t mean he was wholly unconcerned. We simply don’t have any record of it. Moreover, if your answer holds, then Earthen Vessels encourages us to think more – not less – about our bodily lives. [Cue Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” song.]
On the other topic, it seems irresponsible to talk about taking fitness and fashion cues from the cross and resurrection and then providing little to no specifics – and none that are obviously related to the cross and resurrection. You said you’re dressing up on date nights for you wife. How is that related to the cross and resurrection? You said you’re inclined to stop listening to audiobooks at the gym so you can mingle with the people in that space? How is that related to the cross and resurrection? Some biblical principles (not specifics) might apply to fitness and fashion, but you didn’t mention those.
I think you have a lot of good and intelligent things to say but if I were to register one – unsolicited (forgive me!) – observation it is this: your writing needs more specifics and less generalities. (I suffer from this tendency to generalize as well, so it’s easy to identify in otheres.) Anyway can say “[Our] fitness and our fashion needs to take its cues from the cross and the resurrection” but it’s a helluva lot harder to say “how” – and, as you know from my VanDrunen quotation, I question that Christianizing impulse because you risk judgment on matters for which Scripture does not bind the conscience. At the very least, it should make you “modest about claiming [your] own decisions and views about such things as the Christian view.”
Thanks, Christopher. Here’s the thing: I don’t offer specific exhortations to do this or that because I don’t think ethics can be done in the abstract. I point toward a shape and a way of thinking so that people can deliberate along with me on these matters.
Matt: You’re gracious with me, and I hope you appreciate that I hold your feet to the fire (even if I’m mistaken in your estimation). This last reply is helpful because is reinforces why it’s unreasonable to expect that you (or anyone else) would be able to come up with a “Christian” fashion or fitness because, as VanDrunen says, “while Scripture has significant things to say about all of our cultural endeavors, it does not tell us everything about any of them. Scripture provides a general, big-picture perspective about these endeavors but does not ordinarily provide specific instructions about how to pursue them in an excellent and socially beneficial way.”
Again, I refer you to EV and RMO for more. To restate my position, since you have simply restated yours, I do not think it unreasonable to discern the way the cross shapes every part of our lives, including the decisions about fashion and fitness. But again, I commend you to those books for more as I don’t have time or the room in the comments section to unpack a theory of moral epistemology in light of the wisdom we have in Christ.
Perhaps once you read those we can discuss the difference in methodology more deeply.
Oh, goodie! So EV and RMO spell out how the cross should shape our fashion and fitness. If you really think there is such a thing as THE Christian view on fashion and fitness, then this conservation is over because you risk judging other believers on matters for which Scripture doesn’t bind the conscience. The examples you provided on fashion (dressing up for your wife) and fitness (removing the iPod while working out in the gym) do not strike me as obviously cross- or resurrected-centered. At the very most, you’ve simply exercised some wisdom and discretion about those cultural activities.
I’ve noted that we disagree about the role of conscience in Christian moral deliberation and pointed you to EV and RMO for where you can find out more about why. Thanks for the discussion.
It was interesting to see a touch of how the interview went from your point of view and the subjects touched upon.
Thanks for taking the time to do share about Chris’ interview with you on your blog.