Stephanie Smith continues the Earthen Vessels symposium by focusing on chapter two:

In a continuum there might be Gnosticism at one end and hedonism at another, but our current state of “evangelical inattention” means that we are simply not mindful of a theology of the body at all, and our careless neglect may manifest itself anywhere along the spectrum. It may take the face of the ascetic who mistreats his body for the sake of his soul, the pastor who overindulges and sees no connection between his eating habits and his faith, or the woman who protests abortion clinics and clothes her own children with outfits produced by child laborers.

Anderson is onto something when he suggests that one of the biggest symptoms of inattention is inconsistent living. He warns, “If we are not attentive to the ways in which the habits, practices, and rhythms of our bodies are shaped by the world in which we live, then we will be susceptible to living according to false understandings of reality…we will end up incorporating ideas and beliefs into our systems that are contrary to what we would consciously affirm.”

It’s true that we need to carefully discern our living patterns and what informs them, as Anderson suggests, from evangelical impulses which are true and that which are false, as well as worldly influences. But I would also add that there are cultural examples the church might benefit to learn from. Because if our evangelical inattention to the body results in inconsistent living, others have inversely made a religion out of the body to which they devote themselves, in both word and action.

A full reply coming tomorrow.

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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.


  1. Stephanie:

    Having this part of the book, I’m wondering whether you think the author’s case for the “evangelical inattention” to the body would have been strengthened with empirical data? Are anecdote and assertion adequate “proof”? If “one of the biggest symptoms of inattention is inconsistent living,” then this isn’t a peculiarly evangelical problem but a human problem.



    1. Matthew Lee Anderson October 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm

      I would commend you to her blog to ask that of her. I’m not sure she’s checking here.


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