My last plea for help on this book was so successful, and shaped so much of my thinking about the direction my book is going in, that I thought I’d put out a request for even more help.

I don’t like my title anymore.

I’m not sure why, really.  I still think Body Matters has a lot going for it, but it lacks something that I can’t quite put my finger on.  And at any rate, I’m going to have to say it–over and over and over–when the book comes out, so I want to make sure I get this right.

So, I’m asking for help.

Necessary disclosure:  we may not use your title suggestion.  Don’t be surprised by that, and don’t be offended.  It could be a perfectly good title, but for a book that’s different than mine.  It could be a good title for a book like mine, but I’m just too muddled headed to like it.  It’s no reflection of you.  Honest.

In order to prime the pump, here’s a few of the titles I am kicking around:

The Shape of Grace:  The Body and Evangelical Spirituality

Two Feet on Solid Ground:  The Body and Evangelical Spirituality

A Physical Faith:  The Evangelical Body into the 21st Century

The Body for the Lord:  Evangelicals and Bodies into the 21st Century

The Lord for the Body:  Evangelicals and Flesh into the 21st Century

I am working off of several themes here.  First, it’s not just a question of the body or not within evangelicalism.  The question is what will shape our bodies? Will we ultimately have an embodied life that is governed by grace, or by something else?

Second, human bodies are suspended between two worlds:  on the one hand, we are animals.  On the other, we are oriented toward God, and so are bodies can be shaped in ways that animals cannot be.  Neither beast nor angel, as the traditional formulation goes.

Third, the body is contested within evangelicalism. Many of the faultlines between the generations have to do with how we think about bodies.  One way of reading the younger generation is rebelling against the perceived gnosticism of our parents.  Much of my content will address these sorts of issues (and in that sense, my book is more of a social ethic than a book on spirituality per se).

Fourth, the body is good–but what kind of good?  So often decisions about aspects of the body get subordinated to pragmatism, as in the church architecture conversation.  Pragmatism, in fact, can end up being subtly gnostic inasmuch as it allies itself with technocratic optimism.

Fifth, there’s clearly a theological component at work.  The body for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  But what precisely does that mean, and more precisely, what does that look like within evangelicalism?

Sixth, there’s a sense in which we don’t need to just appreciate or think about our bodies: we need to embrace them in a particular way.  I’ve kicked around deploying the imagery of kissing the dust, or embracing the dirt along these lines.  But I can’t quite figure out how to phrase it.

There’s more depth that I’ll be covering, of course.  But in terms of motifs and questions, those will come up often.

Your feedback would be incredibly helpful to me.  Feel free to add a comment about which title you like best (if any) and why, or (even better!) suggest an alternate title.  I’m not even sure which one I’m partial to anymore, so feel free to be blunt.  And anyone who contributes will be not-quite-immortalized in the (ever-expanding!) acknowledgments.

And thanks.  This has been a long road, and there’s a long ways yet to go.  I’m grateful that a few readers are willing to help me out on the journey.

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.

  • SBK

    Just for fun:
    “Pain in the Neck and Fire in the Belly : The Evangelical Body”

  • I really like Shape of Grace.

  • My suggestions:

    * “Evangelizing the Body” (probably not what you were going for as far as indications of content, but it’s my favorite of the ones I’ve got…’Evanglicalizing’ also struck, but seems off somehow.)
    * “This is Your Body” (lame play on “this is my body”)
    * “The Broken Body”?

    Independent of these titles, I think the subtitle I’d suggest most would be something like “Evangelicalism and the Flesh”

    Of your titles, I like:

    “The Shape of Grace” and “Two Feet on Solid Ground” the best; the first seems a tad ambiguous, but lots of book titles are and it’s a small price to play for the wordplay. I like the first best.

    Also, you might be checking it fairly regularly, but (if it’s not too late) I’m going to leave a question on the “questioning the body” post.

  • Matthew, I think you were on the right track in your explanation actually. Something like: Neither Beast Nor Angel: Embracing an Embodied Grace would provide pointers without overly narrowing the audience.

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  • Drew Dyck

    Bodies in the Body

  • Help me out by suggesting a title for my book, and win fame and glory (in heaven): http://bit.ly/bWz1Df #fb

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Boy, I had fun thinking about this on the treadmill this morning. I really like the “Shape of Grace” and “Two Feet on Solid Ground”. I don’t particularly care for the subtitles in the last three. Other suggestions:

    Body Wars–Evangelicals Struggle to Figure Out What They Believe About the Body

    Dirtbags–The Body and Evangelical Spirituality

    Ok, so I’m joking. A couple of real suggestions:

    The Enduring Body

    Body Endurance

    Born of Dust, Reborn of the Spirit

    And my favorite of the ones I came up with:

    Presenting the Body

    Pluses: it operates at different levels, based on Romans 12:1, and tied to the “Body for the Lord” motif

  • odlaram7

    My favorite is Shape of Grace. It rolls off the tongue in a lovely way and it fits well with what you want to do.

  • Nancy Anderson

    My vote: Two feet on solid ground: the body and evangelical spirituality. (you could maybe add the “physical body” somewhere to get away from confusing people since the body is also used to define the church. I like the title because the solid ground indicates a life, body included, grounded on the Rock, Jesus Christ.

  • The Embodiment of Grace: The Human Body and 21st Century Evangelicalism

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  • Kara

    Keep it simple. Really simple. Although these titles suggest something interesting, they make your book sound more like an academic essay than something the lay reader might be interested in reading. While I’m not sure which demographic you’re targeting, simple is always best. Don’t make it too highfalutin.

    “Shape of Grace” does have a lovely sound. I don’t think it necessarily encompasses the content you provided, but it’s your best so far.

  • Matt. My thoughts, if you can use them:

    First, I enjoy SBK’s “Pain in the Neck and Fire in the Belly: The Evangelical Body.” Yes. This is my favorite, relevant or not. To me it says, “ah, this body! What do we do with the darn thing?”

    Second, I agree with some that “The Shape of Grace” has a nice ring to it. However, to be frank, it sounds a little too typical-Christian-booky to me. I think it fails to communicate enough what your book will say (not that the title has to be completely obvious). And I think your book will say some interesting things. Not my first vote.

    Third, I think Nancy Anderson makes an interesting and good point about considering including “physical body.”

    Fourth (and finally), I sort of like “A Physical Faith: The Evangelical Body into the 21st Century.” I enjoy it’s inclusion of “into the 21st century.” I think I also enjoy the mention of “physical.”

    Can’t wait to see where you land!

  • I think a killer title would be Body Language, since part of your point is redirecting the way evangelicals speak about the Body (though I know this isn’t your whole point!), and because your book will be a discussion about the body. You could even do something like, Evangelical Body Language.

    Then, the subtitle could be something like, “Redirecting the Evangelical View of the Body,” or “A Conversation on Evangelicals and the Body,” or “Talking Points for the Evangelical Conversation about the Body,” or (i should stop), “Re-forming the Disembodied Anthropology of Evangelicals.”

    Also, at some point I think it would drip with hip if you used a subtitle like “He’s a Real Nowhere Man: The Body Language of a Previous Generation of Suspicious Evangelicals.”

  • Chris Leigh

    Incorporating the Incorporeal

    Freely Bound

    Reborn & Renewed

  • Naomi Luce

    Hi Matt! Saw your post–I’m no good at titles either, so I’ll just say, I like the idea of putting something something about embracing the body in the title–it gives an appeal to the book that might not otherwise be staring at you on the cover, perhaps something like, “Evangelicals and the Body: Toward a Renewed Appreciation for an Embodied (maybe ‘corporeal’?) Spiritual Life”–that sounds stupid (a bit redundant with ‘body’ and ’embodied’), but you get the idea.
    I can’t wait to see the book! This is a topic that is quite interesting to me, and congratulations on the upcoming publication!

  • Jane Elmore

    I actually like “The Body for the Lord” as an initial title. I know it isn’t quite as “snappy”, but it does sum up nicely what our view towards our bodies is to be. If you wanted to, maybe you could include both: “The Body for the Lord, the Lord for the Body:….” although that would make for quite a lengthy title.

  • My suggestion would be based on Colossians 2:15-23:

    The Body is of Christ: Is Evangelicalism being knit to the Head?

  • PD Williams

    what about one foot in the grave, one foot in grace?

  • Garrett Jackson

    Since you say that some of your major themes will be the shape our bodies will take and wanting to tie in the idea of dust how about either “This Humble Vessel” or “This Glorious Vessel.” I know the adjectives have rather disparate meanings but each captures a different aspect of your themes, and the analogy of God as the potter and us as the clay occurs throughout the Bible.

  • You could always call it,

    Exposing the Bod Fraud

    With the subtitle being,

    Bodies? BODIES?! We don’t need no stinkin Bodies!

  • All,

    TONS of great and interesting ideas here, and VERY helpful feedback. I’m so intrigued by the differences of opinion, and curious about what is behind those differences.

    I’m still conflicted over which route to go. Someone suggested using “posture” in the title, which is intriguing to me. Also, someone suggested “Brother Ass: The Body as the Soul’s Beast of Burden,” which I like a lot but doubt the publisher would go for.

    And late last night, I had this thought: “Nearer to the Dust: The Physical Body within Evangelical Spirituality.”

    Any other thoughts out there? I’m game for other suggestions.

    Matt

  • Christof Meyer

    Ok, I know just adding more wood to the fire won’t help us arrive at the perfect temperature. But since everyone else is doing it…

    Out of the Dust – God’s Plan for Human Embodiment
    A Vessel for Grace – God’s Gift of the Body
    The Body of Christ – Recapturing the Power of Fleshly Existence
    Grace Matter – Understanding God’s Purpose for our Bodies
    The Sum of Our Parts – Implications and Possibility in Fully-Embodied Faith

    I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I’m sure I’ll come up with more later.

    Mr. Anderson… I hope you’re setting some kind of precedent for the way you plan to do things in the future. Because, at the bare minimum, the way you have gone about this process so far makes YOUR work work much more interesting for ME. LOL

  • Christof,

    Great suggestions. I like the Dust and vessel imagery a lot.

    One idea that I think you would like a lot came in:

    “With My Body I Thee Worship: The Body within Evangelical Spirituality.”

    What does everyone make of that?

    Matt

  • Just some brainstorming here.

    Worshipful Embodiment
    Embodied Spirits
    Joy in the Temple
    Spirit in Flesh
    Bodies and Spirit
    The Spirit of Embodiment
    The Spirit Embodied
    In His Image: The Body in Evangelical Spirituality

    And to the contrary of your thesis:

    Mortify Your Members: The Denial of the Body in Modern Evangelicalism
    With Severity to the Body: Fleshly Existence and Its Denial

    Couldn’t help it.

  • Gary

    Maybe Over the Rhine will let you borrow the title from their song “The Body Is a Stairway of Skin.”

  • Eddie

    Suggestions:

    Not-Yet-Heavenly Bodies (or something like that)

    Bound to the Body (or Body-Bound)

    Every Man Is A Builder (from the quotation “Every man is the builder of a Temple called his body” by Thoreau)

    A Trembling in the Bones

    If The Body Be Feeble (from the quotation “If the body be feeble, the mind will not be strong” by Jefferson)

  • William Wells

    From Ashes to Ascendancy
    From Dust to Deliverance
    The Anatomy of Grace
    The Spiritual Sapien
    Adam’s Anatomy
    Infused by Grace
    The Embodiment of the Divine

  • Two more came to my mind.

    1. Mere Dust

    2. From Sperm to Eternity
    (#2 inspired by Mr. Wells.)

  • Jonathan Olson

    Hi Matt, I’ll avoid suggesting subtitles because that is your space to be as descriptive as possible about your book.

    There have been a lot of excellently allusive main titles suggested but I would avoid using a pun like Body Language because you will probably tire of it soon (as you already have with Body Matters) and then come to hate it.

    This is no fault of the pun itself of course (I’m a lover of puns, to the daily frustration of my friends, not to mention myself when asked what my doctoral dissertation was titled), but puns invite the hearer to dismiss any deeper meanings as soon as the first level of the double meaning is immediately recognized. It would be better to use words that do have multiple connotations but not in the form of an oft-heard phrase that could invite dismissive reactions.

    I would also vote against “Two Feet on Solid Ground” because it draws attention to the ground rather than to the feet standing on it, and even less to the body those feet are a part of. And if I saw that title in a bookstore I would assume it was a book about doctrine in general, or apologetics, or some other subject routinely labelled “foundational” to the point of triteness.

    “The Shape of Grace” is nice but sounds like it is more about sanctification than about physical shape.

    I would suggest “Shaping the Flesh” — but I just like the word Flesh: I think it is more attention-grabbing than “Body” (which could still appear in the subtitle without repetition) and it could be used provocatively. Even though “flesh” sometimes carries negative connotations in the NT, it doesn’t always (notably Gen. 2:23) so I think it is OK to use positively. (HT to Dan Lower for introducing the word into this thread.)

    As for readers’ suggestions, I find Richard Jones’s “The Body Is of Christ” quite compelling. It’s a great example of inserting one word into a common phrase to make bookstore browsers double-take and arouse their curiosity enough to pick up the volume and flip through it (or more often, to click on Look Inside!). It also (I think) encapsulates the main thrust of Christian anti-gnosticism: bodies are good not only because the Word created them, but especially because the Word himself took one, used it well in life and death, rectified its defects in resurrection, and still has it!

    Finally, after heaping praise on Mr. Jones’s former suggestion I hope he will not mind me offering a counterpoint to his last one: “Not Just Dust: The Dignity of the Body”!

  • Matt,

    Pay no attention to the thorough and helpful comment above by Mr. Olson.

    The title Body Language would rock the bookstores.

    Saddleback Sam would never see it coming.

  • Christof Meyer

    I really like “With My Body I Thee Worship: The Body within Evangelical Spirituality.” It seems old (because it is) but also thoughtful. It seems, actually, like the Elizabethian way of saying “Not Just Dust” which makes both seem better by comparison. Olson is on to something.

    I also am increasingly compelled by the thought that the title should lend itself to the book art (as opposed to “graphic design” which takes us into marketing land where diverse and sundry hazards lie).

    Seen from this perspective it seems like something SUPER SIMPLE like Not Just Dust, More Than Dust, etc. could allow for considerable artistic development and might just help your eloquent argumentation find an elegant vehicle into someone’s shopping cart.

    This is a fun conversation.

  • Two more for those who enjoy Greek:

    1. Dust in the Pneuma.
    2. Soma Dei

  • Christopher Benson

    Who chose the title BODY MATTERS: the author or the editor?

    I still like the title for its (1) simplicity, (2) memorability, (3) thematic precision, and (4) rhetorical force. If I understand the project of your book, you’re making an argument that the “body matters” for all Christians––but especially for your audience of evangelical Christians, who tend to operate with an unexamined Gnosticism. BODY MATTERS is the kind of title that might linger long after its publication. Just consider Cornel West’s best-selling titles: RACE MATTERS and DEMOCRACY MATTERS.

    Like a parrot, I’ve repeatedly told Mr. Anderson that I think Rodney Clapp has authored the best contemporary treatment of embodied spirituality in TORTURED WONDERS, a brilliant title for its simplicity, memorability, and poetry (“tortured wonders” is an expression from George Herbert). If there’s a flaw, it doesn’t adequately convey the theme or thesis of the book without further elaboration. Just as Clapp put flesh on our spiritual life, I anticipate that Anderson will put flesh on our social life.

    I don’t like any of the proposed alternatives. THE SHAPE OF GRACE gives almost no clue about the book’s content––and, here’s the big rub, there are tons of Christians books written with the title word of “grace.” A PHYSICAL FAITH strikes me as problematic because it implies a division between the physical and spiritual when a unity should be preserved. WITH MY BODY I THEE WORSHIP is too wordy, although I like the confessional quality of the expression.

    Because the “book is more of a social ethic than a book on spirituality per se,” I would adapt the subtitle of Clapp’s third chapter in TORTURED WONDERS, “Putting Adam Back Together Again: Christian Spirituality and the Social Body.” Here’s my vote:

    Option #1
    BODY MATTERS: Evangelical Spirituality and the Social Body

    Option #2
    BODY MATTERS: Toward an Evangelical Social Body

  • What about…

    “Adam’s Atoms: The Human Body in Evangelical Spirituality”

    …or “God’s Anatomy: The Human Body in Evangelical Spirituality”

    …or the more philosophical “Shells, Machines, and Selves: The Human Body in Evangelical Spirituality”

    Also, “Body Matters” is already taken (though I suppose that doesn’t always matter in the publishing world, provided one has a unique subtitle).