Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter

Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our FaithSummary: Our bodies are important not just to life, but to our faith as well.

Reading book again is an under-valued exercise.  I try to re-read at least one book a month.  For many books, it is not possible to catch all of the nuances and points on a first reading.

So it has been my tradition the last couple years to, when available switch the format of my second reading.  So if I start with an audiobook, I will move to paper or kindle.  If I start with paper, I move to audio.  In this case I read it in kindle version the first time and in audio the second.  I find that there is enough different between the different formats that you get something else out of the change that is more than just re-reading in the same format.

In this case I enjoyed Earthen Vessels just as much as the first time.  Read the first review, because I am not going to deal with any of the same content on this one.

After the first reading, I was intrigued by the theology of the body.  So I bought two books and never really got to them.  I started Called to Love, but got bogged down and gave up.  And I bought Theology of the Body for Beginners and never even cracked it open.  It is a bad habit of mine to be interested in something but not follow up as I should.  I have become twitter friends with Matt Anderson and I regularly read and comment on his blog  So two weeks ago we tweeted back and forth about my reading this a second time.  Mostly after this second reading I want to sit down and have a long talk with Anderson.

Matthew Lee Anderson is known for writing intelligently about conservative issues.  He has had articles in Christianity Today, First Things, Gospel Coalition Blog, Relevant, The Evangelical Outpost and more.  I am temperamentally a progressive (and am OK with the phrase liberal).  This book reminds me the importance of talking to people with different perspectives because we all have our blind spots.

Anderson is a conservative in the best sense of the word.  He believes that we need to think clearly about why we should change our thinking or actions.  He wants to preserve the best of the world.  But he is not reacting against change, he wants to evaluate it.  I think one of the best sections in the book is the one on homosexuality.  Anderson has a clear position against gay marriage, but he is not afraid to really think about the why and is very much concerned that changing culture and laws around marriage will harm marriage without making things better for gay relationships.

My main concern this on this reading is how much cultural assumptions are influencing the way we make our theological decisions (both about our body and other matters).  Anderson is clearly trying to step outside culture to the extent it is possible and think about the why of our actions (for instance in his chapters on worship and tattoos.)  But it feels like more needs to be done in cross cultural communication to investigate how our cultural assumptions are unintentionally still making a difference.

This is where Anderson’s decision to not write about Gender and Race are felt strongly.  I understand his reasons, but when I have discussions with women I am often struck about the different ways that women perceive their bodies.  This comes out in different voting patters, a survey by Christianity Today (PDF) about the gender differences in spiritual development, and more.  And racial and ethnic differences have felt even more important as the ways that we perceive beauty, justice, oppression, etc. are all influenced not just by theology or politics or income, but by racial background, urban/suburban/rural background, and culture.

Normally I write reviews almost immediately after reading a book.  I want the ideas fresh in my head.  But it has been over a week since I have finished this book and I am still thinking about it and I am not sure what to write.  Clearly our bodies are important.  Clearly, we as Christians are interested not only in eternal life, but in the lives of people that are here on earth with us right now.  And as many have written about over the past decade or two, God is interested in physical bodies because he not only created the ones we have now but he has said we will have new bodies after the resurrection.

This is a book I believe that I will read a third time.  But first I will read more on John Paul II’s theology of the body.  This is something that is too important for Evangelicals to abandon.

My only negative note on the second reading is that I was not impressed with the production of the audiobook. It is not bad, although there were a number of words that were mispronounced.  The main problem is that it was a bad choice of narrators.  Bruce Hanson is not a bad narrator.  But he sounds like a 50 something year-old radio preacher.  And that voice did not match the content.  It is not as dissonant as when Scott Brick (who has a great spooky serial killer voice) narrated Bill Hybel’s The Power of a Whisper (about hearing from God).  But I would have much preferred Anderson read it himself.  He said that his publisher rejected his request to read it.  That is too bad.

Earthen Vessels Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook

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