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Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith Paperback – June 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"We evangelicals don't think we care about the body, but we really, really do. And Matthew Anderson--one of the brightest lights in the evangelical world--helps us care, ponder, think and pray more wisely as we give our bodies as a living sacrifice to Christ." 

 ----Mark Galli, Senior Managing Editor, Christianity Today

"Matthew Lee Anderson...is a serious student of God's Word and God's world, and in this book he patiently and insightfully explores a theology of the body from numerous angles...I suspect that many of us will think differently--and more biblically--about the body as a result of this very fine work."

---Justin Taylor, ESV Study Bible

"On nearly every page you can find two virtues rarely combined: surprising new insights and good old common sense. Here is good counsel (solid, soulful, scriptural) about how to be humans, in bodies, under the gospel."
---Fred Sanders, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

"This book is for the church who is in the world. It is a truth-balm for a broken culture addicted to body image. Be challenged to forsake your "quasi-gnosticism" and embrace the divine dignity of your body so that you can worship well."
---Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor at The Journey and author of Church Planter

"Matthew Lee Anderson makes an important contribution to the evangelical dialogue about the role of the human body that is both scholarly and accessible...Christians will learn from this book that the body is important, but that we are not just computers made out of meat." 
--- John Mark Reynolds (Ph.D.), Torrey Honors Institute

About the Author

Matthew Anderson blogs at Mere Orthodoxy and Evangel. He graduated from Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute in 2004 and spent a year studying at Oxford University. Matthew works at The Journey, a large interdenominational church where he conducts research and develops curriculum. He and his wife live in St. Louis, Missouri.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (June 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076420856X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764208560
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #708,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By G. Kyle Essary on June 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Today, being an educated young evangelical unfortunately means that we inhabit non-evangelical writings hoping to learn from ideas in other Christian traditions to apply them to our own. As a young (31) evangelical, you can merely browse my reviews to see the types of books we read. Catholic (Feser, Budzizewski, Gilson), Anglican (Jacobs), Orthodox (Hart), etc. are among the influences we feast upon for the simple reason that it's often more satisfying. The "deep thinkers" in these subjects have often been non-evangelicals and unfortunately we find ourselves playing catchup too often.

Anderson's interesting new book follows this trend. The book begins with a quote from G.K. Chesterton, a Catholic, engages John Paul II's work on the body at various points, and frequently quotes C.S. Lewis, an Anglo-Catholic. It discusses the work of mainliners, such as Richard Hays and the Archbishop of Cantebury, Rowan Williams. It even quotes (surprisingly frequently) some of the leaders of the emerging church. Seemingly, only the occasional quote from Oliver O'Donovan or Dallas Willard come from the ranks of evangelical theologians (or philosophers in the case of Willard). He at one point (note 55) states that he will later come back to discuss the devotional writings of J.P. Moreland, but the only references to Moreland come in discussion of his understanding of the soul/body distinction.

Unfortunately, evangelicals have not truly formulated a comprehensive theology of the body. I feared that in attempting such a task, Anderson would either simply engage with non-evangelical authors without presenting his own perspective apart from critiquing others, or simply fall into the trap of writing a bioethical treatise.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Krycho on July 20, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It has become something of a truism in recent years that any discussion about the state of American Christianity will inevitably include a reference to Greek philosophy and latent gnosticism. It is a bit fitting, then, that Matthew Lee Anderson opens Earthen Vessels, his new book on theology of the body, by asking whether American Christians have the dualistic, negative view of the body so frequently attributed to them.

His answer? Actually, evangelicals have usually expressed their theology pretty well in this area--when they have expressed anything at all. Evangelicalism's theology of the body has been characterized not so much by gnostic hatred as by general neglect punctuated by occasional reactions against culture. We need a fuller conversation about an area largely unaddressed, and Earthen Vessels is intended as a conversation-starter, not the final word on theology of the body.

Unlike many of his conversation-starting emergent peers, though, Anderson doesn't think the conversation is one without parameters. In his introduction, he writes, "Grace has a shape, and that shape is Jesus. My question is how that grace shapes our arms and legs, our skin, and other organs." Throughout the book, Anderson is at pains to ground the discussion of our treatment of the human body in a coherent theology of God and his work in this world.

That's a necessary corrective for two reasons. First, it stands in opposition to the secular anthropology that characterizes most people's thinking about the human body, including many people inside the church. Second, it is impossible to build a theology of the body without reference to its creator, whose image it is made to reflect.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven Lulich on July 29, 2011
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This is definitely an ambitious book. The author is a friend of mine and I know he's a really smart guy, but I was still impressed and even surprised at both the breadth and the depth of the research and thought that went into this fine theology of the body. After reading the book and letting it simmer on my mental back burner for a couple weeks, I'm particularly struck by two things:

1) It is thought-provoking in all the right ways. On multiple occasions, I have found myself prompted by a sign or an overheard bit of conversation to mull over again some point or other from the book. It generates conversations and thinking.

2) It's actually quite pastoral in tone - humble, personal, with the edification of the Body of Christ as well as the bodies of Christians as its chief goal.

Other reviews have commented more specifically about the content itself, so I won't try to reinvent that wheel (the other reviews are excellent).

It isn't a perfect book, of course. In particular, I thought that sometimes Anderson's (usually self-deprecating) humor went a bit too far, so that it sometimes comes off as excessively negative toward his evangelical heritage or toward people whose views or practices he is trying to address. Fortunately, this only occurs a few times and without malicious intent, and the book as a whole is very generous.

I did feel that the book took a while to really get going. In the Preface and the first two chapters, it was often difficult to follow the line of the argument and it sometimes felt like Anderson was just trying too hard to be scholarly. Chapter 3, however, was a jewel, and the rest of the book just seemed to get better and better. It's here that Anderson becomes personal and approachable, and it's here where the conversation really takes place.

Overall, a really good book. It will make you think, it will build you up, and it will glorify God. A job well done!
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