I recently finished reading “Earthen Vessels – Why our bodies matter to our faith” by Matthew Lee Anderson. If you ask me the question “Should I read it?”, I would answer “yes”. There is a lot of great stuff, and reminders that the evangelical view/value of the physical body has been shaded by over-emphasizing the unhealthy goal of escaping the physical world. But being honest, I found myself skipping a page here and there when I felt like there was a dead horse in the book. (dead horse warning = chapters 6, 7 and 8)
But overall, it’s a great reminder to us as parents especially. We are not simply given the task of raising souls who will one day escape these mortal shells, shedding them for the true way God has designed our children to exist. We are raising embodied beings, and our care for them extends into every dimension of their existence.
Even in the dead horse sections, Anderson does a great deal of explaining/studying what the changes in our “norms” approaching topics like tattoos, pleasure, and homosexuality as the evangelical church, means to the greater changes in our view/perception of these physical bodies. It’s interesting stuff at times, and even as someone who has a tattoo, I found myself nodding in agreement to some of what he pointed out.
He speaks truth, as in the chapter on sexuality saying, “The loud arguments within evangelicalism that pleasure is good border on defensively shouting, ‘Hey, we’ve got pleasure too!’ in a world that cares about little else.”
I’m not gonna hop on the “100% healthy, vegan, natural, organic, baby boot camp, all-star child athlete” band-wagon anytime soon, by any means. But this book is a great reminder that the God of ALL creation, old and NEW, chose to connect with His creation on an intimately physical level. He became flesh. He chose to make his dwelling among us. He calls our bodies a temple of His Holy Spirit. When we were first created, he held us close with love, and literally breathed His own life into our physical presence.
We cannot faithfully respond to all of this simply by “inviting Jesus into our hearts”, and relating to Christ with our brains and emotions. We are called as embodied beings to be transformed in every way imaginable, to the patterns, habits, and life-choices of someone made New in Christ. May God be with us as we seek to lead our children and homes in such experiences of a life centered on Jesus.
Anderson gives great credit to the beauty and goodness of our whole beings, while still declaring the truth found in scripture that we often forget. God gives us insight into what is to come after this life, and it’s not floating around on clouds or becoming glowing orbs that exist forever among the stars. We look forward to a very real, and physical resurrected existence, much like we see in the resurrected Christ. As he quotes C.S. Lewis,
“If flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom, that is not because they are too solid, too gross, too distinct, too ‘illustrious with being.’ They are too flimsy, too transitory, too phantasmal.” The solidity and permanence of the bodily resurrection is too strong for the frailties and contingencies of our current bodies.” – Earthen Vessels, page 168