Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith by Matthew Lee Anderson is a promising read. Given my recent rant here and here, I decided to dive into this new release and am hopeful it will provide a solid biblical framework in which to encourage a healthy “bodily” existence. Here’s a snippet from Chapter 1.

The psalmist tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We were knit together in our mothers’ womb by the delicate hands of God. Our bodies are not amorphous lumps that we shape and sculpt into our own self-image—they are divine gifts, given to us by God himself. The body opens the world to us and enables us to experience its goodness and beauty….
 
But our body is not simply a gift from God—it is the place where God himself dwells within his people. The physical body was the place of Jesus Christ’s presence in the world. And when he was asked for a sign that would demonstrate his authority, he responded: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus identifies his own body with the place of worship for the Jewish people, an astonishing association. And after he ascended into heaven, he sent the indwelling Holy Spirit until he returns again.
 
This is the paradox of the body: The body is a temple, but the temple is in ruins. The incarnation of Jesus affirms the body’s original goodness. The death of Jesus reminds us of its need for redemption. And the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope for its restoration.
 
Our body is a temple, but the temple’s beauty is not of our own making. As earthen vessels made from clay and dirt, our glory as humans is that we are free to give ourselves back in gratitude to the one who gave himself for us. Our treasure is what we manifest in and through our lives—that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. The God who made the universe, is the one “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” And God transforms our bodies not through technique, the assertion of our own wills, but through giving us himself in the Holy Spirit.

2 Comments

  1. I see six major points of biblical history that support the importance of the body.

    1. Creation: God fashions the body from the dust of the earth

    2. Incarnation: God became man

    3. Resurrection (Christ’s and ours)

    4. Ascension: Jesus retained bodily existence at the Father’s right hand

    5. Salvation: The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit

    6. Glorification: Final redemption of the body (Romans 8 )

    Should we have a division of ministry focused on bodily needs? For example, in the USA, we have pervasive problems with obesity. People belong to fitness centers, weight watchers, athletic teams… Perhaps the Church should lead the way in this. What do you think?

    Steve Cornell
    http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com

  2. Hi Steve and thanks for dropping by here.
    I like your taxonomy and find it quite useful. Anderson deals with every aspect you raise, some more than others. I’ve the last chapter to complete and hope to have some further comments up before I take off blogging for 2 weeks.

    Interesting you bring up obesity as I was hoping Anderson would have devoted more dedicated space to it. While he does touch on it, it’s a motif in larger themes.
    I agree the church needs to address this but I also wonder if the church is part of the problem. For too long the church has had a strong Platonic emphasis on the immaterial aspect of our existence at the expense of the material. Rightly we cry the inner self is where Jesus focused, but wrongly we’ve neglected our embodied self. Moreover, (IMHO) the wrong-headed eschatological views that have so dominated North American evangelical thinking that a) the earth is going away, b) Jesus is coming back (as if he’s not already present), and c) heaven is somewhere else has so crippled a healthy appreciation for all things material that our bodies simply don’t matter. After all, we’re going to get a new one! And so, AGREE wholeheartedly the Church must be the solution to this issue of obesity but must equally start with itself admitting it is largely responsible for the problem.

    Whew…rant and ramble over….for now
    😉

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