This book came highly recommended. This book did not meet my expectations.
The author Matthew Lee Anderson is too free with is interpretation of scripture trying to make his designed response. He does ask some provocative questions that require the reader to reconsider common human problems.
This was not one of the easier books I have ever read - in fact, I've been at it for months. To be honest, I just couldn't get into it. I ordered the book at the beginning of the year thinking that it was going to be about how we need to take care of our bodies - you know, eat healthy, exercise, etc - and how that was one way in which to honor God (with our bodies). But it wasn't. The book was really more about laying out what I'll call the theology of the body - addressing some of the false doctrines that remain from the period of the Gnostics (the whole "flesh is bad" thing). Honestly, what I was looking for was Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas - a book I ordered at the same time and reviewed back in February. What I got was significantly more academic than I desired, and the focus wasn't what I was anticipating. Perhaps that my fault for misunderstanding what was written about the book in its description, but either way I never could get into this book.
I'll give it 2/5 stars. For the record, yes I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.
"Earthen Vessels" is not what I expected. I selected it to review because I am passionate about stewardship of the body and this book appeared to tackle the topic, which it does -- just not in the way I had hoped. (I should note that, in my opinion, the author spends too much time convincing the reader that this topic is important. I wouldn't have selected the book if I thought it didn't merit discussion!)
Matthew Lee Anderson takes a very external perspective of the body. The overarching lesson is that, when we are unaware of how our bodies relate to the world around us, our ability to glorify the Lord with our lives is muted. Anderson's catch-phrase seems to be "holy attentiveness," as in we should pay that to our bodies; what they do, why they do it, how they do it, and how our actions are molded by the world in which we live (read: consumerism and its counterparts). This is compared, of course, to how Scripture should shape all of these things instead.
In our day of hyper-processed foods and a growing movement to return to "real" food, I expected something about that between the covers of this volume. In this regard I was a bit disappointed because what we put into our bodies can also affect our ability to glorify the Lord.
Anderson is a fantastic writer -- descriptive and clear -- but this book is not targeted toward the layperson. Rather it seems written for pastors and seminarians. The author assumes knowledge of movements within the church (past and present), and many doctrinal terms that only come through a certain amount of study. While tackling tough topics such as piercings and tattoos, general human sexuality, and even homosexuality, some passages feel a little "stream of consciousness," which I don't tend to enjoy reading as that style of writing becomes less clear (and increasingly wordy) as it progresses. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't give credit to Anderson for sticking to Scripture and relating only truth.
I recommend this book, but not wholeheartedly. I enjoy a meaty theological volume, and even I had much trouble finishing this one. Only dive in if you're already very studied in modern Christianity, or if you're prepared to do many Google searches along the way.
In exchange for my honest opinion, Bethany House provided my review copy free of charge.
This book is important, especially for those who are concerned with evangelical intellectualism. While many have lambasted evangelicalism for its lack of intelligent writers, Anderson bucks that trend and steps up to the plate with a well researched and important book.
The book is intellectual in nature, surely, but manages to be rather readable. While not the same stylistically to a one hundred percent down-to-earth readable book, it certainly does not read like a textbook.
The topic has not been written on much within the evangelical world, though in the Christian tradition at large it has been covered by numerous thinkers (many of whom are quoted in the book). Physical bodies are important, and Anderson provides a convincing argument for that statement.
The book is worth a read, and hopefully will begin a conversation, as that is what it is intended to do. Definitely recommended.
In "Earthen Vessels," lay scholar Matthew Lee Anderson presents something of an evangelical theology of the body. With Anderson admittedly being influenced by JPII's "Theology of the Body" (which is an important but intimidating piece), "Earthen Vessels" seemed like the perfect chance to explore the topic at a truly lay level.
Wrong! "Earthen Vessels" was a tremendously laborious read. The structure and style of this book reminded me of my years working in a university research lab, reading research documents and reports. Just a truly strange and difficult style for a book.
Despite my personal distaste for Anderson's style, I must admit that I found his ideas very thought-provoking. "Earthen Vessels" has given me much to consider, and I imagine I will refer back to it in future discussions and writings.
I received this book free from Bethany House for the purpose of providing my honest review.