I met Matthew Anderson when I was editing The Brink. He writes consistently at MereOrthodoxy.com, and has just come out with his first book, Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith.
I won a copy of the book, and am excited about reading it. Matthew deals with an issue that is more pertinent than some might realize. Here’s our short interview:
Why the body? Why now?
As Christians, we have no choice but to think theologically about our own bodies. The Incarnation alone means that the story of Christianity is inextricable from our physicality. So working out that relationship is imperative. However, I do think that we live in an age where the possibilities of replacing our bodies are being seriously considered. In some ways, the advent and ubiquity of technology have called the body into question, so as Christians in the 21st century we have a special imperative to think hard about embodiment.
Who should read this book?
Anyone who has ever felt a bit of longing or yearning for something deeper out of their spiritual life, or who has had a thought about yoga, sex, tattoos, suffering, or the church. Which is to say, probably everyone.
Do you think most evangelicals view the body as evil? If so, why do you think that is?
No, I don’t. I think if you polled most evangelicals, they’d say the body was good. As evangelicals, we all love to talk about how everyone else says the body is evil and about how it’s really good, but actually finding an evangelical to go on record saying that it’s evil proves to be pretty difficult to do.
When Paul says we should put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13), is he saying our bodies are bad?
No. Unequivocally no. I can’t unpack what Paul means by “the body” in every passage in Romans (because there are a lot of them!), but if you read the whole book carefully you’ll note that the body is under sin but that the possibility is there for it to be an “instrument for righteousness.”
You have a chapter about tattoos in the book. That’s very hot-button of you, Matthew. Why do you think so many younger evangelicals have been more open to tattoos? What conclusion do you take on this whole issue in the book?
Yes, I do try to be controversial! Actually, that wasn’t my goal. I really wanted to explore the issue sensitively because I know lots of people have disagreements over it. My goal was to start from a different question than most people ask, and examine, “What is a tattoo?” It’s not obvious that we know what tattoos mean, but before we can determine whether Scripture says we should get one we have to figure out what it is. That’s the direction I tried to go. As for why young evangelicals are more open to tattoos, I think a lot of it has to do with shifting aesthetic standards in our culture. I don’t think it’s because we’re sitting around reading a lot of Scripture.
Would you be flattered or annoyed if I got a tattoo of your book cover on my shoulder?
Mildly amused and disturbed. Now if you include the link to Amazon . . .
Thanks Matthew! Hey readers, go check out the book.