Wednesday, March 05, 2008

tortured wonders (short) review


i just finished reading 'Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for people, Not Angels" by Rodney Clapp.  the basic premise of the book is that much of the spirituality (and related disciplines) we are offered as christians is falsely anchored in the idea that we are (at best) body-less beings.  we are just waiting to shed this fleshy part of us so we can "be all we can be".  Clapp argues throughout that 'the flesh' is something not only to be celebrated in the present but shows through scripture and theology/history that there is a radical and surprising continuity between this body and the body we will receive in the fullness of god's time (he masterfully incorporates pop culture icons, great artists, church fathers, and scripture).  Clapp claims that is perspective on the body (in light of the resurrection) is "generous, orthodox christian spirituality."  by no means does he fail to face up to much of the pain and struggle of our mortal coils.  the second half of the book is an unflinching examination of death, disease, sex, and body image (exercise, diet, etc.) 

other highlight for me were Clapp's discussion of the eucharist and his passionate, clever, and amusing chapter, "Jesus and the grotesque" (chapter 9).  the grotesque chapter included a subheading, "a spirituality that breaks wind"...what's not to like about that!

low-lights were infrequent but overall i felt like his bias toward augustine might have been moderated with some more reflection on irenaeus (he did use irenaeus some so this critique probably just exposes my own bias).  Clapp also missed the chance to draw out his celebration of human createdness to all of the created order.  this also has huge missional implications that were scarcely mentioned.  instead Clapp seemed satisfied to limit his discussion to 'the church' which had me wondering about the missio dei and a more expansive vision for the kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.  on page 220 he summarizes christian spirituality as, "participation and formation in the life of the church", which i feel comes up short of God's already-work of redeeming the whole cosmos - where else might god be at work to spiritually form his creation.  but, the book was already 256 pages and he probably needed to stop.

overall, i highly recommend this book, especially if you are interested in another angle on the fleshy spirituality that people like Tom Wright are bumping their gums about.  great easter reading...we are a resurrection people!

1 comment:

stephen said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

I look forward to dinner this evening.