Book Review

Embracing the Body

Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone

reviewed by Susan Martins Miller

InterVarsity Press, 2015

Tara M. Owens’s thesis that our bodies teach us about God is exquisite because of its tender vulnerability in showing us her personal story of the fear, shame and guilt that kept her from listening to—and learning from—her own bodily experience.

“Our bodies are an integral part of our selves and tell us what we most deeply believe—even when our minds and hearts are telling us otherwise,” she writes. “Our bodies don’t lie, and what they tell us about how we perceive reality is the key to stepping into actual transformation in Christ” (p. 45).

Not only have we lost our way from the beauty and goodness of bodily living, a Christian narrative that the spiritual is higher than the physical knocks the compass out of our hands. Owens writes, “No condemnation of our bodies is more harrowing that the silence that entombs our discussion of the body as beautiful and good” (p. 55).

At its most basic level, this book is about the truth that the body is a place to meet God, rather than a separation from God. In unfolding this reality, though, Owens does better than simply setting theological reflection alongside stories from her life. She weaves them together in an integrated whole that demonstrates how we cannot have one without the other, just as we do not know God in our spirits without also knowing God in our bodies.

Owens finds the church alternatively helpful and unhelpful in nurturing an understanding of our bodies as a way to know God. The Incarnation tells us that God broke into the material world with a body, yet the people of God are often swayed by cultural perspectives on the value—or lack of value—of our bodies. Embracing the Body aims at healing theology that separates us from our bodies in a manner that welcomes the reader into the process holistically. At the end of each of 13 chapters, Touch Point reflection activities guide the reader through bodily experiences of the goodness of God.

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