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ss triple helix - summer 2017,  Body: biblical spirituality for the whole person

Body: biblical spirituality for the whole person

Paula Gooder
  • SPCK Publishing, 2016, £9.99, 176pp, ISBN 9780281071005

  • Reviewed by Jason Roach, medically-qualified pastor

This week I sat by the bedside of a morbidly obese woman from my congregation. She confessed that her weight was the result of overindulgence. And now her heart was failing. With our meeting still swimming round in my head, I returned home to hear one of my daughters struggling with being called 'fat' by classmates. She is not remotely overweight. In different ways, both cases reveal something of the cultural pressure and personal sin that creates issues around our bodies. What does a Christian response look like?

Paula Gooder writes that the relative Christian silence on this subject, coupled with a prevailing platonic dualism in our culture, has led to a distorted view of the body. But do not be fooled, this analysis managed, by turns, to make my heart sing, my head ache and my thinking shift. It drew me to revisit Bible texts I thought I knew, to ask hard questions about what I mean by words like 'soul' and managed to anchor it all in the practicalities of cremation, disability, contentment, praise, life after death and more.

Sweetly pastoral, concretely practical, challengingly philosophical, helpfully personal. Gooder navigates the subject deftly - encouragingly clear where the Bible is, and rightly ambiguous where the Bible is less definitive. It left me more thankful for the body that God has given me, more eager for the return of Christ and asking questions like: 'from Paul's perspective, how beautiful am I?'

Perhaps Gooder could have, in one or two places, tempered her celebration of our bodies with a theology of the cross. Is a pampering at the local spa or enjoying well cooked meals with friends always spiritual? But Gooder merely wants to start a conversation - and this book does that magnificently.
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