Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: Tortured Wonders


Rodney Clapp’s book Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels is a provocative presentation of orthodox Christian spirituality in very modern earthy terms.

Clapp emphasizes that spirituality must be grounded in the bodiliness of being human rather than spiritualized as if we are angels. The book is in two sections. The first is a survey of classic Christian spirituality and the “forces” that tend towards a denial of the significance of the flesh. For Clapp, a genuine spirituality is structured around creation, incarnation, and resurrection, all of which involve the whole human , including the body. The Eucharist provides a focal point for the believing community as it incorporates bodily involvement as part of a community that incarnates spirituality.

In the second part of the book, Clapp explains what an embodied spirituality means in a modern/postmodern world in regard to relationships, community, sex, diet and exercise. His intention is to bring the human body back into focus in Christian spirituality and so the second part deals with the difficulty of a spirituality in a modern world. One of the most interesting chapters is his use of the life of Elvis Presley to demonstrate aspects of contemporary culture that present a challenge to this project.

Clapp’s approach is not without its flaws. His commitment to orthodoxy means his answers to such issues as homosexuality, the exclusivity of Christ, and eternal punishment make it inadequate. The chapters that deal with these issues seem more an attempt to hang on to archaic attitudes to them rather than to draw on modern scholarship that questions some of the traditional interpretations of the biblical text that continue to oppress or engender unnecessary anxiety in believers.

While the book is written in a very engaging, and at times very earthy style, and it most certainly redresses those spiritualties that ignore the body, it is hard to recommend it because of the way important contemporary issues are ultimately dealt with.


  1. Sounds like and interesting read. I know you may not want to give all of the book away, but can you clarify in what ways the author is archaic in his understanding of homosexuality, hell, and Christ's exclusivity? I mean are you just saying that he believes in Hell, in exlusivity and in the fact that homosexuality is a sin?

    Bruce Nelson

  2. Sounds like a great book to read!! It may be my next purchase :) Thanks for sharing!!