Omaha, Nebraska
Spring 1995
Volume 6, Number 2

Writer Invites Rethinking Concepts of God

A Review of Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. 274pp.

K.C. Hanson
Theology Department

To those who are not professional theologians, books of theology often have the attraction of cod liver oil or a Bulgarian film festival. But Professor McFague (Vanderbilt Divinity School) has produced in this work an engaging--as well as informative and provocative--invitation to rethink how we as Christians conceptualize God, the world, ourselves (and therefore our bodies), and the challenges confronting us at the close of the twentieth century.

In The Body of God, McFague succeeds in her articulation because she elegantly combines work on the Big Picture with attention to detail. She has demonstrated this skill in her earlier works: Speaking in Parables (1975), Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language (1982), and Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age (1987). Taking her cue from Avery Dulles's Models of the Church, her 1987 volume analyzed various "immanental" models of deity. But, as she notes in the Introduction to the present work, she felt the need to go beyond those and articulate the relationship of the immanent and the transcendent, with the world as stage for the divine-human encounter. Her goal is directly stated: ". . . to look at everything through one lens, the model of the universe or world as God's body" (p. vii).

The structure of the book demonstrates a rare clarity of method, organization, and purpose. Each chapter has both a theological rubric and a descriptive title: The Context/The Ecological Crisis; Cosmology/The Organic Model; Methodology/A Theology of Nature; Anthropology/At Home on the Earth; Theology/God and the World; Christology/The Body of God; and Eschatology/A New Shape for Humanity.

This work should be widely read because it is not simply an in-house discussion among theologians. McFague also brings the reader into dialogue with poets, scientists, mystics, philosophers, economists, ecologists, and others. The Body of God is profoundly theological in attempting to engage the Church in reflective thinking upon, feeling in, and experiencing how we encounter God and how that has very tangible effects on how we live, build, work, and love in the world.

The question I would pose to the author in response to the book's structure concerns the minor role of ecclesiology (reflection on the Church). In one sense, this issue runs throughout the whole book. But focus on the specific questions of ecclesiology appears only as a two page subsection of Eschatology, and those reflections are highly abstract and underdeveloped. In sum, The Body of God is a refreshing book which engages the major questions in an integrative, holistic, and readable way.