Fortress Press

Theology in the Flesh: How Embodiment and Culture Shape the Way We Think about Truth, Morality, and God

Theology in the Flesh

How Embodiment and Culture Shape the Way We Think about Truth, Morality, and God

John Sanders (Author)


Metaphors and other mental tools are used to reason (not just speak) about God, salvation, truth, and morality. Figurative language structures our theological and moral reasoning in powerful ways. This book uses an approach known as cognitive linguistics to explore the incredibly rich ways our conceptual tools, derived from embodied life and culture, shape the way we understand Christian teachings and practices. The cognitive revolution has generated amazing insights into how human minds make sense of the world. This book applies these insights to the ways Christians think about topics such as God, justice, sin, and salvation. It shows that Christians often share a set of very general ideas but disagree on what the Bible means or the moral stances we should take. It explains why Christians often develop a number of appropriate but sometimes incompatible ways to understand the Bible and various doctrines. It assists Christians in understanding those with whom they disagree. Hopefully, simply better understanding how and why people think the way they do will foster better dialogue and greater humility.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • ISBN 9781506445878
  • Format Paperback
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 320
  • Publication Date August 1, 2017


1. Introduction
2. From Embodiment to Mental Models
3. Metaphors and Other Conceptual Structures
4. Truth
5. Meaning in Community
6. Moral Reasoning
7. Christian Doctrines
8. Reading the Bible
9. Conceiving God
10. Conclusion
Suggested Reading


Interview with John Sanders on the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast


Reviewed in Body of Religion 1.2 (2017)


"John Sanders shows that human embodiment is far more than an interesting theological claim. It actually shapes and constrains how we read Scripture, conceptualize God, experience conversion and forgiveness, and reflect ethically. This innovative study is a rare invitation to one aha moment after another!"

Joel B. Green | Fuller Theological Seminary

"Over the past three decades, the cognitive sciences have given us profound insight into the central role of our bodily experience in all the ways we understand, reason, and communicate with others. In a highly nuanced and sensitive way, John Sanders shows how our everyday body-based meaning structures (such as images, schemas, metaphors, and metonymies) shape how we understand major biblical concepts, from God to salvation to the moral life. With analytical rigor, but also with charity in interpretation, he argues that our human concepts give us our only way to understand the Bible and that we must respect the different interpretations that follow from the nature of human understanding."

Mark Johnson | University of Oregon

"Theology in the Flesh breaks new ground by drawing upon cognitive linguistics to examine the way Christians think about theology and ethics—that is, not what we think about our faith and practice but how we think and why we think the way we do. Through an examination of cognitive models, conceptual metaphors, and cultural frames, John Sanders unpacks the language we use to think and speak about our faith. In so doing, he lays a foundation for new conversations characterized by greater self-awareness, clarity, and humility."

Brenda B. Colijn | Ashland Theological Seminary