Fortress Press

Carnal Knowledge of God: Embodied Love and the Movement for Justice

Carnal Knowledge of God

Embodied Love and the Movement for Justice

Rebecca M. M. Voelkel (Author)


Theologian, pastor, and seasoned activist Rebecca M. M. Voelkel offers a theological vision of embodied love, informed by her own experience, research, and pastoral and organizing work with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender-queer persons. Voelkel lays out a theological approach that includes the Via Positiva, asserting and celebrating bodily integrity and empowerment; the Via Negativa, acknowledging and analyzing the ways in which vulnerable bodies are colonized; the Via Creativa, artistic expressions of social alternatives; and the Via Transformativa. The transformative way grounds action in what Voelkel calls “inaugural eschatology,” which anticipates and works toward a different future. Her theological vision is interwoven with wisdom gained from social change movement building, offering principles that will enable allies to work strategically to take advantage of what Voelkel and others see as a building "progressive wave."

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • ISBN 9781506420455
  • Format Paperback
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 178
  • Publication Date April 1, 2017


Introduction: Called to be Lovers in the Name of God

Part One: Via Positiva, The Positive Way
1. God in Creation: Carnal Knowledge
2. Incarnation and Incarnations

Part Two: Via Negativa, The Negative Way
3. Colonization and Sin
4. Sin and Suffering

Part Three: Via Creativa, The Creative Way
5. Alternatives to Despair
6. Embodied Practices of Hope

Part Four: Via Transformativa: The Transformative Way
7. The Already and the Not Yet
8. Eschatological Strategies: "Movement Building" Wisdom as a Test Case
9. This Historical Moment: Recognizing the Signs of the Times

Glossary of Terms


Celebrates, instructs, inspires, and propels us into action.

"Voelkel’s book celebrates, instructs, inspires, and propels us into action. Her use of the matrix of transformation to frame the dynamics of healing and affirmation and her analysis of the critical moments of movement building are especially valuable for the social reforms that still need to be secured."

Marilyn McCord Adams | Oxford University

Rebecca Voelkel's new book is a godsend.

"Rebecca Voelkel's new book is a godsend. It is a strange thing that that which is most familiar, our very bodies, is the dimension of our living and thriving that we in so many religious contexts have largely neglected to explore when we think, talk, and theologize about liberation, God's design for humankind. The result of course is overlooked abuse and undiscovered opportunities for the in-breaking of God. With courage, lived experience, hard-won wisdom, and an insatiable appetite for the delicious, Voelkel moves across the broken glass of the violence borne of sexual repression and oppression toward a way of being in which love of our bodies in all their differences is seen as essential to the flourishing of all life, the deepest longing and delight of the divine."

Macky Alston | Auburn Seminary

Voelkel reminds us of our collective embodied holiness with passion and purpose.

"This deeply grounded, morally exciting, and body-loving text is a much-needed balm for our times. When the integrity of the creation God proclaimed "very good" in the many permutations it has pleased the Divine to call into being, is too often under assault by the principalities and powers, Voelkel reminds us of our collective embodied holiness with passion and purpose."

Lisa Anderson | Auburn Seminary

Anyone who is, or aspires to be, a lover, an artist, or an activist—read this book!

"To call this book ‘timely’ is a ridiculous understatement. Voelkel offers a sustained theological vision of how we can embody faith in God today. Both learned and lively, this book is an accessible introduction to the kinds of power analysis necessary to shape successful efforts for justice in the twenty-first century. For anyone who is, or aspires to be, a lover, an artist, or an activist—read this book!"

Shannon Craigo-Snell | Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary