Before it was in vogue, theologian James Wm. McClendon Jr. wrote about the importance of the body, indeed the entire organic world, to any truly holistic and coherent theological program. According to McClendon, any adequate and faithful account of Christian ethics will necessarily contain three distinct but interpenetrating strands: a body strand, a social strand, and a resurrection strand. Drawing on an image from Ludwig Wittgenstein,1 McClendon argues that just as a rope of three strands has no “essential” strand that does the work of the entire rope, nor an unseen “meta” strand invisibly uniting the whole, so are the body, social, and resurrection strands each necessary to an integrated, holistic Christian morality. Thus, if we neglect the body and the claims our physical environment make upon our moral reckonings, it is only to our peril.2

Departing from a modern Cartesianism that viewed the body as (at best) irrelevant to the moral life, most theologians have joined McClendon in reclaiming the importance of the “somatic” in theology. And yet, it is not enough to simply affirm the body and move on; the genius of McClendon’s neglected schema is that he takes the body to be theologically indispensable at a methodological level, such that questions of morality and questions of embodied existence are inseparable. It is one thing to give lip service to the body’s importance and grace; it is quite another to avoid slipping into an accidental Gnosticism that proceeds from an affirmation of the body as if nothing had changed.

In this essay, I offer an investigation of ecclesiology, formation, and cultural transformation that attempts to take the body strand seriously. In particular, I consider the relationship between embodiment and ecclesiological cultural transformation, assessing whether a robust account of this relation may render the church-world distinction incoherent. I argue that although taking the body seriously does not render cultural transformation (or formation) impossible, it does require that one more carefully attend to practices, and what McClendon called “counter-practices,” as the necessary enablers of faithful engagement with culture. Without fostering such practices, the recommendation to live according to a different story, one that is capable of resisting the ills of late-modern capitalism, for instance, will amount to little more than a quasi-gnostic wish—and in the long run, such recommendations will be revealed as both impotent and unsustainable.

Neurons and the Nursing Home

In April 2012, a clip previewing the documentary Alive Inside went viral, quickly reaching over 7 million views.3 In the video, we are introduced to Henry, an elderly patient who neurologist Oliver Sacks, a contributor to the documentary, describes as “inert, maybe depressed, unresponsive, and almost un-alive.” His nurse informs us that Henry spends his days sitting on the unit with his head hunched over, unable to recognize even his own daughter. Henry is then handed a set of headphones playing music that was popular when he was younger—the nurse knows that he likes gospel music, as well as the jazz great Cab Calloway. Henry listens for several minutes and is visibly animated by the music: he moves in rhythm, he moans, he sings, his eyes light up with excitement where once there was only an uncomprehending stare. Even more amazingly, the effect does not stop once the headphones are removed. After hearing music from his era, Henry is briefly awakened to his surroundings and is able to have a reasonably coherent exchange with an interviewer. As Sacks puts it, Henry is in some sense “restored to himself.”

This is no isolated incident: Henry’s nurse tells of another resident who for two years did not respond to any physical therapy but was immediately responsive after being given music from her own era. Sacks himself, in his popular book Musicophilia, has documented many other cases in which musical ability and sensibility was retained in even the most severe amnesia patients. He notes cases in which music’s deep rhythmic patterns helped bring stability to those with motor or speech disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple instances in which dementia patients were “restored to themselves” when given music that was once familiar to them.4 These examples are possible, as Sacks puts it, because “musical perception, musical sensibility, musical emotion, and musical memory can survive long after other forms of memory have disappeared.”5 In Henry’s case, it goes without saying that the fact that he prefers jazz is hugely important to the success (or failure) of this type of therapy: Cab Calloway awakens Henry, whereas Johnny Cash or Kanye West likely would not. (I remember once sitting in church near an elderly man with dementia. He sat uncomprehendingly through most of the service, including the hymns, without much sign of life, until a soloist began a rendition of “God Bless America.” At this, my neighbor began belting out rhythmic, intoned yells that took us all by surprise—“Holy, Holy, Holy” inspired no such response!)

What do stories like this have to teach us? Besides showing the primordial depth with which music and rhythm touch our existence, and the inherent value of a therapy that does actual on-the-ground work with dementia patients of various kinds, these stories demonstrate the fact that as fully embodied creatures, our minds, our hearts, our bodies, our very neurology is inextricably interwoven with culture. Of course, culture is a multifaceted phenomenon greater than music alone; my point is that music’s grip on the brain provides a window into just how deeply embedded bodies are in the wider social world. To be human simply is to be embodied and, thus, encultured. This is a fact that cognitive neuroscientists are rapidly confirming, as it is becoming increasingly clear the extent to which humans require social relations to flourish, particularly cognitively. For instance, it is now clear that the prefrontal cortex, and thus the capacity for language, abstract thought, and imagination, will never fully develop except in relation to some particular linguistic and social environment at an early age. Our cognitive capabilities, however impressive, are impotent when isolated from the particular social conditions that enable their full maturation, a point I will explore in more detail below.

Moreover, the leap from mindless, automatic behavior to intelligent, self-reflexive action can only be made because the human brain develops more slowly than in comparable mammals. As theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg writes, humans are born about “a year too soon and in a still unfinished state” compared to other mammals; we finish our biological and mental development outside the womb, deeply embedded within a particular social context and its concomitant symbolic language system.6 Thus, “higher-order consciousness is a developmental achievement dependent on social interactions and social scaffolding.”7 In this way the cultural and the biological coalesce.

What is more, as William Dyrness argues, embodied enculturation is not something merely to be tolerated or grimly acknowledged; it should be celebrated as a gift of God that makes human flourishing possible, when it is rightly ordered. Culture is simply the variegated soup that humans swim in: without it, life would not only be impossible but also dull. Although it has become somewhat commonplace for theologians from a variety of perspectives to deplore Cartesian dualism and the gnostic tendencies that prevail in the American religious ethos (Howard Bloom having quipped that the religion of America is and has always been Gnosticism),8 it is just as important for Christians to decry a cultural Gnosticism that would deny enculturation as an aspect of our created existence. Culture is inherent to human and Christian existence, as is embodiment—whether I acknowledge it or not.9

Cultural Transformation: An Impossibility?

In recent years, many theologians have rightly begun to note the relevance of such neuroscientific insights to theo-ethical reflection, Christian formation, and exegesis.10 Rather than rehashing these arguments, my goal here is to explore the broad implications that taking embodiment seriously has for how the church conceives of its mission as a transformer of culture, a city on a hill, and the preserving and flavoring salt of the earth. And indeed, the above observations lead to a specific concern: does an account of human embodiment that attends to the ways in which we are deeply, indeed neurologically, shaped by our culture render any distinction between church and culture incoherent, making the possibility of cultural transformation hopeless? Put differently, is it even possible to be, as some Christian groups are fond of saying, in but not of the world?

At first glance, it would seem the obvious answer is no. After all, if our very neurons are interwoven with and nurtured by culture in such a way that even when other parts of our body start to break down these connections remain, what could it possibly mean for a person or a group of people to not be of one’s culture? In Henry’s case, for example, as a fully embodied creature he is very much in and of his culture, such that any attempt to circumvent this state of affairs would appear quixotic, akin to quipping that he is “in but not of his body.” On certain conceptions of church and world, especially those that view the two as monolithic, examples like Henry’s are troubling, as they seem to problematize the easy distinctions our language creates for us.

And yet, the church-world distinction does not fall from the sky, nor was it merely invented as a tool to promote cultural avoidance. Rather, the church-world distinction is drawn from thought patterns found in Scripture. John 15:18–19 provides a good example: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you” (NRSV).

What to do? On the one hand, language of being in the world but not of the world is present in at least strains of Scripture; on the other hand, it would seem that the notion of not being of one’s culture is a nonstarter. One way through this impasse is to note the different ways in which the words world, culture, and church are being used. Recognition of embodied enculturation does not automatically render the distinction between church and world incoherent if we carefully differentiate between culture (the complex set of social practices that all humans as embodied, social beings invariably exist within) and world (defined as “structured unbelief”). That is, world used theologically does not simply refer to the colloquial sense of the word global or to the whole of created, or cultural, existence; it instead denotes the concrete, social, and by extension, deeply personal manifestation of those principalities and powers that work against the inaugurated reign of God. This clarification is drawn from the work of John Howard Yoder, who writes, “The ‘world’ is neither all nature nor all humanity nor all ‘culture’; it is structured unbelief, rebellion taking with it a fragment of what should have been the Order of the Kingdom.”11

Once this move is made, some things fall into place. When the author of John speaks of cosmos or when Paul speaks of this present aeon, the referent is not culture in general but, as Yoder might put it, the patterns of rebellion that oppose the revolutionary, nonviolent, executed Messiah. World as a theological category presupposes that culture is not monolithic but diverse, not only from culture to culture but also within cultures. As McClendon puts it, culture is never a “smooth, blended whole” but a bundle of complex, social, powerful practices that interweave with one another.12 Thus, “there can be no generic answer to the question, ‘What is the relation of the Christian to society?’ for the excellent reason that society is not a generic whole. The relation of the Christian to the police cannot be the same as to the garden club, because the police are no garden club.”13

Perhaps this point is not frequently recognized because our language tricks us, providing a picture that “holds us captive” without our knowing it.14 That is, we fail to recognize the ambiguity present in our English term world, and thus we reject church-world language altogether (or render it basically meaningless) because some speak of world in an overly spatialized way or operate with a picture of culture as a “smooth, blended whole.”15 If one conceives of the world as only something “out there,” then indeed, the sort of enculturation that is a given reality of our creatureliness will seem problematic.

But this is not the only conception of church-world, and it is not even a particularly good one at that. If we instead follow McClendon in conceiving of the world, and the church, as a bundle of “powerful practices” that constitute our identities, then we can affirm with him that indeed “the line between church and world passes right through each human heart,”16 and we can see that this is more than mere rhetorical flourish. Or as William Cavanaugh puts it, expanding the thought to the social realm, “the church is full of the world” precisely because the church is a relational body rather than a closed system; it is not a polis, but an ekklesia, a public meeting that “names something closer to a universal ‘culture’ that is assembled from out of the particular cultures of the world.”17

Toward the Necessity of Counter-Practices

It may seem as though all I have done in exploring the intimate connection between culture and embodied flourishing is to move the problem of cultural transformation back a step, rendering any resistance of world all the more improbable for fully embodied, fully encultured creatures. And yet to end here would be misleading, as to really take seriously what cognitive neuroscientists are saying about neurological development is not merely a matter of recognizing that the biological and cultural coalesce, as they indeed do. It is also to recognize their “discovery” of the indispensable role that embodied practices play in the neurological-developmental process, including as the enablers of genuine moral agency and change in one’s pattern of living. It is to recognize what McClendon calls “counter-practices” as the necessary means by which Christians may indeed transformatively engage a society that is itself constituted by powerful practices.

In the course of an argument that teases apart some of the complex philosophical problems associated with the latest neuroscientific research, philosopher Nancey Murphy and psychologist Warren Brown demonstrate that biological determinism is avoided by means of wholly physical, emergent properties that only manifest themselves in particular kinds of “political,” social contexts and through participation in their concomitant practices.18 That is, Murphy and Brown utilize complex systems theory to argue that all organisms, from the most simple to the most complex, are not mere aggregates of individual parts but goal-directed systems and bundles of systems whose components ought to be understood in relational (that is, functional) terms.19 Mammals, for instance, are viewed as composites not of atomistic particles, like carbon or calcium, but of various complex and interlocking systems, like the cardiovascular system or the nervous system, each with its own function and goal.

For Murphy and Brown, even the most basic, single-celled organisms are composed of (or themselves are) such systems and function by means of “action-feedback-evaluation-action” loops, to use Donald MacKay’s terminology. These loops loosely resemble the behavior of a self-setting thermostat: to keep a room at a pre-set temperature, a receptor system (thermometer) monitors a given field of action (the living room), and an effector system modifies and reorganizes its action in order to achieve its set temperature (the temperature has gone up: activate the air conditioning!).20 Through a process that MacKay calls “nesting,” such systems overlay on top of one another, creating an increased capacity for resetting the system’s goals as organisms increase in complexity. What differentiates humans from simpler organisms is not this teleological, nested quality but the degree to which we can constrain lower-level processes through “downward causation,” or more aptly, “whole-part constraint.”21 The result, as MacIntyre writes, is that moral responsibility in humans could never get off the ground were not all organisms “innately goal-directed”22; or as McClendon puts it, “there is significant continuity between the amoeba looking for food and the saint seeking the beatific vision.”23

As one reaches the level of higher-order mammals like dolphins, humans, and other primates, it is the “nesting” of loops within increasingly complex social relations that allows goals to be set by something other than pure instinct and necessity. The degree to which humans are able to set and reset these goals to a limited but significant extent, then, is an emergent quality borne of our postpartum development, which takes place (as I noted previously) amid highly complex social relations and a symbolic language system. The upshot is that, as Murphy and Brown argue, we are deeply and neurologically formed—indeed, human life is enabled—in community; and descriptively speaking, we are only re-formed or able to re-form by means of an alternative communal practice. Genuine moral responsibility for wholly physical creatures is a reality, Murphy and Brown maintain, but as a property that only and always emerges from practical dependence.24 In this light, McClendon’s work on practices appears all the more insightful as the means by which both the ecclesial transformation of culture and resistance to “world” are possible. Indeed, if Murphy and Brown are correct, McClendon’s practical emphasis is not just one more theory to be considered alongside others but is in a sense necessarily true as the indispensable means by which we may be formed by a story other than the stories we inherit. That is, the cognitive neurosciences are confirming what people like McClendon have long argued, that neurological, embodied change comes about by way of active participation in communal practices rather than simply appealing to what’s going on in one’s head. For McClendon specifically, the goal then is to selectively foster faithful participation in such practices, which is accomplished by means of counter-practices.

McClendon’s “practical” emphasis is accompanied by a recognition that the very practices that so deeply form us also tend to overstep their created, life-giving function and tempt one to view them as the end all and be all of life.25 Because practices are “powerful” in this way, McClendon identifies the need for counter-practices to enable and equip us to inhabit careers, marriages, or academia, for instance, without being swallowed up or tossed about by their formative power. Counter-practices are just as embodied, social, and “powerful” as any other, then, and differ in function rather than in kind. To take the body seriously in human formation is thus to recognize that counter-formation—indeed, anything beyond determinism—must be as physical as our initial and ongoing formation. Neurologically speaking, we will be formed by something, and if one counter-practice is abandoned, another will replace it. McClendon illustrates this by way of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom he argues participated in an assassination plot on Hitler’s life (to whatever limited extent) only once effective ecclesial counter-practices had been pulled out from under him. Once those counter-practices were gone, Bonhoeffer was formed by a subsequent community with its own set of convictions and narratives: his family, who were utilizing different sorts of resistance tactics.26

What are some examples of these valuable counter-practices? McClendon provides some clues in a lecture in which he describes, following Scott Turow’s novel One L, the transformative effect law school has on its students. There, McClendon points to friendship and marriage as crucial counter-practices. Of course, friendship and marriage are powerful practices in their own right, making their own claims upon one’s ultimate allegiance—and, as McClendon points out, are ultimately ineffective in Turow’s novel27—and thus, McClendon suggests that as Christians seek to navigate the bewildering variety of practices that constitute society, we must find practices that explicitly exercise power “in conformity with the victory of the Lamb.”28 One such example is the oft-neglected practice of “binding and loosing” drawn from Matthew 18:15–22, in which Jesus’s disciples are told to directly (i.e., bodily) confront a sister or brother who sins against them “when the two of you are alone,” involving a larger group of disciples only if necessary. Through this regular practice of mutual correction and forgiveness, not only am I, the participant, able “to learn a new and truer story about myself by discovering how fully my life is bound up even with those whose sins are also sins against myself,”29 but we are also promised Jesus’s presence in our midst (Matt. 18:20). More popularly, Cavanaugh has shown how the Eucharist serves as a means of resisting both the idolatrous draw of capitalist consumerism and state-sponsored torture.30 Both are effective counter-practices because they are local, as neurological change happens most effectively on a smaller scale; participatory, drawing participants into a pattern that is able to be emulated rather than simply appealing to some homunculus residing in the skull; tangible, necessarily requiring one’s full, embodied presence and participation; and rhythmic, practiced according to certain parameters and yet flexible and able to grow. Conversely, from this angle, certain ecclesial practices appear hopelessly unable to provide the same sort of sustaining counter-formation. In fact, they may even manifest an accidental Gnosticism, despite protests to the contrary: the prospect of online communion, which is already offered by many churches and was recently the subject of heated debate in United Methodist circles, comes to mind as problematic in this regard, to say nothing of the ecclesiological and theological issues involved.31

Given that humans are in a continual state of formation, whether we realize it or not, the rhythmic quality of counter-practices is particularly important. Indeed, the phenomenon of mirror neurons illustrates that simply watching another person perform an action primes us to perform that action ourselves—the same neurons that would fire if I were to perform an action actually do fire as I watch another person go about that same action, just to a lesser degree.32 Thus, we are in continual need of reformation, as our moral formation is ongoing; it cannot be banked once and for all. In these ways, counter-practices not only enable cultural transformation and resistance to world; they also lay an embodied pattern for the life of faith that enables disciples to receive the surprising, transformative gifts of the Spirit. Such transformative moments may happen all of the time, yet they are only intelligible and received against a formation background.33

Thus, embodied cultural transformation that takes the budding field of neuroscience seriously will emphasize counter-practices as the means by which the former is achieved. Without such practices, any sort of personal or cultural change will be fleeting or issue in mere platitudes; with them, we can faithfully inhabit and transform society, as such practices finally overflow into cultural engagement, not as some added bonus but “by the very nature of what church and world mean in gospel perspective,”34 thereby making the intersection of counter-practice and powerful practice “the basis of a challenge to the standing order.”35

I have argued that integrating an emphasis on embodiment with ecclesial transformation of culture requires a robust account of practices as the means of authentic transformation. Such an emphasis neither demonizes nor gives blanket approval to all manifestations of culture, but instead seeks to inhabit culture in a way that resists world, including those features of the world that have been fused to my very neurons, while celebrating those aspects of culture that make us come alive à la Cab Callaway. Put differently, it is true neurologically that the line between church and world passes through each Christian heart, but this recognition does not leave us impotent. Instead, it invites us to speak of culture in much the same way Michel Foucault speaks of power: there is no “outside,” but this does not leave us without the capacity of resistance or subversion; it merely means that the beginnings of such resistance happen from “within” power itself.36 Similarly, there is no outside to enculturation, but this does not leave the church with no new thing to say, no means of transformation; it only means that this work is always done from within culture itself by means of counter-practices.

As McClendon puts it, “the gospel’s living water is drunk only from earthen vessels.”37 This yes and no issued to culture, to world, is a matter of infinite adjustments and distinctions, a matter of discernment if ever there was one.38 Echoing Aristotle, perhaps we may say that the question is not if we should engage culture via practices but that we do so “to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way.”39 In any case, to neglect practices not only issues in a thin hope for actual personal or cultural transformation, neurologically speaking; it is also neglects, perhaps inadvertently, the claims the “body strand” has on our moral reckonings. For those of us in the West who are deeply if unconsciously influenced by Descartes, to take embodiment seriously is not as easy as simply saying so; it takes practice.


1. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 4th ed., trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, P. M. S. Hacker, and Joachim Schulte (Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, [1953] 2009), §67.

2. McClendon, “Three Strands of Christian Ethics,” Journal of Religious Ethics 6 (Spring 1978): 56–57.

3. The original video (Alive Inside, directed and produced by Michael Rossato-Bennett [Ximotion Media]) and further information about the documentary can be found at, accessed June 30, 2013.

4. Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 187–213, 248–58, 335–47.

5. Ibid., 337.

6. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Anthropology in Theological Perspective (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1985), 38. Pannenberg’s term for this relational aspect of human nature is “exocentricity.”

7. See Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will (New York, NY: Oxford, 2007), esp. 132, 143, and 243.

8. Harold Bloom, The American Religion, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Chu Hartley, 2006).

9. See William A. Dyrness, The Earth is God’s (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1997), esp. 67–68. See also Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1993), in which Latour questions as methodologically untenable the hard division between the “cultural” and the “natural” presumed in much Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought.

10. For example, see Malcolm Jeeves and Warren S. Brown, Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton, 2009); Warren S. Brown and Brad Strawn, The Physical Nature of Christian Life (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Joel Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008).

11. John Howard Yoder, “The Otherness of the Church,” in The Royal Priesthood (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 62. Emphasis added.

12. For more on “powerful practices,” see McClendon, Ethics: Systematic Theology, Volume 1, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, [1986] 2002), 178–79.

13. McClendon, “Social Action for Radical Christians,” Brethren in Christ, History and Life 12 (December 1989): 258–59. Emphasis added. William Cavanaugh further argues that reclaiming a notion of “complex space,” in which society is viewed as an overlapping web of multiple communal contexts, is deeply antithetical to the goal of modern nation-states, which have tended to simplify space in order to more easily control their citizens. Eroding our multiple loyalties by making a “unified simple space,” for Cavanaugh, has been a major factor in creating state (and now global economic) domination; see Cavanaugh, “‘Killing for the Telephone Company’: Why the Nation-State Is Not the Keeper of the Common Good,” in Migrations of the Holy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011), 19.

14. See Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §109 and §115. Wittgenstein also helps deflect a tempting but deficient objection to the type of analysis done here: that it is ultimately nothing more than a linguistic trick. To echo Wittgenstein, “Your questions refer to words; so I have to talk about words” (ibid., §120). Indeed, Wittgenstein reminds us (if we didn’t know already) that language structures reality, thought, and perception, such that how we speak and what we define as real, as the well-known Thomas theorem puts it, is “real in its consequences.” Word care matters.

15. This is a well-known critique of H. R. Niebuhr’s argument in Christ and Culture, exemplified in John Howard Yoder’s “How H. Richard Niebuhr Reasoned: A Critique of Christ and Culture,” in Authentic Transformation, eds. Glen H. Stassen, D. M. Yeager, and John Howard Yoder (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1996), 31–89.

16. McClendon, Ethics, 17.

17. Cavanaugh, “The Church as Political,” in Migrations, 139–40.

18. Murphy and Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?, 240–43. More particularly, Murphy and Brown seek to account for human agency while recognizing our fully embodied natures. In short, they attempt to show why our neurons “did not make us do it” without appealing to a Cartesian deus ex machina. Also note that in discussing these matters, biological determinism must be distinguished from social and divine determinism.

19. Ibid., 72.

20. Ibid., 67–70.

21. Ibid., 63. Murphy and Brown provide a detailed account of the complex philosophical and biological arguments surrounding emergent properties and the possibility of top-down causation; suffice it to say here that such a move involves not reductively giving the “parts” at the lowest level of existence “ontological priority” while simultaneously assuming that higher-level systems have no causal powers in their own right. This move, of course, does not deny the reality of bottom-up causation.

22. Alasdair MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1999), 56.

23. McClendon, “Three Strands,” 57.

24. And as MacIntyre argues, humans exist on a continuum of dependence, entering life in a state of absolute dependence, gradually moving to genuine independence with help, and eventually moving back to a state of partial (or in extreme cases, complete) dependence once again in old age; and at any point, we could move to a dependent state (through a car crash, for instance); MacIntyre, Dependent, 73–74. See also the diagram illustrating the complex relationship between determinism and autonomy in Murphy and Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?, 287.

25. McClendon, Ethics, 178-182.

26. Ibid., ch. 7. On this read, Bonhoeffer didn’t leave the church; the church left Bonhoeffer.

27. McClendon, “Ethics for a Career,” unpublished Mary Stowe Gullick Lecture in Christian Ethics, delivered to Meredith College, Raleigh, NC, on February 1, 1988.

28. McClendon, Ethics, 182.

29. Ibid., 228, and ch. 8. See also Yoder’s Body Politics (Scottdale, PA.: Herald, 1992), ch. 1, where he insightfully examines binding and loosing, both its right practice and potential abuse.

30. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008); and Torture and Eucharist (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1998).

31. Heather Hahn, “Should churches offer Holy Communion online?” United Methodist Church, September 27, 2013,

32. Murphy and Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?, 119.

33. See McClendon, “Toward a Conversionist Spirituality,” in Ties That Bind, eds. Curtis Freeman and Gary Furr (Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys, 1994).

34. McClendon, Ethics, 241; see also 236.

35. McClendon, “How Can a Christian Be a Law Librarian?” (presentation, American Association of Librarians of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, November 8, 1990).

36. This sentiment is repeated throughout Foucault’s work; I am thinking of statements like this: “It seems to me that power is ‘always already there,’ that one is never ‘outside’ it, that there are no ‘margins’ for those who break with the system to gambol in.” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York, NY: Pantheon, 1980), 141. I am indebted to Chris Moore for repeatedly pointing out the importance of this Foucauldian insight.

37. McClendon, Witness: Systematic Theology, Volume 3 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2000), 195.

38. Yoder helpfully lists a few of the many possible responses to culture: some elements the church rejects (pornography), some elements it accepts within clear limits (economic production), some elements it gives new coherence (family life), and others it strips of their claims to autonomous value (philosophy); still other elements are created by churches (hospitals, generalized education, abolitionism); see “How H. Richard Niebuhr Reasoned,” 69.

39. Nicomachean Ethics II.9