The Logic of the Body
Retrieving Theological Psychology
“Do not be anxious about anything.” When it comes to stress and worry, that’s all we really need to say, right? Just repent of your anxiety, and everything will be fine.
But emotional life is more complex than this.
In The Logic of the Body, Matthew LaPine argues that Protestants must retrieve theological psychology in order to properly understand the emotional life of the human person. With classical and modern resources in tow, LaPine argues that one must not choose between viewing emotions exclusively as either cognitive and volitional on the one hand, or simply a feeling of bodily change on the other. The two “stories” can be reconciled through a robustly theological analysis.
In a culture filled with worry and anxiety, The Logic of the Body offers a fresh path within the Reformed tradition.
Neither angel nor animal
the place of emotions in human being and wellbeing
“The author elaborates his argument, which I have only briefly summarized, with great learning and sophistication. He offers careful historical description of the views of Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, along with a host of other medieval and modern theologians. He engages the findings of contemporary neuroscience and psychology with discrimination and judgment. Amid his extensive and detailed analysis of myriad thinkers, issues, and claims, the author never loses sight of his overarching argument but patiently builds a constructive biblical, dogmatic, and pastoral theological case for his proposal. LaPine’s book, the published fruit of his doctoral research under Kevin Vanhoozer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is among the most learned dissertation monographs I have read over the past two and a half decades. In addition to that, I find its argument convincing. LaPine’s argument reflects the fullness of divine teaching on human emotions in the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture, ever honoring the status of the latter as ruler and judge of the former. The Logic of the Body is theological anthropology at its best and pastoral theology at its wisest.”
“This is not only first-rate, but desperately needed. To cite one example, a holistic approach to the human person is crucial for addressing the embodied habits of anxiety.”
JP Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University and author of Finding Quiet
“Certain books have the ability to transform our understanding of ourselves, of life, and of ministry. For me, The Logic of the Body is one such paradigm-shaping book. This is Christian scholarship at its best—careful exegesis of biblical passages, illuminating retrieval of historical categories, thoughtful and critical engagement with modern science and secular sources, all in order to do constructive theology in service of the church. Every pastor, theologian, and counselor needs to read this book.”
Joe Rigney, President of Bethlehem College & Seminary, Pastor at Cities Church, Saint Paul, MN
“Having suffered from serious public-speaking anxiety in my 20s and 30s, I read Dr. LaPine’s book with great interest. Is an anxious Christian a contradiction in terms, caused by lack of faith? In showing why the answer to this question is ‘no’, LaPine masterfully engages Thomas Aquinas and contemporary thinkers such as J. P. Moreland in defense of a ‘dualistic holism’. This is a most welcome book from a young doctor of the soul.”
Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
“Demonstrated mastery of a highly circumscribed academic area is a hallmark of late modern scholarship. But how are we ever to gain a greater grasp of the whole, in order to approximate, analogically, more of the divine understanding, the true aim of Christian scholarship? Collaboration is essential, but also individuals willing to transcend late modern disciplinary boundaries and do their best to master multiple academic areas. LaPine has demonstrated such transdisciplinary competence in this remarkable synthesis of classic and contemporary Christian theological and philosophical reflection and secular empirical research on the role of the emotions in healthy human functioning. It also exemplifies what some would call a Christian psychology.”
Eric L. Johnson, Director of the Gideon Institute for Christian Psychology & Counseling and Professor of Christian Psychology at Houston Baptist University
“I am grateful for LaPine’s new study in theological anthropology, The Logic of the Body. A careful, scholarly piece of retrieval theology, it judiciously draws on the riches of the historical tradition in conversation with contemporary philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology, in order to develop a constructive theology of the emotions for today. It is not simply an academic study, however. With a sympathetic eye, LaPine uncovers a blindspot in the contemporary, Reformed tradition’s under-developed anthropology, which tends to underestimate the role of the body in our emotional life. This has effects in our pastoral counsel. In its place, he puts forth a holistic model suited to both Biblical revelation and a more careful pastoral practice. And as a pastor to college students wrestling with every emotional malady spanning from anxiety to depression, addiction to self-harm, this is what I appreciate most. LaPine manages to shine new light on the way Christ redeems us in the Gospel, both body and soul, and yes, emotions too.”
Derek Rishmawy, RUF Campus Minister at UC Irvine, Ph.D. Candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Co-Host of the Mere Fidelity Podcast
Matthew LaPine’s The Logic of the Body: Retrieving Theological Psychology is both a timely and learned contribution to the ongoing academic conversation about the intersection of theology and psychology. More importantly, it is an invaluable contribution to pastoral theology. Pastors need to know what it means to be human, and they need to know what it means to be flawed moral agents. LaPine speaks to both of these perennial issues and adds to this important conversation, offering a fresh and original contribution that is imminently serviceable in the life and ministry of the local church. Highly recommend!
Todd Wilson, Co-Founder and President of the Center for Pastor Theologians, author of Real Christian and Mere Sexuality, and co-author of The Pastor Theologian
“Few books are more relevant to the pastor’s care of souls than Matthew LaPine’s book, The Logic of the Body. Representing the best of evangelical scholarship, LaPine leans on church history and faithful exegesis to charter a helpful vision of the body’s part in sanctification. His proposal for an eschatologically sensitive psychology produces hope, realism, and compassion for the pilgrim’s progress in this life. This book is a crucial tool for the high stakes of ministry.”
Jonathan Parnell, Lead Pastor, Cities Church, Saint Paul, Minnesota; author, Mercy for Today and Never Settle for Normal
“Emotions and embodiment are two vital aspects of the human experience, and yet far too often Christian accounts have pitted them against one another in problematic ways. Thankfully, Matthew LaPine’s volume pushes us to avoid picking between a psychological account and a theological one, but instead aims to help us see them together in a fresh way. His proposal offers much insightful reflection for all of us who care about more holistic accounts of the human person.”
Kelly M. Kapic, Covenant College and author of Embodied Hope
“A theological account of what it means to be human—that creature specially made by God and for God—cannot afford to ignore the topic of human emotions insofar as their devastation by sin is one of the chief causes of our departure from God and their sanctification by grace is one of the chief ways in which God moves us into deeper fellowship with himself. In this learned study, Matthew LaPine demonstrates the promise of a broadly Thomist approach to human emotions for theological anthropology. Learning its lessons well will benefit anyone involved in the care of souls.”
Scott Swain, President and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
“Contemporary Protestantism has written therapeutic checks that its moral psychology just can’t cover. One of the most pressing orders of the day is to develop an anthropology and moral psychology that does real justice to the whole counsel of God. Theologians also need to avoid ignoring or simply parroting neurophysiology. Matthew LaPine prompts such development with this argument for a holistic and tiered psychology. All future work in this area will have to engage with his arguments.”
Michael Allen, John Dyer Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL, USA
“All too often, Christian attempts to show mercy to those struggling with mental illness have caused harm because of questionable assumptions about the human body and the human person. This book is a greatly needed theological and historical exploration of those assumptions.”
Alex Tuckness, Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and co-author of The Decline of Mercy in Public Life.
“Far too often when dealing with negative emotions we divide body and soul, not seeing individuals holistically. I’m thankful for Matt’s faithful work to present a comprehensive biblical treatment of theological psychology. In this book, he humbly offers us a more responsible, sophisticated, and compelling framework for handling emotions. I believe this book will greatly benefit the church.”
Laura Wifler, Cofounder of Risen Motherhood; podcaster; coauthor, Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments
“Matthew LaPine pulls from history, theologians, scholars, experience, story, and ultimately scripture to lead us on a pathway of grace through the messy world of seemingly contradictory solutions surrounding mental health. This book not only helps those of us doing ministry in real-time but also gives a balm of hope to those who struggle with our own mental health battles, showing that there might be a way and a whole new type of conversation we can have around these topics. With both the gentleness of a shepherd and the fortitude of a well-studied and engaged mind, Matthew shows us a new way to minister and learn about mental health as believers.”
Andrea Burke, Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Road Church, Rochester, NY, Writer, and Host of Good Enough podcast