Salvation in the Flesh

Understanding How Embodiment Shapes Christian Faith

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David Trementozzi
McMaster Theological Studies Series
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Pickwick Publications
    , February
     2018.
     330 pages.
     $38.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781532617867.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

David Trementozzi’s adapted dissertation, Salvation in the Flesh: Understanding How Embodiment Shapes Christian Faith, aims to confront what he perceives to be a static, intellectualist approach toward soteriology among conservative Christians. Trementozzi argues that, rather than understanding salvation merely in terms of right knowing (orthopraxy), Christians should view right behavior (orthopraxy), and right affections (orthopathy) as central to what it means to be saved. Trementozzi argues that rightly emphasizing the orthopraxic and orthopathic nature of salvation moves Christians beyond a salvation that occurs primarily in the mind, and helps them to conceptualize salvation as something that is embodied (i.e., in the flesh). Furthermore, such an understanding also reframes salvation as dynamic and progressive, rather than static.

In part 1 Trementozzi expounds his perception of the intellectualist bent in conservative Christian soteriology. He asserts that there are three presuppositions underlying this intellectualism. First, faith is primarily a rational and intellectual function of cognition (8-19). Second, justification is truncated from, and prioritized over, sanctification (19-30). Third, salvation is primarily punctiliar and confessional (31-35). He primarily engages with Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, Millard Erickson, Wayne Grudem, J. Rodman Williams, and Guy Duffield and Nathaniel Van Cleave as representatives of presuppositions 1 and 2. Statements of faith from four denominational websites—The Southern Baptist ConventionThe Christian Missionary AllianceThe Assemblies of God, and The Church of the Nazarene—serve as Trementozzi’s representatives for presupposition 3. Overall, he makes clear in this chapter that an intellectualist soteriology has implications, not only for the nature of saving faith, but also for the Trinity; he believes that it subordinates the Spirit to the Son. Tremenozzi then concludes part 1 by discussing developments in cognitive neuroscience that support his proposal by highlighting the importance of affectivity and embodied practice in cognitive development.

Parts 2 through 4 make up the heart of the book. This is where Trementozzi develops his understanding of how orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy should be reconceptualized in order to develop a dynamic, embodied soteriology. In part 2 he appropriates the dispositional ontology of Jonathan Edwards, where “rightly knowing God requires a right relationship with the Spirit, after which comes dispositional transformation realized as the religious affections” (98). Part 3 appropriates William J. Abraham’s canonical theism to stress the importance of canonical practices as divine means of grace, and thus, vital components of salvific transformation in the Christian life. Part 4 delves into the orthopathy of Pentecostalism in order to display the salvific relevance of affectivity. 

In part 5, Trementozzi rounds out his work by attempting to bring together his conceptualization of Christian orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy into what he calls a renewal soteriology of embodiment. He concludes by offering some areas for future exploration.

Trementozzi’s desire to address the lack of emphasis on right affections and right behaviors in the Christian life is admirable, and he is right to point out that conservative Protestants do often emphasize the importance of right thinking and belief in Christian conversion, and in the Christian life in general, to the neglect of the cultivation of right affections and behaviors. Nonetheless, three particular adjustments would make his argument stronger and better received by the very Christians whom he is addressing. 

First, Tremenozzi does not communicate what he believes is the purpose, or mechanism, of Christ’s atonement on the cross. This is likely given that he does not want to veer into the very soteriological error that he is highlighting in this book—which is the overemphasis of the intellectual content of the cross of Christ to the detriment of the Spirit’s dynamic work of transformation. However, any doctrine of salvation requires an expression of what it is that is actually accomplished in salvation (e.g., reconciliation with God, atonement for sins, satisfaction of God’s wrath, etc.), and how it is accomplished. The fact that Trementozzi does not do this makes it difficult to ascertain what, exactly, he means by salvation.

Second, Trementozzi is concerned with the Protestant distinction between justification and sanctification, but he does not acknowledge that this distinction became a central element of the Protestant break from the Roman Catholic Church. If he wants to assert that the classical distinction between justification and sanctification should not be retained, then it would be helpful if he would delineate how his view differs from, or converges with, that of Roman Catholicism.

Third, a discussion of the doctrines of appropriations and trinitarian inseparable operations would help his argument, since many conservative Protestants would look to these doctrines as a response to his concern that they subordinate the work of the Spirit to the work of Christ. It is these doctrines that explain how the work of the Spirit can be distinct and inseparable from the work of Christ.

Despite these areas of concern, Salvation in the Flesh shows Trementozzi to be a serious scholar who cares about the building up of the church. Whether or not one agrees with his conception of salvation, conservative Protestants would do well to read this book, and heed its call to take seriously the need to dwell on the relationship between orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy in the Christian life.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Colin McCulloch is a doctoral student in Biblical Counseling and Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a local church pastor.

Date of Review: 
July 31, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

David Trementozzi is Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of Theology at Continental Theological Seminary in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Belgium. David and his wife, Emily, live in Brussels with their three children: Judah, Kaleb, and Halle.

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