No one is really Christian on their own. But often the religious life is seen as individual, private, and internal—resulting in a truncated, consumeristic faith. And what if that kind of individualistic Christianity is built on a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature?
According to psychologists Brad Strawn and Warren Brown, it's time to rethink the Christian life in light of current research on the human mind, particularly with a deeper understanding of the process called "extended cognition." Using insights from neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, they argue in Enhancing Christian Life that persons must be understood as not only embodied and embedded within particular contexts, but also extended beyond the body to encompass aspects of the physical and social world. Embracing a vision of the Christian life as extended into interactions with a local network of believers, they help us discover a fuller, more effective way to be Christian.
After exploring the psychological dynamics of extended cognition, including how the mind is "supersized" by the incorporation of physical tools and social networks, Strawn and Brown consider implications for spiritual practices, congregational life, and religious language and traditions, which they describe as mental "wikis." The formation of robust Christian life, they show, is a process that takes place within a larger mesh of embodiment and mind—broader, deeper, and richer than we could ever be on our own.
"Want to be a more Christian Christian? Read this book and put its lessons into practice within your church and family. Brad D. Strawn and Warren S. Brown, in Enhancing Christian Life, have caught a new, transformative way of understanding Christian formation. They base Christian formation on modern cognitive psychology that recognizes how intertwined relationships are with our embodied life. What they contribute is a thorough description of the Christian implications of this relational approach for the church and Christian relationships. Their book will make you want to engage more with the church. By doing so, both you and the church will be blessed."
"In case you were under the impression that being a Christian is a solo achievement, Brad Strawn and Warren Brown are here to disabuse you of that misunderstanding. They say it's a mistake to assume that spirituality is ever an individual, internal, and private matter. For them, it is always an embodied, collective, and spatial enterprise. Written in a lively, down-to-earth fashion, this book has monumental implications for our understanding of both spirituality and ecclesiology."
"This book is a timely wake-up call for the church in this generation to remember that the church is 'a group of followers of Christ who understand themselves as embodied, engaged, enacting, and extending into one another's lives for the sake of the world and the glory of God.' These basic truths are presented with a new freshness and relevance as the authors draw heavily on 'the theory of embodied cognition.' They are well-informed and reliable guides to fresh insights from this cutting-edge theory in cognitive psychology."
"As an advocate for relational approaches to spirituality, I am extremely grateful to Strawn and Brown for their profoundly intelligent and practical insights in Enhancing Christian Life. They have extended my understanding of the relational, social, and embodied nature of spirituality. This book has me reflecting in fresh ways on all kinds of things, ranging from theories of human nature to the dynamics of psychotherapy practice to the purpose of checking my cellphone while waiting in line at the grocery store. This is the best book I have read connecting neuroscience, psychology, and the day-to-day realities of spiritual formation."
"Enhancing Christian Life provides a compelling vision for the community of faith as integral to Christian life. Strawn and Brown challenge streams of Christianity that reduce the faith to an individualized and privatized spirituality resulting in a diminished faith and life, and persuasively reframe the Christian life by explaining how our brain/body systems embed us in and with others. As embodied people, we enact the body of Christ by building cognitive extensions with one another through worship experiences and carrying out Christian practices. The authors effectively argue that Christian community should become an extension of ourselves—enhancing our lives personally and corporately. When we join with the Spirit's transforming work between and among us, we act as God's people prepared to further extend ourselves 'for the sake of the world.'"
Section One: The Nature of the Person
1. Minding Christian Life
2. Modern Spirituality
Section Two: The Nature of Persons
3. Minding Bodies
4. Minds Beyond Bodies
5. Mind Beyond the Individual
Section Three: The Nature of the Church
6. The Church and "My Spirituality"
7. The "Individual" Life of the Christian
8. The Wikis of Christian Life
9. Things Said and Unsaid
10. Metaphors of a New Paradigm