On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Dangers of Christian Practice

The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin, by Lauren F. WinnerOn Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin

In The Dangers of Christian Practice, Lauren Winner challenges the central place that “practices” have recently held in Christian theology. She argues that sometimes, beloved Christian practices go horrifyingly wrong, extending violence rather than promoting its healing. Winner discusses concrete instances of when these practices can go bad, such as a slave-owning woman praying for her slaves’ obedience, or the connection between the Eucharist and the sacrament’s central role in medieval Christian murder of Jews.

Arguing that practices are deformed in ways that are characteristic of and intrinsic to the practices themselves, Winner proposes that the way in which Christians might best think about these practices is that of “damaged gift.” In this bracing book, Winner provocatively challenges the assumption that the church possesses a set of immaculate practices that will definitionally train Christians in virtue and that can’t be answerable to their histories.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Elegantly weaving together history and theology, Winner provides a needed constructive intervention that makes the turn to ‘practice’ in Christian thought more honest without leaving the reader in despair.”—Eric Gregory, Princeton University

“Does the church ever hurt those it means to help? This book is for those who worry that it does—those who may cause, feel, see, or seek to mend the harm that even baptism and communion can inflict.”—Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., University of North Carolina at Greensboro

“A fascinating analysis of how Christian practices can, and characteristically do, go bad ‘under the pressure’ of sin in this world. I highly recommend this to anyone who thinks that becoming a Christian is any kind of straightforward ‘solution’ to your problems, or to the problem that is you.”—Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia

“Lauren Winner, one of our most insightful Christian intellectuals, understands the ways Christian practice has been deeply involved in white supremacy, capitalism, and oppression. For everyone concerned about the future of theological education and the survival of the theological academy, this ground-breaking book is required reading.”—Willie James Jennings, Yale Divinity School

For more information on the publication, click here.

Lauren F. Winner is an associate professor of Christian spirituality at Duke Divinity School. Her interests include Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America and Jewish-Christian relations.

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