Rev. Dr Maja Whitaker


Reimagining Christian practice and discourse to promote flourishing in diversity
Wednesday 26 March 2025 | 3:25pm

A biblically-grounded understanding of embodiment offers much-needed hope to the modern Western struggle with the body as a project to be worked on to reflexively shape the self in the pursuit of the good life. Health, theologically understood, entails holistic flourishing and this flourishing incorporates holiness expressed in right relationship with God, self, other, and creation. However, historically the Christian tradition has struggled with the nature of human persons as embodied beings, often dismissing the body or viewing it as primarily something to be disciplined. These issues continue in contemporary Christian communities which have too often uncritically promoted body-projects shaped by the aesthetic ideals of Western culture. For example, the hidden toxicity of diet culture and its questionable claims to produce health and wellbeing have been uncritically absorbed, Christianised, and marketed from Christian celebrity platforms and the common pulpit. This session will draw on the richness of the Christian tradition, both in terms of theological reflection and embodied practice, to outline ways that contemporary Christian communities can support the holistic flourishing of their members.The telos of the body is not conforming to an ideal of health or beauty, but loving God and loving neighbour, and within this there is space for the generous hosting of diverse bodies. It will explore how the discourse and practices in Christian communities might be reimagined to focus on the discipling of the embodied person rather than the disciplining of the body.



Rev. Dr Maja Whitaker is the Academic Dean and lecturer in Practical Theology at Laidlaw College, based at the Christchurch campus, and a pastor in the Equippers network of churches. Among other works, her most recent publication is Perfect in Weakness: Disability and Human Flourishing in the New Creation with Baylor University Press (2023). She is passionate about spiritual formation and helping others understand how to follow the way of Jesus in contemporary cultural contexts. Maja’s research interests include the theology of the body, theological anthropology, disability theology, and eschatology. She is married to Dave and they have four daughters.