Book Review

Book Review: Untamed

The title Untamed: Reactivating a Missional form of Discipleship by Alan and Debra Hirsch caught my attention immediately.  Alan and Debra have recognized the need to provide a more robust understanding of the missional life.  In essence, the Hirsch's are attempting to frame the missional conversation within a broad conception of discipleship.  The entire book is predicated upon "removing impediments to discipleship." (24)  The book is divided into four sections born out of this fundamental concern-Untaming God, Untaming our culture, Untaming the self and Untaming the mission.  At its base the present project seeks to unearth false perspectives, beliefs and practices within the Church which are impeding true discipleship, and seeks to provide helpful correctives.

What I appreciate so much about this book is its attempt to ground the missional discussion in a more robust conception of the Christian life than simply-"engage culture" or "just do it". As the Hirsch's state, "A book on missional discipleship must first get the basics right in relation to God.  If we get the fundamental notions of God wrong, it will negatively impact our personal discipleship and damage the very people we are trying to reach..." (57)  In this regard the Hirsch's have much to say that is helpful and thoughtful.  

Book Review: “Pscyhology in the Spirit”

The following is a review I recently wrote for "Spiritual Directors International" (www.sdiworld.org)

Silver to Gold

A Story of young revolutionaries...

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend of mine who recently finished writing a book that has been in her heart for the last eight years.  It is a simple, and yet profound story of "the ones who escaped" the evil kingdom of Laird, in search of the legendary "Golden pastures."  They must journey out of the bronze hills, through the barren valley, up to the peak of the silver mountains, where they get their first glimpse of the golden pastures.  They must choose to continue back down into the valley, up the final hill, and then, to continue on in to the promised land.  The story is based allegorically on Joshua and Caleb's journey into the promised land, as well as John 10:10, that "I have come to bring life abundantly."

The simplicity of the story is one that children could read and understand, but the depth to which is challenges and draws out the moments of choice that we find ourselves in throughout our lives was deeply profound.  There are the ones who choose to remain on various mountain peaks because, "it is enough for them."  Some escape the kingdom, and settle just outside.  Others make it all the way to the final mountain, but because they can't let go of the dream in order to see it fulfilled, they refuse to descend into the promised land.  I found myself and my own temptations in every character.

Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective Part II

For our second venture into IVP's recent volume compiling a series of articles presented at last years Wheaton Theology Conference, we will look at Bruce Hindmarsh's contribution, "Seeking True Religion."  The subtitle of Hindmarsh's article is "Early Evangelical Devotion and Catholic Spirituality."  I gravitated to this chapter for a variety of reasons, but needless to say an exploration into the use of Catholic spiritual writers in the early days of evangelicalism would have a lot to say to the current debate over the resourcement of such material in the current evangelical spiritual formation movement. 

Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective

This is the first of what will be a few posts exploring articles found within the recently published, Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective.  This volume is a published compilation of a series of articles offered at the Wheaton Theology Conference this past year.  As is stated in the introduction, "The 2009 Wheaton Conference sought to examine the biblical, theological and historical roots of the church's calling to spiritual formation, as sketched in this book.  This volume emerged from the conference's dialogue about the theological shape of the contemporary discussion about spiritual formation, particularly within the evangelical Protestant community." (10-11)

Admittedly, my interactions with this volume will focus on articles that peaked my interest the greatest.  The first article that grabbed my attention was Kelly Kapic's, "Evangelical Holiness: Assumptions in John Owen's Theology of Christian Spirituality."  One would be hard pressed to find a theologian with greater clarity into the theological schema of John Owen.  So, I was excited to see what direction Kapic took.  Kapic states, "Having explored aspects of Owen's spirituality elsewhere, I focus here on a new route into his theology of spiritual formation; it seems promising to organize some of his main concerns around an evocative phrase he uses with some regularity: 'evangelical holiness.' (98)  Having a starting point in mind Kapic lays out a series of themes and emphasis that he finds in Owen that can be brought to bear meaningfully on a discussion regarding spiritual formation.  

From the Courtroom to the Bedroom: A review of “Apprenticeship with Jesus” by Gary Moon

A number of spiritual formation writers, under the influence of Dallas Willard, have sought to move us away from a solely forensic understanding of salvation.  Gary Moon is one of them.  His recent book, "Apprenticeship with Jesus" is a rich read, full of laugh-out-loud humor, moving stories, and wisdom on living as an apprentice of Jesus.  He invites us to see the gospel as more than a forgiven past and a future in heaven.  While not dismissing these facets of the gospel that address our guilty past and our future in heaven, he paints a compelling picture of the good news of the present opportunity offered to each of us to live as an apprentice of Jesus.  (Note:  Click here to read my previous post on the challenges of using the term "apprentice" for "disciple").

The Naked Now, by Richard Rohr

Below is a recent book review I wrote for "Spiritual Directors International" (www.sdiworld.org)

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Book Review: Glittering Vices

I have not pondered the seven deadly sins in quite some time, so when I noticed that Baker had published a new book entitled Glittering Vices by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, I was interested.  It is an area of study I have been fascinated with, but I must confess I have spent little time exploring the history of the vices and the implications of their potential value in the spiritual life.  They provide a conceptual framework that has been met with little to no interest by evangelical Christians.

I found DeYoung's book to be very accessible and helpful as an introduction to the vices.  She does a wonderful job of tracing theological and philosophical concepts that impact both the history and the formation of the list of seven deadly sins, while at the same time maintaining a very practical tenor.  The reader will find her elucidation of the origins of these categories and their subsequent use throughout church history to be insightful.  The lion share of the book is given to exploring in detail the nature of and dynamics involved in each of the seven vices-envy, vainglory, sloth, avarice, anger, gluttony and lust.

 
Formed for the Glory of God:Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards
Wisdom tells us to sit at the feet of our elders rather than the latest ministry fad. And is there a better elder to guide us than Jonathan Edwards?
Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics:A Guide for Evangelicals
Many have come to discover the wealth of spiritual insight available in the Desert Fathers and other traditions. The essays in this volume provide a guide for evangelicals to read the Christian spiritual classics.