05 March 2015

Book Review: Practice Resurrection

Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (2010) is the final book in the 5-volume spiritual theology series by Eugene Peterson. In the book, Peterson explores growth in Christ and character formation for the Christian by going slowly through Paul's letter to the Ephesians. In the introduction, Peterson wrote, "Evangelism is essential, critically essential. But is it not obvious that growth in Christ is equally essential?" In evangelical circles, I think we can become easily unbalanced in this way, and this book serves to "true the wheel" a bit. 

The way in which Peterson writes reminds me of the pleasure of a slow stroll with a learned man. As we walk, he stops to point out things that he sees and those things may remind him of something else, which enriches the experience. His knowledge is broad and his insights welcome. 

There is so much to commend about this book, though I would leave with just a few short words from the author himself.

"In fifty years of being a pastor, my most difficult assignment continues to be the task of developing a sense among the people I serve of the soul-transforming implications of grace--a comprehensive, foundational reorientation from living anxiously by my wits and muscle to living effortlessly in the world of God's active presence. The prevailing North American culture (not much different from the Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Roman cultures in which our biblical ancestors lived) is, to all intents and purposes, a context of persistent denial of grace" (p. 96).

"'Be subject to one another.' Maturity is not analogous to a body-building regimen in which we lift weights to build our muscles to the max, and then periodically stand before a mirror to examine our progress. Maturity is not a solitary state; it is relational. Maturity does not come about by making the most of ourselves; it is making the most of personal relationships. We don't do that by becoming stronger than the other, overpowering him or her, dominating either emotionally or physically. We don't impose ourselves. We enter into another person's life sharing both weakness and strength. We enter the life of another, but we don't force the entrance. Mutuality is always involved in 'be subject.'" (p. 234)

"There is more to church than sermons and sacraments, theology and liturgy, Bible studies and prayer meetings, committee minutes and mission statements. There are names, meals, small talk, births, deaths. There is us. Conversation is the form that language takes when the persons of the Trinity and the persons of the congregation are in the same room. The 'everything' that Tychicus will have to say to the Ephesians is no insignificant part of what it means to be the church. And you and I are Tychicus" (p. 271).

If you have the time and are willing to put in some thought work, I would strongly recommend this excellent series of books. Practice Resurrection, however, is a great capstone on the series. A book by one of my favorite authors about my favorite book of the Bible is a welcome addition to my library and one I will no doubt reference often in the future.

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