Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster

The summer before my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to go out for a varsity sport. Though there were many reasons, they all boiled down to this: I wanted to connect more with my father. You see growing up I knew my dad was a real manly kind of man. He went loved hunting and fishing, fixed things around the house and worked on cars because he liked it. I wasn’t a huge fan of fishing (I found it kind of boring, but at least you could read). I didn’t care for hunting (same as fishing, but without the book) and I really, really wasn’t interested in rebuilding cars (Dad would have to wait for my youngest sister to find a kindred spirit there). It’s not that I ever thought my dad was disappointed in me. I knew he wasn’t. It was just that there weren’t a lot of interests we had in common and I wanted more of a connection with him.

So, I asked around among friends on the different teams trying to find a sport that I had a chance of lettering in with only one season. My friend Adam convinced me with this advice: “Running cross country is easy. Step one: start running … that’s it. There is no step two.” (Advice I would later hear eerily echoed by NPH’s Barney on How I Met Your Mother). I joined the team, I earned my varsity letter, got the jacket, connected a bit more with my dad and learned that I hate running. I’d rather walk.

For this reason, I was more than a little excited about Charles Foster’s entry in the Ancient Practices Series, The Sacred Journey.  I envisioned a solitary soul purposefully walking across deserts and scaling mountains.

It didn’t take long before I realized I had it all wrong.

Foster’s book is less about walking and more about moving. Moving from a place of normalcy in the name of God, in search of a place that feels sacred where we can experience God more intimately, precisely and poignantly. I very much enjoyed Foster’s interweaving of his own experiences with the history of the importance of sacred journeys within the Christian tradition.

I’m not as big a fan of one of his repeated claims throughout his book, that God has a preference for the pilgrim and disdain for those who settle. Though Foster points to Jesus’ status as a camping wanderer, I just don’t buy that God hates the city. God can work just as decidedly in transforming people in the city as He can on the road.

In spite of my main issue with it, I recommend you pick up The Sacred Journey. It will challenge you in a way that I imagine you haven't been challenged before.  It'll be good for you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Why so Angry?

In May I walked across the stage, took the pictures and received the congratulations on graduating from Seminary. But I knew I wasn't finished. No diploma resided in the handsomely apportioned case handed me as I confidently strode across that stage. No, inside was a single sheet of paper that read, "Return this case. You will receive one with your diploma when you finish your graduation requirements." This sentiment was underscored when my theology professor whispered, "now remember, you're walking by faith." as I shook his hand before leaving the stage. 

What was left for me to do? Well, I still needed to pass my seminary orals. As part of that process, I've been working in fits and bursts on a 2 final papers for my Seminary degree. The first on Pre-Tribulation Rapture and the second on God's sovereignty (you know, the whole Calvinism/Arminism thing). 
Both of these topics have knowledgeable and thoughtful scholars who disagree on how to interpret scripture. The tenor of the disagreements are quite different from each other. In the timing of the rapture debate, people are civil and their critiques have an attitude of "Well, I probably can't get the other guy (or gal) to change his (or her) position, but I sure can have fun with it by poking a little fun at them." 

On the other hand the sovereignty debate is vicious. Both sides are playing for keeps. throwing down gauntlets as requests for proof and then refusing to accept what proof is offered. (And please note, I did say BOTH sides.) It's hard to even consider entering into a debate where arguers are routinely accused of ignorance and stupidity in interpretation and  misleading Christians in this "most important of all doctrinal issues." 

I find this particularly frustrating in that I hold to parts of both traditions, but adhere to neither in its entirety. So, my question is this: Why is this issue such a contentious one? Why would people say that Arminians and Calvinists shouldn't even work together (as one friend of mine was advised)? I haven't come across this advice over End Times theology or many other theological issues. Why is this the common response for this one?