Earlier this week saw the release of what may be the two most anticipated books of the (early) fall around here, both in the genre of what might be called spirituality. Ahh, but these aren’t just two touchy-feely books about God. These are two of our most eminent lay theologians and exquiste writers who have spent a lifetime pondering the big stuff. One is one of the most known evangelical writers, the other a prolific servant of Christ we are honored to have as part of the Hearts & Minds circle of friends.
Yes, the new Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Zondervan; $21.99) and the new Marva Dawn Joy In Divine Wisdom: Practicies of Discernment from Other Cultures and Christian Traditions (Jossey-Bass; $21.99) are now available. Both are handsome hardcovers, both very thoughtful and, it seems, nicely written. And both deserve to be talked about, reviewed, passed around. Which is to say, gentle reader, they deserve to be purchased.
Yancey claims, we’re told, that this is his best book in years. On the back it says (and I do not for a minute believe it is just hype) that he “probes the very heartbeat—the most fundamental, challenging, perplexing, and deeply rewarding aspect—of our relationship with God.” I suspect it is asking, as it is often put, “Does prayer change us or God? Or both?” What can we really expect from prayer; that is, does it work? and how so? I would guess I don’t have to tell you that a quick skim through the footnotes shows that Yancey is as widely-read as most, and draws on surprising sources. He is a very sharp thinker and a good journalist. I am sure it will be great.
Joy In Divine Wisdom is the third in the interesting “Enduring Questions in the Christian Life” series. The long subtitle is important as it shows her topic—she is showing how we in the West are too often prone to talk about “finding God’s will” as if that is a magic bullet or simple technique. Rather, she (and many other of our best formation writers) are suggesting we use the spiritual language of discernment. And—and here is were it gets really interesting—she shows that even for many who adopt this spiritual practice, we still tend to approach it individualistically. In other cultures, there are more communal discernment customs. Folks who are less autonomous learn how to discern together the work of the Spirit in their midst.
Only one long blurb graces the back of this important volume and it is by Ms Dawn’s friend and colleague, Eugene Peterson. I hope you know that that speaks volumes. Dawn is a good scholar, a passionate and delightful speaker, a hard-hitting prophet. Her book is well worth pondering. Just make sure you, uh, read it together.
Joy In Divine Wisdom
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