Friday, May 24, 2019

Take and Read by Eugene Peterson

Author, pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson (1932-2018), has written a very dangerous book for Christian bibliophiles. If you love the Bible, the Church, Church history, deep thinking and beautiful writing, Take and Read offers a veritable sinkhole of books to add to your TBR list. (I added 135 titles to mine.)

Subtitled "an annotated list of spiritual reading," the book cites several hundred classics that strengthened Peterson's heart and influenced his thinking throughout his many years of ministry. Although I don't always agree with every point of  his theology, I appreciate his love for the Church and his gift for expressing spiritual truths in clear language.

Spiritual reading does not mean reading on spiritual or religious subjects, but reading any book that comes to hand in a spiritual way, which is to say, listening to the Spirit, alert to intimations of God. Reading today is largely a consumer activity. People devour books, magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers for information that will fuel their ambition or careers or competence. The faster the better, the more the better. It is either analytical, figuring things out; or it is frivolous, killing time. Spiritual reading is mostly a lover's activity - a dalliance with words, reading as much between the lines as in the lines themselves. It is leisurely, as ready to reread an old book as to open a new one. What follows is a list of books that require the lost art of SLOW reading.

In the chapter on Classics, he gives this tantalizing description of The Collected Works of John of the Cross: Virtually everyone who pursues the spiritual life expects to be rewarded with ecstasy. John has no patience with what he calls our "spiritual sweet tooth." He is a ruthless realist, stripping away the illusions, the fantasies, and the delusions, training us to discern the realities of faith.

In the chapter on prayer, he describes John Baillie's A Diary of Private Prayer: I find a cadenced and austere beauty in these morning and evening prayers. And a searing honesty. There is always a temptation in written prayer toward rhetorical flourish, grandstanding before the Almighty. These prayers guide us in a way of prayer that is simple, direct, and immediate.

I gobbled up the chapter on poetry since I am always on the lookout for meaty, theologically sound poems. And I hadn't read a single one of the books he mentions in his chapter on mystery novels so that sent me scurrying to Amazon. But even though I devoured this book, I don't expect to love all the titles mentioned (some writers lean toward liberal theology). I expect, however, to be nourished by a great number of them. I'm especially happy we'll be spending the next eight months in the U.S. where I'll have access to several wonderful libraries where I can search for many of these gems. Another happy note is that Take and Read is on sale for 99 cents till May 31st.


1 comment:

GretchenJoanna said...

What is more fun, and captivating, than a book about favorite books? -- that is, if they are favorites of someone so dear and well-read on subjects of eternal value as Mr. Peterson is. I pored over this book for many an hour some years back. Then I think I gave it to one of my bibliophile children. So glad he took the trouble to make the list.