on March 15, 2010
When it comes to his books, Peterson and I have a love hate relationship. I've read 4 out 5 in this series (Eat this book is one I haven't got yet) and each time I find myself going through a similar wave of emotion. There are times when Peterson meanders and waffles on to the point where I am ready to close the book and throw it away. But when I hit that point Peterson brings everything he's said to a sharp conclusion, and it all makes sense. I love his books and I hate them at the same time. But I have to say that this was his best effort since "Christ plays in 10,000 places". The book is an informal commentary on Ephesians, which Peterson claims to have taught for many years to his congregations. Peterson is intent on seeing Christians grow to the full measure of stature in Christ. In other words Peterson wants us to become mature Christians, not tossed by every wind and doctrine. There is so much meat in this book that it's hard to summarise it all. I really like his chapter on Grace and Works. All my life I had seen the two as almost antithetical to each other. At best they should be a sign of the grace already received from Christ. But Peterson took a different route. Grace always requires a form, a container, otherwise it becomes an impersonal and abstract doctrine. Good works are the containers for Grace to be taken out from the impersonal to the personal. God is intensely personal, nothing about the God we serve is impersonal. I had never thought of it from that angle. If you've got the time and patience, read this whole series from start to finish. Scott Mcknight is right, one does not skim Peterson, one ponders Peterson.
on March 5, 2010
Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ
I had a lot of bad assumptions about Peterson. Initially, I thought THE MESSAGE was just another paraphrase intent on dumbing down the gospel, watering the Word, and trying to be "seeker-friendly" at the expense of becoming God-less. I carried those false assumptions into my reading of PRACTICE RESURRECTION. I was wrong. This was the first Peterson book I have read. I cannot tell you how many times I found myself practically shouting, "Amen," "Praise the Lord," "right on," etc. I even went out and bought a copy of the CONVERSATIONS version of THE MESSAGE. I have come to accept it as one more tool in increasing my personal understanding of God's Word, improving the quality of my walk with Christ, and in motivating me to BE more, DO more, LOVE more, not to grieve the Holy Spirit, and just be a better member of the body of Christ. JESUS IS LORD. And, Eugene Peterson knows that, teaches, that and blesses as he shares his very keen spiritual insights.
Did I say I was wrong before? Well, count me a fan now.
Buy this book, read it, share it and buy yourself a second copy to highlight, write notes in, and put all those little post-it flags in to mark your favorite passages. Unfortunately for me, the WHOLE book is a favorite passage.
on March 5, 2010
The Church takes a lot of beatings in popular Christianity today. Tell-all memoirs from the hottest new writers detailing the quirks and sins of "church people" and the psychological harm they've caused fly off the shelves. It has become fashionable to debate the value of the Church to the cause of Christ, and words like "community" and "gathering" have become the acceptable way to describe the assembly of believers. Too many of the rebuttals written by traditionalists seem more concerned with tradition than with the Church.
In Practice Resurrection, Peterson explores the Church as it is, the Body of Christ born of the Holy Spirit, not as it has been or as we would like it to be. He is mindful that the Church is imperfect (by way of its composition of sinners saved by grace), but seeks to build it up rather than deconstructing it. He writes, "Sooner or later, though, if we are serious about growing up in Christ, we have to deal with the church. I say sooner."
Peterson's book (the fifth in a series of works on spiritual theology) is, in essence, an informal commentary on the book of Ephesians. He points out that almost all New Testament letters to churches were written because of something--doctrinal error, rampant sinfulness, pointless squabbles, etc.--but Ephesians appears to be motivated by Christ's love for His people. He applies Paul's encouragement to the Ephesians to the life of today's Church as a model, urging believers to "walk worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called" (Eph. 4:1).
The title, Practice Resurrection, comes from Paul's grounding of His entire description of the Body in the fact of Christ's resurrection. Peterson describes the Church as something of an outpost for life in a country of death, and pinpoints our growth into spiritual maturity as the outworking of the raised Christ in our lives. As he works his way through Ephesians, he describes the forms and actions of the Church not just theologically, but through the very concrete realities of human relationships and his decades of pastoral ministry.
Peterson's book is a breath of fresh air to those who love Christ's Church, "warts and all," and desire to see her cleansed "by the washing of water with the Word." He doesn't excuse her faults, but lovingly exhorts individuals to live out the reality of the resurrection together as the dynamic Body the Lord ordained.
on November 17, 2010
From the introduction to the last page, Peterson delivers an opus criticism of `churchology' using Ephesians as the model. I think, at the moment, that you need to be a seasoned reader of Peterson, et.al. as well as settled in the disciplined path of mature Christianity to appreciate Resurrection's relevance. The book might not be for the many but the few who `get it'. I would believe that pastor's might struggle with it. It's not a text for the dead, the babies or the lukewarm.
Peterson goes for the jugular of Christian `hypocrisy'. Of course there's hypocrisy. Of course it's not Christian. But there is no church in the NT legacy and none today that can avoid the reality of communal imperfection. Yet, perfection is what is demanded and towards that perfection, Peterson cheers us on.
I've thoroughly enjoyed Peterson's books and recommend and gift them to my more mature-in-Christ brothers and sisters. I considered providing a copy of Resurrection to a pastor friend ... but if he read it, he might be troubled by the message that comes with the gift. It's clearly thinking like mine here that is the crux of Peterson's writing ... so I'll think on it. Peterson's Resurrection is different from his previous fare. Peterson writes with `in your face' verve to force the reader to visualize the image of the demands of communal worship as gleaned from the instructions to the Ephesians. The Holy Spirit is a change-up master that relentlessly pulls us individually and confederately forward into unknown territory. We that choose to follow would do well to be equipped with Peterson's wisdom.
on March 4, 2010
Wellspring is the name that comes to my mind everytime I pick up a Eugene Peterson book. I consider him my best friend, yet he does not even know me. I read and re-read until his next book comes out. And I am never disappointed. He writes for those who can't get even of God but have had enough of legalism and liberalism. He protects the word, he explains the word, and in the end, we understand the word better.
Very few understand how to defuse the "C Bomb" as Eugene Peterson does. Peterson speaks to the various dimensions of his expertise with the device like few can. His skill with language have been honed by years of training. Yet, for the layperson - the communication is clear, simple and riveting as he dances with his subject matter: "There is more to life after birth than mother's milk, sleeping and waking, walking and talking. There is God. P. 1.
He selects a metaphor for this lesson, Practicing Resurrection. For Peterson, a metaphor is "a word that makes an organic connection from what you can see to what you can't see." P. 1. Yet, be careful handling what you can't see -- it may cause damage to the Christian, the Church and Christianity (The "C" Bomb): "It is true that the metaphor of growth is used frequently, as in "church growth" and "growing churches." But it is also obvious that the metaphor has been torn out of its origin in biology and emasculated into an abstract and soulless item of arithmetic, a usage as remote from the biblical soil as is imaginable - an outrageous perversion of the metaphor and responsible for an enormous distortion in the Christian imagination of what is involved in living in the kingdom of God." P. 3.
What does "practicing resurrection" mean from Peterson's perspective? Listen to the following:
We live our lives in the practice of what we do not originate and cannot anticipate. When we practice resurrection, we continuously enter into what is more than we are. When we practice resurrection, we keep company with Jesus, alive and present, who knows where we are going better than we do, which is always "from glory unto glory. P. 8 -- "The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life." P. 12.
So, what's the problem? Sounds simple enough. Here's the Peterson perspective: "We've been at this for two thousand years now, and people are not clamoring to join us." p. 14. "With God depersonalized and then repackaged as a principle or formula, people could shop at their convenience for whatever sounded or looked as if it would make their lives more interesting and satisfying on their own terms. Marketing research quickly developed to show us just what people wanted in terms of God and religion. As soon as we knew what it was, we gave it to them." p. 23 God is not an idea. P. 34. The Bible is not a book to carry around and read for information about God, but a voice to listen to. P. 33.
Well, what type of qualifications does one require to "practice resurrection" and become involved in this sort of lifestyle? Listen to Peterson: "Fundamentally, work is not what we do; we are the work that God does." Pp. 98-99.
Huh? I don't understand. Can you explain further Dr. Peterson? "
"If we calculate the nature of the world by what we can manage or explain, we end up living in a very small world. If we are going to grow to the mature stature of Christ, need conditions favorable to it. We need room." P. 54. "Existence as we experience it is a kind of chaos. Things happen with apparent unpredictability and in a disorderly way. Life is a constant struggle against this disorder, and so we attempt to impose some kind of order upon it with our clocks and watches, our schedules and rules. The natural energies of living tend toward chaos."
OK then....sounds like we have to become a bit more imaginative? Eh? "
"We live in a language world in which every "you" gets neutered into an "it" and imagination is crowded to the sidelines by numbers. P. 55 But God is consigned to the sidelines, conveniently within calling distance to help out in emergencies and be available for consultation for the times when we have run out of answers. "P.56.
Hmmmm... sounds like you need to be called into this type of life. What's a calling look like to you Dr. Peterson? "A Call is not an impersonal cause that makes something happen in a mechanical way in obedience to the laws of physics, like a baseball that is launched by a swung bat knocking it out of the ballpark. Call comes into our ears, beckoning us into the future, bringing us into a way of life that has never been experienced in just this way before: a promise, a new thing, a blessing, our place in the new creation, a resurrection life." P.34.
Wow! Thank you Dr. Peterson - This seems like dangerous work...a lifestyle that one must be called to. How do you characterize your calling to this work of practicing resurrection - living as a Christian, working with Christians, with the Church - this thing we call Christianity - defuse the "C" Bomb for us would you please?
I realized that this was my place and work in the church to be a witness to the truth that dazzles gradually. I would be a witness to the Holy Spirit's formation of congregation out of this mixed bag of humanity that is my congregation - broken, hobbled: crippled, sexually abused and spiritually abused, emotionally unstable, passive and passive-aggressive, neurotic men and women. Men at fifty who have failed a dozen times and know that they will never amount to any thing. Women who have been ignored and scorned and abused in a marriage in which they have been faithful. People living with children and spouses deep in addictions. Lepers and blind and deaf and dumb sinners. Also fresh converts, excited to be in on this new life. Spirited young people, energetic and eager to be guided into a life of love and compassion, mission and evangelism. A few seasoned saints who know how to pray and listen and endure. And a considerable number of people who pretty much just show up. I wonder why they bother. There they are. The hot, the cold, and the lukewarm, Christians, half Christians, almost Christians. New-agers, angry ex-Catholics, sweet new converts. I didn't choose them. I don't get to choose them." p. 27
Any parting words for us Dr. Peterson? Any special qualifications to enter into relationship with the resurrection lifestyle you speak of?
"God reveals himself in personal relationship and only in personal relationship. God is not a phenomenon to be considered. God is not a force to be used. God is not a proposition to be argued. There is nothing in or of God that is impersonal, nothing abstract, nothing imposed. And God treats us with an equivalent personal dignity. He isn't out to impress us. He's here to eat bread with us and receive us into his love just as we are, just where we are. "
Be "Healthy in God, robust in love." P.29.
Thank you Eugene H. Peterson - the fourth volume of blessing you have bestowed upon us. Be safe - please continue to invite us into your life - sharing your experiences and perspectives. We are refreshed and encouraged by you!
on March 14, 2010
Practice Resurrection is typically Eugene Peterson: mind-bending, direct, faithful to true Biblical teaching in its kindness and directness. A solid piece of work. Every volume in this "Conversation" series is well worth reading and contemplating, even when there is not entire agreement
on September 27, 2010
Practice Resurrection is the fifth and final installment of what Eugene Peterson calls his "conversations" in spiritual theology. I've thoroughly enjoyed each of the books in this series; it wouldn't be strange to immediately revisit these books from the beginning.
In this book Peterson takes a somewhat different approach from the previous four volumes. Rather than drawing from the scope of Scripture, the author mostly limits himself to the Apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesian church and does so in a generally linear fashion. It's not quite a commentary but it's close and I'll certainly consult the book's index in the future.
There's no use attempting to summarize Peterson. Each section of Practice Resurrection resembles a small pond, lovely on the surface and surprising in its sudden depth. In broad terms the author is most interested in what it means for a converted person to mature in the faith, to "grow up in Christ." Given the context of Ephesians he's especially concerned with how the church- the local, tangible, complicated church- contributes or hinders the processes of maturity.
Peterson seems to me a gentle person, but in this book he makes known his frustrations with quick-fix approaches to discipleship. In his view there are good reasons Christian maturity is a life-long process.
"It is understandable that we will carry old cemetery habits and assumptions into this resurrection country. We have, after all, been living with them a long time (if you call it living). And so we require a patient, long-suffering reorientation in the resurrection conditions that prevail in this country, living into the `full stature of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13), our resurrection pioneer and companion."
In his approach to maturity Peterson will diminish neither the power of the culture and customs that shape us nor the power of the resurrected Jesus to transform us. We pastors can lose this balance- leaning too far in one direction diminishes the active reality of the other- and this book is a strong encouragement to keep both in view.
Pastors will especially appreciate Peterson's emphasis on the irreplaceable role for the church: "a creation of Christ for growing up in Christ." It's not a glossy or an ideal view of the church presented here. In fact, it is the presence of Christ among groups of incredibly ordinary and sometimes ornery people that is so important to Christian maturity. In contrast to a culture that "keeps us in a perpetually arrested state of adolescence" Peterson views the church as "immersing us in the conditions of becoming mature to the measure of the full stature of Christ."
It will take some time to make your way through Practice Resurrection but I hope you will. There are no quick-fixes, easy solutions or secrets revealed in these pages, just imaginative approaches to the truths held by the church since the beginning. Thanks to Peterson we have a timely reminder of how these truths, how the resurrection itself, can be practiced.
on March 5, 2015
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.
Originally posted on my blog at [...]
Eugene Peterson is as much mentor to me as any other author I have read. I love many authors. But no others really have offered me the deep wisdom and theological meat that Peterson has. I have read many of his books. I think eight in the last two years if my count is right. This recent series of practical theology is something that should be required for all seminary students and none more than this book. I think it is helpful for many Christians, but seminary students in particular would benefit from the long form narrative discussions about what living life as a Christian really is about. Each of the books are about different parts of the Christian life. Eat This Book is about reading scripture. Tell It Slant is about the use of prayer and stories to fully understand how to communicate the gospel. The Jesus Way is about the concept of exclusivity in Christianity. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places is about what practical theology is all about.
Practice Resurrection, the most recent in the series, is about developing maturity as a Christian. It is not about spiritual disciplines (he touched on those in Eat This Book) but about what it takes to focus on and really grow as a Christian. This is an area that I think too many books try to talk about and fail. The root problem is that growth as a Christian is not simple, it is not easily talked about and it is not the same for one person as another.
Peterson starts with (and spends a long time discussing) the church. And he is clear, as messy and uncomfortable a place as the church is (not can be, is), growth as a Christian cannot happen away from the church. He follows that thought through from a variety of angles. Essentially almost a full half of the book talks about how the church is the root of growth in Christ. I think this emphasis is important particularly for those that work in the church world and for those that would like to leave the church world (and even more for those that are in both groups.)
The essence of the book is wrapped up in a short section on works. Peterson says, "Fundamentally, works are not what we do. We are the work that God does. We are God's workmanship." This leads to a very good section on work (our daily regular 40 hour a week type of work). Peterson is very concerned that we do not spiritualize our work or romanticize our work. This section is very good for those in the church world. It speaks strongly about the fact that work is hard, it is not always rewarding, it is not always fulfilling, but it is incarnational. I think this balances an improper teaching in the church that says "if you are in the work God has for you it will be easy."
As always, Peterson is eminently biblical. No book of his that I have read is not at heart a theological explication of a particular passage. For Practice Resurrection, that passage is the book of Ephesians. And he spends a lot of time working through the scripture of Ephesians. If you want to learn how to think about learning from scripture and applying it, there are few pastors that I have heard that come anywhere close to the skill of interacting with and applying scripture as does Peterson.
To me Peterson is one of the saints that is along the road ahead of us. When we follow them, it is not about raising up Peterson, but about Peterson pointing to Christ. Read this book.