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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith Hardcover – March 23, 1998
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"Our ridiculously fallible language becomes a lesson in how God's grace works despite and even through our human frailty. We will never get the words exactly right. There will always be room for imperfection, for struggle, growth and change. And this is as it should be." With observations like this one, Kathleen Norris, author of Dakota and The Cloister Walk, has again provided a salutary corrective for contemporary Christians in Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. The book is about how she learned to use religious words, such as "incarnation," "idolatry," and "evangelism." Norris is a feminist, a theological conservative, a sophisticate, and a country bumpkin. And she's one of the few living Christian writers who can be described as truly great.
From Publishers Weekly
When poet Norris (The Cloister Walk) found her way back into church in the early 1980s, she was unsettled by what she calls the "vaguely threatening and dauntingly abstract" vocabulary of the church. Many of the words, like "Christ," seemed to her code words churchgoers used out of convenience when they could not find other words to use. Other words?like "salvation," "conversion," and "dogma"?seemed to Norris to be too abstract to reflect meaningfully her own experience. In this "vocabulary of faith," Norris draws upon her considerable poetic skills to refashion the vocabulary of the church into her own religious vocabulary. In each of these meditations, Norris uses anecdotes and humor to invest these words with fresh meanings. On "Salvation," for instance, she tells the story of an acquaintance who had become relatively successful in a new venture with his business partner. But, when Norris's friend realizes that his partner will go as far as committing murder to succeed, he leaves the partnership and returns home. Norris describes this victory as the beginning of salvation, "to make sufficient," because her friend "realized the road he was on was not sufficient; it could lead nowhere but death." In "Conversion: The Scary Stuff," Norris retells the story of Jacob's wrestling with the angel to demonstrate the struggle we all undergo in seeking the face of God. Norris's lyrical prose rings with clarity and grace as she brings life to her experience of the church's vocabulary.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
The book addresses her struggle later in life to find again her faith and commitment to the small town church where her grandmother had attended faithfully for sixty years. Organized around the words that most scared her, she presents the challenges faced by so many who try to find meaning in the code language of those on the inside. I have read many stimulating books on religion but this one stands out for its honesty and value. I would recommend it highly both to Christians seeking to understand better their religion and to those who are not Christian but would like to better know it.
this is a book for people of all faiths.
Page 310: ". . . Here, too, is the justification of the mystic's certainty, as in Shaw's 'St. Joan,' when she responds calmly to an inquisitor's pouncing on the word imagination, as if to spring a trap. 'I hear voices telling me what to do,' Joan says. 'They come from God.' 'They come from your imagination?' her interrogator asks, and she replies, 'Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.'"
Kathleen Norris's extensive study of the Christian religious history is expressed in this book and benefits the reader.
It is poetic in parts which presents a difficulty for me because although I value poetry and admire poets, as an analyical person, I often don't get it. (She says her husband is both poetic and analytical -- a wonderful gift.) Nevertheless it was a priceless experience.
This is not a book for fundamentalist Christians. It is a book for us spiritual seekers who love God with all our hearts.
I ordered a used copy, and don't know the condition of it, although I expect it is good, per Amazon. The book arrived in good time, and now my sister can discover Kathleen Norris.