It might very well be true, I just have nothing to confirm or deny it. There seems to be a trend towards "rediscovering" the way church was done in the past as in ancient practices, but I have nothing to back that up but a hunch and what I've heard on the internet.
When I saw the title for Brian McLaren's book "Finding Our Way Again: the return of the ancient practices" I got really excited.
I picked it up expecting it to be filled with wonderful things I dreamed I would try: practices that would align my daily life in 2011 with the lives of saints of old.
It wasn't everything that I expected.
I was expecting to read about how I can more practically incorporate those ancient practices into my daily life. I was expecting a breakdown--more than that, a list--of practices, and a simple 1, 2, 3 step approach for beginning them.
McLaren didn't deliver. Well, to be fair, it wasn't his intention to deliver those things. This book stands as an introduction to a series of books. The subsequent volumes, written by other authors, will share more of what I thought I wanted. This introductory volume seems to exist to lay the framework for why us, the readers, should care about spiritual practices.
I say that I thought I wanted the expectation highlighted above. I came to realize as I read, that I was getting something better, and something more in line with what I needed.
McLaren highlights four reasons for writting this book (found on page 201 of my copy), and I hope I'm not giving anything away here: "First. spiritual practices help develop character, the kind of character we see in Saint Francis standing as a man of peace before the sultan. Second, they help us be awake and alive and more fully human, as this singer of songs, lover of birds, embracer of lepers, and carrier of joy so clearly was. Third, they help us experience God, or as we have said more recently, they help us join God so that we glow with Francis like holy embers radiant with the fire of God."
And there is a fourth:
More specifically, McLaren is pointing readers to an understanding that despite many differences between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are similarities in both ancestry (Father Abraham) and spiritual practice (such as fixed hour prayer) among others.
His desire is that we, meaning the adherents of the three faiths, would give more consideration to these similarities, and less to the differences. While we might all have very different opinions of Jesus, we need to "pursue the ancient way in which we learn to practice peace, joy, self-mastery and justice: because the future of the world depends on people like you and me finding it and living it and inviting other to join us."
I understand that some people have strong opinions of Brian McLaren. This is the first book, of his that I've read. There were parts I didn't agree with, but there was much I did. And more than that, much of what I read challenged my thinking.
I got from this book, not what I expected, but instead what I needed. I have a greater understanding of how life today can connect with the ancient practices of old. I'd say that chapters 15 through 19 were worth every bit of time put into the book. While the whole book is well worth reading, I'd recommend it to other just for those five chapters alone.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com <http://BookSneezeÂ®.com> 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 Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255
It's not hard to observe that there are many people, Bible-believers included, who have lost their way spiritually. Many flounder for fulfillment in their spiritual journeys, often moving in directions that lead to dead-ends. McLaren's Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices explores some of the hows and whys of this, and suggests a number of ancient practices that can strengthen our relationship with God so that we no longer feel lost. He does not suggest that these practices are essential elements of the Christian walk, nor that they will lead us "closer" to God. He simply points out that they are tools -- some used for millenia -- that can enable us to see God in places we have, well, missed seeing Him along the way. Each chapter ends with "Spiritual Exercises" -- questions and suggestions that encourage the reader to think through and beyond the content of the chapter in order to make personal applications. The end of the book offers a chapter-by-chapter study guide that challenges the reader to explore each topic more fully, and there are also notes that enable study beyond the realm of the author's own text.
I've never read any of Brian McLaren's work before, nor do I recall hearing anything about his books. While I found him to be a bit inclined towards discussing faith in general terms, as opposed to faith in Christ specifically, his convictions as a follower of Christ were clear, and I found myself agreeing with many of his comments about "religion" as it contrasts true faith. The beginning of most chapters seemed to rile me a bit for some reason, but I was heartily acknowledging the wisdom of his words by the end of each. I particularly appreciate the analogies he used to illustrate his points because they truly help to clarify his ideas for me. I also like the fact that his writing is scholarly, but not in a pretentious way. He presents facts and ideas about history and theology in ways that are easily accessible to the reader who may not be as well-versed in those subjects. What I like most about the book is that McLaren does not separate spiritual disciplines or practices from everyday life: he demonstrates the sacredness of all aspects of life, and challenges us to wake up and experience God moment-by-moment, day-in-and-day-out.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in historical and biblical faith practices, and to anyone that longs for a richer relationship with God.
As a member of BookSneeze, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Brian McLaren had a profound impact on my faith about 10 years ago when a friend recommended I read A New Kind of Christian. Since then, I haven't agreed with all he's written but I still find him worth paying attention to. When I received the opportunity to review his latest book through the BookSneeze.com program, I knew I couldn't pass it up.
Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices sets the tone for the Ancient Practices Series, which explores early spiritual disciplines. It seems important to discuss why we practice spiritual disciplines in the first place before studying specific ones more in depth.
Chapter 2 alone made the book worth reading, a good sign for what portended.
McLaren shares a few reasons for the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines.
1. Spiritual practices help us narrow the gap between the person we are and the person we want to become.
2. They help us be people who see, hear, and experience the world around us. They help us rediscover the beauty of life and living.
3. In these two things, we are drawn to God and more alert to His presence. "Becoming awake and staying awake to God," as McLaren puts it.
4. Spiritual disciplines shape us into people who practice peace, joy, self-mastery, and justice. And this makes all the difference in the world.
The book goes on to clarify how spiritual disciplines are classified, whether contemplative, communal, or missional. Still, the specifics of the disciplines themselves are saved for the other books in the series. This truly is an overview. You might not find it valuable to read this precursor but I found it to be helpful to explore the heart and faith behind this movement.
The examination of via illuminativa was most intriguing of all to me. The final section of the book devotes itself to the ancient practices. This served as both a lesson in church history and in awakening my spirit. Via illuminativa sees everything, all of life, in the light of God. This light tells us that God is everywhere and reveals the magnitude of His character, or at least as much of His character as we'll ever understand.
"Light, like God, relativizes time and space and thus renders us part of something big and beautiful and fast and timeless and mysterious and wonderful and colorful...and spiritual" (p. 163.)
I found the discussion on via illuminativa to be utterly beautiful. And then came the passage on the other side of the coin. Where there is light, there has been darkness. When we experience a dark night of the soul, we long for light ever more. When we've recovered, we see that there are gifts in such an experience, even if only that we have a greater appreciation for light. Having experienced such a time in my life, it was helpful to read about via illuminativa and frame that period in another way.
Perhaps that is what spiritual disciplines become: a way of reframing our lives. It helps us remember who we were and Who we are striving toward.
Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, by Brian McLaren
In his book Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, Brian McLaren intended to address Christians and encourage them to "rediscover the Christian faith as a transforming way of life." His goal was (and is) noble, his assessment of the problem was clear, but his solution was vague and far from Biblical. McLaren claims the Christian faith as his own, but throughout the book makes it clear that he considers the Christian faith to be anything but exclusive in its truth claims. He says that "the way - Jewish torah, Christian gospel, or Muslim deen - leads us toward the peace, wisdom, and joy that we seek." By this he essentially says that each of these ways, which are drastically different from each other, are equally valid ways of reaching that "peace, wisdom, and joy that we seek."
McLaren claims that the problem with Christianity (by "Christianity" he means Muslims, Catholics, and any other religion that is remotely similar) is that it has become nothing more than a "system of belief" and that it needs to be more or a "way of life." I couldn't agree more, but he offers little to no Biblical support for his methods of change which are basically doing simplistic rituals to help yourself do better. The book is basically a self-help book with the faÃ§ade of being Christian in nature. McLaren is a modern-day false-teacher and his teaching should not be taken seriously.