Monday, September 03, 2007

Some quotes

On retreat a few weeks ago I read 'Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places', another excellent book from the pen, or perhaps the laptop, of Eugene Peterson. Here are some bits from it:

“We do not know God by defining him, but by being loved by him and loving in return”

“ ‘spirituality’ is a net that, when thrown into the sea of contemporary culture, pulls in a vast quantity of spiritual fish, rivalling the resurrection catch of 153.” ....but..“By accepting Jesus as the final and definitive revelation of God, the Christian church makes it impossible for us to make up our own customised variations of the spiritual life and get away with it, not that we don’t try.”

“We know from long experience how easy it is to get interested in ideas of God and projects for God and gradually lose interest in God alive, deadening our lives with the ideas and the projects. This happens a lot. Because the ideas and projects have the name of God attached to them, it’s easy to assume that we are involved with God. It is the devils work to get us worked up thinking and acting for God and then subtly detach us from a relational aobedience and adoration of God, substituting our selves, our godlike egos, in the place originally occupied by God.”

“The fundamental inadequacy of codes of conduct for giving direction in how to live the spiritual life is that they put us in charge (or, which is just as bad, put someone else in charge of us); God is moved off the field of action to the judges stand where he grades our performance. The moment that we take charge ‘knowing good and evil’, we are in trouble and almost immediately start getting other people into trouble too.”

“If you want to look at creation full, creation at its highest, you look at a person… the faddish preference for appreciating creation in a bouquet of flowers over a baby, or a day on the beach rather than rubbing shoulders with uncongenial neighbours in a cold church… is understandable, but is not creation in the terms it has been revealed to us.”

the book is about how to live the Christian life in the way that God sets it out: in creation, in history, and in community, against a tendency in Christians to avoid all three. We are tempted to exchange the God-given settings of place, time and people for an individualist spiritual bubble detached in time and space from daily life and from others, and are also tempted by our pragmatic society to turn the spiritual life, and God, into something useful, predictable and practical (hence '7 ways to....' type books, and the obese spiritual market in 'buy this book, borrow this technique and your life/church/ministry will be sorted' kind of things.) But worship begins with a God we can't control - think of Peter's desperate attempts to domesticate glory at the Transfiguration - with awe, fear, wonder and humility.

As a pragmatist by nature, I've found the book immensely challenging, and therefore helpful. What, after all, is the point of reading a book where you agree with everything in it?

if you want to know a bit more about the book there are reviews at: is an interview with Peterson at the time of the books publication in 2005.

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