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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices

I received this book via the Book Sneeze program for free but these views are purely my own.

As with other authors of the books I received, each who is well known among the initiated, I am not familiar with Brian McLaren's work. Amazon tells me that he "Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, pastor, and networker among innovative Christian leaders, thinkers, and activist." His innovative style led one clerical review to call this a "dangerous book!" Some were upset that he appeared to be too supportive of Jewish and Islam practice, finding some common ground between the religions, and not appropriately defending Christianity. I find that sort of thing a tad bit silly (but recognize different faiths can be quite passionate about that sort of thing) because each of these religions do have common ground. This very book about "ancient practices" underlines the point. To cite another review:

Some of the practices, he explains, are contemplative (reading, Sabbath, or prayer), others are communal (hospitality, singing, or confession), and still others missional (caring for the sick, helping the poor).

These are not uniquely "Christian" acts and I appreciate those who can find some common ground. The author here also provides a service to the reader by ending chapters with "spiritual exercises," which provides a sort of "workbook" flavor to the work. But, of course, you can skip over that if you like. Still, since the reader is likely reading this work to learn and contemplate the religious faith in question, it is a good idea.

The book is an introduction to an "ancient practices" series and I see it has some stylic points of other entries. This includes boxes that provide key lessons and use of personal experiences to teach. But, it also includes references and analysis of biblical passages. Since I felt another volume of this series did not do enough of that sort of thing, that's a net positive. It also provides a quick but informative look at history. The book also is a quick read and should appeal to the average reader. It is a comfortable paperback that you can skim through and make notes/underline when appropriate.

Some disagree with some of his interpretations. That's not really a reason not to read the book. Challenging beliefs is a good thing. To be honest, the book did not really keep my interest. I will give it "three stars" for a good attempt, but I'm getting the idea that I don't really appreciate the style of this series. But, for those who do, this is worth a look.