Thursday, October 01, 2009

Read and Learn -- Short List This Book

General disclaimer, I love Richard Foster -- not that I've actually met him or anything. That being said, his book Life With God seems to have been written for the Frozen Chosen.

Several weeks ago my Church's Sunday bulletin included a list of three books the preaching Pastor considered his short list of books to suggest to people looking for help in growing closer to God. I wasn't nuts about his list, and that got me thinking about what books I would put on that list. Then I read Life With God. It definitely makes the list.

We are Presbyterians. That means, almost by definition, we are intelligent, well-read, better educated, rational to a fault and much more head-oriented than heart-oriented. The basic thrust of Foster's book is how to read the Bible in order to find what Foster calls the "with God life" rather than simply accumulating more knowledge of facts and history. First, Foster distinguishes the practice of reading the Bible to gain information or knowledge or to find some formula that will provide an easy answer to the problem at hand. Both of these practices leave the reader in charge and may produce educated, informed people; but are not likely to produce evidence of real spiritual transformation.

Then, Foster describes in a very intellectually accessible way why we want to find more in the Bible. He describes in great detail the process (Lectio Divina). He provides examples and detail. What frequently comes across in other books as too mystical and touchy-feely for the Frozen crowd is intellectually accessible and perfectly rational. Instead of writing a single chapter about Lectio Divina, as he did in his fabulous book on prayer, Foster uses most of this book to draw the reader into the idea, to make the reader want more, to walk the reader carefully through the process and through the books of the Bible in terms of the story to be found there -- both Testaments. I think many Presbyterians would rather have a well indexed User's Guide than the collection of stories, history, prophecy, poetry, law, etc. that we call the Bible. Foster takes that attitude head-on showing the stories, meaning, experiences and relationship available throughout this wonderful collection of stories and lives we call Scripture.

The book does make mention of Spiritual Disciplines in general in a number of places and a couple of the last chapters deal with disciplines specifically, although more as a framework on which to build than anything else. This is not, however, a book on fasting or solitude. This is a book on finding a relationship with the Living God in his written word.


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