Ben Beswick

About Ben Beswick

Ben's Blog
Ben Beswick serves as an Associate Pastor in Cape Girardeau, MO. Prior to moving to Missouri, Ben served as a youth pastor in Colorado Springs, CO for seven years. He received his Masters of Divinity from Southern Seminary in 2010. He loves reading, watching movies, and listening to music alongside his wife Jaime and daughter Amelia and his son Sawyer.



The Miracles of Jesus Book Review

The Miracles of Jesus Book Review

The Miracles of Jesus

by Vern S. Poythress
Length: To read (272 pages).
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

What do the miracles of Christ have to do with our every day life and our understanding of the Gospel? For many believers it seems that the answer to that question is relatively unimportant. We live, after all, in a world that feels increasingly cynical of miraculous claims. In response to that common cynicism, some believers no doubt feel that time spent discussing the reality of miracles could be better spent discussing the more practical matters of our faith. In Vern S. Poythress’ “The Miracles of Jesus: How the Savior’s Mighty Acts Serve as Signs of Redemption,” however, we find that our tendency to skip over this subject misses a significant theme of the Gospels and, in so doing, ignores a subject both deeply biblical and ultimately foundational to our daily lives as believers.

Who should read this?

This look at Christ’s miracles is primarily aimed at helping those who are serving in pastoral ministry and counseling. This aim is seen in both the author’s consistently concise and straightforward breakdown of each miracle examined as well as in his use of tools such as Edmund Clowney’s diagrams (more on that later). As such, I believe anyone serving in ministry can benefit greatly from this work. Still, though, the subject of miracles is one of tremendous relevance today as we face a world that is cynical of all things divine. Furthermore, the manner in which Poythress explores this subject is not only helpful in better understanding the ministry of Jesus but in understanding the Gospel. As such, it would seem that any believer who is seeking to find a deeper appreciation for the Word would benefit from considering the observations of Poythress.

The Miracles of Jesus Book Review 1

SUMMARY

“The Miracles of Jesus” begins with a brief introduction to the subject of miracles and a discussion of why this subject is so important to understand as believers.

After making that fairly brief introduction, the author spends Part II introducing miracles as signs of redemption and lays out the approach he will then use throughout the rest of the book to both understand the biblical importance of each miracle and ultimately the ways in which each miracle is rightly applied today.  

To help the reader visualize that pattern, Poythress introduces “Clowney’s Triangle,” taken from Edmund Clowney, in which a miracle of Christ is connected to a spiritual offer of Christ that is ultimately shown to point to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Although this pattern and its accompanying graph feels redundant at times, it is a helpful tool in helping the reader see every miracle through an appropriately biblical lens.

With that pattern explained, the author moves into the bulk of the book found in Part III. There he walks the reader through every miracle account of Matthew. Beginning with the Virgin Birth and ending with Jesus cursing the Fig Tree, it is in this lengthy section that the reader is able to fully see Matthew’s use of the miracles as both signs of the kingdom of God as well as events that he used to continually point the reader forward to the cross.

Using the Clowney Triangle of Part II, Poythress details each miraculous account, speaks to the narrow and broad implications of that miracle in Scripture, and then describe specific points of application for modern readers. Although each miracle is in some way unique, Poythress succeeds in demonstrating the common themes found throughout Matthew’s accounts.

In so doing, the author, following the example of Matthew, looks to each miracle as a sort of road marker leading the traveler closer and closer to the miracle that fulfills all miracles: the resurrection of Christ.  

That greatest of miracles and its implications take up the final part of “Miracles.” In this final discussion we are given one final look at how every other miracle of Christ is ultimately bound up with this one final miraculous display. As believers, it is in this final miracle that we are given a completed vision of the Gospel and the conclusion of Poythress’ work.

Strengths and Weaknesses

As a pastor I found Poythress’ work to be a valuable resource that I will undoubtedly return to any time I am teaching on a miracle of Christ. Throughout his work, Poythress succeeds both in presenting each miracle as a unique work worthy of its own study as well as a piece of a much larger story.

On a more personal level, I found Poythress’ exhaustive treatment of Christ’s miracles as both refreshing and surprising in its ability to re-awaken my sense of wonder and awe of Christ’s earthly ministry. Prior to reading this work I must confess that I would have assumed Christ’s miracles to be of a relatively minor importance to his overall earthly ministry.

Yet in this work I was proven to be wrong time and time again. Far from being a side- note to his ministry, these miracles were presented in Matthew far more frequently than I had previously assumed and each of those miracles stands as a colorful and awe-inspiring reminder of Christ’s offer of eternal life. While most of this book was far from devotional, then, it is clear that it can serve as a helpful devotional tool (assuming you don’t get too bogged down by a lot of triangle graphs).

Poythress’ work is by no means short and it may have perhaps been unwise to add too much to its content. Having said that, however, I do think it would have helped to offer a bit lengthier of a discussion in its introduction regarding the nature and definition of miracles. Perhaps it is assumed that anyone picking up this book would come with that understanding in tow, but in a culture that is increasingly skeptical of the miraculous, I feel that this discussion would be very helpful to the reader.

Even without that initial discussion, however, I feel the author succeeded in presenting a thorough and clear discussion of this very important subject.

CONCLUSION

It should be no surprise to any believer to hear that the miracles of Christ were by no means an accidental addition to our Savior’s earthly ministry in which Christ provided a few physical needs. They were one of Christ’s strategic means of demonstrating his divinity, fulfilling his role as Messiah, and introducing the Kingdom inaugurated at his resurrection.

The miracles of Christ, then, do not simply chronicle various acts of Christ in his earthly ministry. They introduce us to the Kingdom in which all believers live and the ongoing ability of Christ to sustain his people now and for all eternity. In “Miracles,” Poythress’ treatment is able to help us both understand the biblical significance of Christ’s miracles and, as a result, to see the ongoing ramifications of the Gospel in a new light for our lives today.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“The Same Jesus who acted with power and compassion on earth still acts with power and compassion now.”

“No human being has the power to change the heart. Only God does. He has demonstrated that power in the miracles of Jesus.” (page 244)

“The stories of miracles are pertinent to people in all circumstances, whether they are elated or struggling or distressed.” (page 240)

five-stars
By | 2018-07-04T22:57:40+00:00 July 4th, 2018|

No Quick Fix Book Review

No Quick Fix Book Review

No Quick Fix

by Andrew Naselli
Length: To read (111 pages).
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

The Keswick Movement and its underlying Higher Life Theology is probably not something commonly addressed by name in many churches. What is frequently quoted and what undoubtedly plays a role in the lives of many believers, however, is the Keswick Movement’s famous message of “Let go and let God.” Although that message is easily embraced and may sound positive to many believers, the reality is that Higher Life Theology is not only unbiblical but also can pose as a very real threat to a person’s understanding of the Gospel and the vital concept of sanctification. To help the reader understand the message of Higher Life Theology, its history, and why it is dangerous to embrace, Andrew Naselli offers the brief yet helpful book “No Quick Fix.”

Who should read this?

From the beginning of his work, Naselli stresses the universal value of believers gaining a greater understanding of Higher Life Theology. As he says in his introduction:

“Higher Life theology is so widespread that you will be able to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ better if you understand what it is and why it’s dangerous.”

Even if you may disagree with the author on other aspects of his work, it is hard to miss the widespread usage of phrases such as “Let go and let God.” As such, I believe the author is correct in his belief that this work is valuable for all believers.

No Quick Fix Book Review 1

SUMMARY

“No Quick Fix” is split into two basic parts. In Part I the author offers a brief history and summary of Higher Life Theology. In Part II, the author offers a biblical critique of Higher Life Theology and a discussion on why it is ultimately a dangerous set of beliefs.

Despite the fact that Part I is limited to around 40 pages, it offers a surprisingly comprehensive history and overview of the theology being critiqued.

To ensure that he offers a fair picture of Higher Life Theology, Naselli strives to use language that would be embraced by those within the Keswick movement.

Using the schedule of once popular week-long Keswick meetings, the author breaks down his overview of Higher Life Theology into five separate “days” where an attendee would hear of their problem of sin, God’s provision for victorious Christian living, the necessary crisis experience in which you are instructed to “let go and let God,” the need to be Spirit-filled, and the believer’s role in Christian service. It is only after presenting this thorough overview that the author moves into his critique found in the second part of the book.

As part of that biblical critique of Higher Life Theology, the author offers ten separate reasons why Higher Life Theology is dangerous. The greatest of those concerns is Higher Life Theology’s belief that there are two different categories of believers; those who are Spirit-filled and those who are often called “Carnal Christians.” In order to demonstrate why those categories are false and ultimately dangerous, Naselli provides not only exhaustive lists of passages and more in-depth diagrams of two passages (I Corinthians 2:6-3:4 & Romans 6:1-23) that are particularly vital to the debate.

After offering his thorough (yet still relatively brief) biblical critique of Higher Life Theology, the author returns to his calling to readers. That calling, which overflows from an extremely helpful pastoral concern, is not simply the calling to dissect unbiblical concepts. It is also the call to better understand the vital concept of sanctification so that we might all be better prepared to live out our Christian calling.

Strengths and Weaknesses

“No Quick Fix” provides a relatively brief yet extremely helpful overview of a theological issue that, at its core, is a relatively simply argument. By addressing this problem in a book just over 100 pages, the author succeeds in providing something helpful to both trained pastors as well as to any layperson within the church.

One strength that was particularly helpful to me was the author’s overview of Higher Life Theology found in Part I. In writing a book of this nature, it would have been easy to present a caricature of Higher Life Theology that would only satisfy those looking for an easy way to criticize those within the Keswick Movement.

At no point in time, however, did I get the impression that his overview was in any way inaccurate or exaggerated. Rather, it was an overview I fully believe those within the Higher Life Movement would gladly read. This is a strength commonly missing in other works of this genre.

One additional strength of this book not previously mentioned in the summary is Naselli’s inclusion of an afterword by John MacArthur in which Macarthur offers a brief telling of his own experience within the Higher Life Movement and how that experience shaped him as a young believer.

This brief testimony included at the end of this book is an effective reminder that Naselli’s treatment of Higher Life Theology and the topic of sanctification is not simply an intellectual exercise. It is, in all reality, an issue that, when wrongly understood, can and does cause great harm to the daily walk of a believer.

CONCLUSION

As a pastor I find Naselli’s work to be an extremely helpful review of a movement that continues to play a role in the lives of many people I serve and I trust it will serve a similar role for many other pastors, as well. Beyond that, I believe in his thorough yet brief treatment of this subject Naselli has put forth a work that is accessible and beneficial to any believer who is seeking to better understand this common yet mistaken theological system.

“Let go and let God” is undoubtedly a refrain many believers use and will continue to use in the future. Still, I pray that “No Quick Fix” will be a useful tool of correction in the hands of the many who can be used by God to more correctly proclaim, in the words of J.I. Packer, “Trust God and get going.”

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people.” – page 99

“It is impossible for a Christian to be justified without at the same time experiencing progressive sanctification.” – page 52

“The Christian’s motto should not be ‘Let go and let God’ but ‘Trust God and get going!’” (quote from J.I. Packer)

four-stars
By | 2018-06-13T01:53:45+00:00 June 15th, 2018|

Conscience Book Review

Conscience Book Review

Conscience

by Andrew David Naselli, J.D. Crowley
Length: To read (149 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

In the midst of seemingly endless debates over issues as complex as racism, cultural engagement, Christian liberty, as well as everyday temptations, how can we as believers respond wisely and biblically? A key starting point, as presented in Naselli & Crowley’s “Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ,” is the commonly neglected concept of the Christian conscience. Throughout this work, the reader is given an extremely helpful introduction to that concept and shown how the conscience, when rightly understood and rightly trained is one of the greatest gifts given by God in navigating our way through even the most complex issues.

Who Should Read This Book?

Every believer feels the weight that comes with navigating through those complex issues that life in a fallen world presents. What few believers seem to understand in our culture today, however, is that this is nothing new. As the authors of “Conscience” seek to show their readers, your unique conscience is s a necessary guide in every decision you make. The common failure to rightly understand and use the conscience, then, is both foolish and even dangerous. In light of its practical importance and its common neglect, every believer can benefit from reading through this clear presentation of the conscience.

Conscience Book Review 1

SUMMARY

From the outset, Naselli & Crowley seek to demonstrate that the conscience is a surprisingly common subject in Scripture and its use is, at its core, relatively straightforward. Throughout the course of their book, the authors set out a basic but biblical understanding of the conscience, a practical overview of how one ought to respond to their own conscience, and finally how a believer is to relate with other individuals who’s consciences might differ from our own.

Foundational to their entire argument is the Word of God. As a means of laying that foundation, the authors cite 30 separate New Testament passages (a number significantly higher than I would have expected) that all speak of the conscience. Although their focus ultimately is aimed at Romans 14-15 and I Corinthian 8-11, their inclusion of so many passages from the beginning stands as a clear call for every believer to listen closely to what God has revealed regarding this topic.

That revelation, then, stands as the foundation on which the authors build their definition and overall practice of following and developing one’s conscience. In unpacking that practice, the authors address the discipline of “calibrating” our conscience so that it is more in line with the desires and will of God and less in line with our fallen nature. According to the authors, “calibrating” consists of both taking unnecessary rules away from our conscious and adding neglected rules where they are needed. This process is by no means simple and it is never fully accomplished in this life. Rather, it is a process in which we are regularly resisting sin and always studying Scripture.

It is at the point of establishing that process of calibration that the authors address the final topic referenced in the book’s title: “loving those who differ.” This is, no doubt the issue that most readers will go to this book to better understand, as it is a regular conversation even now amongst Christians. It is a topic that requires a great deal of thought. Yet, as the authors demonstrate in the latter half of their book, it is also ultimately just as straightforward as any other issues related to our conscience.

In addressing those relational issues, the authors primarily look to the example of Paul in Romans & I Corinthians and the apostle’s discussion of Christian liberty. For Paul, the liberty that guided his conscience was not a liberty to do “whatever he wanted,” as it tends to be described by many professing believers today, but a liberty to do whatever would promote Christian unity.  

In order to work towards that unity, the authors seek to show the necessity of discerning what qualifies as “Gospel issues” versus issues of preference. Obviously, when dealing with anything less than the Gospel, Paul’s example stands as a reminder to always strive for increased understanding and cooperation. Although the particular application of this approach might look slightly different in each believer’s life, the example and principles that the authors flesh out in these chapters are uniquely practical and proved to be greatly challenging to my own thinking.

To bring their discussion to a practical end, the authors close their work with a look at how this all looks specifically within the realm of foreign missions. For those serving in foreign environments, I can imagine their discussion would prove to be a great encouragement. For those of us living stateside, there still remains a great amount of application when it comes to practical evangelism and preaching.

When rightly followed, our conscience is, indeed, and incredible benefit to us all. It is, as the authors declare, one of the unique gifts offered to the believer. That gift, however, still requires careful use.

Weaknesses/Strengths

There are, as I will later address, a variety of issues that the authors could have addressed in a book on conscience. From the outset, however, the authors communicate that their goal of this book was relatively simple in that they were seeking to get the concept of conscience “on the daily radar” of their readers and help establish practical ways in which we are to respond to our conscience.

To that end the authors are successful. Although some of the discussions are at times a bit briefer than I would have desired, they are always practical. Every believer, regardless of the complexity of their particular environment or the present maturity of their own conscience, will have much to glean from the principles and practices of calibrating one’s conscience and engaging others with the Gospel.

Key to fulfilling their goals in writing this book and that which stood out as the book’s greatest strength was a clear dependence on Scripture. From the outset, the authors demonstrated an understanding of this topic that was, in every way, shaped by the Bible. This was shown both in their broad referencing of 30 New Testament passages as well as in their discussion of a few particularly helpful passages.

For me, their lengthier discussions on passages like Romans 14:22-23 stood out as the most helpful use of Scripture. It is in those particular discussions that the authors demonstrate an ability to practically walk their readers through complicated biblical arguments in a way that leaves the reader with a greater understanding of the cultural issues faced by New Testament believers, Paul’s pattern of thought as he approached those issues, and a practical understanding of how that pattern can still be applied today. Regardless of your present level of spiritual maturity, these discussions are incredibly beneficial and challenging.

Due to how short this book is there will undoubtedly be issues left unaddressed that some readers would have hoped to find. From my own perspective, I believe some of those issues could still have been addressed had the authors chosen not to conclude their book with a specific look at foreign missions. Although I greatly appreciated the missional focus of the authors and while I believe that much of what they say in those examples can be used in everyday experience even within one’s home, I also believe that most of their readers will face far more culturally charged challenges within their own cities and local churches. One does not have to serve overseas, after-all, to find those challenges.

As such, I believe the authors would have been wise to specifically address differences between generations, ethnic groups, denominations, and other cultural challenges faced every day within our schools, work places, and church congregations. Still, this one critique in no way diminishes the overall value of the authors’ discussion.

CONCLUSION

In an age where debates between believers are never ending, there is always a desire to find a simple cure-all solution. While many believers may desire that, “Conscience” does not provide any simplistic solution. It does, however, provide a necessary foundation to every believer who seeks to approach our own cultural debates and personal temptations in a way that brings unity to believers, reflects grace to those outside of the faith, and ultimately glorifies God. As such, it is a practical work that I would recommend to any believer.

 

FAVORITE QUOTES

“Just as God’s gift of touch and pain guards us from what would rob us of physical health, conscience continually guards us from the sin that robs our joy.” (page 114)

 

“When we share the gospel with on-Christians, we should stress this incredible promise of a clean conscience.” (page 46)  

 

“Christian liberty is…all about the freedom to discipline yourself to be flexible for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of weaker believers.” (page 132)

five-stars
By | 2018-04-26T02:02:56+00:00 April 24th, 2018|

Teaching as a Subversive Activity Book Review

Teaching as a Subversive Activity Book Review

Teaching as a Subversive Activity

by Charles Weingartner, Neil Postman
Length: To read (218 pages)
TCB Rating:
three-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

How do you change the thinking of a culture with enormous speed? That is the question that Postman and Weingartner sought to answer in their 1969 work “Teaching as a Subversive Activity.” The authors’ concern was that the changes they hoped to see in our culture had little chance of occurring due to a model of public education they viewed to be long outdated and ultimately useless. To solve this problem, the authors sought to present an updated vision of public education that could successfully subvert those outdated assumptions and practices they feared were crippling society.

Who should read this?

The question that must come to mind, of course, is what does the problem of the public education system of 1969 have to do with ministry in 2018 (or any other year, for that matter)? Although some of the critiques offered by the authors may strike the reader as outdated an unhelpful in ministry, their overall work is helpful to anyone who endeavors to teach in any field. As such, pastors, Sunday School teachers, and just about anyone serving in a ministry context can find this book to be a helpful challenge in thinking seriously through our own strategies of communicating truth.

Teaching as a Subversive Activity Book Review 1

SUMMARY

“Teaching as a Subversive Activity” offers a number of critiques of public institution that are worth considering. Foundational to many of their critiques is a skill they believe is neglected by far too many teachers: the skill of asking questions. As the authors themselves claim,

“Once you have learned how to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.”

With that foundational claim, the authors present a new model of teaching they call the “inquiry method.” To get a full appreciation of what this method looks like on a practical level, it is helpful to read through the various examples the authors provide in their work. To summarize it (in, perhaps, an overly simplistic manner), this method is one that seeks to redesign the structure of the classroom by placing the focus primarily on the students, discouraging the teacher from speaking in any form resembling a lecture, and stressing that the process of learning is more than just memorizing a list of pre-determined facts. The primary tool used for all of this is, of course, the question.

 As the authors flesh out this idea they address a number of thought provoking issues that still remain relevant today. They address the importance of remembering that the goal of every teacher must be ultimately to help a student succeed in the real world (as opposed to just passing a test).

They also address issues related to the practice of interpretation and how each advancement made in technology will inevitably impact that process for students. In the words of the authors, teachers must remember that every student is an active “meaning maker” who will not immediately understand a variety of concepts in the way the teacher might assume. In our own culture today, that process of interpretation is at the heart of the language of “my truth” and “your truth.”  As maddening as that discussion might be to many of us, it does provide a helpful reminder that language is not necessarily as straightforward as we assume.

Ultimately perhaps the most helpful and encouraging aspect of Postman and Weingartner’s work is the optimistic manner in which they speak of students. Those students, they continually claim, are eager to learn if we simply seek to engage in thought provoking and practically helpful manners. If we simply remember that and consider the potential any given student possesses we might demonstrate a greater willingness to shift in our approaches to teaching when that shift is necessary.

Again, these suggestions were initially not intended to be used by anyone serving in a church context. Yet throughout their critiques as well as through their discussions on the nature of language and the practice of interpretation there are helpful things for us who teach in that context (whether as pastors, Sunday School teachers, etc) to consider.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Although we might be quick to ignore the suggestions made in a book like this due to its intended audiences, there are certain strengths of their works that are helpful.

The foundational concern shown by the authors in teaching in a manner that produces genuinely good learners rather than students who can parrot back certain facts is a concern that must be held by anyone in a ministerial context. While it can be tempting to find satisfaction in hearing a professing believer successfully quote a Bible verse or answer a few theological questions, we must remember that the process of making disciples cannot be reduced to memorizing a list of facts. It must address issues of the heart and it must help the disciple grow in their own ability to truly study the Word and understand how it applies in everyday life.

Furthermore, the authors’ discussion on the role of technology in teaching remains relevant today even in the Church. As they discuss, that technology changes the way people communicate and it is foolish to ignore that fact in any classroom setting. While we must avoid becoming slaves to every new tech trend, we must strive to understand how those trends are impacting those under our teaching and how certain concepts must be clearly defined in a biblical manner. Just consider, for instance, the way that social media has reshaped friendship and how that has impacted the assumptions many believers have about friendships when they walk into our churches every week.

Finally, the overall optimistic manner in which the authors speak of students is especially helpful for us to remember in the church context. So often it is easy to become overly cynical on the spiritual state of so many. But as these authors helps us to remember, most students are eager to learn if we simply seek to engage in a thought provoking and helpful manner. If those teaching in a public school setting have reason to be optimistic regarding the potential of their students (and they do), how much more should it be true for those of us helping teaching the children of God? As believers, then, we would be wise to consider this encouragement of these authors.

Due to the intended audience as well as the spiritual viewpoints of the authors it is inevitable that certain critiques and suggestions might not be particularly helpful. Those who find themselves behind a pulpit or even before a Sunday School Class each week, for instance, would probably be wise to teach a bit more than these authors encourage. Although asking questions can be a helpful tool in helping students better understand questions, clear preaching of God’s Word is still the most powerful tool we are given.

In a similar manner, the authors’ dismissal of memorizing dates, facts, etc is perhaps a bit simplistic. In any teaching format, there are key events and truths that must be understood and that are helpful when trying to interpret various narratives. When teaching through the Old Testament, for instance, we would be wise to help our people remember key names as well as key events for the sake of helping bring clarity to the text. Although we must be careful to never reduce teaching or discipleship to a game of Bible Trivia, we must also be careful to never reduce either discipline to an ongoing discussion in which learning key theological concepts and even truths from Church History are neglected.

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CONCLUSION

Ultimately, despite its subject and intended audience falling outside of the Church, “Teaching as a Subversive Activity” is a helpful look at what it means to teach and how teachers ought to define success. While we would have a different vision of that ultimate success from the authors, we are wise to regularly step back as teachers, seriously consider the methods we are employing in teaching, and strive to carry out the privilege of teaching the people of God in a way that edifies, encourages, and prepares them to carry out their calling in the real world.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “Once you have learned how to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.”

  • “Suppose you could convince yourself that your students are the smartest children in the school; or, if that seems unrealistic, that they have the greatest potential of any class in the school…What do you imagine would happen? What would you do differently if you acted as if your students were capable of great achievements?” (page 201)
three-half-stars
By | 2018-03-24T07:56:34+00:00 March 26th, 2018|

Recapturing the Wonder Book Review

Recapturing the Wonder Book Review

Recapturing the Wonder

by Mike Cosper
Length: Approximately 7 hours. To read (224 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

We live in a world void of enchantment where the scientific method is king. As believers, this disenchantment is felt as we often times struggle to bridge the gap between what we know to be true in Christ and what we experience everyday. Mike Cosper’s “Recaputring the Wonder” seeks to address that common struggle by reintroducing the reader to familiar spiritual disciplines and showing what they are able to teach us.

Who should read this?

The cynicism and spiritual apathy that result from the struggle addressed by Cosper are more than likely relatable experiences for any believer who has spent much time navigating through our increasingly materialistic world. I personally could relate with ease to the problem depicted by Cosper and I trust that many other believers will feel the same as they read his work. As such both lay people in the church as well as pastors who seek to shepherd their flock more effectively would be wise to consider the solutions put forward by Cosper.

Recapturing the Wonder Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The problem of disenchantment is, in many ways, a modern problem. Yet in addressing this problem Cosper by no means seeks to introduce a new and revolutionary discovery. Instead, he points to practices that have been common to the Christian life for centuries.

At first glance, reading yet another book on spiritual disciplines might seem unnecessary. Afterall, the disciplines he looks to will already be familiar to many readers who have been exposed to other popular Christian works such as Donald Whitney’s “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.” Just as is the case in other works on similar subjects, readers will find discussions of fasting, solitude, and prayer in “Recapturing the Wonder.”

Although the disciplines discussed by Cosper are nothing new, the way in which he approaches them feels fresh and (dare I say?) enchanting. According to Cosper, the key thing we must remember when putting these disciplines into practice is that they are never meant to be used simply for the purpose of spiritual self-improvement. To treat spiritual disciplines in that manner points not only to a misunderstanding of spiritual disciplines but also to a misunderstanding of the sanctification process for the believer.

For many believers, this misunderstanding is heard in the fear that God makes himself more distant from them because they failed to have their morning “quiet time.” When driven by that misunderstanding of God’s presence, a believer inevitably views the spiritual disciplines as a sort of good luck charm that guarantees the daily presence of God in their life. Again, this confuses both the believer’s place in Christ as well as the use of helpful disciplines.

To help the reader look beyond that common and shallow approach to the spiritual disciplines, Cosper speaks to how each disipline can help connect us to the daily experiencing of joy and wonder in Christ. When speaking on the concepts of feasting and fasting, for instance, he explores the concept of simply being present and truly paying attention to each passing moment. That constant attention is a vitally important practice for the believer because we know that the world in which we live and breathe is truly filled with the presence of God. As Cosper puts it,

“Every moment, every encounter, is meaningful and numinous. All ground is holy ground.” (page 112)

This type of language can be found through this book and is, itself, a constant reminder of the wonder that Cosper seeks to capture when discussing our faith. So as to not avoid the impression that Cosper’s language remains in the clouds, however, it is important to also note just how practically helpful this book is for the believer. The practicality of this work is best seen in the “Pathway” sections that Cosper provides after each chapter.

Within those sections, the author offers specific strategies and ways to try to use the previous chapter’s dicipline to reengage our sense of wonder and awe. So often times when reading any great theological work I have found the struggle in figuring out how I can specifically apply the author’s work into my life. By providing these brief but insightful discussions within his book Cosper helps the reader avoid that practical struggle.

Weaknesses/Strengths

Some readers may take issue with certain disciplines that are not given a great deal of discussion. I personally would have appreciated a look at the vitally important discipline of studying Scripture. If you are looking for a book that offers more details on a longer list of spiritual disciplines I would suggest you look to the previously mentioned “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Donald Whitney.

Furthermore, in today’s culture where many Protestants are a bit confused as to how to appropriate practices from the world of Roman Catholicism (ie, present discussions over the use of the Enneagram), it might serve the reader well to hear Cosper speak to the issue of discernment when it comes to choosing spiritual disciplines. Although I believe that the practices included in this work are valuable, one might argue that there still ought to be a clear distinction between the spiritual disciplines embraced by the Protestant vs. those embraced by a Roman Catholic.

Even when citing these “weaknesses,” it seems clear that the overall value of this work both in renewing our interest in spiritual disciplines and in providing practical instruction in putting those disciplines into practice must be appreciated.

CONCLUSION

The struggle of experiencing the enchanting nature of our faith while living in a cold and cynical world is real and it is a dangerous through to the daily joy that is offered in Christ. Rather than providing yet another list of newly discovered disciplines, Cosper reminds us of often forgotten enchanting quality of disciplines familiar to many of us.

This reminder was a great encouragement to my own faith and I pray it is the same for you.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “The kingdom is an enchanted place, and by God’s grace, we can experience the kingdom’s mystery and wonder throughout our lives.” (page 24)

  • “We don’t need self-improvement; we need to come home.”
four-stars
By | 2018-02-24T21:02:48+00:00 February 26th, 2018|

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