Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Sacred Journey

By Charles Foster, 231 pages, thomas nelson publishers.

Foster opposes feminized, stay-at-home Christianity, offering a more masculine, adventurous spiritual practice instead. Rejecting the sentimentality-plagued Sunday-morning nonsense of most churches, Catholic and Protestant, he argues that Christianity is about being uncomfortable and out of the routine, rather than comfy and settled in one's convictions.

Yet he does not oppose traditional Christianity. Refreshingly, he shows a deep respect, even reverence, for Catholic and Orthodox practices, such as veneration of saints and their relics, and of course pilgrimage. He takes Protestants to task for lacking imagination. More than anything, in fact, he seems interested in waking the Christian imagination, which has been in a deep slumber for much of the past few centuries.

It is certain, uptight Protestants, not Catholics, who are strange. Pilgrimage and sacred spaces have been a central part of the human imagination ever since humans imagined -- ever since, in other words, they began to think symbolically. Symbolic thinking and religion go hand-in-hand, he argues convincingly, and those Christians who still practice it are all the richer.

Saints, relics, and pilgrimage all attest to the profoundly materialistic characteristic of Christianity. Repeatedly, Foster rejects gnosticism, the spiritualization of everything, and accuses many contemporary Christians of this grave sin. They fail to see the fun and the truth in an embodied spirituality.

Foster also rejects an overly-institutionalized Christianity, but refuses to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as many Calvinists have done. They have erred deeply in getting rid of some of the most moving, powerful aspects of ancient and medieval Christian practice.

The Sacred Journey is a more balanced discussion than many other books on the subject of Christian spiritual practice.

1 comment:

  1. Brian,
    Many thanks for a sympathetic and thoughtful appraisal.
    All best wishes.
    Charles Foster