Category: Spirituality

Three Prayers (Clément)

The more I pray the more difficult I find it to pray. I was taught to pray spontaneously, as if this were the only kind of prayer that was authentic. Written and rote prayers were almost automatically condemned as mere ritual without heartfelt meaning. I admire the concern for authenticity, but I must admit that I lack the imagination, the vocabulary, often the enthusiasm and desire to conjure up new words for God every time I want to pray or am called to pray.

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Hidden Holiness (Plekon)

It is against this unrealistic elitist conception of sanctity that Plekon tries to construct a better understanding of what it means to be a saint, a holy person (hagios). The brilliance of this book is that it is not an academic diatribe, neither is it a sustained theological treatise (though it is both academically sensitive and theologically deep). The method that Plekon chooses to think through sainthood is by thinking about actual saints as he sees them. Thus the book takes us through a host of biographies from persons across the theological and ecclesial spectrum—some living, some having entered their rest.

Being With God (Papanikolaou)

As I’ve suggested in some earlier book sketches, I think Protestants like myself have a lot to gain by learning from the Eastern Orthodox Church. One of the ways I’ve grown the most by listening to the Orthodox voice is the way I think about salvation. The way I typically heard the story growing up made salvation a matter of alignment, like applying for membership in the right club, and then a lifetime’s work trying not to get kicked out. And salvation was taught this way because of our underlying theological assumptions. Now, I’m not saying this is completely wrong, but I do think there’s some serious gaps and even errors in that way of thinking.

Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (Williams)

There are a set of Christian writers, poets, theologians who I trust because they are a combination of depth, clarity, and an even-handedness that produces insight. Rowan Williams is among them. And yet one need only look at this man’s majestic eyebrows to know that he is going to bring some extraordinary wisdom. You don’t get eyebrows like that without wisdom.

Life and Holiness (Merton)

Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness New York: Doubleday Press, 1963. There are few more important persons and writers for our present world than Thomas Merton, for Christians especially, but in a way for the whole world. He was a libertine-turned Trappist monk who nevertheless considered his isolated vocation as a means to serve the world…

Presence and Thought (Hans Urs von Balthasar)

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Presence and Thought: An Essay on the Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988. Hans Urs von Balthasar, besides being in contention for most magisterial name ever, was a Swiss Catholic theologian in the 20th century. He is important for a lot of reasons, but primarily…

Open Secrets (Lischer)

Richard Lischer, Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery New York: Broadway Books, 2001. My wife stumbled onto this book almost providentially at a bookstore just a few weeks prior to starting our first preaching position in the rural town of Junction, Texas. Open Secrets tracks the life of a young Lutheran pastor at…

The Rule of St. Benedict (Chittister)

I first read a book on monastic spirituality almost by accident. I resonated with the sincerity in their search for God and the thirst for authenticity I saw in their words. Yet I was repelled by a way of life, an intensity of practice that seemed impossible in my own world. Sure, I could drop everything and go live in a monastery, but I had a gut feeling my then-fiancé would not appreciate that very much. I also wasn’t sure how I was going to afford my student-loan payments while living under a vow of poverty.

The Monks of Mt. Athos (M. Basil Pennington)

Yet the final and most beautiful theme of this book is something of an antidote to the poison of exclusivity. Pennington gives us glimpses into so many Orthodox scholars, priests, and monastics who see Christ within each person regardless of tradition. Pennington’s interactions and relationships with these saints is so encouraging. Here are conversations and interactions marked by love, respect, and true discipleship.