I've begun reading Living Spirituality: Illuminating the Path, which (full disclosure) was sent to me for review...
The author, Dr. Gregory Laughery lives and teaches at L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. I've been fairly curious about L'Abri since reading Francis Schaeffer waaaay back when, and one of our elders, Sarah, spent some time there a couple of years back... so it's good to get a taste of what they are about.
And at first reading... I like it.
A couple of thoughts on the beginning of this book.
First, you can tell that this man doesn't live in the States, and probably hasn't in awhile. It's kind of that same feeling you get when you are listening to someone speak and something strikes you as different but you can't quite put your finger on it... and then realize they're Canadian and suddenly the slight accent comes into focus. Or when you are listening to Sufjan Stevens for awhile and trying to figure out why his music feels different than many others'... and you realize one day: it's the total and complete lack of irony. The irony which so pervades our society is missing (blessedly so) from Sufjan.
In the same way, reading Laughery is like listening to someone whose accent you can't quite place- it's just different from much of what comes out of evangelical Christian publishing. It's rare to find something at once both accessible and yet slightly challenging in both language and concept. Usually things fall into the ditch on one side of the road or the other...
Second, this is the book I wish Spencer had written with A Heretic's Guide to Eternity. Laughery's book begins with a discussion of spiritualities around us and presents the reality of the situation: "the rising attraction to cultural and non-Christian forms of spirituality on the one hand, and the impoverishment of Christian spirituality on the other."
And unlike A Heretic's Guide, Laughery doesn't necessarily speak favorably of alternative spiritualities, but for some reason (maybe this is my own personal, emotional bias towards L'Abri), I can hear him say things about "spiritualities that lead to death" and not immediately have my Evang-o-meter start blaring. Maybe it's the stories he tells about the seekers who make their way to L'Abri... there's something in that community that gives them the ability to both attract and challenge those seeking God. I want our community to be like that...
Probably the best of this so far is that he makes statements which resonate deeply with what the emerging/missional church is all about... both the desire to see spirituality be living and holistic and the desire to root that spirituality in the person of Jesus Christ Himself.
A sample: "Living spirituality is a holistic project of affirming life over death. That is, its concerns are diverse and its dialogues many. It goes beyond close-minded exclusivism that sees spirituality as merely a
Living spirituality explores the intraction between humans and the Spirit of God- with both receiving adequate attention. it is centered on theology, not merely anthropology, psychology or sociology; although each of these are valid considerations concerning the spiritual life. It applies to being and becoming holy; to discovering the truth of God in relation and distinction and all this means; to integrating biblical ideas and culture where possible; and to the necessity of going beyond ourselves- transcending self and finding a new self in recognition of the God who has graciously revealed Himself."
"Again, I am not saying that we can or should ignore our feelings. They can often be indicators of a deep longing for love, accurate suspicion and the quest for hope. But neither should we be enslaved to feelings, because they can also deceive us. Therefore, it is important to be able to check them for trustworthiness. To do so we need to be in personal and community dialogue with God, the crucified and risen Christ, the Spirit, the biblical text, other people in community and the world in which we live."
"Living and true spirituality therefore is deeply rooted in following Jesus. Walking through the gateway is essential. To follow the crucified and risen one is not a matter of giving a performance, reciting a mantra, or having a religious inclination or feeling. First and foremost, it is a matter of the whole person acknowledging and then bowing before the God who is there, accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, and then receiving the gift of the Spirit."
He's not saying anything others haven't said before- at least so far... but the feeling I'm getting as I read this is that it's something I've been looking for for awhile... something to sink my teeth into that isn't just mental (like much of theology today) and isn't just emotional (like much of evangelicalism today) but lives at the sweet spot of intersection bewteen the two: spiritual, in the best sense of the word.
I don't think this book will be huge... it's just not going to be marketed like that. But it may very well be important to a number of people, maybe even for me.
Check it out: