Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gary Thomas' Beautiful Fight

"Beautiful" and "fight," they're two words you don't see together often. Yet in Gary Thomas' latest book The Beautiful Fight they are strung together most excellently. Thomas, adjunct professor at Western Seminary and award winning author, is drawing his title from the Orthodox Fathers' reading of 2nd Timothy 4:7-8. This text, more commonly translated as "the good fight," is an apt gloss for Thomas' thoughts on the spiritual life.

The Christian spiritual life is the common denominator throughout the three sections and16 chapters. Thomas does this by fusing together the genius and wisdom of biblical passages, church fathers (such as Clement of Alexandria and Athanasius), medieval mystics (Julian of Norwich), Puritan divines (John Flavel), along with contemporary voices like J.I. Packer, N.T. Wright, and John Piper. One thing, that's evident even at a glance, is that Thomas' thoughts on the Christian spiritual life aren't monochrome. He doesn't confine himself to the contemporary--a common error in American evangelicalism--neither does he stick to a particular theological tradition, nor one aspect of the Christian spiritual life. Instead Thomas, with a discerning ecumenism, shows that the essential witness of Christian spirituality is one of harmony. With this in mind, he writes, "Christian Spirituality is all about [...] our Creator and Lord taking ordinary people and making them potent instruments of God."

In Beautiful Fight Thomas answers the call which many Christians are longing for. That is, what does it mean to have an embodied and active faith. He does this by weaving in life-stories from his time at Regent College to his life as a husband and father. Because of his integration of life and thought the reader feels that the book is at least in part an invitation into a dialogue on, about, and over the Christian spiritual life. And it's a conversation that is of the utmost importance; every where we turn, it seems, there is another front page article on `spirituality' or another book on the `spirituality of (fill in the blank).' In a world where everyone from Oprah to your local barista is a `spirituality' expert it is refreshing to hear a voice which articulates a Holy Spirit-uality.

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