I have read other books by Eugene Peterson and generally really like his style. I have to admit, however, that I slogged through this one. It is dense and fairly academic, not a quick or easy read. You may even want to take notes!
If you do make it through the book, you will probably learn some big words you didn’t know before, such as kerygma (the proclamation of the gospel) and perichoresis (the relationship between the three members of the trinity). Peterson’s premise is that God is present in all areas of life (I certainly agree). He structures his discussion around these three: creation, history and community. For each section, he parallels a book from the Old Testament with a book from the New Testament, and also discusses a common threat or heresy that often arises around the concepts presented.
Section 1: Creation
- Kerygma: Birth of Jesus
- Texts that parallel: Genesis/Gospel of John
- Threat: Gnosticism
Section 2: History
- Kerygma: Death of Jesus
- Texts that parallel: Exodus/Gospel of Mark
- Threat: Moralism
Section 3: Community
- Kerygma: Resurrection of Jesus
- Texts that parallel: Deuteronomy/Gospel of Luke & Acts
- Threat: Sectarianism
Everything is well thought out and researched. I found the connections between the Old and New Testaments particularly interesting. According to Peterson, this is an exploration of “spiritual theology” which he defines as:
“a cultivated disposition to live theology, to live everything that God reveals to us in Scripture and Jesus and then live it in the neighborhood, in our neighborhood.”
There is a section at the end with a list and description of other books that have informed his thinking about spiritual theology.
In short, we often know a lot about God, but fail to live in obedience to the things we know. He also spends time discussing how often technology removes our everyday life even further from an actual experience of God. (The book was written in 2005, but this point seems even more relevant today with the coronavirus encouraging more and more use of technology which minimizes our contact with others).
I agree with Peterson’s premises; I admire his research; but somehow I still found this book difficult to get through.
If you are interested in purchasing it, I noticed that the kindle book is available from Amazon for only 1.99!
VERDICT: Content 5 stars, readability 3 stars
For more on Eugene Peterson:
A Quote by Eugene Peterson
A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review