A friend lent us a book, ‘Stirrings of the Soul – Evangelicals and the New Spirituality’by Rev Michael Raiter – BA, MTh, DipA (Theol), DipEd [Currently – Principle, of Bible College of Victoria, Australia] (c) Matthias Media 2003, published by: The Good Book Company (UK).
I don’t usually read that many books these days, using most of my time to read Scripture, however, I have an interest in the Anglican approach to spiritual matters, as expressed within the Australian/UK evangelical scene. Consequently, I took some time over the last week to read this book – to be honest, the author spent so much time on the general background of both old and new spiritually I found little detailed analysis that was helpful to me.
It was only when I reached page 193 [The book has only 252 pages.] (The start of a chapter – with the title: ‘True Spirituality: Listening to the Apostle of the Spirit),’ did I start to find the start of a real ‘spiritual’ discussion. Another aspect (which always unsettles me) was the paucity of scriptural references. True there was a sprinkling of ‘short’ references to a few verses in Genesis, Ecclesiastes, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Peter. The author centred much of his discussion on spirituality as discussed by Paul, in various chapters of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Corinthians (sounds like a lot of material, but in reality each reference comprises only of a few verses); however, as Paul does in his various letters – the sections discussed were, in general, the same or similar themes – expressed in slightly different ways for Paul’s respective audiences.
I’m of the opinion that any discussion of Christian Spirituality should contain an exhaustive analysis of John’s Gospel, and his letters. In John 3:10-13, we read: “Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. … “. Nicodemus, to whom Jesus was talking, was a Jewish religious leader, who would have known the Hebrew Scripture, better than most – but having an excellent intellectual knowledge (of the Bible) does not help anyone to understand spiritual truths.
I don’t think it unusual that you don’t see a lot of discussion on the last half of John’s Gospel; starting with verses like John 14:20-21 “When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
To understand what Jesus is saying – ‘you are in me, and I am in you’; and, He says again in 14:23 – “Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Requires an understanding that comes only from the Holy Spirit (and not from any intellectual analysis of the Greek words used [ 🙂 ]; it is true that the Father and Jesus will come and make THEIR home with each one!
The book does not cost a lot to buy, that’s good, but I can’t recommend it. However, it’s very well written – the language is concise, and his ideas are well set out – making his overall argument easy to follow. In summary, I think it’s better to read John’s Gospel, within a bible study group, assisted by a good commentary – and, lots of input from the Holy Spirit – perhaps, a better use of your time?
[If anyone has read this book and has a different view – I’m quite prepared to discuss any issues.]