Takeaway: Spiritual friendship is important and undervalued.
I intentionally picked this up with CS Lewis‘ Letters to Malcolm (my review) because they seem to be complementary (and because I had a $10 credit on Audible and with my discount they came to $10.09 together).
But while Letters to Malcolm was very personal and revealing, this felt flat. First it is written as an exercise in spiritual mentoring. These are not actual letters compiled but instead are written to characterize the types of letters that Peterson often writes. This gives it form and coherence, but it left the whole thing feeling contrived.
Peterson is writing to Gunther (this is a composite made up person). Gunther is an old friend from college that Peterson has lost touch with. Gunther is a scientist and has spent years away from God and focused on his work. When he becomes a Christian he is recently divorced for the second time, is estranged from his children and in search of meaning. Peterson encourages him to go to his closest church and stick there. Over the course of two hours (or 112 pages) Peterson talks about work as calling, spiritual development, your relationship to your local church, children moving away from the faith, the ecstasy of spiritual experience, the reality of the brokenness of the people around you and much more. There really are some good things here, but all of it is treated better and more fully in Peterson’s other books.
I am a huge fan of Peterson’s. I have read more than a dozen of his books. But I am fairly disappointed in this one. There are some good nuggets here, but it free more curmudgeonly than normal Peterson. I have always appreciated that while Peterson is calling us to a version of church (and the pastorate) that is particular and very different from the one that I attend, he usually seems more gentle. He is a bit raw here (uses the word Bitch or variant a couple of times appropriately). It is not that I mind the rawness, it is that the rawness seems out of place. In Letters to Malcolm, Lewis was human and open, but that was clearly the way Lewis was because those letters were actually written to a particular person. Read Letters to Malcolm, skip this one.