Summary: The church is where we we can learn to grow up as Christ intends.
A bit over 4 years ago I first read Practice Resurrection. It affected me then and affects me now. I picked it up again and intentionally re-read it with Glittering Images.
The two books, at different times, are two of the books that have most impacted me since I started Bookwi.se.
Practice Resurrection, the final of a five book series on practical theology by Peterson, is a long exploration of Ephesians as an illustration of why the Christian life is at root a means of allowing us to practice being like Christ (and central to that practice, why that must be done in context of church.)
Peterson uses the illustration of practicing to remind us that no one is suddenly saved and holy. Yes from conversion we are saved and viewed as righteous in God’s eyes. But the rest of our life is practice on how we can become more like Christ.
I think it is less now than a generation or two ago, but Evangelicals in particular have a problem with viewing conversion as the climax of the story of faith. Instead, conversion is the start of the story.
Think of how unusual it is for a Christian fiction book to not have a climax around a conversion or rededication. It may not be the main character, but someone changes. Glittering Images is one of those rare fiction books about a Christian that is about transformation, but about the process not the event. If you have not read the review of Glittering Images, it is about an Anglican priest that suffers a spiritual breakdown and how he is brought back to spiritual health through a spiritual director, prayer, spiritual practices and honest understanding of his weaknesses and history. But at the end of the book, there is lots of space for seeing how much more room there is to grow.
Glittering Images is the first of a six book series that comes back to the priest again toward the end of his life when he again suffers a spiritual crisis and again is brought back to spiritual health. The last book is even more powerful than the first because it shows how much that we do need to work toward becoming like Christ, in partnership with the Holy Spirit and through the work of the body of Christ around us, but also that the work is never finished. The point isn’t perfection, the point is the practice.
Back to Practice Resurrection, I tend to listen to Peterson on my first reading and read him on my second reading. The large arc of his work is narrative, a story he is telling us about what it means to become like Christ. But the second closer reading reveals nugget after nugget of spiritual wisdom. I am at a place where I feel like I need to keep returning of what I have learned because I can’t possibly put it all into practice at once. I need to read this yet again in a year, or maybe at the end of my re-reading of Howatch’s books.