Over the last couple months I have come to the conclusion that Evangelicals (of whom I am one) are good at sharing the gospel and keeping the importance of conversion squarely in their sights.
But I have also come to see that groups that assume the large scale Christianity of their communities (those that have been state churches) have done much more thinking about how to live as a Christian.
It is cliche (and I think at least partially true) that Evangelicals are interested in you up until your conversion. After that I think we fall into the Paul problem of continuing to feed one another spiritual milk. We are still trying to save one another. But I think those that theologically are more oriented toward infant baptism and Christendom have thought more about living as a Christian. (The negative for them is that they also now need to evangelize their own as Christendom has broken down.)
There is nothing wrong with keeping the gospel at the forefront of our Christianity. But that does not mean that we need to keep the basic gospel message as the main content of our Christian teaching.
So I have been seriously thinking about finding a Roman Catholic spiritual director particularly because I want to learn more about spiritual growth from a different perspective. (On the other hand I have had a couple Evangelicals recommended to me, if you think of it, this is something I am still praying through and I would welcome your prayer for me.)
Richard Rohr has been interesting to me since I first read his book Falling Foward. Later I listened to his lectures that were turned into a book Why Be Catholic. And I want to read more about his work in male initiation rites and spiritual development.
But as I was looking around for an audiobook the other day I picked up The Art of Letting Go. It is not a book that is narrated, but rather six talks that are packaged together as an audiobook. They sound like they were prepared for those that want to go on a spiritual retreat with Rohr, but can only listen to an audiobook or lecture instead.
Many Evangelicals will probably find multiple places strange and questionable. But on the whole these are much more like Eugene Peterson’s memoir The Pastor or Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. These sound more like a personal conversation with a spiritual mentor about how to grow spiritually.
There are six different sections, each about an hour about an area that Rohr thinks we need to let go of in order to grow spiritually. There is so much content here (in just 6 hours) that I will not attempt to recount it but only give a few thoughts. St Francis is a reoccurring character, but not really the subject of the book. The main subject of the book is the paradox of Christianity that God often uses what we perceive as loss to help us grow.
So we experience pain and through that pain we realize that we are not in charge of our lives and we give up trying to control a particular area of life and then God is able to draw us in to a deeper spiritual connection with him.
One thing I thought is useful is that Rohr is careful to say that people that are not growing spiritually are still Christian. And I think that is part of the problem with Evangelical theology (mine included) that we mix up redemption and sanctification. From the point of Salvation we are saved. But that is just the start of our spiritual growth as a Christian. God desires more for us, but does not force it on us. There is a paradox of the reality that we cannot growth spiritually under our own power, but God gives us the power (through the Holy Spirit) to move forward spiritually. But it seems that not being obedient and not following God allows us to miss out on spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth is not a knowledge problem, it is an obedience problem. This has been a reoccurring theme of my reading lately. And it is one that is hard to get around.
This is a series of lectures that needs more than one sitting. I think I will put it on my calendar to listen to again in another year.
The Art of Letting God: Living the Wisdom of St Francis from Audible.com