Friday, May 06, 2011

Book Review: "The Sacred Journey" by Charles Foster

I come from a church tradition that doesn't typically see pilgrimage as an organized discipline to pursue. But while I've never been to the Holy Land, I've been on many pilgrimages--and on one Pilgrimage--during my life. Life is most obviously a journey, a hike, and as a backpacker and camper I enjoyed the book. Foster's writing style is wonderful, intermixing his own personal journeys with biblical texts.

I have to admit, when I first started reading this book it biased me against itself early on in the reading. In "The Sacred Journey" Foster lays out that our God is a wandering God, a god of nomads, and in so doing he seems at times to disdain the city. As a country boy, cities were places that I have had to adjust to, but I've come to love the city to a certain degree. I hope to someday live in a totally urban context (although my wife thinks I romanticize the idea somewhat).

But as I read Foster more, I grew to like him. He's irreverant--a trait we share and which I admire. But at the same time he's open to ideas and thoughts and keenly aware of his own prejudices and shortcomings--again a trait that draws me in. In talking about his trip to Rome and seeing pilgrims climbing the Scala Sancta, he later read Spurgeon's rant against such Roman "fetish worship." Foster asks

"Fetish worship"? Because they climb a staircase of dubious historicity? Hardly. We all worship our own synthetic images of God. Growing Christian maturity simply means that the images become incrementally less inadequate. "[God] is the great iconoclast," C. S. Lewis truly wrote. He is constantly smashing up the images we have of him. And anyway, no one is in any danger of confusing God with a staircase or a saint's mummified head. There's a real and malignant danger of confusing God with the things that Scripture says about him.

I could go on, but this will suffice. While there is much in this book that will make evangelical toes curl up (a phrase Foster uses in the book) it is well worth the read, and then worth the figuring out how to practice. I give it 4 out of 5 bellybuttons.

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