Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Dictionary of Christian Spirituality" is a Winner

Maybe it’s just me (though I seriously doubt it), but when I hear the word “spirituality” I get a weird picture of men with long beards, wearing robes, and writing strange, esoteric thoughts on God. In other words, when I hear the word spirituality, I don’t think practical, useful or full of truth. Maybe it’s because I’ve had bad experiences in the past with books on spirituality (where they felt completely disconnected from reality), but I am a skeptic when it comes to talking about spirituality. 

                So when Dictionary of Christian Spirituality was released, as you might imagine, I was a bit hesitant to embrace it. Even as I flipped through the pages and encountered names I was completely unfamiliar with (such as Jacob Boehme), I thought “Is this really worth my time?” 

                The answer: Yes! Yes! A million times over, yes! In fact, the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality might be the most valuable resource I have come across in years.

First, let me start off by saying that reviewing a dictionary is no easy task. Not every article is written with the same precision and skill as another. That said, based upon the many, many selections I have read, I can wholeheartedly recommend this resource.

                Second, it is important to note that the dictionary itself is divided into two segments. Part I consists of various articles that integrate, from a multidisciplinary perspective, spirituality into life. These essays are extremely helpful and really prepare the reader for the second part of the dictionary: the dictionary entries themselves.  I would suggest that Part I by itself would make the book a worthwhile read. I mean, you really have some outstanding essays in this book. My personal favorite? John H. Coe’s fantastic introduction to approaches to the study of Christian spirituality. Other excellent essays include a history of Christian spirituality from the early church onward. Further, the reader will come across several fantastic essays on experience, mysticism and spirituality’s relationship to creation. The scope of part I is simply breathtaking.

As far as the dictionary entries themselves, they are absolutely fantastic. As a youth pastor, I do not have a lot of time to dive into super in-depth articles. I need the articles to get to the point, provide a lot of information in a concise manner and then sum it up. The articles here do exactly that. Not only so, but I found myself finding at least one or two helpful quotes per article. In other words, this book is a preachers dream! There is enough thought provoking sermon material here to last for years.

                Perhaps, more than anything, this valuable resource will challenge you to go deeper in your own walk with Christ. I know I found myself in a more reflective, constant state of prayer as I was reading this. It also sparked in me a desire to simply slow down and savor Jesus Christ more. Any resource that forces you to do that is a winner.

Simply put, do yourself a favor and drop the money to get this resource. You will not regret it.

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