Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Sacred Journey? (Book Review)

Maybe it's because I've lived on a farm most of my life and apparently wanting to live on the land makes me like Cain.  Maybe it's because I've talked to birds without suffering from dysentery on an exhausting journey after sleeping in mangy beds.  Maybe it's because it's a supposedly Christian book with so many references to the goodness/sameness of other religions.  Maybe it's because of the smugness in the assertion that pilgrimage is necessary to spiritual growth and others not inclined to do so right this minute are somehow less than seekers.  Maybe it's those things that made me have reservations about this book.

In The Sacred Journey, Charles Foster explores the history of pilgrimage and how it relates to Christianity (which is a name he dislikes.  He prefers Jesus Freaks.  A rose by any other name smells sweeter to him, I suppose.)  The book is well-written, interesting and sometimes picturesque.  It was quick reading for me because I was intrigued by it, but I can't recommend it. 

There are many points I did like in this book and agreed with.  First of all, I learned some things.  Learning is good.  I also appreciated Foster's emphasis on sincere seeking.  He stressed the importance of fellowship and real relationships, of stepping outside our comfort to an adventure in following Jesus, of avoiding Gnosticism (the belief that matter is bad, and only the spirit is good).  I agree with him that there is something special about Jerusalem.  God attaches importance to it, and perhaps it is a "thin place," as he refers to it. 

But it's the other assertions that cause me to exercise caution in recommending the book. 
     1.  His sweeping statements, such as "God hates cities."  Really?  (I'm a country girl, but didn't we just say that Jerusalem was a special, holy city?) 
     2.  His belief that God prefers nomads.  I believe God has a preference for people who will be dependent on Him and will sacrifice to follow Him.  But He led His people to the Promised Land.  To settle it, not to wander (they wandered in the desert . . . as punishment.  Moses missed out on the Promised Land . . . as punishment).  
     3.  He says that God is a nomad.  Well, yes, His Spirit is moving through this world.  But He has a dwelling place.  Heaven.  And someday it will be with men . . . in a city. 
     4.  I feel he misapplied Scripture.  He points to Jesus sending out the disciples as a "how-to" of pilgrimage.  But they weren't on a pilgrimage, they were on a mission.  Not to find self, but to tell others about the kingdom, and to heal and minister to others. 

By all means, seek God.  Seek Him wholeheartedly through prayer, through His Word, through giving, through fellowship, through meditation, through various other spiritual practices and if you like, through pilgrimage.  If visiting Jerusalem is on your heart, find a way to go someday.  But I personally wouldn't seek Him through The Sacred Journey

*I received a complementary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers through*


tweedpipe said...

Sorry that you didn't like the book.
I thought I'd said clearly that pilgrimage isn't necessary for spiritual growth, that there are some very important exceptions to the idea that 'God hates cities'(notably Jerusalem), and I thought that I'd argued the case for God's preference for nomads rather too fully, if anything, rather than simply asserting it. But I'm grateful for your comments, and will try to improve it in subsequenr editions.
All best wishes.
Charles Foster

GlowinGirl said...

Thanks for your reply, Mr. Foster. I appreciate your taking the time to respond. Your writing is very interesting, and I wanted to be able to recommend the book.
We just disagree.

I think I'd enjoy sitting around your table though -- it sounds like an enjoyable mix of people.

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