Thomas NelsonFinding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Constant change within today's church seems to be prompting a desire for deeper devotion. Many 21st-century Christians are exploring ancient practices including fixed-hour prayer and fasting. McLaren explains these timeless traditions---some dating back to Abraham---and reveals how they can transform your spiritual sojourn. An informative introduction to a 7-book series on spiritual disciplines. 176 pages, hardcover from Nelson.
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Customer Reviews for Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Review 1 for Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Date:August 30, 2011
Ancient Christian practices are so hot right now.
That might not be true.
It might very well be true, I just have nothing to confirm or deny it. There seems to be a trend towards "rediscovering" the way church was done in the past as in ancient practices, but I have nothing to back that up but a hunch and what I've heard on the internet.
When I saw the title for Brian McLaren's book "Finding Our Way Again: the return of the ancient practices" I got really excited.
I picked it up expecting it to be filled with wonderful things I dreamed I would try: practices that would align my daily life in 2011 with the lives of saints of old.
It wasn't everything that I expected.
I was expecting to read about how I can more practically incorporate those ancient practices into my daily life. I was expecting a breakdown--more than that, a list--of practices, and a simple 1, 2, 3 step approach for beginning them.
McLaren didn't deliver. Well, to be fair, it wasn't his intention to deliver those things. This book stands as an introduction to a series of books. The subsequent volumes, written by other authors, will share more of what I thought I wanted. This introductory volume seems to exist to lay the framework for why us, the readers, should care about spiritual practices.
I say that I thought I wanted the expectation highlighted above. I came to realize as I read, that I was getting something better, and something more in line with what I needed.
McLaren highlights four reasons for writting this book (found on page 201 of my copy), and I hope I'm not giving anything away here: "First. spiritual practices help develop character, the kind of character we see in Saint Francis standing as a man of peace before the sultan. Second, they help us be awake and alive and more fully human, as this singer of songs, lover of birds, embracer of lepers, and carrier of joy so clearly was. Third, they help us experience God, or as we have said more recently, they help us join God so that we glow with Francis like holy embers radiant with the fire of God."
And there is a fourth:
More specifically, McLaren is pointing readers to an understanding that despite many differences between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are similarities in both ancestry (Father Abraham) and spiritual practice (such as fixed hour prayer) among others.
His desire is that we, meaning the adherents of the three faiths, would give more consideration to these similarities, and less to the differences. While we might all have very different opinions of Jesus, we need to "pursue the ancient way in which we learn to practice peace, joy, self-mastery and justice: because the future of the world depends on people like you and me finding it and living it and inviting other to join us."
I understand that some people have strong opinions of Brian McLaren. This is the first book, of his that I've read. There were parts I didn't agree with, but there was much I did. And more than that, much of what I read challenged my thinking.
I got from this book, not what I expected, but instead what I needed. I have a greater understanding of how life today can connect with the ancient practices of old. I'd say that chapters 15 through 19 were worth every bit of time put into the book. While the whole book is well worth reading, I'd recommend it to other just for those five chapters alone.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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Review 2 for Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
A book worth reading
Date:July 15, 2011
It's not hard to observe that there are many people, Bible-believers included, who have lost their way spiritually. Many flounder for fulfillment in their spiritual journeys, often moving in directions that lead to dead-ends. McLaren's Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices explores some of the hows and whys of this, and suggests a number of ancient practices that can strengthen our relationship with God so that we no longer feel lost. He does not suggest that these practices are essential elements of the Christian walk, nor that they will lead us "closer" to God. He simply points out that they are tools -- some used for millenia -- that can enable us to see God in places we have, well, missed seeing Him along the way. Each chapter ends with "Spiritual Exercises" -- questions and suggestions that encourage the reader to think through and beyond the content of the chapter in order to make personal applications. The end of the book offers a chapter-by-chapter study guide that challenges the reader to explore each topic more fully, and there are also notes that enable study beyond the realm of the author's own text.
I've never read any of Brian McLaren's work before, nor do I recall hearing anything about his books. While I found him to be a bit inclined towards discussing faith in general terms, as opposed to faith in Christ specifically, his convictions as a follower of Christ were clear, and I found myself agreeing with many of his comments about "religion" as it contrasts true faith. The beginning of most chapters seemed to rile me a bit for some reason, but I was heartily acknowledging the wisdom of his words by the end of each. I particularly appreciate the analogies he used to illustrate his points because they truly help to clarify his ideas for me. I also like the fact that his writing is scholarly, but not in a pretentious way. He presents facts and ideas about history and theology in ways that are easily accessible to the reader who may not be as well-versed in those subjects. What I like most about the book is that McLaren does not separate spiritual disciplines or practices from everyday life: he demonstrates the sacredness of all aspects of life, and challenges us to wake up and experience God moment-by-moment, day-in-and-day-out.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in historical and biblical faith practices, and to anyone that longs for a richer relationship with God.
As a member of BookSneeze, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Review 3 for Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Setting the tone
Date:February 11, 2011
Brian McLaren had a profound impact on my faith about 10 years ago when a friend recommended I read A New Kind of Christian. Since then, I haven't agreed with all he's written but I still find him worth paying attention to. When I received the opportunity to review his latest book through the BookSneeze.com program, I knew I couldn't pass it up.
Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices sets the tone for the Ancient Practices Series, which explores early spiritual disciplines. It seems important to discuss why we practice spiritual disciplines in the first place before studying specific ones more in depth.
Chapter 2 alone made the book worth reading, a good sign for what portended.
McLaren shares a few reasons for the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines. 1. Spiritual practices help us narrow the gap between the person we are and the person we want to become. 2. They help us be people who see, hear, and experience the world around us. They help us rediscover the beauty of life and living. 3. In these two things, we are drawn to God and more alert to His presence. "Becoming awake and staying awake to God," as McLaren puts it. 4. Spiritual disciplines shape us into people who practice peace, joy, self-mastery, and justice. And this makes all the difference in the world.
The book goes on to clarify how spiritual disciplines are classified, whether contemplative, communal, or missional. Still, the specifics of the disciplines themselves are saved for the other books in the series. This truly is an overview. You might not find it valuable to read this precursor but I found it to be helpful to explore the heart and faith behind this movement.
The examination of via illuminativa was most intriguing of all to me. The final section of the book devotes itself to the ancient practices. This served as both a lesson in church history and in awakening my spirit. Via illuminativa sees everything, all of life, in the light of God. This light tells us that God is everywhere and reveals the magnitude of His character, or at least as much of His character as we'll ever understand.
"Light, like God, relativizes time and space and thus renders us part of something big and beautiful and fast and timeless and mysterious and wonderful and colorful...and spiritual" (p. 163.)
I found the discussion on via illuminativa to be utterly beautiful. And then came the passage on the other side of the coin. Where there is light, there has been darkness. When we experience a dark night of the soul, we long for light ever more. When we've recovered, we see that there are gifts in such an experience, even if only that we have a greater appreciation for light. Having experienced such a time in my life, it was helpful to read about via illuminativa and frame that period in another way.
Perhaps that is what spiritual disciplines become: a way of reframing our lives. It helps us remember who we were and Who we are striving toward.
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Review 4 for Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
When I had the opportunity to read and review this book I have to admit I was kind of excited. I haven’t read anything by Mclaren, but I have heard a great deal about him. Most of the stuff that I have heard about him has been negative. After everything that I have heard most would wonder why I would be excited about reading someone that no one likes or that everyone speaks negatively about. Most critiques I have heard of Mclaren have been critiques in regards to his theology. With all the critiques of him that I have read, I have also heard dozens of compliments on his writing style. Mclaren’s writing style is filled with good illustrations, one-liners, and stories. Mclaren has mastered the artform of storying telling. Mclaren is a very popular author because of his writing style. Mclaren does not write just stories for the story’s sake, but writes theology in the story form. Although the stories are at the forefront of his writing, Mclaren has a theological agenda in his writing. One reason I personally enjoy this is because the reader gets so caught up in his stories, illustrations, and one-liners that the reader longs to agree with his teaching. The reader ends up learning theology in a very simplistic way that is very easy to remember. I think more reformed writers need to try to employ this writing style, matching good stories, illustrations, and one-liners with sound theology (which Mclaren fails to do). Reading Mclaren can be compared to enjoying a desert buffett, everything taste good at first, then you get home and realize, you overate and you are left sick for days. His writing is extremely enticing, but if followed to the logical conclusion it could be very damaging. Mclaren at times seems to be promoting a universalism between Islam, Judiasm, and Christianity, Other times Mclaren seems to be striving only to remove the hostility between the groups towards the others. Whatever Mclaren’s end goal was in writing, it is not very clear as to what exactly he is saying and what it is that he is not saying. When Mclaren speaks about the unity of the groups he also never offers much clarity in regards to exactly what this unity looks like or why there even needs to be unity among the groups. I could agree with Mclaren that there should be a desire for there not to be hostility towards each religion, but I think everyone should distance themselves from him in regards to desiring unity among diversity in theology. I don’t see why there is a need for unity in regards to practice/theology among three groups. In an age where syncretism is the norm, I think we strive for clarity among distinctions more than anything. In modern America it is becoming more and more difficult to determine the difference between Christianity and … nearly every other worldview. Syncretism is not the solution, but clarity in distinction and love towards one another rather than hate is the solution. With this distinction, one of the most loving things that can be shown to a Jew or a Muslim is to show them their need to put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Jews need to see that the Messiah has come and they have rejected him. Muslims need to see that Christ is the “Word” of God and not simply a “word” of God. A Muslim likewise needs to see that Christ is God the risen Messiah and that outside of faith in Christ one cannot be saved. Sharing the gospel becomes extremely difficult when a person believes their worldview is not at enmity with the Christian worldview. Scripture is very clear of the exclusivity of the Christian worldview. Jews and Muslims alike reject the risen Christ as Lord and Messiah and must repent of this and turn to him for forgiveness of their sins. Love among the three groups does not unify them but actually clarifies the distinctions among the parties and longs for the other two parties to come to repentance in hopes of avoiding the wrath of God. That is my major critique of Mclaren, which is a Major critique I might add! With that said, I think there is still much to learn from Mclaren in his book. Mclaren discusses how we too often go through life and never notice life’s many beauties. Because of the life’s fast pace we often do not notice the beauty of the clouds, a breath of fresh air, the moon, the grass, the taste of coffee, and ad infinitum. Mclaren in this section reminds me of Blaise Pascal’s famous quote in Pensées, “The present is never our goal: the past and present are our means: the future alone is our goal. Thus, we never live but we hope to live; and always hoping to be happy, it is inevitable that we will never be so.” I spend too much time thinking of past or the future and never enjoy life’s many beauties of the here-now. Because of life’s pace I do not take enough time to enjoy God’s creation. Creation like mankind waits and groans for its restoration upon Christ’s return. Romans 1:18-21 testify that God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen through creation. Although Romans 1:18-20 Paul’s argument is to demonstrate how all man is without excuse in regards to not accepting gospel’s truth because of general revelation. Although this passage is in reference to all men being accountable because of general revelation it also testifies to the reality that creation proclaims God’s invisible qualities, eternal power and divine nature. There are a great deal of passages which also testify to reflecting upon the greatness of God through what is revealed in nature (e.g. Ps 24:1-2, Ps 33:6-9, Psalm 89:11, Col 1:16, Rev 4:11, Psalm 65:9-13, Psalm 147:7-9, 12-18, Jeremiah 10:13, Psalm 104:21-30, Matthew 6:28-32, Proverbs 8:22-31, Psalm 19:1-6, Psalm 97:1-6, ect). Nature reveals God’s glory, his righteousness, and his sovereign rule. I think the Christian church could profit a great deal by slowing life down and taking time to reflect upon creation’s beauty and how it reveals God’s divine nature. I do not see this as creation worship, but as seeing creation as it is intended to be seen, as a means/ declaration of God’s glory. Slow down, enjoy life and take advantage of the day and “thus live” as Pascal words it. I am thankful for Mclaren for this reason, but I would be hard pressed to recommend the book without a lot of prefaces to the recommendation. Mclaren’s book was a fun read and even though I there were some great things I was reminded of because of the book, there are plenty of other books by guys who are orthodox who discuss some of the same ideas.
The Reformed Reader
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Review 5 for Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Not worth the time.
Date:January 21, 2011
Young and Reformed
Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, by Brian McLaren
In his book Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, Brian McLaren intended to address Christians and encourage them to “rediscover the Christian faith as a transforming way of life.” His goal was (and is) noble, his assessment of the problem was clear, but his solution was vague and far from Biblical. McLaren claims the Christian faith as his own, but throughout the book makes it clear that he considers the Christian faith to be anything but exclusive in its truth claims. He says that “the way – Jewish torah, Christian gospel, or Muslim deen – leads us toward the peace, wisdom, and joy that we seek.” By this he essentially says that each of these ways, which are drastically different from each other, are equally valid ways of reaching that “peace, wisdom, and joy that we seek.” McLaren claims that the problem with Christianity (by “Christianity” he means Muslims, Catholics, and any other religion that is remotely similar) is that it has become nothing more than a “system of belief” and that it needs to be more or a “way of life.” I couldn’t agree more, but he offers little to no Biblical support for his methods of change which are basically doing simplistic rituals to help yourself do better. The book is basically a self-help book with the façade of being Christian in nature. McLaren is a modern-day false-teacher and his teaching should not be taken seriously.
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Review 6 for Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Date:May 25, 2009
Excellent intro to the spiritual disciplines. Putting the disciplines in the context of ancient practices was particularly thought provoking.