Reviewed by Jeff Scoggins, pastor, Minnesota Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

 

In his introduction to Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson is scathing—refreshingly so. The essence of his premise upon which the entire book is founded includes the idea that Christians have taken the biblical metaphor of spiritual birth to ridiculous lengths while effectively ignoring the metaphor of spiritual growth. In his words, it is “an outrageous perversion of the metaphor and responsible for an enormous distortion in the Christian imagination of what is involved in living in the kingdom of God” (3).

From this platform Peterson leaps into the book of Ephesians where he both systematically and poetically moves deeply into the apostle’s intent for the book: Christian growth and maturity; and intentional, ongoing spiritual formation into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Peterson asserts that the word worthy is the huge word of Ephesians, and that to be worthy means to walk in response to the call. “Implicit in each gift,” Peterson says, “is an assignment” (47). There is no getting away from it: if you are resurrected into new life in Christ you must do something with that gift. Moral behavior, while not the way to salvation, is the way of “giving expression to resurrection” (194).

In the course of his exposition on the book of Ephesians, Peterson tackles a wide range of subjects concerning the practice of resurrection: the way we worship, the function of good works, the way materialism has made us into “hybrid Christians,” even our preoccupation with serving God instead of growing in a relationship with Him.

Peterson’s is one voice among a growing choir of Christians who are calling Christians back from lukewarmness into fervent relationship. “Life in the church is dangerous,” he writes. “[We have become] so diligent in learning about and working for Jesus that our relationship with Jesus erodes…. We take on a role, a religious role, that gradually obliterates the life of the soul” (190).

Throughout the book of Ephesians, Peterson extracts and delivers afresh God’s plea to us for undivided relationship with Him—not a relationship of forms and rituals but a relationship as real as marriage— both the pleasant and the rocky sides of it.

Eugene Peterson is a poet, a master of words, and speaks in constant metaphor. I admit that I have difficulty getting through his books in their entirety. I must read with an intention of engaged study rather than relaxing review. I have found, however, that when I take Peterson’s work in bite-sized pieces, a rich reward results every time.


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Reviewed by Jeff Scoggins, pastor, Minnesota Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

April 2011

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