A Long Obedience In The Same Direction: Discipleship In An Instant Society, by Eugene H. Peterson
This was the second book of two that was spoken of highly in a recent regional church leadership conference  that I happened to attend, and in reading it, I found a few aspects of the book to be somewhat mysterious but also saw some clear reasons as to why the book was thought of so highly. Although it is by the translator of the Message, a translation of the Bible I do not think particularly highly of, the book itself is quite excellent and the author’s idiosyncratic translation does not get too much in the way of the book’s considerable virtues. Particularly of interest in this book is the way that the author manages to critique the desire for instant transformation and the way that he points to the need for obedience over the long haul as a way of preparing for the gradual transformation of believers into beings who resemble our heavenly Father and elder Brother. So, although there were at least a few aspects of the book, including his interpretation of eternal security, that left me a bit puzzled, there was a lot to appreciate and celebrate here from the author’s approach to spiritual growth.
The book is structured in a very worthwhile and intriguing way. In about two hundred pages, the author manages to quote (from his own translation of course) and discuss all of the psalms of the Songs of Ascent, an area of the Bible I am particularly interested in . The author takes one theme from each of them and discusses them as aspects of the Christian life, viewing a quote from Nietzsche as an introduction to a discussion on discipleship. The following topics are explored by the author: discipleship, repentance, providence, worship, service, help, security, joy, work, happiness, perseverance, hope, humility, obedience, community, and blessing. Even though the author takes on some difficult areas, he points out repeatedly that we should not judge our spiritual state by our emotional state, but rather live in obedience to God and to let our emotions catch up with our decisions and our God-guided will, something that is particularly worth noting for many of us, for emotions are an unstable foundation on which to stand for the best of us, and some of us have far from ideal emotional palettes from which to work.
Ultimately, this is a book to celebrate, and it is little wonder that so many copies of this book have been sold and that it has been viewed particularly highly by the people who presented topics relating to leadership to our group of 100 brethren in the Pacific Northwest. For one, the author spends a great deal of effort talking about the way that believers’ lives should be an example of faith, which was definitely a point of emphasis in the presentations. I must admit I am a bit puzzled by the author’s assertion that for someone to truly backslide in the sense of falling away that it would take a conscious act of rebellion against God, but I do celebrate that our security with God does not depend on our emotional state, which I must admit is not something I would have a great deal of confidence in given my own emotional state over the course of my complicated life. Even so, despite the fact that I view the author’s translation of the Bible as not being particularly spectacular and have some questions about the contents of the book, overall this is a book to be celebrated and one whose points are definitely relevant for our instant generation.
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