If Charles Taylor is right and we live in a “disenchanted” age, and if James K.A. Smith is correct that “you are what you love,” then how does our approach to living the Christian life change? What is different about our day-to-day experience as followers of Jesus? How do we practice the spiritual disciplines in our modern, secular world?
Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World is Mike Cosper’s attempt to “lift the veil a little bit on how the world has shaped us, how we’ve learned to see things through the lenses of disenchantment” (162). Cosper’s main argument is that participation in our world and its “disciplines of disenchantment” (27) has a powerful and formative impact on who we are becoming and our relationship to the transcendent and the spiritual. We cannot expect that our intake of narratives and rituals from our culture will have zero effect on our spiritual lives. Furthermore, we would be foolish to think that a mere influx of spiritual information will be enough to counteract our embodied experiences. The solution to our disenchantment isn’t that we need to know more spiritual things, but rather that we need to put them into practice. “We need to orient our lives around a different set of stories” (ibid.). Enter the spiritual disciplines.
In each of the seven chapters, Cosper begins with specific ways our disenchanted world impacts us and then has a section called “Pathways” where he recommends spiritual practices that offer specific ways to counteract that effect on our lives. For instance, the third chapter focuses on our modern pursuit of spectacle and hype and its corresponding impact on our engagement with Scripture. The pathway section of the chapter discusses Ignatian prayer and praying the Psalms. Chapter Five, “Abundance and Scarcity,” tackles our consumer mindset and gift-giving practices, suggesting the pathways of fasting and feasting as ways to embody the economy of the kingdom rather than the materialism of Mammon.
Throughout the book Cosper maintains a conversational tone and peppers in anecdotes and stories. Cosper acknowledges that this short book is “just scratching the surface” and describes his approach as “almost like a walking tour of a city—a casual stroll where I’ll point some things out and tell an interesting story or two along the way” (5). The goal is “not to be comprehensive…but to provoke some different ways of seeing” (6).
I found the book to do just that: inspiring me to reexamine my daily practices and consider new ways to orient myself spiritually. I have especially been thankful for his discussion of “breath prayers” (which are exactly what they sound like: prayers you can say in a single breath). I’ve been using “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” from Luke 18:13 and the individual petitions from the Lord’s Prayer, but you can use any short prayer that fits in a breath.
Recapturing the Wonder accomplishes what Cosper sets out to do and will serve as a wake-up call for many. It is a solid practical application of ideas from Taylor, Smith, and others, and speaks to us right where we are in the midst of our modern secular environment. For anyone looking for new practices to help orient themselves towards the transcendent, Cosper is an able and helpful guide.
5 stars out of 5
Mike Cosper. Recapturing the Wonder Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017. 180 pp. Paperback. $17.