Book Review: “Recapturing the Wonder” by Mike Cosper


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Photo by Greg Becker on Unsplash

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?

wonderRecapturing 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.

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Take a Break from Looking Around and Look Up


lookupIt’s so easy to get discouraged. Spend too much time looking around at the world or at yourself and eventually…well, it’s a pretty bleak picture! This morning I found myself discouraged at the world and my place in it: how can all this evil that I see around me and inside me be dealt with? Where do we even start? Our culture is bitterly divided, both inside and outside the church. And even the most devout of believers still experience a division within themselves between the old and the new man, as Paul puts it. We’re in a life and death struggle!

How do we cope? How do we deal with the realities of this world?

It’s precisely when we are most discouraged or down or confused that, instead of looking anywhere else, we need to look up.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
-Colossians 3:1-2 (ESV)

Look not to the world or yourself but to Christ, seated at God’s right hand! He is our only hope, our only power, our only righteousness. There is none like him and none beside him!

Look up. Set your mind on things above. Look to Christ. I don’t know if anyone else needs this reminder, but I sure did today.

Are We Really Just Like Those Who Embraced the Gentiles?


Reformedish

Dr. J.R.D. Kirk says he has finally “come out” as fully accepting and affirming of non-celibate, gay and lesbian Christians within the community of the Church. Which, he himself seems to note, should really come as a surprise to no one after reading his recent posts or his scholarly work on the subject.

As it turns out, his arguments for this decision are fairly unsurprising as well.

To his credit, Kirk says that none of the verses in the Old or New Testaments go his way on this issue. They’re all fairly against same-sex erotic activity in a general way, not merely with reference to specific practices like idolatry or pederasty. So, he had to find another paradigm for making theological decisions that takes us beyond, or even formally contrary to Scripture. He did that in the paradigm of the inclusion of the Gentiles.

In inviting in the Gentiles to…

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“We all long for Eden” by J.R.R. Tolkien


Tolle Lege

“Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile’.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ed. Humphrey Carpenter (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 110. Tolkien penned these words in a letter to his son, Christopher Tolkien, on January 30, 1945.

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Logos Free Book – Mikeal C. Parsons, Acts (Paideia)


Free Logos resources!

Reading Acts

TParsonshe Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” is Mikeal C. Parsons Acts commentary in the Paideia series from Baker. Mikeal Parsons is a top Acts scholar and the Paideia series pays close attention to the cultural and educational context from which it emerges. Parsons see Acts as a charter document explaining and legitimating Christian identity for a general audience of early Christians living in the ancient Mediterranean world

In addition to the free book, Logos is offering Charles Talbert’s Ephesians and Colossians volume in the Paideia series for only $1.99. I have always enjoyed reading Talbert’s work (especially his Reading Acts, which I still maintain I did not know about when I named this blog…)  As always, Logos is running a giveaway for the month, this time for the whole twelve volumes of the Paideia series. Head over to Logos and enter the contest as many times as you possibly…

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