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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Quotable: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Who?


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Can we trust that the Gospels we have in the New Testament accurately represent the earliest of Christians’ beliefs about Jesus? What about claims that there were other Gospels or alternate views of Jesus that—if discovered—would change everything we thought we knew about the story of Christianity?

In a section on historical criticism of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg gives his take:

It is particularly misleading, therefore, to speak of lost Gospels or lost Christianities in ways that suggest that orthodoxy somehow suppressed viable Christian traditions or to claim that history is simply written by the winners….The apostolic tradition prevailed in large part because later, competing options never commanded widespread credibility.

—Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group), 108.

 

Agree or disagree?

Fellow-Workers in The Great Harvest: Baxter on Matthew 9:37-38


Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest
.”
—Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV)

The harvest is great, the labourers are few; the loiterers and hinderers are many, the souls of men are precious, the misery of sinners is great, and the everlasting misery to which they are near is greater, the joys of heaven are inconceivable, the comfort of a faithful minister is not small, the joy of extensive success will be a full reward. To be fellow-workers with God and his Spirit is no little honour; to subserve the blood-shedding of Christ for men’s salvation is not a light thing.

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—Richard Baxter, in The Reformed Pastor, p. 202.

Do we really believe this? And would we live differently, prioritize different things, and see different outcomes in our lives if so? Hard questions and much-needed exhortation from Baxter to us today.

Can Faith and Reason Truly Disagree?


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There can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who both reveals mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be opposed to truth. The appearance of this kind of inane contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained…or that mere opinions are mistaken for the conclusions of reason.

-The First Vatican Council on Faith and Reason, The Christian Theology Reader, 31.

 

In your experience, have you encountered (both personally and with others) more misunderstanding of dogma or more opinions taken for reason?

Jesus: a Greater Savior


The unsearchable riches of Christ. —Ephesians 3:8

My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words. They are “unsearchable”! You may look, study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Savior than you think He is when your thoughts are at their greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are to sin, more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your needs than you are to acknowledge them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus…Lord, teach us more and more of Jesus, and we will tell the good news to others.

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—Charles Spurgeon, in Evening by Evening, p. 243.

What is Involved in Being a Christian


He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of Redemption, to a view of the purpose of God in creation and history, to a view of human destiny found only in Christianity.

-James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World, 4 as quoted in Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 6.

A Different Sort of Apology for the Crusades


With the President’s recent remarks on the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast, the Crusades are suddenly (seemingly) everywhere. Everyone has their own opinion on why the President was wrong or why the Crusades were wrong or why everyone else is wrong. Unfortunately, it seems many are leaping to share their opinions with nothing more than a passing/pop culture familiarity with the events in question.

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I don’t intend to share much personally on the subject other than to recommend Rodney Stark’s book God’s Battalions[†] to anyone who would seek a first step in educating themselves on the subject at hand. I read and reviewed the book for a class last semester and found it to be an excellent starting point not just for a discussion of the Crusades themselves but for an examination of the lenses through which we we view the past. Stark apologizes for the Crusades not in the sense of asking someone/anyone for forgiveness but rather in the other sense of the word: that is, a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something. Stark aims to show that much of our so-called “knowledge” of the Crusades is actually not knowledge at all but misconceptions, untruths, and anachronistic impositions of modern, Western morality on a most decidedly non-Western and premodern culture. Whether or not you agree with Stark, it is important to acknowledge at least the possibility that we are not seeing everything with the equivalent of “historical 20/20 vision” (…as if that even existed). As historian Christopher Tyerman observed in a book with a similar aim as Stark’s: “To observe the past through the lens of the present invites delusion; so too does ignoring the existence of that lens.”[1]

For those not yet convinced or who want a preview of the book, I’ve excerpted a few paragraphs from my review in the rest of this post. So read on if you’re even just a bit interested in the subject.

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