Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stirrings of the Soul - Pt 1



Having agreed once more to write blog posts for the EQUIP book club, I’m beginning to understand the experience of the early explorers in eastern Australia when they repeatedly tried to find a way west through the Blue Mountains and across the Great Dividing Range; so many false starts and failed expeditions! But I’m holding on to the fact that eventually they made it through.

So would you join me as I blunder about the landscape of Michael Raiter’s Stirrings of the Soul? I’m not an expert in the type of terrain he covers, nor am I experienced in spotting the right landmarks and navigating my way around them. I might very well get lost on this expedition, but with your company at least it will be fun!

Michael Raiter’s Stirrings of the Soul is based on a series of lectures the author first delivered nine years ago (pg 7). At the risk of overstretching my geographical metaphor, the territory surveyed in Stirrings of the Soul encompasses the burgeoning interest in spirituality in Australian society and among Australian Christians, and its topography has the characteristics of a classic evangelical sermon, albeit a rather long one. Although Raiter focuses on Australia in particular, a lot of the book is applicable to western societies in general, so if you’re not Australian, don’t worry.

Raiter’s approach is measured, purposeful and thoroughly biblical, and I encourage you to read Stirrings of the Soul in the same thoughtful and intentional way. There are deep riches of godly wisdom to be mined from its pages, so don’t give in to the temptation to skip to the final chapters. When the content of the book had its first public outing as the lecture series, Michael Raiter noticed something about his audiences:
… it became very clear that most people were far more interested in satisfying their own spiritual thirst, than learning about the spiritual desires of others. What I heard from the floor, in question after question, is what I subsequently read in book after book on evangelical spirituality. And that is, that there must be something more in living the Christian life. Many Christians who love the Lord Jesus Christ and long to please him, seem frustrated that their spiritual lives are too often dry and lacking in vitality. (pg 9)
It would appear that the reason his audiences raised this kind of question, over and over again, was because they felt he wasn’t addressing the issue that concerned them most — their spiritual thirst. After reading the book twice, I would have to agree with them; it’s not until the final two chapters that Raiter really gets down to the nitty-gritty of evangelicals’ thirst for a deeper relationship with God. However, if you skip the essential, preliminary groundwork of the earlier chapters, you will perhaps resemble a traveller in a foreign land who knows little about its people, culture and resources, and yet — having seen only those landmarks of interest to her — believes she knows that land. So please join me on the journey!

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