Living the Resurrection by Eugene Peterson

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In this little volume of a mere three chapters, Peterson is interested in “spiritual formation,” the buzz term that has replaced the word “discipleship” in many circles. “Spiritual formation” emerges from the mystical, contemplative wing of Christianity and, while Peterson certainly has some affiliation with this wing, Living the Resurrection does not expose it.

Peterson wants to discuss what resurrection living (i.e. spiritual formation) looks like in everyday life—a commendable project. He sees three saboteurs standing in the way:

• Psychologism that reduces spiritual formation into explanation and manipulation and control. The remedy—resurrection wonder anchored in Sabbath-keeping.

• Escapism that diverts spiritual formation into a search for the esoteric, the ecstatic, and the erotic. The remedy—resurrection meals anchored in the Lord’s Supper.

• Professionalism that takes on spiritual formation and administers the process with the pretension of expertise. The remedy—a company of ordinary friends anchored in holy baptism (pp. 94-95).

Each of Peterson’s saboteurs is legitimate and needs correction. Concerning the remedies, there is no question that the Lord’s Supper and baptism are vital to Christian life and, while controversal, the subject of Sabbath-keeping is worthy of exploring. The problem is that none of these is presented in Scripture as a remedy to Peterson’s saboteurs. His exegesis is forced at best and virtually nonexistent at times. In other words, he is making most of this up. He frequently takes a narrative event and infuses it with weight it was never intended to carry. Eugene Peterson fans will surely protest, but the fact remains that he simply does not prove his points biblically.

Peterson also reveals a bit of his low view of Scripture when he explains Mary Magdalene’s seven demons as either a morally dissolute life or an extreme form of mental illness (p. 26).

Bottomline, this book offers nothing to aid in “spiritual formation” except one small section dealing with Paul’s teachings concerning resurrection living (pp. 102-108). Unfortunately this proved to be a false start and was left undeveloped.

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