Streetwise Spirituality by Jim Thomas

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Just as Thomas’ first book, Coffeehouse Theology, had a creative title but conservative apologetic approach, so Streetwise Spirituality may sound like a book geared toward baby busters but offers rather standard advice on spirituality.

Most of Thomas’ counsel is fine, especially for the younger believer just navigating through the sophomore stage of Christian life. He covers topics such as prayer, trusting, temptations, worship and forgiveness. The last two chapters are easily the worst of his two books. Here he tries to demonstrate how God speaks to us and how He leads into His “particular will” (p. 186). While Thomas’ understanding of how God leads and speaks is pretty normal stuff in evangelicalism, it nevertheless is not supported by Scripture (although he attempts to do so) and is dangerous to spiritual development.

What is more disturbing, however, is not so much what he says as are his spiritual connections. He quotes Roman Catholic mystics such as St. Francis of Assisi and even Meister Elkhart whose pantheistic views of God led to his excommunication. He recommends the writings of Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, Brennan Manning and Dallas Willard, all of whom are re-introducing Roman Catholic mysticism to the modern church. He is endorsed by and praises Brian McLaren who is the leader of the postmodern emergent church. This endorsement is particularly odd because McLaren claims to despise almost everything Thomas writes in his books.

So it is hard to know where Thomas really stands. Does he believe what he writes? If so, why does he open the door to a brand of Christianity (see his bibliography, pp. 197-199) which is in opposition to his stated theology? Most of this book would be helpful to the average, but discerning, reader. But stay far away from Thomas’ heroes.

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