Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two Books by Eugene Peterson

While many may only recognize the name of Eugene Peterson in connection with The Message, he has written more than twenty other books that have had a considerable impact of their own. In fact, were it not for one of these two books, he may never have written The Message at all.

Peterson wrote A Long Obedience in the Same Direction thirty years ago and it's fifteen chapters are based on the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), Psalms that were most likely sung as Jewish pilgrims made their ascent to Jerusalem for their holy feast days.

Each chapter begins with one of the fifteen Psalms in The Message translation which provides the framework for the chapter. In fact, it was actually the work done during the writing of this book that, as Eugene says, "provided the impetus for embarking on the new translation".

This form is at times refreshing and at other times distracting. Refreshing because it reads a bit like an expository sermon, dealing with the text as it is written and in sequence, chapter by chapter. Distracting because, as far as a book on discipleship goes, it doesn't have a simple list of logical steps to follow. But, after all, when does discipleship ever work like that?

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: A supplemental read with The Message, anyone looking for a discipleship devotional

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press.

Living the Resurrection is just three chapters long as Peterson describes how the resurrection meets us in the three sacraments of Sabbath, communion and baptism. Though this seems a simple enough of a concept, I found myself struggling to follow the ideas and themes throughout. In fact, I didn't even realize the three central ideas of Sabbath, communion and baptism until it was explicitly stated on page 94. While is a short 123 pages, I must confess it began to feel long since it is only broken up into three chapters (I am a sucker for long books with short chapters).

Peterson seems to write in a more flowing, poetic style rather than the straight-forward, logical form that I am accustomed to in most of my reading. While this is certainly not bad, being aware of it will certainly aid in finding enjoyment in the book (of which there is plenty to be found). The insights and the flashes of beauty in this work come not like the crescendo of a solid argument, but like the subtle turn of a word or phrase that may make you think of your everyday Christian life in a new light.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Fans of Eugene Peterson and The Message

This book was a free review copy provided by NavPress.

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