Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Revealing Review

Last night I read a review of Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. I have not read the book so I cannot comment on the reviewer's take on the writing style or content, though I have purchased the Kindle version and hope to read it this summer. What caught my attention though, were his theological concerns.

He is critical of the spiritual mysticism which comes through and supports this criticism by listing authors who have influenced Voskamp or whom she quotes. The list is:  Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Annie Dillard, and Dallas Willard. Now this gets interesting to me, because with the exception of Brennan Manning, I have read works by each of these authors, and while I don't agree with everything they write, just as they would not agree with one another, I have learned and been influenced for the good by them. In fact I hope very much that my daughters will one day discover their writings and be drawn closer to Jesus because of them.

St. John of the Cross
Another thing he is critical of is her using sexual metaphors in describing her relationship to God. Now these may not be what I would find most comfortable, but my goodness, has he not read Song of Songs? For over two thousand years, one way the church has interpreted the Song of Songs is as a metaphor for Jesus and the Church. I would suppose the reviewer is not a fan of St. John of the Cross, either.

That Voskamp finds special meaning and experience in a Roman Catholic Cathedral gives the reviewer more cause for concern  because as he says, "... her ecstasies have to happen in a place dedicated to a false gospel of salvation by grace plus works rather than a gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone?". He apparently does not know of, or finds insufficient,  this understanding reached between the RCC and the Lutherans. On October 31, 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, these two groups affirmed:
Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.
Sounds like sola gratia to me.

Now, I'm not trying to beat up on this reviewer, which is why I'm not linking to the review or giving his name. Nor do I think all of his concerns are without some merit. He warns those who may read Voskamp's book to not think that because they do not have the same experiences with God as the author's,  that their relationship is somehow less, and I think this is a good caution.

I receive this review as a lesson, mostly, though, because we interpret everything in this life through a filter influenced by culture, presuppositions, doctrine, experience etc. It is, I think, a wise thing to acknowledge this, and to maintain a bit of humility and generosity in our interpretation of what others say and do. I believe in objective truth - I just have to keep reminding myself that I neither know it all nor have a handle on what I do know.

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