Book review - Part 1

I've just finished reading Stirrings of the Soul, by Michael Raiter. The blurb from the back of the book says (in part):

The explosion of interest in spirituality in our society is nothing short of phenomenal. New Age, feminist, environmental, occult, animal, vegetable and mineral... While 'religion' and 'Christianity' arouse little enthusiasm from a disinterested and cynical public, 'spirituality' draws a crowd.

Among Christians, too, there is a flourishing interest in developing a greater 'spirituality'. Many who love the Lord Jesus and long to please him seem frustrated that their spiritual lives - and the church services they attend - are often too dry and lacking in vitality...

...Michael Raiter surveys contemporary spiritualities, highlighting both their enormous variety and their common features, and tracing their historical, cultural and social roots. He then addresses a range of important questions for Christians: What is true spirituality? If we were to meet a 'truly spiritual' person, what would he or she look like? How do we respond biblically to our longing for spiritual intimacy? And is evangelicalism, in its current expressions, contributing to an atmosphere of spiritual dryness?

I found the book enjoyable and challenging reading. There are bits of the book - particularly the style in which it's written - that some people may not like... as with any book. I'll address those things in this blog and discuss my opinion of the book overall in the next blog. (For those who can't wait, I'll simply say that my verdict is extremely favourable!)

Firstly, more than half the book is devoted to tracing the rise of spiritualities over time, and so people may find this a bit dry and be tempted to skip over these chapters to get on to the 'relevant' stuff. I would caution against doing this, because the applications he makes in the last few chapters build on the 'historical' information from previous chapters.

Secondly, Michael Raiter is very thorough in his research. I actually consider this a bonus, but it means there are lots of endnotes to each chapter and there are many people who are quoted or referenced in the book. For myself, my only quibble here is that he used endnotes and not footnotes so I was forced to flick to the end of each chapter whenever a note was used!

Thirdly, he is writing from a Reformed Anglican viewpoint. This is fine, but it means people who are unfamiliar with this particular form of evangelicalism may not know what he's on about when he talks about evangelical beliefs and behaviours. I consider this minor, though, because his explanations all seem to be very thorough and understandable. (But then again, I'm coming from a pretty similar point myself so perhaps I understand it simply because it's familiar...)

That's it for the negatives, and frankly I think they're fairly inconsequential. I'll write more about the content of the book next time.


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