Book review - Part 2

(**Scroll down a couple of entries for the first part of this review**)

Okay, the rest of the review of Stirrings of the Soul (Michael Raiter, (2003), St Matthias Press.)

One of the great things about this book is what it is not. It's not a treatise on the advantages of speaking in tongues; nor does it set out to show that speaking in tongues is entirely unbiblical and something no 'proper', wise, educated Christian would ever tolerate. It's not a book that wades into the 'evangelicals vs. charismatics' debate at all, at least in the usual sense, and does not seek to take sides in any way. It's extremely balanced and in fact shows clearly that a discussion about spirituality is far more than a verbal tennis match about speaking in tongues and other well-known 'spiritual gifts'.

'Balanced' and 'fair' are probably the first two words that spring to mind, actually. Michael Raiter has words of praise AND condemnation for all sides of the spiritual debate, and these words are always based on thoughtful and contextual biblical investigation, as well as anecdotal and societal observation. He seems very clued-in on why so many Christians hunger for spiritual experiences, and why some choices (both right and wrong) are so attractive to us.

The last couple of chapters of the book are where he gets into real-life examples and application. These are the chapters that alternately made me very uncomfortable and also made me say, "Yes! You're so right!" Chapter 9, "Thirsty Evangelicals", was particularly relevant to me, as a reasonably well educated evangelical who has been taught (implicitly) to treat emotionalism with some fear and suspicion. Our God is a relational God and it is ultimately unsatisfying to have all the knowledge but none of the emotion (just as, I imagine, it is unsatisfying to have all the emotion but know nothing about the God you love). Raiter struck a chord with me by saying, "Have you ever wondered... why we make more of what we believe than whom we trust? We are in love with the gospel, but feel a little uncomfortable with Jesus." (p228) Hmmm... ouch.

Wherever you stand with regards to spiritual matters, and whatever your understanding of what 'spiritual matters' actually means, I would recommend reading this book. There is a great temptation, no matter who we are, to gravitate towards that which we feel brings us closer to God. Stirrings of the Soul is helpful in pointing out what the Bible says about our relationship with God and our relationships with other believers. It doesn't merely point out what we are doing right or doing wrong; it points to our great God who has saved us through Jesus and who calls us to love Him. Evangelicals, charasmatics, and everyone else - you have nothing to fear from this book, and perhaps you will gain some great insights into your own understanding of spirituality. I'll leave the last words to Michael Raiter:

"Rightly understood, the gospel will be deeply felt. This is a hallmark of evangelical piety, and while continuing to eschew false expressions of emotionalism, which are contrived, we ought to recognise that the gospel of Jesus Christ will evoke a response of love and gratitude from the whole person, their heart, soul and mind...

...The call here is not a call to a new kind of mystical encounter with the Lord; one which elevates or isolates from the rest of our personhood the emotional or the experiential. Yet, at the same time it is a call not to be less than human in our daily expression of life in the Spirit." (pp 250, 251)


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