At the beginning of February, I attended a conference with Eugene Peterson at Asbury Theological Seminary‘s Orlando campus. The style of the gathering was distinctively conversational and the content centered around Peterson’s recently completed five-volume spiritual theology (titles listed at end of post; he shared that his wife began calling them the “Peterson Pentateuch” while he was writing them). Peterson began each session by sharing from one of the books in that series: the basic thesis, major points, and some of the background to the book. Then someone from Asbury Orlando who had read the book for that session joined him on the platform for conversation around the book, after which the whole conference was invited to ask questions and join the conversation. There were perhaps 150 of us. I enjoyed the format a great deal. Here are but a few of the thoughts from my notes. I’ll share more this week.
- “You can give attention to someone in a short amount of time, but never in a hurry.” – Being present to someone is much of what it means to love and/0r minister to someone.
- By “Practice Resurrection” (the title of the 5th and final book in the new series), Peterson means that we practice the Christian life, not in the sense of practicing exercises in order to get better at something (though we do want to get better a resurrection living), but instead that we “participate in a way of life that is a practice (like practicing medicine, law, etc), a way of life larger than me, that encompasses me — an integrated way of life embodied in what we think and do.”
- “There are no mysteries in America, just problems to be solved.” – Our proficiency in problem-solving is likely our greatest achievement as a culture and society. But Peterson followed this line by asking, “Is it any wonder that we bring this attitude to the Christian life?” The Christian life is about God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. By contrast, problem-solving is about our seizing control and making something happen.
- Since we believe in God as Trinity, revealed in relationship over function (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), everything about Christianity, Church, and ministry must be/require relationship. We must notice what is de-personalizing and refuse to participate.
The five-volume set consists of these titles:
- Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: a conversation in spiritual theology
- Eat This Book: a conversation in the art of spiritual reading
- The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way
- Tell It Slant: a conversation on the language of Jesus in his stories and prayers
- Practice Resurrection: a conversation on growing up in Christ