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Christ Plays 1

posted by xscot mcknight

This post is the first in a series of a review of Eugene Peterson’s new book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. There will be a gaggle of speakers in this series, including me (I’ll probably do most of the summaries), Steve McCoy, Joe Thom, Keith Carpenter, Brad Bergfalk, Brad Boydston, Paul Duppenthaler, Rob Merola and Kevin Cawley. So, if you start to see some familiar names, they are all pastors 0r close to it. Expect a good set of reflections about one of the more important books of the year.
Here I am showing Peterson’s book to my students.
Christ Plays is not an easy book to divide up for blogging: 300+ pages and only three chapters! So, we’ll do our best to post on about 30 pages so we can keep the reading schedule to what can be managed during what is the busiest time of the year for many of us, especially pastors. Not only that, Peterson is as poetic a writer as we find today, so he’s got one comment after another that deserves to be touched upon.
Summary: Clearing the Playing Field (pp. 11-47)
He clears the field with definitions that will be used in the book.
This book is about “spiritual” and “theology” for both are needed for either to be genuinely Christian. It is a conversation because it will go back and forth. (The title comes from a poem by Gerald Manely Hopkins.)
Two stories: Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, John 3 and John 4, both illustrate the importance of the Spirit. Great comparisons on pp. 17-18. Conclusion:
spirituality is not a body of secret lore, not about aptitude and temperament, not about you and me — it is about God.
Three texts: Gen 1:1-3, Mark 1:9-11, Acts 2:1-4. Beginning of world, beginning of Jesus’ life, beginning of Church: all about the Spirit. “God alive who makes alive. God the Spirit who imparts spirit. God’s Spirit… is the main action” (26).
Four terms, a quartet: (1) Spirituality (Beyond and Within; breath and life). (2) Jesus: revelation of God. Jesus defines and sets boundaries to the spiritual life and renders our own attempts to make up a spirituality impotent. He sees believing that Jesus is God to be the challenge of the Christian faith. The ordinariness of life is where God chooses to show himself. (3) Soul: “Self is the soul minus God” (37). (4) Fear-of-the-Lord: this is how we live the Christian life. Prayer and worship is how we live before God. Here’s what Peterson means: “a way of life in which human feelings and behavior are fused with God’s being and revelation” (42). “We don’t so much lack knowledge, we lack reverence…. It is not so much know-how we lack; we lack a simple being-there” (44).
And a dance: God as Father, Son, Spirit is the (perichoretic) dance and we are called to participate in this dance of life in God. We participate in the “relationship that is God” (46).
(SM): I loved this chapter and discussion, and found lots of things to think about. My major criticism is this: I think “fear-of-the-Lord” falls short since the essence of his argument to this point his understanding of soul was about personality and relationality, so I would have liked some attention to “love-of-God” and I would emphasized not so much life “before” God (though I’ll cheer on the idea) but life both “with” and “before” God.
StM: I really dig Peterson’s point that “Spiritual theology is a protest against theology depersonalized into information about God” (p1). As an SBC pastor, I find it all to tempting for our people to think theology is done on paper and spirituality is more practical. I think the two things that struck me most in this section were how the John stories pointed to the accessibility of the spiritual (it’s not elitist) and how considering the ‘soul’ takes the sting out of a world that identifies people as resources.



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Tom Ward, Jr.

posted November 21, 2005 at 10:42 am


Scot,
I just finished “Christ Plays…” and found it to be one of the most important, life-giving books I’ve ever read. It was transformative really. I’ve been looking for a pastor, and I think I’ve found one in Eugene Peterson.
Peace.
Tom



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brian

posted November 21, 2005 at 10:47 am


I’m in the midst of reading it right now, it’s a refreshing take on theology with practical depth. Look forward to the future posts.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 21, 2005 at 10:52 am


OK, Tom and Brian — but we’re inviting your responses to each of these posts, too.



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Aj

posted November 21, 2005 at 11:26 am


Any females on board to write a reflection?



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Scot McKnight

posted November 21, 2005 at 12:20 pm


AJ — any who’d like to.



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Susan

posted November 21, 2005 at 12:32 pm


Scot,
I’d love to contribute.
Susan



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Scot McKnight

posted November 21, 2005 at 12:36 pm


Susan,
You’re in — I just wrote to a few blog friends to see if we could get a mega-blog going — but you are all welcome to comment. Fire away.



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Steve McCoy

posted November 21, 2005 at 3:03 pm


Scot, I’d love to hear more about your “fear of the Lord” thoughts. Is your concern with understanding that sort of “fear” in a general sense, or just how Peterson used it?
Also, for all, Mars Hill Audio did an interview with Peterson and they have generously offered the whole, uncut version of it for download here. Good stuff.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 21, 2005 at 3:44 pm


Steve,
For me, “fear” of the Lord is powerful image and thoroughly biblical and in great need of being recaptured today. It is what happens to a human being who comprehends God’s utter holiness and glory. But, as a complete image of our response to God, it fall short because (1) it is not a common response called for by the NT authors and (2) “fear” — even as awe — is not complete enough to describe the fundamental relational nature of our response to God. What I question is its adequacy, and I was surprised that Peterson didn’t use “love” since the surrounding discussion was so relational.



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Marcguyver

posted November 21, 2005 at 5:27 pm


So is it safe to say the Peterson’s take on the act of ‘Salvation’ is mostly spurned by humans having a sense of ‘fear’ towards God and his judgement?
If that is true, I would have to say that I too think that more often than not most of humanity comes to God because of their realization of His love for us and/or our love for Him after we realize what He had done for us.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 21, 2005 at 5:43 pm


Marc,
I’m unclear on your first point — the question. I do not know if Peterson thinks people respond to God’s grace by fear, and I doubt very much he thinks that. His point is that the best way to sum up our life before God is “fear-of-the-Lord.”



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Steve McCoy

posted November 21, 2005 at 6:41 pm


I guess I didn’t read Peterson as saying “fear” is a response to God as much as it is a way of life before God, in the sight of God. But that doesn’t change the fact that if the sum of the law is “love God and neighbor,” the “fear” part might not best summarize how we live before God. I think I agree with you here. Thought-provoking.



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George Polcaster

posted November 22, 2005 at 12:09 am


Scot-
I’m excited that you’re giving attention to this book. I just finished reading it today. Loved it. So much depth and insight. Sounds cliche, but I really feel changed by this book. Peterson sets forth a paradigm–a way of thinking and living–that I believe many of us have been hungry for.



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Clay

posted November 22, 2005 at 12:29 am


I’m slowly working my way through “Christ Plays” and have found it to be quite devotional. I found “fear-of-the-Lord” to be helpful for “the way of life that is lived responsively and appropriately before God…(40)”. It brought to mind NT injunctions to responsiveness like “walk in the Spirit” or “be led by the spirit.” I think in Peterson’s Mars Hill Audio interview he described “fear-of-the-Lord” not as a way of doing but a way of not-doing & the environment in which worship takes. It seems quite theo-centric in contrast to anthropo-centric. But I’m open to correction.



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Anonymous

posted November 22, 2005 at 12:43 am


Ochuk’s blog » Blog Archive » In Ten Thousand Places

[...] Scot McKnight is reviewing Peterson’s new book Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places, and captures it perfectly when quotes, “We don’t so much lack knowledge, we lack reverence…. It is not so much know-how we lack; we lack a simple being-there.” Peterson tells a humorous story in the interview when a woman tells him how she used to hate it when he said in the church service, “And let us pray” and then he would say nothing for five minutes. She had no idea what to do! She simply wanted him to pray and get on with it. [...]



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Marcguyver

posted November 22, 2005 at 8:18 pm


I see, I must have missed the mark on that one. I thought he was saying that most respond to God in the first place because of thier ‘fear’ i.e. reverance of him, or ‘fear’ of judgement for sin.
Seeing that he’s speaking more about our actual walk after our relationship is started, I think that I would have to say that I am definitely more motivated by my love for God than for my fear/reverance for Him. I find myself drawn to Him more because of my need, not because of me realizing how much He deserves my respect; which He does.



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disaster recovery tennessee

posted February 12, 2006 at 7:04 pm


Mint blog design I never installed blog software and need to for my theme on data notebook recovery.I am researching info on how to make a blog. Why did you use this blog and not blogger.com? . A Beginner, CYRIL



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