I just finished reading a book and figured I would post my thoughts on it here on ye-olde blog so here is my psuedo-review of Brian McLaren’s Finding Our Way Again. Just as a preface, I have heard about McLaren being a controversial figure within Christianity, but this book doesn’t really hit any of that so I hope to push those things aside for this post’s purposes. This book is essentially about looking to Christianity’s past to help us find our “Way” in this post-modern world. McLaren likes the word “Way” in this book partly because the first Christians identified themselves as “The Way,” partly because Jesus is “The Way,” and partly because he really wants us to picture our Christian life as a journey we are on and “the way” is the path we take to get to our destination.

Something I appreciate about McLaren in this book is he presents a reconciling and unifying front and roots it in the simplicity of being disciples of Jesus. He really works (and successfully, I believe) to reconcile religious fundamentalism with hot-headed social activism, and paints a much larger picture of Christianity than we typically see or show. I am also very impressed at how he expressly writes this book from a Christian perspective to a Christian audience, but he also writes to the other two Abrahamic Faiths, Judaism and Islam. I can only speak as a Christian so I cannot attest to whether or not he successfully brings along readers of these other faiths, but that he intelligently works toward reconciling them is a statement to his courage and peace-making.

Anyway, this book serves as an introduction to a series of books on 7 or so practices that we derive from Abrahamic faith, so by nature he doesn’t delve deeply into those practices, he simply introduces them and leaves the other authors to cover each topic in their book. He does, however, point Christians to an ancient practice, his three-fold way. I know that there is a little bit of a fetish with all things ancient within Christianity right now and I don’t want to seem like I’m jumping on that bandwagon but I think time-tested practices like these carry much weight and we should look to them for guidance.

That being said, McLaren discusses the three-fold way of Katharsis, Fotosis, and Theosis (in Eastern Orthodox or Greek terminology) or the Via Purgativa, Via Illuminata, and Via Unitiva (in Western, or Latin terminology). I love this process and many of us protestant Christians take part in it without realizing, but I like how the process gives us a guide as we journey on our way. Through a couple different things, God is showing me this threefold way all over my personal map and so I think it is significant and am working to make it more of a reality in my life.

This is an aside, but I recently started following my younger brother Kenn’s lead and have begun looking things up on Wikipedia like it’s my job. I know it’s a little nerdy, but it’s like hearing a conversation on whatever topic you want to know about, and the wealth of current information available to us is amazing. Anyway, I was looking up some church history and the article I was looking at also outlined this three-fold way as it is pretty standard teaching for non-protestant Christians. I started to get the picture that this is important when Kenji and I were discussing this week’s difficult JR High bible study passage from the book of James (4:7-10), in which James seems to be giving a biblical primer for this three-fold way. Anyway, all these were happening in my life at once and it seems like God might want me to take notice, so I am.

Back to the book, McLaren uses a couple AWESOME metaphors to describe this way and I thought I would sew this post up by sharing his brilliant and explanatory images. The first is that of a dilapidated shack or cottage. A nun offers a someone a place to stay and study within their monestary, but the only place available for them to say is in this shack/cottage. So the person needs to go the the cottage and clean it out to make it livable. He describes the cleaning and clearing process as Katharsis or the Via Purgativa, where we as Christians examine our lives (the shack) and clear out (purge) the things making it dark and inhabitable. He describes how it’s not a very comfortable sleep the first few nights, but as more and more is cleared out, it becomes more habitable.

He then describes the process of Fotosis or the Via Illuminata as letting God’s light into the shack. So once we begin clearing the shack out, we also let more light in and that Illuminates more that needs cleaning, but also makes it livable. He really camps on the images of darkness and light for sinfulness and God, as these were important Christian images before the light bulb was invented.

The final metaphor he uses explains the Via Unitiva or Theosis. This is the process of us uniting with God, becoming more like God and almost being “infected with God”. He uses the image of a fire-poker left in the hot coals. He describes it heating up, developing the same color, the same pulsing heat. It literally catches the coals’ heat, and even transfers it throughout the rest of the poker, though it is still black and seems cool. He talks about Theosis as our goal as Christians, union with God; and this image also alludes to the way that intimacy with God necessarily transfers out to others.

Anyway, this three-fold way is like a guide for what I try to do in my life anyway; examine the sin, purge it, let God’s light in and draw closer to God. McLaren correctly points out that these aren’t levels and one doesn’t move past or one, but they are all working together once we begin the process through Katharsis. I must say, I love the picture and guide this system provides, and am actively working on making these things a little more real in my life. So I really liked the book and it’s content, as well as the author’s writing and the chapters-end spiritual applications, and am trying to make these things happen more in my life, as well as look more to my spiritual mothers and fathers as guides along the way.

PS; Still no birth. Annie is VERY pregnant and VERY uncomfortable. Please pray for our patience and for her and little Groves’ health.