Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism
ed. By Robert L. Plummer
Reviewed by Clint Walker
A generation or two ago people were grounded. They lived in the same town as their parents. They may have even worked in the same place much of the rest of their family did. Today, people are more mobile, and thus less loyal to the institutions that may have defined their lives 50 or 100 years ago. One place where we notice this change is in the church. People are not as defined by their denominational heritage, nor are they as committed to specific religious labels. Journeysof Faith chronicles the journeys of four people away from the expression of their Christian faith they begin their spiritual journey in, and their journey to a different church community within the Christian family.
Three of the converts left evangelicalism for more “liturgical” traditions. The fourth person left their Catholic upbringing to become and evangelical. Each of these people shares their personal perspective on what led them to move to another branch of Christianity. Then, each person has another Christian thinker that responds to their decision from the tradition that they left behind, offering another perspective on both traditions. The dialogue is rich, and allows the reader to think through their own faith through listening to another’s journey.
What is truly unique and intriguing about Journeys of Faith is its balance of head and heart. On one hand, each person shares their own personal journeys from one faith tradition to another, and they share the nature of their personal need, desires, and hopes from a Christian community, and the emotional journey of leaving “home” for a new church “family”. On the other hand, both the people who share their journey, as well as those who listen to them are top notch thinkers. So, one comes to understand the apologetic for each expression of the Christian faith, and the reasoning that each one has on why they are best or right.
Another distinguishing mark of this book is the grace that each person treats the other with, even if they are coming from differing perspectives. People make their points and share their opinions, but there is very little in the way of personal attacks or demeaning language.
Personally, I was challenged by the language, especially in the opening, that contrasted evangelical faith and liturgical practice. As someone who belongs to a mainline church, I believe it is possible to honor much of a traditional liturgy, and yet still have some sense of an evangelical theology. In other words, I think of liturgy as a style of worship, and evangelical as a theological system, and fail to see why they have to be mutually exclusive. I know evangelical Catholics and liturgical Baptists. I felt that, at times, this book neglected this possibility.
This is an excellent book to help people understand how some folks come to their faith, and how other folks find a way to leave their group of Christian believers. I would recommend readers come with an open heart to this book, an awareness of their own spiritual journey, and a willingness to examine how they have come to the Christian convictions they have adopted. If anyone does so, they will be blessed richly, as I was.