Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review of Spirituality According to Paul: Imitating the Apostle of Christ by Rodney Reeves

Spirituality According to Paul: Imitating the Apostle of Christ
Spirituality According to Paul: Imitating the Apostle of Christ
By Rodney Reeves
ISBN 978-0830839469
Intervarsity Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Who was Paul really? Many books have been written on this subject of who Paul is, what his viewpoints were, and what he was trying to accomplish with his life and ministry. With Spirituality According to Paul, Rodney Reeves studies Paul from a different perspective. Reeves asks what Paul's spiritual life was like, and how he believed people were spiritually formed in Christlikeness.

All of what Reeves has to say hinges on two concepts, both of which are very biblical. The first concept is that Christian spirituality and Pauline spirituality are grounded in the paschal rhythm of dying, being buried, and being raised with Christ. The second concept is related to it, and is actually stated first in this text, and that is that Paul presents his life and ministry as a model of this rhythm to those that need further instruction, going to the point of calling people to follow him as he follows Christ.

The entire book follows the outline of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as a model for understanding Paul and his leadership and spiritual life. In the process, some very important and common matters are discussed such as human sexuality, work, and worship. Reeves also covers some more esoteric concepts such as mystery, spiritual warfare, and the life. In addition to this, Reeves covers some attitudes of disciples, such as self-denial and obedience to God.

I thought throughout Spirituality According to Paul, Reeves did a great job of understanding Paul's spirituality in light of a series of narratives. He showed how Paul adopted Jesus' narrative as his own and let the Jesus story inform Paul's story. He also showed how Paul's influence in turn encouraged other people to adopt the Jesus narrative, and define their lives by being "in" Christ. Reeves appropriately shares his own story at times, and describes how the concepts communicated in the book find touchpoints in his narrative.

I read a lot of books relating to spiritual formation. This book is a keeper. It is grace-filled, brilliant, and utterly biblical. It will allow those who follow the trends of spiritual formation to return to the basics of Christian spirituality, and it will encourage people to understand that the message of Paul is not separate from the gospels but instead united with it.

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