November 13, 2007

Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book

In Eat This Book, Peterson continues the work he began in his masterful Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places to construct a "spiritual theology." And in this book, he takes up "spiritual reading." Peterson guides into an intentional encounter with the Bible by focusing not just on the fact that we read the Bible, but in focusing on how.

Peterson's focus can be summed up by the guiding metaphor that gives the book its title: eat this book. The metaphor comes from the book of Revelation, where an angel tells John the Seer to eat the scroll he gives him containing God's word. Peterson molds this rather cryptic command into a well-shaped image of how we should take the Bible in when we read it. Scripture isn't for external study, for quantifying or disecting, but it is first and foremost for taking in, digesting, and living.

Near the end of the book, Peterson contrasts two types of readings of the Bible, when he says that instead of treating the Bible as a "thing, an impersonal authority . . . to define or damn others" we should deal "with God's word in a personal, relational, and obedient way." This means acknowledging that it contains "words that mean, that reveal, that shape the soul, that generate saved lives, that form believing and obedient lives" (139-40). This is the journey he leads us on through this book. First recognizing that the Bible reveals a "strange new world," to use Barth's idea, and that we need to enter that world and be shaped by it. So he teaches us how to do that, by being carefully attuned listeners, obedient listeners.

I highly recommend this book. It has rekindled in me a passion for reading God's word, and helped remind me of how I should be doing it and why. We read God's word to be formed by it, and Peterson helps bring this home. Do not miss this book.

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