Briefly Reviewed: January-February 1984
The Broken Image
By Leanne Payne
Review Author: Nance Wabshaw
In recent years there has been a plethora of books on homosexuality rolling off Christian presses. There have also been even more on inner healing, or the healing of memories. Leanne Payne’s book is a watershed on both topics.
Her fundamental concept is summarized in her phrase “Incarnational Reality” — the presence of God to which we must always rally on all levels of our being. Concerning one woman’s manifestations of deep healing, Payne writes, “This is healing of memories: forgiveness of sin applied at the level for which it was intended, that of the deep heart (mind or unconscious). She had other steps to take: those of learning how to ‘practice the Presence’ of Jesus — the discipline of always calling to mind the truth that He was with her whether or not she could see or sense Him in any way.” To think of penance or the forgiveness of sins as actually effecting a fundamental change or increase of inner freedom within a person is today, unfortunately, a radical thought. The church, in so many ways, hardly believes what it believes anymore!
Although this book is applicable to all types of sexual dysfunctions or emotional disorientations, it deals primarily with the healing of the homosexual, and is thus potentially open to attack from many sides. Homosexuals (and “straights”) who believe that homosexuality is natural, and need not, therefore, be “fixed,” will undoubtedly discount the book. Those psychologists who, having failed to mend the torn parts of gay psyches — and who thus counsel everyone to accept the darkness and, in effect, call it light — will be appalled and perhaps threatened with the contents of the book. But Payne’s “success rate” cannot be discounted. Her approach is to take a person at his word — i.e., that homosexuals are deep within themselves uncomfortable with their condition. In the tradition of the confessional, in which it is a major sin of omission to avoid those things which make you “uncomfortable,” no matter what the reason, Payne deals with what is burdening the hearts and minds of those who seek her out. She sees lives transformed and redirected through the power of the Holy Spirit. And this sort of thing makes many uneasy.
The people in the case studies that Payne cites all have more severely than the average person suffered a crimp in the development of their personal identities and self-perceptions. Usually fairly early in life, these people have taken a different psychosexual turn in the road, one which almost always had something to do with one or both parents. In searching for relational identity, the way in which most people came to relate emotionally to the opposite sex was not possible for these people. Through a series of choices made in the name of survival and identity struggle, these men and women eventually came to a point of compulsive orientation toward their own sex. The book offers a clear outline of the process whereby each one of us comes to our true identity in a proper relationship with God, which in turn, begins a process of undoing the kingdom of darkness and bringing in the Kingdom of God.
This book is directed not only to those who are concerned about the problem of sexuality, but also specifically for the Christian counselor who is seeking both a methodology and an integrated theology of sexuality and wholeness. It is difficult to imagine a counselor who would not be grateful for the excellent case studies and hard-won insights integrated with Scripture and church tradition which this book offers.
The Broken Image is an exciting, carefully wrought portrayal of the supernatural mending of “the broken image” within each of us — not only the homosexual sufferer — that image of God within us of which God will not let go and into which He ardently desires that we grow. Payne describes in loving, wise, and fascinating prose the way back — the process through which we can begin to look within ourselves and see the image of Christ instead of the distorted reflections of a broken mirror. It is a book to make glad the aching hearts of man and woman alike in our age of sexual tyranny and confusion.
The Mystery of the Ordinary
By Charles Cummings
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Author: Julanne B. Schmidt
In The Mystery of the Ordinary, Charles Cummings paints a picture of Man, that masterpiece of God, made “but little lower than the angels.” Cummings says that “it is not so much what I do that makes me worthwhile as what I am; for I am always more than I do in life, or fail to do.”
First, Cummings stands, as it were, within man, as he likens the five senses to “five doorways through which the world enters the person and the person interacts with the real world. And through the doorway of the five senses, as we will discover, it is possible for human persons to approach a relationship with God their creator, a relationship that may eventually go far beyond the sensate without ever losing its rootedness in the realities we can hear, see, touch, smell and taste.”
After Cummings explores the deeper meaning of the senses of hearing and seeing, he changes his vantage point to look at man from outside, scrutinizing his activities of standing up, walking, resting, and eating and drinking. Finally, he courageously and unflinchingly draws us where we would prefer not to go: into the place where hurting is.
In order to “discover the mystery of the ordinary,” Cummings says, “what is helpful is to be gently, attentively present to the full reality of our human experience here and now. Then these ordinary happenings can become vehicles that carry us towards the mystery of God.” Cummings follows the path walked supremely by Jesus of Nazareth: “Consider the lilies of the field…”; by Brother Lawrence, practicing the presence of God amidst his wine kegs and pots and pans; by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, deliberately seeking sainthood via the “little way”; and by countless others able to see the “invisible within the visible before me.”
It is good for us to be reminded of the “mystery of the ordinary,” we of the 20th century — instant breakfast, news via satellite, Pac-man, plastic-card world. We need to be reminded to slow down and look and listen and feel once again. Cummings’s topic is certainly not new, and it could have been humdrum or hackneyed, but it is neither.
Cummings concludes with hard questions about pain and hurting. He writes, “I do not love the darkness and hurt, but love in the darkness and hurt.” We find ourselves, then, with Cummings and with the mystics, those lovers of God down the tunnel of time, gazing into the cloud of unknowing at the final mystery which is God, beyond our understanding, in whom, finally, we become fully human and through whom all our needs are met.
A Whirlwind Named Tim
By Sheila Cragg
Publisher: Vision House
Price: No price given
Review Author: Maria Vree
This is a true story of the struggles of a Christian family. Tim Cragg lives in Garden Grove, California, with his mother, Sheila, his father, Ron, and his older brother, Kevin. Tim is a hyperactive child with epilepsy. He must take pills for his temper tantrums. Little things set him off, and his parents must grab him, and brace him with their arms and legs until he settles down, sometimes for as long as an hour. After this, he cries, and tells how he can’t control himself.
Journey with Tim and his family through series of tests, changes, tantrums, and doctor appointments. Read and experience times of hope, exasperation, and love, and learn how the Craggs become a closer family.
This book — addressed to teenagers and adults — is expressed so you feel as if you were going through life with Tim. At times I wanted to pray with Tim’s mother. I wanted to be Tim’s friend and comfort him. During some parts, my heart was pounding; in other parts, I wanted to cry. Also, I felt the exasperation Tim’s brother and parents felt. The book opened my eyes: I realized how grateful I am for my health.
The Message of the Bible: An Orthodox Christian Perspective
By George Cronk
Publisher: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press
Review Author: Mary Ann DeTrana
George Cronk, professor and active Eastern Orthodox author and lecturer, has written an introductory study of the Old and New Testaments, in which he tells what the Bible says from the beginning of Genesis to the very last word of Revelation.
This alone would be enough, but it is only the framework, the skeleton, with which the author supports the real purpose of the book, which is “to present a coherent survey of the central themes of the Holy Bible, and to outline, from the standpoint of [Eastern] Orthodox biblical theology, the general message of God’s scriptural revelation.”
The meticulous organization of the material covered has created a useful tool for Bible study for anyone. The study begins with a discussion of the Eastern Orthodox approach to the study of the Bible, which is of service to all readers. Orthodox or not, because it clearly establishes the author’s perspective at the outset. The dilemma of which Bible to use for study is discussed, as is the reason why Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Bibles are not identical.
The message of this fine book is that we must develop a “scriptural mind,” so that we may critique the world and discern God’s will for us in this life.
The Continuity of Christian Doctrine
By R.P.C. Hanson
Publisher: Seabury Press
Review Author: Jeffrey Steenson
The problem of the development of doctrine — how we got from the simple faith of the New Testament Church to the creeds and theological perspectives of the Church in later ages — is a complicated matter, and so it is good to have this brief but provocative study from a recently retired Manchester theology professor and (“moderate”) Anglican bishop. A man of Bishop Hanson’s temperament inevitably steps on many toes as he conducts his readers through this field.
While Hanson has a somewhat jaundiced view of Church tradition, he criticizes the radical (Protestant) theologians’ rejection of continuity and development in doctrine with exceptional severity. Theologians such as Maurice Wiles and Dennis Nineham are given a rough ride for their view that the essential continuity of the Christian faith from age to age is not doctrinal, but rather a mood, a way of living or some such. Hanson characterizes this view as nihilistic, as “Christian doctrine simply as a stream which wanders where it wills,” as “‘one damn thing after another.’” Historical continuity is essential to Christianity, Hanson argues, and it must have a doctrinal dimension since Christianity above all else claims to be true.
However, I don’t think the final verdict is in on the appropriateness of the kind of “biblical criticism” Hanson is happy to share with the radical theologians. For instance, Hanson says, “We cannot today believe that [Jesus] was conscious of a continuity of existence with a pre-existent Word, that in the back of his mind there was always a memory of his eternal life with God the Father as the Second Person of the Trinity.” But elsewhere the doctrine of the eternal pre-existence of Christ, which we find in the Nicene Creed, is treated as a valid development by Hanson. To hold both of these positions simultaneously strikes me as being an intolerable state of affairs — how is continuity served when we know something about our Lord that he allegedly didn’t know?
Spirituality for Ministry
By Urban T. Holmes III
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Author: John Throop
When Urban T. Holmes died suddenly in the summer of 1981, the Episcopal Church lost one of its most fertile theologians. Spirituality for Ministry is the work of a man in the prime of his thought; it contains a wealth of insight and profound practical application for the everyday cycle of prayer and ministry of both the clergy and laity.
Terry Holmes is concerned here, not so much with teaching clergy and laity how to pray as with attempting to discern how his Church actually is praying and working, and then nurturing this spirituality with reflection upon the ancient masters so that the Church today can more effectively draw from the deep wells of Christian prayer and piety.
Holmes re-explores the old monastic vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity so that they become particularly relevant to pastoral spiritual discipline and piety. He calls upon parish clergy to develop a parish piety. Holmes gives no prescription for numerical growth in parish life, but he does give some direction for developing spiritual depth in a parish. In the final chapters, Holmes stresses the need for clergy and lay people to have spiritual directors or partners. Angels too often look like demons, and demons can look like angels on the path; what looks smooth is rough, what looks dense can be clear. The spiritual life is that way, and we cannot figure it all out on our own. We become more vulnerable, accountable, and responsible for our spiritual lives when we find a soul friend, and thus open ourselves to God in new ways.
The praying parish priest can intervene and help people see God’s presence in tragedies, which Holmes calls “events of enrichment.” It is here that Holmes becomes most poignant in his work, most personal in his effect. Often, he notes, the great tragedy in parish life is a death, which, ironically, is when we are most aware of God’s presence (or absence). It is then that we are most out of control, most dependent — begging to hear a word from the Lord. It is then that we call upon whatever spiritual strength we possess or can be given, when the clergy is the holiest and the Church prays the hardest. But should this not be so? After all, “The fundamental metaphor of the Christian story is that as we die with Christ we are raised with him. Death is the condition of life. We discover our life in our identification with death, particularly as it is experienced collaboratively. Perhaps the principal pastoral paradigm for the Christian life is the ministry to the dying, because we are all dying. This is the ultimate truth about us, and the truth that is ours is a ministry of ultimates.”
Within weeks of finishing these words, Holmes himself was dead, the victim of a stroke. In this book he engaged in a ministry of ultimates to his Church and its clergy. Through this book, published posthumously, Holmes’s ministry and definition of ministry live on. Spirituality for Ministry is a celebration of life and death and prayer, a fitting requiem for a prayer.
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