Volume > Issue > Briefly Reviewed: January-February 1984

Briefly Reviewed: January-February 1984

The Broken Image

By Leanne Payne

Publisher: Crossway

Pages: 187

Price: $6.95

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

Pages: 133

Price: $9.50

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

Pages: 187

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

Pages: 293

Price: $8.95

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

Pages: 97

Price: $9.95

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

Pages: 198

Price: $12.95

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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