Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind by J Heinrich Arnold

Review: Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind
 by J Heinrich Arnold

  • Print Length: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Plough Publishing House; New Expanded Edition edition (January 2, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

Okay, first things first: I never knew who  J Heinrich Arnold was before receiving this book to review. As anyone who reads my blogs knows, I avoid reading much modern theology because I find the more popular ones -- by famous televangelists and theologians-- to be a tad empty. Not that I'm that full or that deep, but I've read enough to know that other theologians --of old-- wrote about certain topics with more knowledge, maturity, subtlety etc.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered the author of this book (or collection of writings) was born in 1913 and died in 1982. Yes, my kind of theologian! He also served as an elder in a Christian communal movement called Broderhuf. I don't know much about the Broderhuf except for being in their neck of the woods one day in our family travels. But I do have a soft spot in my heart for Christians who turn their backs on the world and try to live holy simple communal lives. Unless it gets all cultish and oppressive.

The book is divided into three large sections (The Disciple, the Church, the kingdom of God), which are further divided into subsections such as (under the Disciple) The Inner Life, Repentance, Conversion, Faith, Dogmatism, Commitment, Reverence, Surrender, Sincerity); (under The Church) Community, Gifts, Forgiveness, Unity, Baptism, Lord's Supper, Family Life, Illness and Death, Evil and Darkness, World Suffering; and (under The Kingdom of God) Jesus, The Living Word, The Cross, Salvation, The Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God.

This edition has the Discipleship book, with expanded sections such as taken from different works and from letters. As such, there is a flow to the paragraphs in the sections but sometimes....not. Because the excerpted letter paragraphs are placed in the chapter without introduction.  Still, its good to see these excerpts from the letters which show a very kind pastoral heart...which can be firm if need be.  

One would think that a spiritual leader of people committed to living apart from the ruin hypocrisy of Christendom would be very hard and dogmatic. On the contrary. In the section on dogma we see a person who respects Christian dogma but who seeks primarily that those in his fellowship find the relationship with Christ.

This book is really good. I love what he says --in his firm way-- about love, marriage and sex.

A couple of examples:

"Sex is man's secret, something that he feels touches on his inmost being. Every disclosure in this sphere reveals something intimate and personal and lets another person into his secret. This is why the area of sex is also the area of shame: we are ashamed to unveil our secret before others."

Or this (from a letter):

"Your question, 'Why do I feel attracted toward this boy if he is not meant for me but for someone else?' is a bit of a rebellious one, It accuses someone higher than yourself. Ultimately, it accuses God. Human nature being what it is, we often feel attractions that we have no choice to reject. That is simply part of our human weakness. Who is destined for you, or whether or not someone is destined for you, is not for me to say. The important thing for you is to give your life to Jesus."

Can you imagine getting a rebuke like that from your spiritual leader? And keeping the letter?

He must have been a very great man.

I highly recommend this book. A copy was sent to me by Plough publishing for a fair and honest review.

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