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Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices [Hardcover]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   216
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.58" Width: 5.7" Height: 0.88"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 6, 2008
Publisher   Thomas Nelson
ISBN  0849901146  
EAN  9780849901140  
UPC  023755026835  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
One of the most influential thinkers in the emergent church movement shines light on the spiritual disciplines that have been in use since the time of Abraham.

Publishers Description
Shines a practical light on the spiritual disciplines that have been in use since the time of Abraham.

In a sense, every day of our lives is labor. It is questionable if you can ever be exactly the same person waking up on two consecutive days. How are spiritual sojourners to cope with the constant change? Many are beginning to explore the ancient Christian spiritual practices that have been in use for centuries, everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of the Sabbath. What is causing this hunger for deeper spirituality?

Brian McLaren guides us on this quest for an explanation of these spiritual practices, many of which go all the way back to Abraham and the establishment of Israel. In the midst of contemporary Christianity, we discover the beauty of these ancient disciplines and the transformation through Christ that each can provide.

Why have certain spiritual disciplines been in use for centuries and why is it important?

It is questionable if one can ever be exactly the same person waking up on two consecutive days. How are spiritual sojourners to cope with the constant change? Many are beginning to explore the ancient Christian spiritual practices, such as fixed-hour prayer, fasting and sincere observance of the Sabbath. What is causing this hunger for deeper spirituality?

Brian McLaren guides us on this quest for an explanation of these spiritual practices, many of which go all the way back to Abraham and the establishment of Israel. In the midst of contemporary Christianity, we discover the beauty of these disciplines and the transformation through Christ that each can provide.

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More About Brian McLaren

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Brian D. McLaren is a Christian thinker, author, and activist. A former pastor with a background in literature, McLaren is the author of over a dozen books, an Auburn Senior Fellow, and board chair of Convergence (

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Introducing us to ancient practices  Dec 15, 2009

The Ancient Practices Series is edited by Phyllis Tickle, and this volume written by Brian McLaren is the first of eight planned volumes that reintroduce us to seven central spiritual practices that have been part of the Christian experience from the very beginning. This particular book expresses Brian McLaren's idea of a generous orthodoxy, and his belief that the way forward involves bringing certain practices from the past into the present. For him, as for many who join him in the Emergent Church Movement, Christian faith is not about propositions and doctrines but a way of life. Near the end of the book, having laid out a path, he confesses his hope that the reader does not see this as a burden - one more thing added to our spiritual "to do" list. I appreciate this acknowledgment of our tendency to receive guidance such as this in a guilt producing manner.

Brian always writes with a certain personalness and winsomeness. The book is full of stories, some personal, some historical. We're introduced to characters such as St. Francis, people who have lived these specific practices: Common Prayer, Sabbath, Fasting, Sacred Meal, Pilgrimage, the Liturgical Year, and Tithing. He also provides context, so that we can incorporate these practices into our lives. In this book there is a recognition of a deep hunger for spirituality - but much of our spirituality today is unfocused. A recent poll suggests that we're very eclectic in our spiritual practices. Indeed a majority of Christians also embrace astrology. We dabble in this and that, hoping to find some sort of spiritual high.

The series then, as laid out in this book, seeks to offer us a spiritual path that avoids three unattractive alternatives - reductionist secularism, reactive fundamentalism, and a "vague, consumerist spirituality." In Brian's book, each chapter ends with a set of "spiritual exercises," questions and experiences for further reflection.

The book is broken into three parts, the first of which out lines the "Way." In a series of seven chapters, we're introduced to the idea that Christian spirituality is one of practice. The importance of these practices, is that they build character, giving us the ability to deal with life's experiences. They help bridge the gap between what we want to be and where we're currently at. Brian writes: "As such, spiritual practices are pretty earthy, and not strictly about spirituality as it is often defined; they're about humanity" (p. 14). Further, even as these practices concern themselves with daily living they enliven us and awaken us to God's presence in the midst of our daily lives.

Having set out the idea of Christian faith being a way of life - as defined by Jesus, by Paul, and the church at large, McLaren lays out the various practices, which can be experienced contemplatively, communally, and missionally. They are practices, because they help train our bodies and spirits for Christian life. They are contemplative, because they invite us to consider God's presence, they're communal because we share in them together, and they're missional because they prepare us to engage the world with God's grace. Brian notes that he ran his first marathon in middle age - after practice. He didn't just go out and run the marathon, he worked up to it. It required physical training - and if we're to go on the Christian way, these practices help train our spirits. On this, he writes: "They say that practice makes perfect, but I wouldn't know about that. What I do know is that practice makes possible some things that would otherwise have been impossible" (p. 87).

The goal in this is to become a person of faith who not only walks humbly before God, but also shows kindness and does justice - "meaning we must address the sick societal structures that keep plunging people into conditions where they will die without the kindness and compassion of others" (p. 120).

These practices, which allow us to take the path of faith, are ancient. They're not necessarily new or faddish. They're time-tested. And when we've lost our way, we rediscover path forward, by looking back so we can reconnect to the path and reset our path. In exploring this past, Brian finds three important ways of spiritual life that go back to before the break between east and west - the via purgativa (katharsis), the via illuminativa (fotosis) and the via unitiva (theosis). In the first set of practices, we seek to purge ourselves of the things that keep us from experiencing God's presence - fasting is a good example. In the second, we open ourselves up to the light of God's presence; Brian equates this with spiritual sunbathing, and finally, having gone through the previous two ways, we find union with God (theosis).

As Brian explores these practices and sets their context, he makes it clear that the end is not becoming more religious, but more alive to God and to our "spouses, parents, children, neighbors, strangers, and yes, even our enemies" (p. 182).

This book, of course, is designed to serve as an introduction to a spiritual pathway. The practices that are developed in the books that follow are not meant to be burdens, but aids to our spiritual training so we might join God in the work of the kingdom. They help us see the world as God sees the world. But, once again, I return to the warning - this pathway isn't meant to be seen as another "to-do list." This is, therefore, an excellent introduction that promises us a fruitful journey as we pick the remaining volumes of this series.

Finding Our Way Should Not Involve New Age Practices  Oct 28, 2009
Unfortunately in this book by Brian Mclaren, the Gospel of Christ, (Jesus Christ dying on the cross and shedding his blood for the sins of those who believe) has been changed into "another Jesus" of 2 Corinthians 11. Mr. Mclaren, as with many other Postmodern/Emergent/Deconstruction writers, are attempting to change the Gospel of Christ's death for sin into a "Social Gospel" of social justice, while condoning un-Biblical contemplative and repetitive mantra prayers (such as the Jesus prayer and other un-Biblical so-called "ancient practices") All of these "practices" that Mr. Mclaren postulates make the false assumption that somehow the Holy Ghost has not been doing His job over the past centuries. Mr. Mclaren has even called the Cross, "False Advertising For God." ([...])

Throughout his book, he makes correlations based on un-Biblical assumptions while appealing to the human (sinful) desire of acquiring some form of esoteric knowledge. On page 145 he states, "The Gospels weren't written until decades after the events they described transpired--perhaps because Jesus created such vitality and foment that it took decades for anyone to have time to catch their breath and write down what had happened." After this statement, one must ask has he ever even completely read the New Testament? The Bible is clear that the books of the Bible were written by Godly men inspired by the Holy Ghost who brought all things to their remembrance. I have noticed his practice of attempting to convince the reader by appearing to have some sort of esoteric knowledge, as in one of his other books, "The Secret Message of Jesus."

On page 51 he states, "the Jewish torah, Christian gospel, and Muslim deen--leads us toward the peace, wisdom, and joy we seek." Believing in the Gospel of Christ and being indwelt with the Holy Ghost is what gives us the joy of salvation. If the Muslim religion is the way, then why are Christians and others murdered daily around the world for only believing in the shed blood of Christ on the cross? I would suggest that Mr. Mclaren do a google search on Christian martyrs in the last year in countries such as India, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, etc. He is placing unity between false religions and Christianity ahead of caring enough about where people will spend eternity and giving them the true Gospel of Christ.

On page 143 Mr. Mclaren states, "I find it interesting that Jesus hung out with fishermen and compared his school of spiritual practice to the school of fishing." Jesus's "school" was making disciples that would spread the gospel of Christ after his imminent death. Unfortunately, Mr. Mclaren thinks that Jesus was sent here to school "followers" on ancient practices of spiritual worship and spreading a "social gospel" where God is in everything and all are one (Pantheism and panentheism) and all religions lead to the same destination. He reinforces this on page 22 by stating, "Abraham--like Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad--had an encounter with God." Thus, he makes the egregious ecumenical mistake of including the false prophet Muhammed in the same Holy alumni as Moses, Abraham and the Son of God, Jesus Christ. By doing so Mr. Mclaren is unwittingly (or maybe wittingly) attempting to fold all religions into one. Muhammed never had an encounter with God (he had encounters with demons). Abraham and Moses obviously did have these "encounters" with the Lord. Then of course we have our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who was obviously the Son of God and God in the flesh. To say that he had an "encounter" with God is completely un-biblical and reduces Christ's deity to make Him 'seem' more like Muhammed.

Repeatedly, Mr. Mclaren creates his own straw-man arguments such as his own reasoning as to why there are "church dropouts", then attempts to save the day with his solutions. On page 126 he states, "The rising numbers of church dropouts don't want to be part of a flat spiritual malformation community." This statement would be closer to the truth: "they are rebels who do not want to do anything for the Lord." His solution is, "to work for reformation...renewal...revolution...and refounding" The Bible is clear that there will one day be a great "falling away" from the faith. Many Bible scholars believe we are in those days presently and this falling away from the Gospel is accelerating to anyone that is paying attention. To make the claim that the church needs a "new reformation" is a false argument. The Bible is easily understood and should be followed if one cares about truth. No further "reformations" or "revolutions" needed.

There is even a discussion on page 116 where Mr. Mclaren postulates a thesis that appears to be based on the false science of the U.N. I.P.C.C. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--where many authors form their worldviews) to back-up his claim that, "we know that our global ecology is in trouble. The balance has been disturbed..." This is another aspect of his "social gospel". And that is that we as humans can create the "Kingdom of God" on earth by just being nice to each other and taking better care of the earth. This is obviously the opposite of what the Bible teaches. We are to witness and make disciples, using the real Gospel of Christ to the non-believer, and do our best as Christians to be good examples. Don't get me wrong, we should always help feed, cloth, and be good ambassadors for Christ, but as long as there are humans there will always be consumption, which is not an evil thing. That is not to say that we should not use technology to reduce our usage of raw materials, etc. to take better care of the earth. But creating a false sense of urgency based on the I.P.C.C. reports should be left to the charlatans and robber barons at the United Nations and not to someone trying to win souls for Christ for eternity.

There are many times in this book where Mr. Mclaren seems to have fallen into a works-based faith instead of the grace of God via Jesus's substitutionary atonement on the cross. One instance in particular is his misuse of fasting. On page 85 he states, "I had little idea how much my life was controlled by bodily appetites." When and if we choose to fast, it is done to obtain special recognition from God to answer prayer via personal sacrifice, not to help us gain control of our own bodies. Obviously we can ask God for that to happen, but should not be the motivation to fast.

There are many instances in this book where Mr. Mclaren pulls Bible verses out of context to make his thesis appear to be supported by Scripture. A few times he even jumps backwards and forwards between multiple chapters of the same book, and taking those verses out of context. For this reason alone, we should always be alert and compare what any man or woman claims against Scripture. Much of what he claims feels, smells, and tastes good, but we should all be awake as to the times we are living in and remember deception is all around us. Adhere to the true Gospel of Christ and believe and then from there you will be freed to do good works that will prove your faith and glorify God. Doing good to assuage our our consciences and forgetting about the Holy One who died for all who choose to believe is actually a sin.

On the back of the book, Jeremiah 6:16 is even taken out of context. A view of the complete verse follows: "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein." Placed in context the meaning of this verse is clear: The Israelites were to walk in the path of righteousness. This verse in no way approves the practice of any legalistic rituals of fasting, sacred meal, appointed times of prayer (which is a Muslim practice), etc. All this accomplishes is an attempt to unite and unify the world's religions under one umbrella, which Christ himself and the apostle Paul repeatedly warned against. What Mr. Mclaren and others like him are practicing is nothing new, just a repackaged form of ecumenicism via deconstruction. Unity for unity's sake is dangerous and goes completely against Christ's own commands.

Because of Mr. Mclaren's un-Biblical worldview (he even endorses evolution on page 175), no clear presentation of the true Gospel of Christ, and his arbitrary labeling of other Christian denominations as "pushy" and/or "stodgy" (he should consider himself before casting stones), I cannot recommend this book to the Christian or non-Christian reader. It can and will lead the believer astray, while deceiving the non-believer as to the true way to eternal life: The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Acts 8:36,37: And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

A fresh take on an old idea  Oct 22, 2009
the idea of balance is prevalent in Christianity right now. but McLaren's whit and gut-level wisdom made this book a solid choice for our small group discussions and personal reflection.

love it!
Our church used this book for our summer reading and discussion group. Everyone was inspired and enlightened by the book- as well as finding it enjoyable. The author takes an expansive and inclusive religious view which appeals to our sensibilities. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to grow in their faith by incorporating their spiritual journey into their everyday real world journey.
McLaren Thinks We've Lost Our Way  Aug 8, 2009

Finding Our Way Again isn't Brian McLaren's best or most important read, but I find myself chewing on what he brought up.

The book introduces a series on 7 ancient spiritual disciplines. The basic thesis is that Christianity's diminishing role and potency is due to becoming just a system of belief rather than a way of life. He shows how these 7 spiritual practices have roots in ancient traditions, in some ways reaching back to Abraham.

A few take aways:

There's a great diagram on how change happens within the church. Rebels leave the established bodies, but eventually it affects even the institutions they left. His point is that God is at work, both within the rebels and the institutions, helping them find common ground in the middle.
The 3-fold path of ancient spirituality- Via Purgativa/Katharsis, Via Illuminativa/Fotosis, Via Unitiva/Theosis. We purge ourselves of embedded sin, bask in the light of God, and join him in his work. He has a cute parable to help communicate this.

The book seems rush and disconnected. Pearls on a string.
The second is a hobby horse that he won't get off of. McLaren opens the book discussing the common ancestry of Judiasm, Christianity and Islam, and how we suffer from the same problems. Though he has some interesting points, he keeps coming back on it, making you think that he's more interested in tinkering with Universalism than teaching us how to find our way again.
Despite these downsides, it has enough pearls that it's worth the short read. I'm wrestling with how to make katharsis a regular part of my life. If you're really interested in spiritual disciplines, go read Foster or Williard or Brother Lawerence.

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