Book Review — Spiritual Theology

I have been working my way through Spiritual Theology by Simon Chan. IVP sent it to me as a review copy, but I’ve been lost in this marvelous work so much, I’ve lost sight of a “quick read” for a review.

Simon Chan is a Pentecostal in Singapore who makes a call for the Church to return to its roots, which in his case look a lot like Eastern Orthodoxy or, in a sense, Catholicism. It is not a call to go back to a pope. (I wouldn’t mind if Francis I was going to stay around.)

It is a call to understand the rootedness of Early Church tradition and to marry once again theology and practice. We have divorced the two, so those who study “theology” do so “professionally,” meaning they will only be useful in seminaries. Then there are the “practitioners,” who are the “pastors,” but they aren’t very good at theology.

Chan walks the reader through some very basic theology, but roots it firmly in the practical world. He then dives into practical theology. It is a strong call to spiritual formation.

Chan, as a Pentecostal, makes a call to return to the very basics. As a Pentecostal myself, it is refreshing that his view isn’t “speaking in tongues” and “long prayer meetings.” By the basics, it is VERY basic: back to the Eucharist. Center our lives back in the practice of the Eucharist… regularly.

Growing up Pentecostal, I have been enriched by my study of Eastern Orthodoxy and Luther’s theology and practice. I am going to dive more into Wesley’s theology and practice as well, because it is his views of sanctification that become the wellsprings of the Pentecostal movement.

As I have learned these things, I would say that there are probably more than a few Pentecostals who think I’ve left being a Pentecostal. I disagree. What I have NOT done is grow disenchanted with my Pentecostal roots so I can have more angst in my life, then write a blog that will get noticed by the Huffington Post (when angst driven former evangelicals find plenty of audience). I fondly call that site the “Huff and Puff Post.” You have to have some sort of bitterness toward your upbringing and pledge allegiance to some form of new liberalism to get posted there. But, I digress. 😉

I have only been strengthened in my Pentecostal practice by my understanding of Eastern Orthodoxy and the works of Simon Chan. I don’t wish to leave my roots (thus, no coverage in the Huff and Puff Post), but I do desire to ADD to my experience, and bring that depth to my congregation.

Simon Chan calls me to this. I love the depth of his theology and spirituality. It’s not a desire on my part to leave my Pentecostal roots and begin an Anglican form of worship. It is that I want to bring in the necessary components to grow a truly spiritually formed church, which happens to be Pentecostal.

Chan’s book is challenging. Those toward a more Zwinglian view of communion and an Anabaptist practice can hear what he is saying, but not agree. I have moved from a Zwinglian view of communion to a Luther (not Lutheran) view of communion. There is still a lot of Anabaptist in me when it comes to government, but I have been deepened in my faith by the practice of the Eucharist.

Let us walk with a new hunger for the presence of Jesus and for the knowledge of the Holy. Simon Chan makes that call.

 

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