My spiritual life is guided by two firm convictions. First, I believe in the gospel grammar is indicative-imperative. That is, the gospel–the good news–is first proclaimed and received before we are told how to walk in it. In contrast, I also believe the way is made by walking and some truth is not apprehended by us until it is enacted. It gets into your bones before it enters your brain. This is one of the reasons that the sacraments are such a powerful component to the spiritual life. We are told “eat this . . .drink this” and in our eating and drinking we come to a deeper knowledge of our life in Christ. Grace precedes effort, but effort will sometimes yield a deeper understanding of God’s grace.
A new book from Brian Hedges called Active Spirituality explores the relationship of Grace and effort. Writing from a Reformed, Baptist perspective, Hedges labors to show that though Christians are recipients of God’s unmerited Grace, we are not ‘saved’ to sit on our laurels (as though we saved ourselves). Hedges demonstrates that the Reformed doctrine of the ‘Perseverance of Saints’ doesn’t mean you can sin all you want and still be saved. Instead it means that true believers will persevere in the faith–continuing on the way to sanctification and union with Christ. So in an epistolary style, Hedges crafts thirty-one letters to “Chris,” a young Christian he counsels to keep pursuing God and maturing in his Christian faith. An opening letter to the reader serves as an introduction to this collection.
The letter writing format ensures that each chapter is brief (about three or four pages long). But while the chapters are short, Hedges is not short on content. He discusses at length acedia, that spiritual malaise which zaps our spiritual energy. He also talks about the nature of grace, the importance of participating in church life, the need to be attentive to your own spiritual health, the assurance of salvation, the dangers of self-trust, and how to run the race set before us (and yes, more). These letters to a young Christian, allow Hedges to encapsulate theological truths with pastoral sensitivity and he draws on examples from film, music, literature (especially C.S. Lewis and John Bunyan) as he makes his appeal. Drawing on the Reformed heritage, Hedges has a special love for the Puritans.
I appreciate this book for it’s practical and pastoral advice. I am not quite a Calvinist. I call myself a .5 Calvinist, meaning I am only half way there. Though I think that point five, of TULIP which enshrines the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ described here is a encouraging theology and I like what Hedges does here. Those coming from a Wesleyan-Holiness perspective, will find occasion to disagree with Hedges theology in places (especially as he describes Sanctification). However this book could still be read beneficially by those (like me) outside the Reformed camp. One of the benefits of the letter format, is that Hedges presents his theology humbly. I give this four stars and recommend this book for young Christians. ★★★★
Thank you to Shepherd Press and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.