Practice Resurrection – a conversation on growing up in Christ – By Eugene Peterson

Defusing The ‘C’ Bomb – A Book Review of Eugene Peterson’s “Practice Resurrection” –  By Bill Dahl

Peterson, Eugene H. Practice Resurrection – a conversation on growing up in Christ, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Company Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K. Copyright © 2010 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Very few understand how to defuse the “C Bomb” as Eugene Peterson does.  Peterson speaks to the various dimensions of his expertise with the device like few can. His skill with language have been honed by years of training. Yet, for the layperson – the communication is clear, simple and riveting as he dances with his subject matter: “There is more to life after birth than mother’s milk, sleeping and waking, walking and talking. There is God. P. 1.

He selects a metaphor for this lesson, Practicing Resurrection. For Peterson, a metaphor is “a word that makes an organic connection from what you can see to what you can’t see.” P. 1. Yet, be careful handling what you can’t see — it may cause damage to the Christian, the Church and Christianity (The “C” Bomb): “It is true that the metaphor of growth is used frequently, as in “church growth” and “growing churches.” But it is also obvious that the metaphor has been torn out of its origin in biology and emasculated into an abstract and soulless item of arithmetic, a usage as remote from the biblical soil as is imaginable – an outrageous perversion of the metaphor and responsible for an enormous distortion in the Christian imagination of what is involved in living in the kingdom of God.” P. 3.

What does “practicing resurrection” mean from Peterson’s perspective? Listen to the following:

We live our lives in the practice of what we do not originate and cannot anticipate. When we practice resurrection, we continuously enter into what is more than we are. When we practice resurrection, we keep company with Jesus, alive and present, who knows where we are going better than we do, which is always “from glory unto glory. P. 8 —  “The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life.” P. 12.

So, what’s the problem? Sounds simple enough. Here’s the Peterson perspective: “We’ve been at this for two thousand years now, and people are not clamoring to join us.” p. 14. “With God depersonalized and then repackaged as a principle or formula, people could shop at their convenience for whatever sounded or looked as if it would make their lives more interesting and satisfying on their own terms. Marketing research quickly developed to show us just what people wanted in terms of God and religion. As soon as we knew what it was, we gave it to them.” p. 23  God is not an idea. P. 34.  The Bible is not a book to carry around and read for information about God, but a voice to listen to. P. 33.

Well, what type of qualifications does one require to “practice resurrection” and become involved in this sort of lifestyle? Listen to Peterson: “Fundamentally, work is not what we do; we are the work that God does.” Pp. 98-99.

Huh? I don’t understand. Can you explain further Dr. Peterson? “

If we calculate the nature of the world by what we can manage or explain, we end up living in a  very small world. If we are going to grow to the mature stature of Christ, need conditions favorable to it. We need room.” P. 54. “Existence as we experience it is a kind of chaos. Things happen with apparent unpredictability  and in a disorderly way. Life is a constant struggle against this disorder, and so we attempt to impose some kind of order upon it with our clocks and watches, our schedules and rules. The natural energies of living tend toward chaos.”

OK then….sounds like we have to become a bit more imaginative? Eh? “

“We live in a language world in which every “you” gets neutered into an “it” and imagination is crowded to the sidelines by numbers. P. 55 But God is consigned to the sidelines, conveniently within calling distance to help out in emergencies and be available for consultation for the times when we have run out of answers. “P.56.

Hmmmm… sounds like you need to be called into this type of life. What’s a calling look like to you Dr. Peterson?A Call is not an impersonal cause that makes something happen in a mechanical way in obedience to the laws of physics, like a baseball that is launched by a swung bat knocking it out of the ballpark. Call comes into our ears, beckoning us into the future, bringing us into a way of life that has never been experienced in just this way before: a promise, a new thing, a blessing, our place in the new creation, a resurrection life.” P.34.

Wow! Thank you Dr. Peterson – This seems like dangerous work…a lifestyle that one must be called to. How do you characterize your calling to this work of practicing resurrection – living as a Christian, working with Christians, with the Church – this thing we call Christianity – defuse the “C” Bomb for us would you please?

I realized that this was my place and work in the church to be a witness to the truth that dazzles gradually. I would be a witness to the Holy Spirit’s formation of congregation out of this mixed bag of humanity that is my congregation – broken, hobbled: crippled, sexually abused and spiritually abused, emotionally unstable, passive and  passive-aggressive, neurotic men and women. Men at fifty who have failed a dozen times and know that they will never amount to any thing. Women who have been ignored and scorned and abused in a marriage in which they have been faithful. People living with children and spouses deep in addictions. Lepers and blind and deaf and dumb sinners. Also fresh converts, excited to be in on this new life. Spirited young people, energetic and eager to be guided into a life of love and compassion, mission and evangelism. A few seasoned saints who know how to pray and listen and endure. And a considerable number of people who pretty much just show up. I wonder why they bother. There they are. The hot, the cold, and the lukewarm, Christians, half Christians, almost Christians. New-agers, angry ex-Catholics, sweet new converts. I didn’t choose them. I don’t get to choose them.”  p. 27

Any parting words for us Dr. Peterson? Any special qualifications to enter into relationship with the resurrection lifestyle you speak of?

“God reveals himself in personal relationship and only in personal relationship. God is not a phenomenon to be considered. God is not a force to be used. God is not a proposition to be argued. There is nothing in or of God that is impersonal, nothing abstract, nothing imposed. And God treats us with an equivalent personal dignity. He isn’t out to impress us. He’s here to eat bread with us and receive us into his love just as we are, just where we are. “

Be “Healthy in God, robust in love.” P.29.

Thank you Eugene H. Peterson – the fourth volume of blessing you have bestowed upon us. Be safe – please continue to invite us into your life –  sharing your experiences and perspectives. We are refreshed and encouraged by you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.