Monday, November 2, 2015

52 Original Wisdom Stories by Penelope Wilcock

This book is not what I was expecting. It originated in England, where Christianity is sometimes practiced a bit differently than in the U.S., and I think American evangelical Christians will not appreciate some of the book's content.

The short stories revolve around an elderly English couple married for eight years. Both have been married and divorced before and both have left the churches of their youth. Sid, the husband, is now Quaker. Rosie, well, Rosie goes to a church here and there from time to time. The stories contain their dialog about or thoughts on spiritual things, including the liturgical year, climate change, and more.

There is an acceptance of other religions that may make American evangelicals terribly uncomfortable. In the very first reading, Eckhart Tolle is quoted. There is an odd discussion that indicates Matthew found nothing wrong with the Zoroastrian way, as long as it was going toward Jesus. (42) “[Sid] believes that every religion has its insights and contributions to make – its offerings for the altar of the one, true, living God.” (47) In one conversation, Rosie says it doesn't make sense to her “that Gandhi and the Dalai Lama will go to hell because they weren't Christians...” (120) She also says, “If people call God Allah or Shiva or Vishnu, why would he mind?” (120) In another story she quotes from a Zen master. (139) She also quotes from Taoism a few times. She thinks the Rapture has begun because animals are going extinct, going back home, passing into the mystery. “Isn't that the Rapture?”, she asks. (151) Rosie says of angels in the Bible, “...they got there from the Zoroastrian influences, didn't they?” (220)

And then there is the reference to Masaru Emoto, said to have discovered that writing a positive phrase on a water jar's label changed the molecular structure of the water inside. Sid relates this pseudoscience to the Eucharist. (178) That is just strange.

Yet there are times when the readings are distinctly what I would identify as evangelically Christian. One example is Rosie's short talk on John 15. She reflects on being able to do nothing unless abiding in Him, “...now that I can certainly believe!” (143) She also talks about the words of Jesus working powerfully within her and that her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. There is a discussion of light with insights about God unfolding fractally that was amazing. The concept of God being like a hologram, where each part is the whole, is thought provoking.

Readers will learn much about the saint's days and feast days in the liturgical year. We read how the (pagan) Celts wove Christianity into their ancient rhythm of fire festivals. Since Sid is a Quaker, we learn quite a bit about that spirituality too. Wilcock includes a few questions for discussion and a prayer at the end of each reading.

I am puzzled by this book. There are times when it reflects biblical truth well and Sid and Rosie sound like what I would call truly Christian. There are other times when I think their ideas and beliefs have wandered very far from Christian faith as I understand it.

I would use discretion in reading this book. I can't recommend it for general devotional use. If one wanted to learn about the origin of the special days in the liturgical year, I think there are much better resources than this book.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

Penelope Wilcock is the author of The Hawk and the Dove novels and many other books. She has years of experience as a Methodist minister and has worked as a hospice and school chaplain. She has five adult daughters and lives in Hastings, East Sussex.

Monarch Books, distributed in the U.S. By Kregel, 258 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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