McLaren begins with the example of St. Francis, who was naked before God. “ Frances joined a long tradition of nakedness in the service of spirituality ... Samuel ... Saul ... Isaiah ... Jesus ...” (vi) Naked we came in, Job said, naked we go out. In between we clothe ourselves in thousands of ways.
This book is about getting naked spiritually. “It's about stripping away the symbols and status of public religion... ...[T]his book invites you to experiment with the naked experience of God... And it's about attending to the well-being of the soul clothed only in naked human skin.” (vii)
McLaren shares his own conversion experience so his readers know he is not a dispassionate observer. What he writes about spirituality has been tested in the crucible of his own experience.
How do we become truly spiritual people? How do we learn to strip away the superficial? How do we nurture daily spiritual experience?
McLaren writes about what it mans to be spiritual. He explored twelve essential spiritual practices. These practices, he writes, are simple, doable, and durable. Founded in ancient traditions, they are basic to twenty-first-century spirituality.
He separates the practices into four stages of spirituality.
Simplicity: Here (invocation), Thanks (gratitude), O (worship)
Complexity: Sorry (confession), Help (petition), Please (compassion)
Perplexity: When (exasperation), No (rage), Why (lament)
Harmony: Behold (meditation), yes (surrender), […], (contemplation)
As with all of the other books I have read by McLaren, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that I like the way he has arranged the disciplines to reflect the growth in one's spiritual life. It seemed to describe my spiritual development as well. I can see some who have gotten stuck in certain places, say, simplicity, and have not moved on. Reading the way McLaren describes spirituality helped me to understand where people are in their spiritual experience.
The bad news is, just when I think McLaren is evangelical, he writes something like this: “... Protestant, Evangelical … Sunni or Shiite … the possibility of naked spirituality remains a live option.” (11) Or, “A spiritual life is a Spirit life...” (18) Or, “Jesus was right. Paul was right. John was right. The Buddha was right.” (239)
Although McLaren says he is a Christian, he includes the spirituality of other faiths as if they know God to the same extent as Christians. He does not seem to acknowledge Jesus' claim that no one can really know God unless they know Jesus (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22).
There is much to learn from McLaren but he must be read with discretion.
There is a group discussion guide way in the back, after the footnotes. I missed seeing it at first.
HarperOne, 280 pages.