The God of Intimacy and Action
The pairing of Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling in the writing of this book was nothing short of brilliant. Author and professor Tony Campolo has long been known as an evangelical champion for the poor and oppressed, believing that the good news encompasses far more than the salvation that gets us to heaven. The name of Mary Albert Darling will be a new one to many readers, but in her capacity as a Jesuit-trained spiritual director, she's an ideal collaborator with Campolo for a book on what the authors call the "holistic" gospel --- one that incorporates evangelism, justice and ancient spiritual practices that have long been unfamiliar to Protestants like themselves.
Their discovery of those ancient traditions, and practicing the traditions in their own lives, prompted Campolo and Darling to write a book that would provide Protestants with a deeper understanding of what is known as Ignatian spirituality --- the spirituality taught by St. Ignatius --- and its relationship to both evangelistic activity and working on behalf of the victims of injustice. The authors set the stage by assuring their audience --- evangelicals --- first, that the spiritual practices that have long been the domain of Catholics are just as legitimate for Protestants, and second, that what they're advocating is "mystical Christianity" and not some form of New Age mysticism. In the introductory chapters, and throughout the book, the authors make it clear that Jesus Christ and His work on the cross is foundational to all of the spiritual practices they follow.
While there are many ancient practices used in contemporary spiritual life, THE GOD OF INTIMACY AND ACTION focuses on three: the prayer of examen, lectio divina and centering prayer. Following Campolo's detailed explanation of what Christian mysticism is, how it brings us into a more intimate relationship with God and how it provokes us to reach out to others, Darling gets down to the business of describing what exactly these three contemplative practices involve. Briefly --- because you will want to buy this book, and I can't do justice to it in these few words --- examen involves taking a daily account of your thoughts and actions, both good and bad; lectio divina is a specific method of reading scripture that draws you closer to God; and centering prayer involves the practice of "stillness" in the presence of God.
These three practices are highly personal, but Campolo and Darling contend that the end result is anything but: "The ultimate purpose for mystically intimate experiences with Christ is to make us into persons through whom God can transform the world that is into the world that God intends it to be," the authors write in the postscript. "Christian mysticism is not an end in itself, but rather is the means to creating a kingdom of people who will not rest until we see 'justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream' (Amos 5:24)."
Evangelicals who have long had this nagging suspicion that there is more to faith than right doctrine and right living should benefit greatly from reading the book and incorporating Ignatian practices into their daily lives, as should those whose work for social justice has lost its spiritual steam. And those who already follow the three contemplative practices will likely find enough here to enhance their spiritual lives. There is simply no other book out there that presents contemplative practice in the context of evangelism and justice; this is one of those sorely needed books whose time has finally arrived.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on July 9, 2007