Pastor and teacher Jim Houston reviews the insights he has gained over his years of teaching, counseling and mentoring Christians. He passes on what he has come to regard as pivotal concerns for leading a faithful Christian life in current society and culture. This is an advanced discipleship book for those who want to learn from someone with mature spiritual insight who has gone before them. If you are interested in Christian maturity, faithfulness, spiritual formation, and life, and want a guide through the "currents and eddies" of our society and culture, this book is for you.
"Eugene Peterson defines the Christian life as 'a long obedience in the same direction.' James Houston now gives us the fruit of such a life. Houston reminds us that the Christian life is not merely a set of beliefs, a pattern of behavior or a structure of dogma--it is life in a vital, living, mystical relationship with God in Christ animated by the Holy Spirit. For anyone desiring to explore the depths of life with God in this postmodern culture, this book is a must."
"Be forewarned. This book is seriously countercultural! It presents not just a challenge to secular culture but more seriously a challenge to the comfortable ways we have shaped Christian culture. It is a call to embrace our identity as exiles and to live joyfully and prophetically from this place. It is a call to live on the edge, for it is there and only there that we can be truly open to God's presence in the world and the invitations to engagement with the world's problems and challenges. This is a tremendously important book--perhaps the most important book written by this much loved and highly esteemed wise Christian author. I recommend it with enthusiasm."
"Countless of us disciples of Jesus look to James Houston as a kind of 'spiritual father.' Whether it is through his books or lectures or times around a cup of coffee, God has spoken into our lives through his. Thanks to his son Chris, who asked his father to write this book, we now have in print spades of the wisdom he has imparted to us in bits and pieces. Here Dr. Houston opens his heart and mind to us as never before. Here is Dr. Houston at his clearest, deepest, warmest, massively insightful best. Here is the legacy of a father for his children which we can also pass on to our daughters and sons. Come sit at his feet as he teaches us to live wisely."
. . . [It's] a reflective book rather than a prescriptive one; it is intentionally dialectical rather than dogmatic. It is the fruit of many years of reflection on Christian living in our social-cultural context today. . . . Christians who are concerned about intelligent interaction with the culture of today while desiring to live faithfully and joyfully as strangers and pilgrims on this earth, will resonate with much in this book. For many readers this book will prove a challenge as to how much they have thought through things outside the often rather circumscribed viewpoints of their own church's positions and the generalities and cliches of much of the preaching they hear.
At a time when bookshelves seem dominated by easy spiritual self-helps and quick-fixes produced by following seven or nine steps, Houston has given us substantive, disturbing, intellectually rigorous, and sage guidance for the Christian spiritual life.
Two of [Houston's] supreme interests are lifting the idea of personal calling outside the walls of religious institutions and warning institutions against courting the idea of worldly success, noting that "success is a public and cultural rating, whereas faithfulness to God remains hidden and divinely evaluated." He covers these topics well . . . Houston's fascination with historical figures and philosophical themes lends the book a highly academic tone, but at other times it reads like a rich spiritual memoir. Houston is sharing his life with us here, and those wishing to peer into the long life of a highly respected, intellectual Christian mentor will find a rich feast.
Prologue: Why Dialectics?
Part One: Christian Faith as a Way of Life and a New Identity
1. The Breath of the Hidden Life
2. Being Open to a Visionary Life Before God
Part Two: The Priority of Personal Calling Over Institutional Life
3. The Surrealism of Christian Public Life
4. The Journey Towards Becoming a Person
Part Three: Maturing in Community, Transmitting Faith In Person
5. Living the Truth in Love
6. Christian Transmission in an Age of Disjunction
Epilogue: Communal Maturity in Christ
Appendix: Why the Rhetoric of Dialectics?