Book Review: Spirituality According to Paul

Spirituality According to Paul Book Review

Today’s book review is one I’m excited to share, because it is of a book that does so much. I started to read it as part of my ongoing reading and research in the topic of prayer and spirituality, but found as I read that the Pauline spirituality envisaged and described here is far more holistic and all-encompassing. Rodney Reeves, the author, who I imagine is not related to Mike Reeves, has written a superb book, subtitled ‘Imitating the Apostle of Christ‘, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Reeves offers an academic yet very accessible book, working through the different ways in which Paul embodied and lived out his theology and spirituality. Early on we learn that Reeves understands Pauline faith as having a centre and focus in Easter, death, burial and resurrection. This forms the structure of the book, with exegesis, theology and relevant anecdote interspersed amongst each other. The book is divided into three parts, each with four chapters.

We begin in Part One: Crucified with Christ. This is a very interesting study of themes of death in the spirituality of Paul – which is not as morbid as it sounds! Reeves draws helpfully on Pauline metaphors regarding loss, sacrifice and crucifixion to speak into the spirituality of the Christian life. We also explore, in my mind powerfully, what it really means to be ‘Holy Temples’, and ‘Free Slaves’. Quite aside from the main theological project of spirituality here, it seemed clear to this blogger that Reeves is helpful in explaining and expounding some biblical imagery.

The book continues with Part Two: Buried With Christ. The key word here, perhaps, is ‘with’, as Reeves explores what it means to be Church, and what that looks like practically. Following on from the linguistic strength of the first part, we are again treated to helpful explanations of Paul’s image of the Body. Readers of this blog will know that one of the things I have been thinking about this year is the Lords Supper (culminating in April with this paper) and Reeves offers some fascinating and helpful comment on that. This section of the book deals helpfully with the interconnected nature of the Christian life, focusing on ‘Worship as Corporate Reality’, ‘Sex and Marriage’, and ‘Generous Fellowship’. Given the placement of this section, and its relevance to much of modern discipleship, it is perhaps the most practially useful part of this book.

The final full section is Part Three: Raised with Christ. This is an obvious third part in Reeves’ narrative, but is perhaps the weakest of the three parts. That said, he makes many welcome observations, with some particularly interesting musings on how Paul might approach some of the moral conundrums of today. He is winsomely clear here, and those thinking about New Testament responses to ethical questions would do well to engage with where Reeves points to, and what he says. This final part flows into the conclusion, ‘The Imitable Life’, a simple and clear call to an imitation of Paul in line with the New Testament, as part of our Imitation of Christ.

Overall, then, a very readable, helpful, ‘biblical’ (in the correct sense) and useful book. It seemed to me, in both style and content, to usefully bridge the gap between academic thought and more ‘churchy’ writing, without compromising on the key distinguishers of either pole. I would not necessarily recommend this book to new Christians, but for those studying Paul (academically and/or devotionally!), looking to develop their devotional/spiritual life, or simply wanting a readable and accessible book about the Christian life, this is an excellent b

 

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