Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling are both provocative and innovative thinkers, with whom I agree in part and disagree occasionally! I enjoyed, for what it was, their previous effort, and today’s book is similar in my response. In “The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting ancient spiritual practices, evangelism and justice”, Campolo and Darling seem to join up all the different things that different Christians find trendy, and to give us a holistic, helpful and holy vision of the Christian life. My initial cynicism aside, this is an interesting book.
Having (helpfully) very carefully explained what Christian Mysticism is and is not, Campolo opens the book with three very simple but helpful chapters. First we examine “What Mystical Christianity Is All About”, which for Campolo seems very largely to figure as an overdue response to his observation that “As time went by, and the church became more institutionalised an inevitable consequence was to tone down the radical justice imperatives prescribed hundreds of times throughout the Bible“. There is a lot of very helpful stuff in his chapter on “Christian Mysticism and Personal Evangelism”, including a wonderful story about Charles Spurgeon on page 33. Tony’s section closes with “Christian Mysticism and Working for Justice”, where we are boldly challenged and reminded that “The wrong use of religion must be challenged. True Christianity works to liberate oppressed people and heal oppressed creation, not to legitimate their opposition“. Indeed. I personally would have liked to see a stronger link between oppression and sin, etc, but that was clearly not the chosen direction for this book.
Mary Darling contributes Part Two: Fuelling Intimacy: The Mystical Path to this book. This is a very helpful, surprisingly bible-focused and refreshingly straightforward introduction to Christian Mysticism, not in the esoteric ‘wacky’ sense but the orthodox, world-changing kind. The three highlights for me in this part were Chapter 6, helpfully titled “Moving from Self-Awareness to God-Awareness: The Prayer of Examen”, where the traditional usage of the prayer of Examen is helpfully explained and applied. Echoing the biblical themes here, I also enjoyed “Becoming God’s Friend: Lectio Divina“, again a helpful application of a wonderful ancient Christian practice. All this, and the rest of the chapter, contributes to the challenge that makes up Darling’s final chapter, “Committing to a Holistic Gospel”.
The final part of the book is relatively brief, and a summary would ruin it! It is titled “Taking Intimacy with God into the World”, and makes a strong case for putting into practice what Campolo and Darling have been writing. I enjoyed this book, and have taken away a few things to integrate into my own walk with Jesus. There were a few flaws, and the odd implication of some social and theological stances that in my opinion depart from orthodoxy, but for the most part this is a helpful book. For someone looking into the practical outworking of a Christian spiritual life, this would be a very helpful read.