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Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology

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Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places reunites spirituality and theology in a cultural context where these two vital facets of Christian faith have been rent asunder. Lamenting the vacuous, often pagan nature of contemporary American spirituality, Eugene Peterson here firmly grounds spirituality once more in Trinitarian theology and offers a clear, practical statement of wha Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places reunites spirituality and theology in a cultural context where these two vital facets of Christian faith have been rent asunder. Lamenting the vacuous, often pagan nature of contemporary American spirituality, Eugene Peterson here firmly grounds spirituality once more in Trinitarian theology and offers a clear, practical statement of what it means to actually live out the Christian life. Writing in the conversational style that he is well known for, Peterson boldly sweeps out the misunderstandings that clutter conversations on spiritual theology and refurnishes the subject only with what is essential. As Peterson shows, spiritual theology, in order to be at once biblical and meaningful, must remain sensitive to ordinary life, present the Christian gospel, follow the narrative of Scripture, and be rooted in the "fear of the Lord" -- in short, spiritual theology must be about God and not about us. The foundational book in a five-volume series on spiritual theology emerging from Peterson's pen, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places provides the conceptual and directional help we all need to live the Christian gospel well and maturely in the conditions that prevail in the church and world today.


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Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places reunites spirituality and theology in a cultural context where these two vital facets of Christian faith have been rent asunder. Lamenting the vacuous, often pagan nature of contemporary American spirituality, Eugene Peterson here firmly grounds spirituality once more in Trinitarian theology and offers a clear, practical statement of wha Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places reunites spirituality and theology in a cultural context where these two vital facets of Christian faith have been rent asunder. Lamenting the vacuous, often pagan nature of contemporary American spirituality, Eugene Peterson here firmly grounds spirituality once more in Trinitarian theology and offers a clear, practical statement of what it means to actually live out the Christian life. Writing in the conversational style that he is well known for, Peterson boldly sweeps out the misunderstandings that clutter conversations on spiritual theology and refurnishes the subject only with what is essential. As Peterson shows, spiritual theology, in order to be at once biblical and meaningful, must remain sensitive to ordinary life, present the Christian gospel, follow the narrative of Scripture, and be rooted in the "fear of the Lord" -- in short, spiritual theology must be about God and not about us. The foundational book in a five-volume series on spiritual theology emerging from Peterson's pen, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places provides the conceptual and directional help we all need to live the Christian gospel well and maturely in the conditions that prevail in the church and world today.

30 review for Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    This was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. I see that several reviewers have mentioned this isn't an easy book, and I might agree with them. However, I chose to listen to, rather than read, this book. The audio production of this work (much like the audio production of Eugene's The Message) is excellent and really helps with understanding what's being said. The phrasing of words and ideas can sometimes be communicated by voice more effectively than by written word. The breadth of this b This was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. I see that several reviewers have mentioned this isn't an easy book, and I might agree with them. However, I chose to listen to, rather than read, this book. The audio production of this work (much like the audio production of Eugene's The Message) is excellent and really helps with understanding what's being said. The phrasing of words and ideas can sometimes be communicated by voice more effectively than by written word. The breadth of this book is wonderful. He explores dozens of themes in the story God is working out throughout history and our lives. You'll learn much and be better for having read this.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michele Morin

    Life, Life, and More Life We picked raspberries a couple of weeks ago — the free kind that grow along the edges of fields and in the company of thistles. They were succulent. I could wrap words around a description of raspberry picking: the gentle encompassing pressure that releases a perfectly ripe berry from its stem; the empty white cone that is left behind on the bush; the scratches on hands and forearms; the sticky red fingertips that carry home the smell of summer and bee-buzzing sweetness. Life, Life, and More Life We picked raspberries a couple of weeks ago — the free kind that grow along the edges of fields and in the company of thistles. They were succulent. I could wrap words around a description of raspberry picking: the gentle encompassing pressure that releases a perfectly ripe berry from its stem; the empty white cone that is left behind on the bush; the scratches on hands and forearms; the sticky red fingertips that carry home the smell of summer and bee-buzzing sweetness. But — there is no literary technique, no class in horticulture that comes close to the essence of picking raspberries. For this, one must go into the bushes and experience life in the raspberry patch. This is the nature of knowing God as well, for Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, and to live from the heart what we know in our heads, we must go crashing into the bushes with the thistles, thorns, and mosquitoes. This is the message of this first volume (2003) of Eugene Peterson’s classic series of five conversations on spiritual theology. The term “spiritual theology” refers to “the specifically Christian attempt to address the lived experience revealed in our Holy Scriptures and the rich understandings and practices of our ancestors as we work this experience out in our contemporary world of diffused and unfocused ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.'” (5) Peterson borrows a theme from Gerard Manley Hopkins and expands upon it with engaging examples and sharp Scriptural observations that argue for this truth: “The end of all Christian belief and obedience, witness and teaching, marriage and family, leisure and work life, preaching and pastoral work is the living of everything we know about God: life, life, and more life.” (1) He goes on to support his argument through beautifully detailed exposition of three of those “ten thousand places” in which Christ plays and in which we all go about the business of living our days. Christ Plays in Creation Creation’s Firstborn invites believers into a life of wonder. The Greek word kerygma, a “public proclamation that brings what it proclaims into historical reality,” (53) frames the impact of His miraculous birth and sends readers looking to the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 for help in shaping a Christ-following life. Firmly grounded in time and space, we find that the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are also gifts marked by the sacredness of creation. John’s Gospel affirms in “theological poetry” (87) that Jesus was indeed “at play” in the Genesis creation. Christ Plays in History As creation points our thoughts toward life, history outside the Garden of Eden has been characterized by a series of deaths. Even so kerygma — good news! — appears in the midst of the mess because the death of Jesus redeems the mess of history and takes the edge off the truth that one day death will come to each of us. “This conjunction of death, Jesus’ and mine, is where I begin to understand and receive salvation.” (143) Peterson takes his readers to Exodus as a grounding text, rich in the history of God’s people, but particularly in the action of a holy (and often wholly inexplicable) God. The Gospel of Mark also deals in history, for with his succinct and economical style, Mark pioneered a new genre in which Jesus is the subject, but the content — rather than focusing on the background, emotions, or internal dialogue of the main character — is all about salvation, the redemption of every part of history: the world’s and my own. Christ Plays in Community If the birth of Jesus and the creation of the world ground us in life; and if Jesus’ death has redeemed history from the stench of meaningless death; then the resurrection of Jesus is the basis for a life lived in community. “Jesus’ resurrection is the final kerygmatic ‘piece’ that, together with his birth and death, sets the good news, the gospel, in motion and creates the Christian life.” (230) The spiritual formation that makes community possible is the work of the Spirit, and this is nowhere more clear than in Luke’s New Testament writing about the ministry of Christ and the early church with 17 references to the Holy Spirit in his Gospel and 57 in the book of Acts. In spite of persecution and imprisonment, Luke uses the word “unhindered” (akoluto) to describe Paul’s ministry under house arrest. This irony minimizes the obstacles and invites present-day believers, who are “constantly tempted to use the world’s means to do Jesus’ work,” (299) into the unhindered life of prayerful obedience, hospitality, and submission to the means and methods of kingdom living. Perfection is the enemy of community and love is the fuel, a I John 4:21-style love that “purg[es] [the] imagination of the barnacles, parasites, and grime that have accumulated around the word ‘love’ so that Jesus and the Jesus story becomes clear.” (328) Eugene Peterson and Gerard Manley Hopkins harmonize in the challenge to seek Christ in creation, history, and community and in any of the ten thousand places in which He plays. Finding Christ in all of life is the single unifying experience that brings wholeness to our theology and moves us toward a faith that honors the risen Christ and puts His resurrection life on display. // This book was provided by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    This is the most marked book I own. It is underlined, circled, bracketed with parentheses, exclamation marked, question marked, starred. Peterson engages me like I hadn't been engaged reading theology and I read a substantial amount of it. Compared to the writing skills of other theologians he is a poet. Not an easy read by any means, but one you may find that on the other side of it you're not quite the same. "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology" sits atop This is the most marked book I own. It is underlined, circled, bracketed with parentheses, exclamation marked, question marked, starred. Peterson engages me like I hadn't been engaged reading theology and I read a substantial amount of it. Compared to the writing skills of other theologians he is a poet. Not an easy read by any means, but one you may find that on the other side of it you're not quite the same. "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology" sits atop the three most influential books I've read in the last few years. Don't pick it up unless you mean it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Justin Lonas

    I never used to like devotional writing, but being in seminary threatens to take Bible study too far into the academic realm and more or less forces you to OD on theology. Hence, I find I need some periodic grounding in lived faith. This series is quite good, and motivates prayer and action.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    A grand book. If you've read my reviews in the past, you know I'm a "short chapters guy." I read more efficiently when I feel I'm making progress (just my jam). That said, this book is 330 pages long and only three chapters. Granted, there are subheadings and stopping points but it's still only three chapters. This is a book I feel like I could come back to and dig a little deeper in. If you've read any of Eugene's books, you know he's a fan (and master) of words/images. He will explain a singula A grand book. If you've read my reviews in the past, you know I'm a "short chapters guy." I read more efficiently when I feel I'm making progress (just my jam). That said, this book is 330 pages long and only three chapters. Granted, there are subheadings and stopping points but it's still only three chapters. This is a book I feel like I could come back to and dig a little deeper in. If you've read any of Eugene's books, you know he's a fan (and master) of words/images. He will explain a singular idea four different ways. Sometimes, I like that. Sometimes, I don't. This book goes through the narrative of creation, history, and community. He expounds on each in the threads of what they look like concerning God, the threats that accompany them, and biblical texts (one OT and one NT) as lived out examples of each.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    Wonderful book. Shows a broad appreciation for the Bible and the ability to apply it with insightful illustrations from everyday life. Peterson's vibrant phrasing keeps a work of scholarly depth engaging. SECOND READING: Still golden. Nebulous in just the right spots so that the reader can escape that tendency to look for Step 1, Step 2 as applied to every Christian ever. The writer's unconditional positive regard comes through warmly enough that he gets the reader's attention when he confronts a Wonderful book. Shows a broad appreciation for the Bible and the ability to apply it with insightful illustrations from everyday life. Peterson's vibrant phrasing keeps a work of scholarly depth engaging. SECOND READING: Still golden. Nebulous in just the right spots so that the reader can escape that tendency to look for Step 1, Step 2 as applied to every Christian ever. The writer's unconditional positive regard comes through warmly enough that he gets the reader's attention when he confronts a particular issue in no uncertain terms.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Longfellow

    For me, reading this book was quite a labor, but it was worth every minute. The benefit I have received is a fresh perspective on the congruence of the Bible entire. The story of God’s relationship with humans is a long one, and Peterson articulates its purpose in Christ Plays in ways that provide a concrete shape to my pre-existing knowledge. As a result, many of Peterson’s insights and interpretations have sunk in to the extent that I find my engagement with most Scripture readings re-invigora For me, reading this book was quite a labor, but it was worth every minute. The benefit I have received is a fresh perspective on the congruence of the Bible entire. The story of God’s relationship with humans is a long one, and Peterson articulates its purpose in Christ Plays in ways that provide a concrete shape to my pre-existing knowledge. As a result, many of Peterson’s insights and interpretations have sunk in to the extent that I find my engagement with most Scripture readings re-invigorated, as if I have been given a new pair of glasses or received a hearing aid that provides a sharper, more defined reception of sensory input. As one example, Peterson begins by defining a few terms that are foundational to his discussion, one of them being “the fear of the Lord.” After noting that no English word captures the essence of this concept (and according to another source, neither does any German word), he explains that “the fear of the Lord” essentially means cultivating an awareness of what God is doing and desiring to be involved in God’s work. As another example, when the Bible story is viewed grammatically, God is always the subject of the sentence, the doer of the action, and the Creation is the object, the receiver of the action. Put so simply, it may sound as if Peterson emphasizes God’s transcendence, omnipotence, or even subscribes to some kind of determinism, but these interpretations are not the thrust of his point at all, in my opinion. Rather, if I were to reduce his point to a single phrase, I think I would say that we are “receivers in freedom.” Of course the book itself explains the nuances to this concept in depth. I also appreciated Peterson’s organizational structure for the book. Though lengthy, it is a mere three chapters: Christ Plays in Creation; Christ Plays in History; and Christ Plays in Community. Paired with these three concepts are the three major events of Jesus’s story: Creation & Jesus’s birth; History & Jesus’s death; Community and Jesus’s resurrection. For each of the chapters, Peterson analyzes two “grounding texts”--one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament--and then provides commentary on how these texts inform the relationship of God with humans. Genesis and John are used to discuss creation, Exodus and Mark to discuss History, and Deuteronomy, Luke, and Acts to discuss community. The way he connects these passages strikes me as profound. Finally, I suspect if I had not read this book with turtle-like concentration at times, I may have completed it, replaced it on the shelf, and not have been much impacted. A superficial reading may yield some insight, but I highly recommend taking notes or annotating while reading. In addition to doing these things in high volume, I also discussed Christ Plays chapter by chapter with a friend, and these discussions cemented and enhanced the experience significantly.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Reed Fagan

    Disclaimer: I chose not to finish this book (at least as of my first attempt to read it, summer 2020). Besides "The Message"The Message Devotional Bible: Featuring Notes & Reflections from Eugene H. Peterson, this was my first Peterson book. I was really excited about it based on the things I had heard about Peterson. The gist I got about his thoughts on Christianity was that they were a lot "fresher" than what a lot of evangelical leaders were sharing at the time (late 20th, early 21st centuries Disclaimer: I chose not to finish this book (at least as of my first attempt to read it, summer 2020). Besides "The Message"The Message Devotional Bible: Featuring Notes & Reflections from Eugene H. Peterson, this was my first Peterson book. I was really excited about it based on the things I had heard about Peterson. The gist I got about his thoughts on Christianity was that they were a lot "fresher" than what a lot of evangelical leaders were sharing at the time (late 20th, early 21st centuries). I know that's vague. Perhaps more open-minded but still conservative. The other reason I was really excited about the book I feel a bit conned by now: the title! I had a professor at Wheaton College, Dr. Fred Van Dyke, who loved this Hopkins Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, "As Kingfishers Catch Fire", and had us study it in the course of our Environmental Studies major. It's really a beautiful, captivating poem about the prevalence of Christ in all creation, written by someone who clearly *saw* (and heard and felt!) Christ in all creation. I also was familiar with it because of Peter Harris' book "Kingfisher's Fire"Kingfisher's Fire: A Story of Hope for God's Earth. I got to meet Harris when I was in college because our campus' A Rocha chapter organized a summit about Christians addressing climate change. He was a co-founder of A Rocha, a Christian conservation organization that intentionally aids non-religious scientific environmental research. I was very saddened to learn his wife and another A Rocha leader passed in a car crash less than a year ago. I hope Harris knows how much their work has meant. But I digress... So I was quite excited for this book. Here is why I did not finish it. I just could not get into Peterson's writing style. He makes connections where there are none. To be a bit pugilistic I would call what he does eisegesis, the practice of laying out one's own agenda or purposes for a text a priori and bending the text's meaning to support that agenda ("eisegesis" and those accused thereof are anathema to evangelicalism, a world I no longer call home but owe some views to). Here is an example: in his second main section "Christ Plays in Creation", Peterson claims that the story of the Ten Plagues in Exodus is a story of "exorcism". Ok, I think we can see what he is trying to do; he is wanting to say that through disproving the power of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God displays God's true power over history. But frankly there is nothing about actual exorcism or alluded exorcism in that text (that I am aware of - certainly not in any central sense). I could let the claim that the Exodus is about exorcism slide if it was mentioned in passing. But it is not: The exorcism claim is a fundament for the rest of this section. This method of reading is repeated throughout the book. Again in this history section, Peterson chooses the story of the Exodus and the Gospel of Mark out of all of scripture as somehow especially instructive about the activity of God throughout history. Towards the end, Peterson claims the antidotes to not seeing that God is actively involved in and shaping history are the Eucharist and hospitality. From the texts he chose, I can see the significance of the Eucharist - the Exodus story hinges on the Passover, the meal which Jesus transformed to take on a new meaning for Christians. But hospitality? And the more important issue is that the Exodus and the Gospel of Mark are not attempting to teach believers that through participating in the Eucharist and graciously hosting others over meals they will see God active in time and human events. These are Peterson's ideas that he has conveniently used scripture to support. Here is a summary of his logic - the outline (taken from the Table of Contents) for this section: II. Christ Plays in History Exploring the Neighborhood of History Kerygma: Jesus' Death Threat: Moralism Grounding Text (1): Exodus Grounding Text (2): St. Mark Cultivating Fear-of-the-Lord in History: Eucharist and Hospitality My criticism that Peterson is reading too much into the texts may seem pedantic or petty. Clearly a lot of probably good writing about the Christian scriptures has taken a more, we'll call it, "conversational" form (Peterson even uses the word in the book's sub-title). Certainly many powerful sermons over the years started as some cogent lines of thought the pastor had and then wanted some decent scripture to address. However, those writings and sermons are justified by their creator's admission (and to the extent of that admission) of what they are doing: bringing texts from particular contexts into the conversation. Peterson does not admit this in anyway; rather, he writes as if his ideas that we may stray into moralism if we do not embrace the Eucharist and hospitality are things clearly hidden within the biblical texts that he has sieved out. In the end, I found this irresponsible and potentially confusing for some readers. Apart from writing as if his own ideas have been latent in the scriptures all along, I simply don't find Peterson's ideas convincing, novel or rousing, which was the last straw as for my attempt to finish reading this text. Maybe I'll try the Epilogue at some point because from its title, "As Kingfishers Catch Fire...", he seems to take on my beloved Hopkins poem again. While I am not a fan of how this book was constructed or how Peterson dealt with scripture in it or his writing style at a voice/idiom level, I don't believe he can be ignored completely either. His work on "The Message" shows some of his creative gifts and I know many others have loved "Christ Plays...". Perhaps I will need to try a different book by him. But for now I am happy to put this book aside and hopefully begin Richard Rohr's "The Universal Christ" The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For and Believe soon. If you are in any way questioning evangelicalism or merely curious what could be behind the curtain of this fantastic, painful, mysterious thing we call life, I would highly recommend checking out "Another Name for Everything", the podcast from Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM, that explores the themes of his latest (summer 2020) book and that introduced me to his wonderful ideas about the direction of the universe. Thanks for reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    katie

    I love Eugene Peterson. A slow, let-it-sink-in, savorful read. A perfect blend of intellect/poet, which suits both parts of me very satisfyingly. There were a few wee points I might have wanted to question him about, and there were swaths of the book that needed more depth or specificity, but if I view the whole book as a dip-and-dive discourse on spiritual theology (a term well described and now quite useful to me), then I'm not bothered by the surface/dive quality of the text. I was delightful I love Eugene Peterson. A slow, let-it-sink-in, savorful read. A perfect blend of intellect/poet, which suits both parts of me very satisfyingly. There were a few wee points I might have wanted to question him about, and there were swaths of the book that needed more depth or specificity, but if I view the whole book as a dip-and-dive discourse on spiritual theology (a term well described and now quite useful to me), then I'm not bothered by the surface/dive quality of the text. I was delightfully surprised to find a rollicking discussion on Sabbath and on hospitality (in my opinion, two oft-overlooked but certainly central topics in the Christian life). I look forward to relishing each of the books in EP's conversations series. Oh, and I underlined much in this book, with exclamation points even. Not since Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World have I marginalia-ed up a book like this!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    I listened to this in audiobook form. In some ways I liked that - it kept me moving so I caught the big picture of what Peterson was sharing. But now I find I want to reread the book in written form, so I can stop and ponder many things he shares. And with so many books I want to read, it's high praise to say I can't wait to re-read this one! I listened to this in audiobook form. In some ways I liked that - it kept me moving so I caught the big picture of what Peterson was sharing. But now I find I want to reread the book in written form, so I can stop and ponder many things he shares. And with so many books I want to read, it's high praise to say I can't wait to re-read this one!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I am in LOVE with this book. The only kind of theology I care much about is the kind that we live out and that makes us love Jesus more-this book talks about exactly that. So far he has dug pretty deep into the creation story and the exodus story in ways that I haven't thought about before. Not the easiest read, but not too heady either. I am in LOVE with this book. The only kind of theology I care much about is the kind that we live out and that makes us love Jesus more-this book talks about exactly that. So far he has dug pretty deep into the creation story and the exodus story in ways that I haven't thought about before. Not the easiest read, but not too heady either.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    slow going - very intellectually driven. very thoughtful. a 'nibbling' book. slow going - very intellectually driven. very thoughtful. a 'nibbling' book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Smith

    Dense, but beautifully written. A needed corrective for American Dream spirituality.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    I had little idea of what to expect from this book. I’d heard of Eugene Peterson and his translation of the Bible into “The Message,” but what would this be about? From the back of the book: “A tour de force in spiritual theology combining incisive cultural analysis and biblical exposition with a sweeping and engaging vision of the Christian life.” After reading, I think that summary is pretty good. Peterson’s writing was thought-provoking, insightful, fresh and engaging throughout. I liked this I had little idea of what to expect from this book. I’d heard of Eugene Peterson and his translation of the Bible into “The Message,” but what would this be about? From the back of the book: “A tour de force in spiritual theology combining incisive cultural analysis and biblical exposition with a sweeping and engaging vision of the Christian life.” After reading, I think that summary is pretty good. Peterson’s writing was thought-provoking, insightful, fresh and engaging throughout. I liked this description given early on by the author, “It is the task of the Christian community to give witness and guidance in the living of life in a culture that is relentless in reducing, constricting and enervating this life.” At the same time, the author notes, “The Christian church has no monopoly on giving out guidance on how to live this life. The playing field of spirituality is fairly cluttered with debris from improvised attempts and makeshift rules in playing out this life.” The author’s intent, as it came across to me, was to re-emphasize a grounded-in-reality, compassionate framework within which a Christian can live a fulfilling rich life while engaging his or her society. “The Christian life is lived with others and for others. Nothing can be done alone or solely for oneself. … In an age of heightened individualism….” (pages 7-9). Time and again, he centers in on our Western – at least US – way of life and asks us to step back and consider our situation (doing so in an engaging, story telling sort of way, not pedantic or dry). For example, in his early years of pastoring a congregation, he became “struck by how extensively the cultural and spiritual conditions in which I was working matched the exile conditions of the Hebrews in the sixth century before Christ; the pervasive uprootedness and loss of place, the loss of connection to a tradition of worship, the sense of being lost in a foreign and idolatrous society.” (page 64). And so, off he goes, describing how Christ (God) engages and is at work (but at play) in 10,000 places within our world… Peterson writes first of “Christ playing in Creation” with a number of reflections, one of which has to do with time. He describes his own experience with the loss of time in our culture, our sometimes frenzied running from one activity to another, yet missing out on the rhythm of time and our need for rest. His message is to slow down, appreciate the gift of time we are given and how to incorporate its freedom and limitations on our lives. Peterson then turns to his next theme, “Christ plays in history” While there are timeless truths that celebrate our creation, history is a more somber reality. “History consists of what happens in this world. History is the accounting we make of human endeavor. More often than not it is an accounting of the mess we make of things: brutality, war, famine, hate, quarrelling, exploitation. History deals with what happens, what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. It means dealing with a world where things rarely turn out the way we think they should. It means dealing with corrupt politicians, birth defects, floods and violence, divorce and death, starvation and famine, the arrogance of the rich and the destitution of the poor. Something is wrong here, dreadfully wrong. We feel it in our bones.” (Pg 134). Peterson then moves to his final and third theme, “Christ plays in community.” Two reflections stand out – the first being the importance of hospitality. That while we are often tempted to retreat, band together in a false sense of community, he encourages us to reach out, and be hospitable to the edge of our comfort. He suggests that the simple sharing of a meal with others is profoundly more challenging to our society where we are often distracted with things. acknowledges the wisdom of a philosopher friend of his living in Montana who calls “the culture of the table” – “the preparation, serving and cleaning up after meals – the center of a well–lived life.” (Pg 336) Second, he challenges a traditional understanding of the Ten Commandments as a individual code of conduct between humans and a stern God, by reframing it as God’s guidance for living in community, living with others. From this perspective, he runs through each commandment, which is eye-opening to say the least. All in all, a reflection on a way of life for Christians delivered in both new and hopeful ways.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    If we don't know where we are going, any road will get us there. But if we have a destination - in this case a life lived to the glory of God - there is a well-marked way, the Jesus-revealed way. Pg 1 The central verb, "play," catches the exuberance and freedom that mark life when it is lived beyond necessity, beyond mere survival. "Play" also suggests words and sounds and actions that are "played" for another, intentional and meaningful renderings of beauty or truth or goodness. Hopkins incorpo If we don't know where we are going, any road will get us there. But if we have a destination - in this case a life lived to the glory of God - there is a well-marked way, the Jesus-revealed way. Pg 1 The central verb, "play," catches the exuberance and freedom that mark life when it is lived beyond necessity, beyond mere survival. "Play" also suggests words and sounds and actions that are "played" for another, intentional and meaningful renderings of beauty or truth or goodness. Hopkins incorporates this sense of play with God as the ultimate "other" ("... to the Father") - which is to say that all of life is, or can be, worship. Pg 3 But in our current culture, soul has given way to self as the term of choice to designate who and what we are. Self is the soul minus God. Self is what is left of soul with all the transcendence and intimacy squeezed out, the self with little or no reference to God or others. Self is a threadbare word, a scarecrow word. Soul is a word reverberating with relationships: God-relationships, human-relationships, Earth-relationships. "Self" in both common speech and scientific discourse is mostly an isolating term: the individual. "Soul"gets beneath the fragmentary surface appearances and affirms an at-homeness, an affinity with whoever and whatever is at hand. Pg. 37 One of the seductions that bedevils Christian formation is the construction of utopias, ideal places where we can live totally and without inhibition or interference the good and blessed and righteous life. The imagining and then attempted construction of such utopias is an old habit of our kind. Sometimes we attempt it politically in communities, sometimes socially in communes, sometimes religiously in churches. It never comes to anything about grief. Utopia is, literally, no place. But we can live our lives only in actual place, not in an imagined or fantasized or artificially fashioned place. - pg 73

  16. 4 out of 5

    Abby Tamkin

    Wonderful book. But hard to summarize. I had the though when I first started reading that this was both a familiar and startling book. On one hand, it was describing my faith and theology and thoughts perfectly. On the other hand, it was describing all of that in a fresh but jarring way. I think some of the difficulty in summarizing this book is the conversational way Peterson has of writing. He's not very quotable: It's hard to pin him down in a concise snippet. This has made it hard for me to Wonderful book. But hard to summarize. I had the though when I first started reading that this was both a familiar and startling book. On one hand, it was describing my faith and theology and thoughts perfectly. On the other hand, it was describing all of that in a fresh but jarring way. I think some of the difficulty in summarizing this book is the conversational way Peterson has of writing. He's not very quotable: It's hard to pin him down in a concise snippet. This has made it hard for me to identify key points or takeaways. But maybe that's the point: Life (and faith) is complicated. And we want to turn it into bullet pointed plans. But the moment we think we have figured it out and have control and a plan, we've missed it. I will be rereading this. notes: I read about half of it a couple years ago, then lapsed. It was a hard book for me to pick up without re-reading previous portions. But recently I started listening to the book, and finished it rather quickly. The narrator (Grover Gardner) is excellent. ~15 hours. (He also does the entire science fiction Vorkosigan series. To hear him instead reading a theology book was quite jarring initially)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Boyett

    Many great concepts. This read invites the reader into a very thorough look at a lot of concepts and terms that we as Christians typically tend to gloss over in text or speech. Regular discussion with a fellow reader may help to develop/concrete some of these ideas. I don't know that I fully agreed with everything he said (but does anyone agree with everything anyone says?), but there was enough good content to cause me to keep reading. This is one that I think I would love to read again in 10-2 Many great concepts. This read invites the reader into a very thorough look at a lot of concepts and terms that we as Christians typically tend to gloss over in text or speech. Regular discussion with a fellow reader may help to develop/concrete some of these ideas. I don't know that I fully agreed with everything he said (but does anyone agree with everything anyone says?), but there was enough good content to cause me to keep reading. This is one that I think I would love to read again in 10-20 years to see if my understanding of the Scriptures has progressed in any manner similar to Peterson's. Additionally, my interest has peaked regarding the reading of the other 4 in this series. I would definitely recommend this book but I would not suggest it to the new Christian. Much too dense for introducing ideas and concepts that the reader does not already have some sense of.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ann Gemmel

    I was assigned this book for a seminary class on spiritual formation. Wow! Peterson's years both as a pastor and later as a seminary professor provide him a unique perspective from the trenches coupled with the wisdom of a theologian and the heart of a shepherd. I highlighted so much and will need to return to this over and over again as I continue to ponder its ramifications. Peterson has the credibility to call out the North American church as to the various circuitous paths that have gotten u I was assigned this book for a seminary class on spiritual formation. Wow! Peterson's years both as a pastor and later as a seminary professor provide him a unique perspective from the trenches coupled with the wisdom of a theologian and the heart of a shepherd. I highlighted so much and will need to return to this over and over again as I continue to ponder its ramifications. Peterson has the credibility to call out the North American church as to the various circuitous paths that have gotten us off course in our seeking after God. But he offers wisdom and course correction with a winsome and gracious spirit. Wish I could buy a box of these and pass them out to pastors who are all so eager to jump on the bandwagon of the latest trendy methodology. Indeed, Christ plays in ten thousand places and longs to show up in the eyes and hearts of all his children!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    My copy is now inked-up, dog-eared, and worn. I'm considering starting at the beginning and reading it again... and again. This is a slow book with big and true ideas that need time to grow. But it is SO worth all of that precious time. Eugene Peterson is a "good shepherd," unwaveringly faithful to the true heart of Christianity. His honesty and graciousness is life-giving. This book is a good tool to return to when life in our frenetic culture leaves you feeling distracted, confused, and pulled My copy is now inked-up, dog-eared, and worn. I'm considering starting at the beginning and reading it again... and again. This is a slow book with big and true ideas that need time to grow. But it is SO worth all of that precious time. Eugene Peterson is a "good shepherd," unwaveringly faithful to the true heart of Christianity. His honesty and graciousness is life-giving. This book is a good tool to return to when life in our frenetic culture leaves you feeling distracted, confused, and pulled in 1,000 directions. "One thing is necessary:" I love how Peterson sinks into that and won't let go. Counter-cultural faith CAN be a refreshing, beautiful thing. ❤️

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian Stevenson

    I listened to the audio book version. It truly does come off as a conversation in spiritual theology. Eugene was all over the map (hence the "10,000 places"), so writing a succinct review would take a tremendous amount of effort. I didn't mind his ramblings because he has so many great things to say. I may need to buy a hard copy of this book because it seems like the type of book that I would mark up cover-to-cover. I listened to the audio book version. It truly does come off as a conversation in spiritual theology. Eugene was all over the map (hence the "10,000 places"), so writing a succinct review would take a tremendous amount of effort. I didn't mind his ramblings because he has so many great things to say. I may need to buy a hard copy of this book because it seems like the type of book that I would mark up cover-to-cover.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    This is the third book this year that I have wanted to start reading again immediately after finishing it. (The others were the Bible arranged chronologically and Silence and Beauty, by Makoto Fujimura.) Eloquently and intelligently, Eugene Peterson pairs the Books of Moses to those of the gospel writers to show how spirituality can and must grow out of an understanding of biblical doctrine. I am amazed by the depth and beauty of Peterson’s writing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    It's not very often that a gifted theologian and thinker is also a gifted writer. Eugene Peterson is both. This is a wonderful book. It's not very often that a gifted theologian and thinker is also a gifted writer. Eugene Peterson is both. This is a wonderful book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steven Bullmer

    First, this is a wonderful book. It is a deep dive into what Peterson calls "spiritual theology." In his words, "'Theology' is the attention we give to God, the effort we give to knowing God.... 'Spiritual' is the insistence that everything God reveals ... is capable of being lived by ordinary men and women in their homes and workplaces." In other words, Peterson wants spirituality to be about our relationship with God and not some veiled self-fulfillment of our own desires. And Peterson wants t First, this is a wonderful book. It is a deep dive into what Peterson calls "spiritual theology." In his words, "'Theology' is the attention we give to God, the effort we give to knowing God.... 'Spiritual' is the insistence that everything God reveals ... is capable of being lived by ordinary men and women in their homes and workplaces." In other words, Peterson wants spirituality to be about our relationship with God and not some veiled self-fulfillment of our own desires. And Peterson wants theology grounded in a practical application to how we live our everyday lives. If that sounds like a tall order, it is. And, I believe, Peterson does a credible job of pulling it off. But a word of warning: You will have to be mentally prepared to take a very deep dive into the subject of spiritual theology. About 2/3 of the way through the book I realized that I should have been reading this book early in the morning when all my faculties were fully functioning (I am a morning person). I tried reading this book in the late afternoon gap between tasks finished and dinner on the way; and most of the time the book overwhelmed me, and I fell asleep. The book is built on an understanding of Trinity, so in Chapter 1 "Christ Plays in Creation" (Heavenly Father); Chapter 2 "Christ Plays in History" (Incarnate Son); and chapter 3, "Christ Plays in Community" (Holy Spirit). I think the analogy between the places Christ plays and the personae of the Trinity is overdrawn, but the theological and biblical perspectives are spot on. In each chapter/person of the Trinity Peterson has two "grounding texts"--one from the Old Testament and one from the New. His interpretation of Scripture is creative and insightful. Getting Peterson's take on Genesis, Deuteronomy, Luke/Acts and Mark is alone worth the price of the book. I'm not much of a poet, so the metaphors and word pictures from Gerald Manley Hopkins poem, from which the title to this book is drawn, largely escape me. But the deeply insightful content of the book more than makes up for any lack of appreciation on my part of Hopkins' poem. If you're looking for a solid interpretation of Scripture and its application to both theology and life, this is a book you will want to read. But fair warning: read it when you are at your best mentally in order to catch all the insights Peterson has to give about the human condition and the way of the world.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    This book took me months to read. I normally read books in about 3 days. I could not digest this book quickly, it is slow, thoughtful, meaningful, and would not be rushed. I read other reviews on here and felt much better as it seemed to be the same for many other readers! There were too many aspects to this book to try to do a summary on it. Overall, I can say, it made an impact on my life and that I highly recommend it to others. Here are a couple quotes from me finishing up reading the book y This book took me months to read. I normally read books in about 3 days. I could not digest this book quickly, it is slow, thoughtful, meaningful, and would not be rushed. I read other reviews on here and felt much better as it seemed to be the same for many other readers! There were too many aspects to this book to try to do a summary on it. Overall, I can say, it made an impact on my life and that I highly recommend it to others. Here are a couple quotes from me finishing up reading the book yesterday: "The great weakness of North American spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling our potential, getting in on the blessings of God, expanding our influence, finding our gifts, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. And the more there is of us, the less there is of God." "Overall, the most distinctive thing about Christian love is that it is commanded. Not urged, not encouraged, not striven for as a goal, but commanded.... If community could be imposed it would at least be manageable. Coercion can provide uniformity and perfect order, but the result is not community; it is an ugly parody of community; it is Naziism. Community can flourish only in freedom. so the love that defines our common lives, even though commanded, has to be unforced, personal, freely given by the members of the community: ours must be lifetimes of accumulated acts of love-likely flawed, imperfect, juvenile, sputtery, but still love. Despite ourselves, loyal love."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    Wonderful book to read. Eugene Peterson engages spiritual theology poetically by exploring the themes of Christ plays in creation, Christ plays in history, and Christ plays in community. There are so many beautiful and timely comments that this is among my most marked-up, underlined, postit books that is not for research purposes. I recognize this work as a result of Peterson's many years' experience as both pastor and scholar reflecting upon the state of contemporary Christian spirituality (esp Wonderful book to read. Eugene Peterson engages spiritual theology poetically by exploring the themes of Christ plays in creation, Christ plays in history, and Christ plays in community. There are so many beautiful and timely comments that this is among my most marked-up, underlined, postit books that is not for research purposes. I recognize this work as a result of Peterson's many years' experience as both pastor and scholar reflecting upon the state of contemporary Christian spirituality (especially in North American context). There are too many gems to cover for a review as I reflect on this book: the Sabbath as a space Christians should dwell in wonder and reimagine the world as God sees it; technology as one of the primary promoters of idolatry; how God's salvific acts is deliberately played out in the mess of human history; living in congruence to Jesus' way (not about us, not about control or manipulate God or the "cause" but participating in what God's ongoing work); the significance of hospitality as it ties to the Eucharist; and more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    I was in the middle of reading this book when I heard that Eugene Peterson had died, so it became something of a memorial read. Reading Peterson is a little bit of a strange experience. At times he feels quite periphrastic, and you sense that he could say things more succinctly and yet when you reach the end, particularly of a book like this one, you marvel at just how much he managed to pack into a little over 300 pages. A lot of ground is covered. This isn't systematic theology but it is held t I was in the middle of reading this book when I heard that Eugene Peterson had died, so it became something of a memorial read. Reading Peterson is a little bit of a strange experience. At times he feels quite periphrastic, and you sense that he could say things more succinctly and yet when you reach the end, particularly of a book like this one, you marvel at just how much he managed to pack into a little over 300 pages. A lot of ground is covered. This isn't systematic theology but it is held together by a common theme of the presence of God in the ordinary: the ordinary of creation, the ordinary of human history and the ordinary of community. If you can't find God in the ordinary, Peterson seems to say, then don't try to find him anywhere else. The book is scattered through with poetic, literary and philosophical allusions, topped and tailed by Gerard Manley Hopkins poem from which it takes its title. His chapter on the Eucharist is particularly fine and to be recommended to anyone who wants to reflect more on what happens in this sacrament.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David

    A brilliant work by the translator who wrote The Message. Peterson delves deep into theological issues, but addresses them from a pastor's perspective. The book is long and addresses many topics. However, it is organized in 1-2 page segments, which makes it a good daily devotional. That is the way I read it and the reason it took 9 months for me to finish it. Peterson uses the imagery of Gerard Manley Hopkin's sonnet, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, to set the stage for this book: I say more: the just A brilliant work by the translator who wrote The Message. Peterson delves deep into theological issues, but addresses them from a pastor's perspective. The book is long and addresses many topics. However, it is organized in 1-2 page segments, which makes it a good daily devotional. That is the way I read it and the reason it took 9 months for me to finish it. Peterson uses the imagery of Gerard Manley Hopkin's sonnet, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, to set the stage for this book: I say more: the just man justices; Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces; Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is-- Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his To the Father through the features of men's faces. For Peterson, theology must be lived rather than studied. Christ plays in ten thousand places, in the lives of individuals who are living out the gospel.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Read with a friend over much of a year. We also met to discuss it and our conversations would often last for half of a Saturday. It was a lot to take in, and although a very positive experience, I’ll be glad to take a break and read something less challenging. I was not expecting something so all encompassing. It felt like we were reading a theology book that took in the whole of scripture and Christian life. I will probably keep it as a reference but I don’t expect to read it again. I was most i Read with a friend over much of a year. We also met to discuss it and our conversations would often last for half of a Saturday. It was a lot to take in, and although a very positive experience, I’ll be glad to take a break and read something less challenging. I was not expecting something so all encompassing. It felt like we were reading a theology book that took in the whole of scripture and Christian life. I will probably keep it as a reference but I don’t expect to read it again. I was most impressed by the structure of the book and the way Peterson connected the major themes of scripture with the sacraments of the church. He balanced this against recurring temptations and matched it all with large swaths of scripture, often presenting in single chapters a summary of entire books of the Bible. As a seminary graduate, this material was not all new to me, but Peterson engages even familiar content with his inimitable style, seasoned insight and steady grasp of the Bible. P

  29. 5 out of 5

    F.C. Shultz

    “The two terms, ‘spiritual’ and ‘theology,’ keep good company with one another. ‘Theology’ is the attention that we give to God, the effort we give to knowing God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and in Jesus Christ. ‘Spiritual’ is the insistence that everything that God reveals of Himself and His works is capable of being lived by ordinary men and women in their homes and workplaces. ‘Spiritual’ keeps ‘theology’ from degenerating into merely thinking and talking and writing about God at a dis “The two terms, ‘spiritual’ and ‘theology,’ keep good company with one another. ‘Theology’ is the attention that we give to God, the effort we give to knowing God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and in Jesus Christ. ‘Spiritual’ is the insistence that everything that God reveals of Himself and His works is capable of being lived by ordinary men and women in their homes and workplaces. ‘Spiritual’ keeps ‘theology’ from degenerating into merely thinking and talking and writing about God at a distance. ‘Theology’ keeps ‘spiritual’ from becoming merely thinking and talking and writing about the feelings and thoughts one has about God. The two words need each other, for we know how easy it is for us to let our study of God (theology) get separated from the way we live; we also know how easy it is to let our desires to live whole and satisfying lives (spiritual lives) get disconnected from who God actually is and the ways He works among us.”

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This is the first book in a five-book series by Peterson on spiritual theology. As the series introduction it's very expansive in what it covers, and I will agree with what many others have posted here - it takes a while to get through. There is a lot here, and it requires a lot of thought and time. But I found that journey to be very rewarding. When you read Peterson you'll every so often be hit with a bolt of lightning - a thought that shakes the way you look at scripture that you've known your This is the first book in a five-book series by Peterson on spiritual theology. As the series introduction it's very expansive in what it covers, and I will agree with what many others have posted here - it takes a while to get through. There is a lot here, and it requires a lot of thought and time. But I found that journey to be very rewarding. When you read Peterson you'll every so often be hit with a bolt of lightning - a thought that shakes the way you look at scripture that you've known your whole life. His take on the Ten Commandments (from Deuteronomy, not Exodus, the importance of which becomes apparent) is the best I've read. His section on the temptation of Jesus made me look at the mission of Jesus in a whole new way.

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