A Spiritual Life: Perspectives from Poets, Prophets and Preachers

Allan Cole (ed), Westminster, John Knox, 2011, reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        A Spiritual Life is a moving selection of the writings of poets, prophets and pastors who reflect on what makes for a vibrant spiritual life, drawing on a wide spectrum of personal experiences, exposing the reader to a wonderfully diverse group of people with a wide range of Christian experiences. Cole identifies three ways of discerning and living an authentic spiritual life: poets (8 entries), prophets (9), preachers (6). He admits the limits of using these three categories for discerning and living a spiritual life, and many of the articles in this anthology could easily fit any of the three categories.

        A word about some of the entries.

        ‘Spirituality and Chronic Illness’ talks of living with multiple sclerosis. ‘On Spirituality’ emphasizes the community dimension of spiritual formation; spiritual formation is more than private discipline; spiritual formation is an essential concern and a legacy of the community of faith—faithfulness to G-d and service to others’ (p 115). A moving reflection on his baptism—as a four-year old—marks Cole’s written comments (“More religious than Spiritual’). An insightful essay (sermon?) by William Willimon probes the relevancy of his book, Resident Aliens, and the claim that we don’t have to cultivate a tedious set of practices (eg Sabbath) in order to live in G-d’s time ( p 230).

        Cole’s work is a wonderful contribution to daily life with G-d.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.