Gary Thomas (2000)
Review by Rev Ng Seng Chuan
is truly a “good book”. Seldom
have I been so impressed with a book’s value as to buy extra copies to
give away as gifts. It is one
of those books I consider “liberating”.
the book is about different ways of access to God or spirituality.
Most of Christendom, for a long time now, has been a text-bound
entity. We encourage people to
follow the Scripture text as the sermon is being preached.
Spiritual growth is measure by how devoutly one was able to
maintain “quiet time”.
interesting question arises. How
might a person reach God if words and text do not appeal to him or her?
Some sermons are so solid in theological content that they give
headaches to even ardent believers! And
some Christians have difficulty maintaining a culture of disciplined Bible
reading. Many do lose their
way spiritually. For them,
Christianity is just too cerebral an affair.
this is where the wonder of Sacred Pathways lies.
Gary Thomas identifies nine temperaments or personal traits, and
shows how each might craft a pathway to God.
What are the nine sacred pathways?
The following is but a sampling.
there is the naturalist. She
feels an incredible closeness to God when surrounded by nature.
Might not such a person pray more effectively in a park than at a
there is the sensate, and this is someone most alert to the physical
senses. For those so wired,
liturgical colours and incense (as used in Eastern Orthodox churches) will
do wonders. For these
Christians, aesthetics matter, and they revel in the “beauty of
holiness”. Rich harmonies
and haunting melodies in religious music delight them no end.
That the Lord of the universe accepts such worship we know from
Christ’s endorsement of Mary’s anointing with her “costly
there are those to whom church traditions are almost sacrosanct.
Stately rituals, ecclesiastical calendars and iconic symbols are
wonderful aids to worship. But
what is so supremely edifying is the fact that such believers often define
faith in terms of what they might offer to God (e.g., in fasting), in
contrast to the definition in contemporary Christianity of faith as
believing what God might give to us!
the fourth place, there are the ascetics.
These are the “solo” types – believers who value solitude
over fellowship in their quest of discipleship and for godliness.
The one thing ascetics will not grudge, the one thing they delight
to give God is the one commodity some Christians have difficulty offering
to God in modern
could go on to describe the care-givers, the activists, the enthusiasts,
the contemplatives, and the
intellectuals. But you get the
drift. There is much we could
learn from each pathway. But
more important than even that, we need to follow whichever style works
best for us, so that we might pursue a path that helps us draw closer to
help us achieve this, Gary Thomas sets a series of questions at the end of
each chapter so as to enable us to gauge our innate tendencies or latent
worship styles. At the end of
the book itself, in the final chapter, he helps the reader put together
the evidence and data for interpreting what works best for her or him.
the book, he offers useful tips for meaningful individual worship.
One such useful tip for gauging your preferred style: try picking
out leaders you admire and identifying their prominent traits.
Are they contemplatives or activists, naturalists or sensates?
We admire people who most reflect our own values!
useful observations the book offers pertain to the unique weaknesses or
temptations of each chosen path. For
example, intellectuals are prone to arrogance; and activists possibly to
violence. We also tend to
idolize the path itself – so that naturalists might end up adoring
“Mother Nature” instead of the God of nature!
is one of the most perceptive books I have read.
It has helped me understand both myself and others better.
In the process, I learn to bow before God’s awesome wisdom –
the God who accepts worship from all His children with one as different as
chalk from cheese as another!
At a more private or personal level, it has also helped me to accept myself as an ascetic who craves solitude, one who has at times been castigated by others as a “selfish loner” who disdains fellowship or teamwork. I could almost weep as I finished reading that chapter on “Ascetics”, and utter a prayer of thanksgiving to Almighty God for that incredible sense of solace.
Lindy Tan 19/9
Loh Mun Fei 19/9
Francis Soh 19/9
Philip Satterthwaite 20/9
Chan Wan Yhim 21/9
Chin Lee Poh 22/9
Oswald Goh 22/9
Mr Michael Chay 23/9
Richard Hui 23/9
Susan Foo 23/9
S.N. Seneviratne 23/9
Lydia Tan 24/9
Lu Thiam Seng 25/9
Eunice Lim 25/9
Chan Chee Kai 25/9
Ms Niki Wong 25/9
chapel speaker for the day (Sep 7) was Chen Lei, a full-time student at
BGST who hails from
speaker pointed out, however, that its origins were far from flattering.
He traced the history of its negative associations from the
post-exilic era. By the time
of Jesus, it had become a perjorative term, viz., in abusive language.
Chen Lei drew a parallel with the word “Japanese” and all its
associations in the post-WWII era in
speaker closed with an invitation and challenge to us to rethink the
attitudes and values we bring into theological education.
The danger is for us to twist issues to personal advantage.
Like the lawyer, it is possible for us, too, to end up defending
indefensible propositions. The ultimate question is how one uses knowledge
– like the lawyer? Or like
(Summary by Ng Seng Chuan)
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This page was updated on 15 Sep 2005.