I have long-since learned that when an actress launches a career in music it is best to avoid her album. Similarly, when a musician tries her hand at acting the results are usually painful. It seems the same is generally true when an author of novels tries his hand at non-fiction. So it was with some trepidation that I opened The Slumber of Christianity, a book written by Ted Dekker, an author known for his heart-pounding thrillers. This represents his first attempt at writing a non-fiction book. Thankfully, it turns out that he is a gifted writer who is able to express himself in either genre.
“It seems that the lives of Christians are pretty much the same as the unchurched. We face the same challenges, the same heartaches. And, just like the rest of the world, most of aren’t happy” (from the back cover). Frustrated with the lack of joy he sees in those who profess Christ, Dekker came to see that many believers have fallen asleep to some basic truths that could forever change their lives; they have lost their hope for heaven. They have lost their obsession for life after death.
“We have here in this life many foretastes of the bliss that waits us, but unless we know what those foretastes are of, they will never satisfy us. Unless we become desperate for the bliss of the next life, we will never enjoy this life” (page 11). Many Christians have opted to live a life of worldly Christianity. “It’s a form of godliness, stripped of the power of hope. In so many teachings and books designed to prod us into successful Christian living, there’s a preoccupation with life on earth rather than the life to come” (page 75). Christians have opted to seek pleasure not in the promises of God for the world to come, but in the foretastes of glory God has provided to us now. No wonder, then, that so many Christians are dissatisfied! They continually wonder if this is all there is even when the Bible is filled with admonitions to look to the life to come. “The fact is, nothing in this life can satisfy unless it is fully bathed in an obsession for eternity. Nothing. Not a purpose-driven life, not a grand adventure, not the love of a dashing prince of the hand of a beautiful maiden…These all will fail our need for unencumbered happiness. We will always be torn and frustrated, no matter how much rejoicing we do this side of death, unless we awaken to a new passion for heaven on earth” (page 11-12).
Having adequately and eloquently described the condition of the church, Dekker turns to a prescription of the cure. Unfortunately, this is where the book loses steam. He suggest three ways of reawakening the heart to heaven: meditation, reading and corporate exercises. Sadly, the mediation he suggests is not the type that was often practiced by the Puritans, who focused their thoughts and hearts on a particular subject, but the type taught by Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen. The sections on reading and corporate exercises were moderately better, but still quite unsatisfying, often backed by sloppy use of Scripture.
So what are we to say about this book? It is an admirable attempt to bring sense to condition that is evident within the church. Why is it that so many Christians speak of a joy that they do not display in their lives? Why do we speak of faith, hope and love, yet show so little hope? Dekker provides much wisdom in explaining how this has happened and in explaining the danger of such a mindset. But when it comes to his solution, I was left unsatisfied, unconvicted by his use of Scripture. As half a book it is wonderful. As a whole book it is somewhat disappointing.
A strange mixture, but with more good than bad.
More difficult than his fiction, but still easy enough to read.
Quite a unique take on an oft-diagnosed condition.
It is helpful to awake Christians to their slumber.
Good at describing the condition. Not so good at proposing a cure.
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