Now this is a good book. A really good book. It is exactly the kind of book a reviewer loves to discover: A title from a minor publisher that arrives with little fanfare and completely blows him away. And that is what I found in An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness by Andrew Davis.
An Infinite Journey defies easy description. What exactly is it? It is a book about growing toward spiritual maturity, but it is more than that; it is also a map for the journey. This makes it something like a systematic theology of spiritual growth and maturity. Allow me to explain.
Davis says that Christians are called by God to make two simultaneous journeys and that these journeys are the Christian’s central work. The first is the external journey of the worldwide advance of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to all nations while the second is the internal journey from being dead in sin to being gloriously perfect in Christ. Each of these journeys is lifelong and demands great effort, labor and suffering. Each is infinite because they both require an infinite power source and because they will extend to the very end of our lives.
Davis contends that over the past decades Evangelicals have been far more concerned with the external journey than the internal one so that we have pursued evangelism at the expense of discipleship and sanctification. But, he says,
The Church needs to reclaim a Bible-saturated, Spirit-drenched emphasis on both of these infinite journeys, learning that they are absolutely intertwined. It is impossible for the Church to make progress externally to the ends of the earth if there are no Christians mature enough to pay the price to go as missionaries and martyrs. And it is impossible to make genuine progress in sanctification if the people only read good Christians books and stay in classrooms, but refuse to get out into the world as witnesses. These journeys are mutually interdependent: without progress in one, there can be no progress made in the other.
What Davis attempts to do in this book, and what he accomplishes with rare skill, is to map out the journey, focusing on the journey toward Christian maturity. He attempts to provide a taxonomy of sanctification, organizing what the Bible gives us as reasonable goals for spiritual growth. He believes that all of Christian maturity can be found under four major headings: Knowledge, Faith, Character, and Action. The heart of the book is explaining each of these while also showing the relationship between them.
Now this may all sound rather obvious, but Davis is especially skilled at looking at the things we commonly know or experience and describing and quantifying them in fresh and helpful ways. By way of example, in the book’s opening chapters he attempts to graph Christian progress. Acknowledging that any such illustration will suffer from some weakness and incompleteness, he still finds a very helpful way of helping us understand the peaks and valleys of Christian experience.
The book has other notable strengths. While it is not exhaustive (and hardly could be without extending to many volumes), it is substantial in its breadth. It is packed with excellent illustrations that both introduce and explain important topics. It is also bursting with heart and joy so that the author’s passion for his topic is contagious. Concluding case studies help show the theory in action while a chapter on application works toward implementing these things in the reader’s life.
If there is one section that I found weaker than the rest, it would be the section on how the Lord guides us. Davis speaks of God’s still small voice but I am not convinced that what he says here quite represents how the New Testament tells us to expect to hear from the Lord. What he says did not strike me as wrong as much as incomplete. I am also a little concerned about the book’s size, largely because its 31 chapters and 480 pages may make it a difficult book to read in community with others. It is an ideal resource for discipleship, but the 31 chapters make it rather a large commitment. That said, Davis has not wasted many words and the size of the topic demands a significant work.
An Infinite Journey is a very good book and one you should consider reading. Don Whitney has written up a short blurb and I would echo his words. “Besides the Bible, it would be difficult to find any other single resource with more biblically sound, theologically rich, pastorally helpful, and practical insight about Christian growth than this book.” It is a gift to the church and I heartily commend it to you.