les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Book review : God's Battle-plan for the Mind, The Puritan practice of Biblical Meditation, by David Saxton

It is always fascinating to see how health advice swings around. I knew that if I waited long enough the doctors would recommend the health-giving properties of pizza and dark chocolate! And it has been wonderful recently to see scientific endorsement of the habit of daily prayer.

Well, it's not put quite like that. Instead a time of mindfulness is recommended. To turn aside from daily pressures and our usual mindlessness(?) and to focus simply on who and where you are. Previous meditation techniques spoke of emptying the mind. Now we are told to focus the mind, to be fully present.

Christians have a third way. (See what I did there?) Instead of emptying the mind, which David Saxton says opens us to the possibility of "spiritual predators, and instead of focusing the mind on me and my circumstances, we can raise the mind higher. Paul would say, in Colossians 3, "set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things"

Saxton tells us that the Puritans considered long and hard how to put into practice Paul's exhortation, as well as the other countless encouragements to turn our thoughts and minds to God, his word, his promises, his goodness and the salvation he has accomplished for us.

This is not a long book. It has 12 chapters, but some of those chapters are very short indeed. There is some repetition. But there probably is no book that more thoroughly considers how practically to engage the Christian's mind with the truth of God. It's an encyclopaedic vade mecum of Christian meditation.

Are there weakness? I would say perhaps two, and I hesitate to mention them.

Firstly sometimes the book comes across as being somewhat gloomy and joyless, more focused on the dangers than the delights. It's a pity, because I think that those who may benefit best from the encouragement and practical advice in this book may give up reading it or even be put off. We are called to persuade the unwilling and not just to "preach to the choir".

Secondly, what preacher is not aware of the danger of sounding more like his puritan heroes than the puritans do? We can slip into archaic forms of speech that are unhelpful. Obviously when one quotes puritan authors then those quotes will be in 17th century English. But the reader needs to be able to tell at a glance the 17th century puritan quote from the 20th century author's own text. We must write simply and directly. I think the puritans would if they lived today.

So this is a very useful book that deserves and will repay slow, careful study. Think on!

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