I am working on making my book reviews more concise and to the point. I have a way of writing books about books.
Lowdown: Jon Walker does a great job in examining the issue of discipleship and summoning the voice of Bonhoeffer in response to many of the contemporary struggles of the church, particularly the church in America.
Summary: Walker devotes 25 of the 28 chapters specifically to “being like Jesus…” He touches on areas of prayer, vocation, and loving one’s enemies among many other pertinent concerns for discipleship. In many ways this book is similar to John Piper’s classic, “Desiring God”, in that the primary focus is on Spiritual formation within the more common categories of our life’s concerns.
My Thoughts (Good and Bad): I enjoyed reading the book and think that this may very well rank with one of the better modern books on Spiritual formation. Walker is redundant, but only so far as Scripture is redundant in saying the same thing over and over again so that we can be absolutely clear of what a disciple of Jesus looks like.
Walker sounds like an Ana-Baptist, very similar to Richard Foster, but offers the necessary qualifications on certain issues–like loving one’s enemies not requiring absolute restriction of self-defense when necessary. There are times, however, when Walker sounds anti-credal, anti-liturgical, and almost anti-ecclesiastical. My concerns are that one can walk away from this book thinking that discipleship is pretty much between Jesus and I, and therefore renders the church as a useless appendage in ones pursuit of being a true disciple.
I’m sure that Walker has no intentions of leading people away from the church, but I suspect that his ecclesiology leaves something to be desired. If anything, giving Walker the benefit of the doubt, I am thinking that he only intends to accentuate the fact that discipleship does in fact consist more in how we actually live our life moment by moment and less to do with an hour on Sunday. If that’s the case, I can yield an “Amen”. Even so, we must not make everything sacred to the point where we simply view the administration of the Word and Sacraments on the Lord’s day has having no more significance that personal prayer during the week.
Bottom Line: Overall, I would heartily commend Walker’s book, along with Piper’s “Desiring God”, and some other classics from the likes of Jerry Bridges. I prefer this book over Dallas Willard and Richard Foster’s writings. Paul anguished for the Galatians that Christ would be formed in them and Walker seeks the same in resurrecting some powerful insights from Bonhoeffer. I think that Bonhoeffer would be happy with Walker’s treatment. I certainly agree with Walker’s premise that grace is costly and not cheap. Too many churches are peddling cheap grace and thus not stimulating the body to true discipleship. This book will be a kick in the butt for most and hopefully cause you to pause at times for some introspection and prayer. To that end I pray that God will use this book.
For an interview with Walker about the book, I recommend: http://www.edstetzer.com/2010/11/book-interview-jon-walker-on-c.html