Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace. Recovering the passionate life. Baker Books, 2006.
There is quite a contrast of titles from McClaren’s “Everything Must Change”, to Webber’s “The Divine Embrace”. I appreciate both but confess that I resonate more with “The Divine Embrace”. Part of that response is probably generational. All ‘post-moderns’ are not the same. Emergent (emergence) has different phases and/or levels. In this book Webber addresses something that is basic to the Christian life (experience) that is timeless. Our spiritual life is part of our identity and is dependent on our understanding and involvement in ‘God’s story’. I found this book encouraging and informative.
All “spirituality has an experiential dimension, but the experience is always in keeping with the story from which it arises”. (15) This book focuses on the Christian story which Webber calls “the divine embrace”. It is God’s story which Paul calls “the mystery of Christ”. Our involvement in the story is through “contemplation and participation”. (20)
“God’s story and spirituality” (32) of the ancient church was challenged by the Gnostics. The Apostle’s Creed raised a standard against Gnosticism and dualism. The incarnation, explained in John 1:14, was being interpreted in ways that challenged ‘God’s story’. The Chalcedon Creed of AD 451 addressed this challenge. “Ancient spirituality is a theological spirituality,” (42) manifested in a life lived according to God’s design, represented by biblical teachings.
“Evangelicals, having separated spirituality from God’s vision, practice spiritualities of legalism, intellectualism, and experientialism.” (80) In these spiritualities the focus is on self. We live in a world where secularism and New Age are strong players. To be able to respond effectively to these challenges we must rediscover God’s story, i.e. “ancient spirituality”. (120)
God’s story is expressed in three typologies, “creation/recreation, the first Adam/second Adam, the Exodus event/Christ event”. (130) ‘Our story’ has three important ‘ingredients’, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Baptism in the Spirit seals and reveals”. (160) Baptism gives us our spiritual identity which is sealed by the Spirit.
“Baptismal spirituality” (180) is important in our participation in God’s story and gives us understanding about our part in God’s relationship with us. The “desert fathers” have given us helpful instructions regarding matters of the heart. The “Benedictine rule” (200) brings understanding about the disciplined Christian life. Brother Lawrence is a good example. Appreciating God’s creation is demonstrated by how we care for ‘material things’.
“The church is the family of God, called to live the baptized life.” (223) It is (should be) by nature a nurturing body, nurturing disciples. Worship should be situated in the story of God not in the (contemporary) culture. “Worship as a prayer shapes who we are.” (235)
“There is no story in this world that is more profound than the story of God’s embrace.”