McAvoy sets out to set her plank on the bridge between the fields of theology and psychology, which is necessary work. Her training is clearly that ofMcAvoy sets out to set her plank on the bridge between the fields of theology and psychology, which is necessary work. Her training is clearly that of a psychologist, and it is from that direction that she builds. She is firmly planted on the psychological bank; her understandings are solid and her explanations made simple and easy to understand.
However, she is clearly not trained in theological matters, and her work is rife with theological issues. A refrain throughout the entire first section is that "God is not like us," a phrase that would have been appalling to the disciples who walked, ate, slept, and pissed with Emmanuel, God with Us. Indeed, Emmanuel turned out to not only be God with us, God among us, but also God /as/ us -- God just like us, but more fully human. At one point she says "there is no one like God" to which I angrily scribbled in the margin, JESUS!, at once an exclamation and a response. At times I thought her to be writing to a conservative/evangelical audience, but in this refrain I think not even they would agree; it is the polytheists and the gnostics who believe God's nature to be far from that of humanity.
Another concern is her exclusive and unnoticed use of the masculine pronouns for God, especially when she seems to assume a female audience at many other points. Cringe-worthy, especially since the pronouns were so heavily used and could have easily been avoided. To quote Ruether: If God is male, then male is God.
Finally, there's also lots of proof-texting, an issue that I won't go into the particularities of here as it's easily researchable and discussed in any entry-level hermeneutics course.
She does some good work on theo-psychological matters. Chapter 3 re-writes the "having desires is pride" narrative into "having desires is healthy and God wants it for us." She writes beautifully against what she calls "engulfment" (also referred to as enmeshment). However, she undoes this work in Chapter 4, where we are supposed to force ourselves to believe that God is always right (what does that even look like in a life?!) and that living life "on our own terms" is destructive (p98). How we are supposed to know what is God and what is us, and how we discern which feelings/behaviors are our healthy desires and which are pridefully living on our own terms -- all this goes unaddressed. Which works, perhaps, if you're entrenched in Christianese. Ultimately, this chapter and the book advocates engulfment in God -- which is just as dangerous as engulfment with a parent. It denies our human agency. It denies lament (which is most of the psalms). It ignores the times that God changes God's mind -- God does so with Nineveh Jonah, against Jonah's wishes. God does so in Exodus, after deciding to destroy the people of Israel, and Moses pleads with him. If the great prophets get to disagree with God, have a self and agency apart from God, why advocate engulfment in God as the solution to all pain? Indeed, the one whose will is most closely matched with God (matched, not taken over by) is Jesus, and the close-matching will did far from relieving him of pain. Pain may be the starting point, but perhaps relief is not the end goal.
There's also the theo-psychological issue of cognitive behavioral spirituality that says: if we feel distanced from God, it is our issue. This is a stance that other circles would call "blaming the victim." Indeed, it is the stance of the friends of Job, whom God refutes. The cross says otherwise; if the only human who was /fully/ human could lament that he was abandoned by God, why should we not expect to have similar moments -- and be allowed to wail and lament as well? Why should we not believe the abandonment was real? Surely the man who called God "Abba" knew when God was present and when he had left. The cognitive-behavioral approach of forcing one's self to think about the situation differently maintains that God is a belief system, a doctrine, a thought. But God is not a thought, God simply is. God cannot simply be thought of differently (ask anyone who has tried to talk themselves into hope for any period of time); rather, God must be experienced, and that is hard to do if you're living in your head with presuppositions of who God is and what God will and will not do.
Finally, because this really can't go unmarked: why a 2 in the title? Why not "Living Life TO it's Fullest"? There is nothing wrong with prepositions. This is actually an illuminative point of the work: it sounds good, but something is terribly and obviously awry....more
Most of the book is survival stories (or lack-of-survival stories), much of it a working out of his own and his father's stories, with some brain reseMost of the book is survival stories (or lack-of-survival stories), much of it a working out of his own and his father's stories, with some brain research and some zen stuff thrown in. Would have done better with some focus (a memoir, or "The Survivor's Brain," or "Zen and the Art of Survival") instead of trying to take on so much. Also, he doesn't do an incredible job of holding tension. He values a principle he refers to as "cool" (as in, not emotionally heated), but he forgets that part of the reason these "cool" people survive is the warmth they hold of memories of loved ones and hope of seeing them again. He values "humility", but forgets to emphasize agency equally (which, even his own stories show, female survivors struggle with much more). He would have done well to set up these false dichotomies and show how the tension must be held in the middle. Finally, he speaks almost exclusively to the outdoor recreationalist, which is fine, although he is unimaginative in discussing how the valued ways of being are formed. He cites survival classes and logging hours in the sport, but most of what I get out of the book is the importance of a faith community and spiritual practices -- a realm of formation he continuously notices (most often about prayer) but forgets to value....more
This is the book I would give to people who wonder about The Seattle School's approach to pastoring. Narrative based, postmodern. Which is great, exceThis is the book I would give to people who wonder about The Seattle School's approach to pastoring. Narrative based, postmodern. Which is great, except that I read it three years in--obnoxious....more
Starts and ends as a rant against self-help books and magazine advice, with some mildly interesting but mostly inconclusive studies in the middle. AlrStarts and ends as a rant against self-help books and magazine advice, with some mildly interesting but mostly inconclusive studies in the middle. Alright for some information, but RadioLab covers many of the same studies in much more interesting ways.
Also: it's super creepy when you realize that this woman loves her son more than anyone else, more than she loved her husband, more than she loves the very breath that gives her life. ...more
Can't believe I had to read this for a graduate level class. I'd recommend it, maybe, to a brand-new Christian who doesn't read for pleasure but wantsCan't believe I had to read this for a graduate level class. I'd recommend it, maybe, to a brand-new Christian who doesn't read for pleasure but wants information on spiritual disciplines....more
She wants it to be a general project about women's appetites and desires, but it's really a working out of her own story. Which is interesting, but itShe wants it to be a general project about women's appetites and desires, but it's really a working out of her own story. Which is interesting, but it inhabits this nowhere space between memoir and broader journalistic work--it needed either more personal engagement and stories, or more research. Some gold nuggets throughout....more
Praise the Lord that someone has ALL the answers to the most complex problems of life and leadership.
Seriously, though: he offers quick fixes withoutPraise the Lord that someone has ALL the answers to the most complex problems of life and leadership.
Seriously, though: he offers quick fixes without ever focusing on the system that creates the problems, the individual's participation in such a system, emotional or relational factors, or the development of a self/boundaries/connectedness. Three-step and Five-stage "solutions" that are entirely superficial....more
It's a decent introduction to U-Theory, but at times the examples go on far too long (past the point of being useful), anRead this for Leadership III.
It's a decent introduction to U-Theory, but at times the examples go on far too long (past the point of being useful), and the often-used conversation format feels a bit artificial. Good concepts, but a skimmable read....more
Read for Leadership I with Dr Rose Madrid-Swetman.
The principles in it are useful, but could easily be explained in just a few dozen pages. Lowney goeRead for Leadership I with Dr Rose Madrid-Swetman.
The principles in it are useful, but could easily be explained in just a few dozen pages. Lowney goes into length, biography-length examples to demonstrate the principles. The examples go on long enough that I would forget which principle I was meant to be watching for and resorted to skimming those sections. Worth the read, but mostly for the bulleted lists....more
Thomas Kuhn, historian and philosopher of science, changed the way progress is conceptualized when he introduced the idea of a “paradigm shift” in hi Thomas Kuhn, historian and philosopher of science, changed the way progress is conceptualized when he introduced the idea of a “paradigm shift” in his work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. His essay examines scientific progress with the initial wondering that “perhaps science does not develop by the accumulation of individual discoveries and inventions.”1 Rather than such a linear narrative, Kuhn believes science has progressed through a series of revolutions in which the community’s fundamental paradigm underwent revolutions. The essay thoroughly defines its vocabulary use, explains concepts with clear examples from the history of science, and is organized in a manner that builds on itself logically. Kuhn begins by explaining the structure of the scientific community and defines normal science as “predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like” whereas scientific revolutions “are the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science.”2 Paradigms—the network of conceptual, theoretical, instrumental, and methodological commitments—are important in that they aid the scientist with a direction “for further articulation and specification,”3 thereby guiding puzzle-solving activities. When the outcome of an experiment is not what was expected, scientists must be aware that an anomaly has occurred. In anomalous instances when normal problem-solving activities fail, a crisis emerges that eventually produces a novel theory in direct response. The transition to adopting the new theory means a reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals. Throughout time, the concrete world is constant, it is the paradigm and thus the interpretation of the world that changes. Kuhn, in anticipation of criticism, addresses the reason such revolutions have been largely invisible: textbooks summarize scientific progress, indoctrinating students with both the current paradigm and the linear narrative. Kuhn is able to hold ideas with a loose hand, stating that previous paradigms were “neither less scientific nor more the product of human idiosyncrasy than those current today.”4 Although Kuhn discusses the the scientific community almost exclusively, the concept is applicable to many fields and has been applied to some, such as design, literature, pedagogy, and theology. As a method for understanding the shifts of perceptions in many areas of society, the text is valuable for those outside the scientific community, although the plethora scientific examples for such readers may be more a distraction than an aid. As the current intellectual atmosphere continues to move further into postmodernism, understanding paradigm shifts becomes more crucial, and Kuhn can help not only with understanding what is happening but advises how to live within such a time. For example, amidst countless debates in which each side uses the framework of their paradigm to argue for their paradigm, the insight that “the transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience that cannot be forced”5 could save individuals from much frustration. Overall, Kuhn offers a precise vocabulary for understanding an ever-changing world. Such a premise will be found to be invaluable in numerous fields of study, although some translation work into may be necessary in order to grasp the concepts within one’s own area of interest.