Sunday, March 21, 2010

book of the week | evangelical is not enough

week five | book of the week | evangelical is not enough

I first heard about Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament through Elizabeth Esther's online book club. I was intrigued, but didn't bother to look into it further. Later in January, a friend mentioned something else about it and suggested that I read it, so I found a copy and delved into it. The book tells the story of Thomas Howard (who, incidentally, is Elisabeth Elliot's brother) and "his pilgrimage from Evangelicalism (which he loves and reveres as the religion of his youth) to liturgical Christianity."
As I've mentioned before, I have begun my own little journey towards the more liturgical traditions. But I still feel like so many of the reasons I am attracted to the liturgy and the sacraments are still fuzzy in my mind, for I was attracted to it all before I could even explain why. When the shocked girls in my ballet class inquired this past December why I was now attending the "boring" Episcopal church, I found it difficult to articulate my answer. So I hoped reading Thomas Howard's journey would help clarify my own journey somewhat. And I think it did.
Having said that, let me mention that I really don't feel like I read this book closely enough. It's on my "need to read again" shelf. But that's the case primarily because it was such a good book, one that I think held more in it than I was able to comprehend in one week (and in the early mornings, no less, when my primary goal was just trying to keep my eyes open).
The book is directed towards Evangelicals who have an interest in the liturgical church and who have perhaps grown weary with some aspects of Evangelicalism. There are a lot of books out there today that seem to address people who have "grown weary with Evangelicalism." But I think one of the things that makes this book unique is that Howard clearly expresses his appreciation and respect for the Evangelicalism of his youth. He does not immediately start discussing all the wrong things about Evangelicalism, but rather states right away that his "debt to Protestantism is incalculable." And he carries this same attitude throughout the entire book--he discusses the reasons he is drawn to liturgy with an appealing honesty and grace towards all.
In the first chapter, Howard takes a moment to define Evangelicals. I found rather amusing the list of "touchstones" he uses to explain the Evangelical identity--perhaps because it is all so familiar--everything from Billy Graham and Wheaton College to an emphasis on the Second Coming or missions. The rest of the chapters deal individually with different aspects of of the liturgical tradition that attracted him, from ordered prayer to worship as an act rather than an experience. See the full list of all of the chapters below.
I do not have the time or the space to write about the specific ways this book has helped to clarify my own journey towards liturgy, so I am thinking that perhaps I will have to start in the future a little series of posts listing some of those reasons (for my own sake, mostly--then I'll know how to answer people better!). But if you'd like to read more about the book, there is a lot of information and discussion over at Elizabeth Esther. And no doubt you'll see me quoting from it again in the near future--it is a book I find myself returning to over and over.
Book Information:
Published in 1984 by Ignatius Press
158 pages
10 chapters:
---1. Protestant and Evangelical: Understanding Ourselves
---2. Spirit and Flesh: Surrendered Forever or Reunited?
---3. Christian Worship: Act or Experience?
---4. Prayer: Random or Disciplined?
---5. Hail, Blessed Virgin Mary: What Did the Angel Mean?
---6. Ritual or Ceremony: A Dead Hand or the Liberty of the Spirit?
---7. Table and Altar: Supper and Sacrament
---8. The Eucharistic Liturgy: Diagram and Drama
---9. The Liturgical Year: Redeeming the Time
---10. Envoi
Postcript, Notes, & Further Reading
Price: $10.36

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