Wednesday, February 27, 2008

'The God Who Draws Near' by Michael A. G. Haykin

The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality
by Michael A. G. Haykin, Evangelical Press, 2007, 120pp

Spirituality is one of those buzz words that is often used, but seldom defined. It may be taken to mean religious expression in the broadest possible terms. Sometimes attention is focused more narrowly on different forms of the spiritual life such as Catholic or Orthodox spirituality. Michael Haykin has set himself the task of discovering a distinctly biblical spirituality. In this lucid and gripping book, he shows us how sinners may encounter the God of the gospel. The author’s approach is thoroughly grounded in Scripture. He also draws on the timeless riches of Reformed and Puritan spirituality.

Evangelical spirituality is not a matter of mastering certain techniques like Transcendental Meditation. It is directed by an understanding of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. The God who draws near to us is the eternal Trinity, the one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Haykin appropriately begins at this very point. The doctrine of the Trinity is not an abstract, theoretical construction. The New Testament teaches that the Christian has been brought into communion with the Triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to die on the cross for sinners. It is on that basis that God draws near to us by the presence of the Holy Spirit. For many people today, spirituality is all about self-discovery and self-improvement. But in coming to know the holy God of the gospel, we are brought to see ourselves as sinners, wholly dependent upon him for life-transforming grace.

A genuinely Christian spirituality is the product of the Holy Spirit. He shows us the central glory of Jesus Christ and him crucified. The Holy Spirit works in us by the Word, the Bible. Like William Tyndale and others, we need to cultivate a deep and meaningful devotion to Scripture. Those who have sidelined the Bible in order to emphasise the immediate work of the Spirit dishonour the one who gave us God’s inspired Word.

After erecting this doctrinal framework, Haykin gets down to the challenging matters of prayer and meditation in the spiritual life. We have much to learn from the Puritans and the likes of Jonathan Edwards on meditative reading of the Word of God. A chapter is devoted to Spiritual friendship as a means of grace. Haykin draws attention to Paul, the friendly apostle and to the enduring friendship between 18th century Baptists, John Ryland Jr and Andrew Fuller. We seem to have lost the art of making friends these days, so this was a thought provoking read. Finally, the author rightly argues that mission is the inevitable fruit of Christian spirituality. Paul is set forth as an excellent model of active concern for the salvation of lost sinners.
In this fine work you will find a rare combination of deep learning, careful thought and lightness of touch. I warmly recommend this delightful book to all who wish to discover the meaning of biblical, Christ-centred spirituality. See here for an interview with Michael Haykin from Blogging in the name of the Lord: Series 2.

No comments: