Alister McGrath, a widely acknowledged master of contemporary spirituality, has written a profound meditation on one of the most deceptively simple-sounding tenets of the Christian faith, the centrality of Christ in the life of his followers, in Knowing Christ.
Written in an accessible style that will appeal to Christians of all denominations, Knowing Christ aims to stimulate a more direct and intimate relationship between Christ and the reader by engaging not just the intellect but, more important, the heart and imagination. It is a work of spirituality saturated with biblical texts and themes, but it also draws on the rich tradition in art and literature of Christian reflection on the centrality of Christ throughout the ages. The result is a lively, engaging, and always inspiring book of twenty-first century spirituality from one of the world's most popular and respected Christian writers, a book that will strengthen the faith of all who read it.
Oxford theologian McGrath, whose recent In the Beginning chronicled the history of the King James Bible, offers here a personal look at his own spiritual journey. He admits that his own early attempts to know Christ were marked by rational investigations of Jesus' life and times, as well as intellectual struggles with church doctrine. McGrath's turning point came about a year and a half after he became a Christian, when he read Philippians 3:8 ("I regard everything as a loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord"). As a result of this personal epiphany, McGrath immersed himself in the classical writings of Christian spirituality, ranging from Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis de Sales to Teresa of Avila. He concludes from his search that Christ must be known not only with the mind but also with the heart, imagination and memory. He asserts that Christ can be discovered in the experiences of loneliness, anxiety, doubt and suffering, and he uses biblical descriptions of encounters with Christ to demonstrate the many ways that Christ can be known. McGrath counsels Christians against falling in love with the world, and cites an unwillingness to grow spiritually as a barrier to knowing Christ fully. But his memoir-cum-devotional is little more than a series of religious tracts stretched into a full-length book. Unreflective, repetitious and didactic in tone, McGrath's book provides few new insights into the spiritual journey.