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Fall 2000 · Vol. 29 No. 2 · pp. 200–201 

Book Review

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

Eugene H. Peterson. Winnipeg, MB: Canadian Mennonite Bible College, 1999. 68 pages.

Reviewed by Katie Funk Wiebe

In 1998 Eugene H. Peterson delivered the J. J. Thiessen lectures at Canadian Mennonite Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba, using the captivating title, “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.” This phrase is taken from a sonnet by poet and priest Gerhard Manley Hopkins. Peterson, the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, uses this phrase to describe the Christian life when it is lived in a realm “beyond necessity, beyond mere survival.” In other words, when it is lived “playfully,” and with freedom and exuberance.

For Peterson this kind of living is true spirituality. He protests vigorously the theology which is merely passing on impersonal information about God, a trend which has assumed preference in the church. He states: “We typically gather impersonal . . . information [about God], whether doctrinal or philosophical or historical, in order to take things into our own hands and take charge of how we will live our lives.”

The point of his first lecture, addressed to future church workers and students, is that the best way to get back in touch with our souls, “our God-personal lives,” is through story. Stories invite the listener to “live {201} into the story.” We need to see our stories in God’s story.

In his second lecture he speaks about creation spirituality. Some God-searchers separate the material, the physical, from the spiritual in a modern gnosticism. “This is a spirituality that prefers beautiful beaches and fine sunsets, surfing and skiing and body massage, emotional states and aesthetic titillation. But it lacks the person of Christ at its center.”

How to keep God at the center of life? His answer is straightforward. He suggests returning to the commandment to honor God on the Sabbath. He criticizes pastors and congregational leaders who cram the Lord’s day with work: committee meetings and projects, mission and social activities. Peterson recommends clearing the clutter from the Lord’s day and returning to silence and stillness. Without these disciplines there is no spirituality.

In his third lecture he sets forth the idea that the Christ “who plays in ten thousand places” plunges into our history—the mess that is our life—to give us power to clean it up. He decries leaders who emphasize moral codes instead of Christ’s salvation and resurrection power because these codes become stepping stones to independence from God.

In his final lecture he compares the true community of Christ with the emptiness often found in Christians because they have developed a spirituality of me that is self-centered, self-sufficient, and concerned with self-actualization.

Church leaders will find this a valuable book to help them see trends in the church today. It offers a helpful alternative so that Christ can play in ten thousand places.

Katie Funk Wiebe
Prof. Emeritus of English, Tabor College
Wichita, Kansas

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