Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: Anchored in Light by Carl Prude Jr.

Carl Edwin Prude, Jr.  Anchored in Light: Understanding and Overcoming the Five Deadliest Threats to Your Faith.  Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2013.  240 pp.  $14.99.

In the world of religious writing, spiritual formation and “Christian living” are terms that can encompass a broad range of material.  On one end of the pendulum, there is writing that is so sweet and syrupy that it makes your teeth hurt.  On the other end of the pendulum, there is writing so dense and profound that you get a headache reading the table of contents.  Most of what is released under the title of “Christian Living” is beneficial for spiritual formation and theological maturity, although not all.  The trick, then, is not finding what will sell but what will be helpful to seekers as they travel along their spiritual journey.  In his volume Anchored in Light, Carl Edwin Prude, Jr., seeks to offer something to substance to the spiritual formation conversation.

The premise for his argument is simple enough: there are five “furies” (based on the ancient Greek concept of natural forces that seek to disrupt our lives) that seek to our spiritual journeys.  These furies are mindsets that develop when we “respond to situations in a worldly manner” and cause us to lose our spiritual moorings (p. 25).  They include “processing without progressing” (we don’t learn from our actions and continue in a dysfunctional cycle), “entrenched in stench” (we succumb to unhealthy emotional responses) and “are we there yet” (we live with unreal expectations).  On their own, each of these furies can ruin us spiritually if we allow them a foothold into our lives.  However, Prude offers five spiritual “anchors” that can help us overcome these furies and grow spiritually.  These anchors are “space yourself” (focus on trusting God in all circumstances), “pace yourself” (focus on discerning God’s timetable), “waste yourself” (focus on embracing God’s grace), “place yourself” (focus on accepting God’s personal design) and “grace yourself” (focus on following God’s leading).  The bulk of Prude’s book focuses on these anchors, identifying scriptural underpinnings and explaining practical applications for each.  The book ends with a call to discipleship that embraces the five anchors.  The book also includes an appendix that outlines his “10 Functions” of the spirit, soul and body.

Overall, I found Prude’s book to rather easy to read.  He has a pleasant conversational tone that reminded me of John Ortberg’s style of writing books with incredibly long titles.  Like Ortberg, the book is full of stories (both from the Bible and from his own life) that play out the concepts that Prude is discussing.  This gives a tangible feel to his argument, something that is often missing from “Christian Living” books that mostly focus on discerning “principles” for growth.

However, there are some issues with this volume that make me hesitant to recommend it as heartily as I would like to.  First, Prude takes more of a pop-psychology approach to his subject matter, taking a common self-help principle and attaching some Bible to it in order to spiritualize it.  For example, in chapter 7 (“Place Yourself”), he builds his entire argument for spiritual identity on Hippocratic concepts.  Although Tim LaHaye popularized this concept in his book Spirit Controlled Temperatments, it has been largely rejected by pastoral care scholars and spiritual writers.  Additionally, some of his material is difficult to wade through.  Chapters 7 and 8 are specifically susceptible to this as Prude seems to circle around an idea yet it never quite able to land his thoughts.  Finally, I question some of his research for the book.  I will honestly admit that this is the academic in me coming out.  However, when an author quotes another, it is good form to reference where the quote came from.  Prude only does this for about half of his sources.  Also, he relies on Wikipedia for some of his more technical research in psychology, a research trick that would receive a failing grade in most introductory composition courses.  All in all, however, this is not a bad book.  It does have some useful things to say.  Yet it should be read within the company of other books on spiritual formation and pastoral psychology.

Rob O’Lynn, MDiv
Assistant Professor of Preaching and Ministry
Kentucky Christian University

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub Program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Carl P said...

Thanks for the thoughtful review Rob. May God continue to bless the work He's given you to do.

Be encouraged!

- Carl Prude Jr.

Rob O'Lynn said...

Thanks, Carl. May God continue to bless you as well!