A lyrical call to seek the stillness of God in a clamorous world.Publishers Description
For millennia humans knew the stars as well as we know our own backyards. Yet, today many if not most of us have lost vital connections with our natural world, and so have in many ways lost our sense of wonder. In the thoughtful, genre-bending nonfiction tradition of Wendell Berry and Walker Percy, Dale Allison charts the effects of loss of wonder in Western society. Mining insights from ancient creation myths to contemporary children's books, he highlights our ongoing disconnect from the cosmos, tracing its spiritual and philosophical impact. In eight elegant and profound essays, The Luminous Dusk calls readers to a life of sustained wonder, open to God and connected to his creation, a life that chooses divine ascent over our culture's reflexive mediocrity.
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.6" Width: 6.4" Height: 0.53"
Weight: 0.64 lbs.
Release Date Jul 1, 2006
Publisher WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO.
Availability 3 units.
Availability accurate as of Nov 22, 2017 03:50.
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|A philosophical look on the impact of environment on religion Oct 29, 2007|
|In The Luminous Dusk, Dale Allison Jr. throws "modest light upon some current conditions that most of us seldom consider." He points out that though we may be products of our environment, we help make that environment. "Our convictions, however much they may be thought of as the conclusions of arguments, are often heavily indebted to environmental factors we fail to perceive because we are too close to them."|
In his introduction, which by itself is worth the price of the book, Allison seeks to account for the modern tendency to disbelieve in God. He argues convincingly that our "seeming secularization correlates directly with a growing physical separation from the so-called natural world." We have moved indoors, and the more that we have done so, the less some of us have been inclined to believe.
Our disconnect from the natural world has produced a corresponding loss of wonder. The wonder that our ancestors felt at the lights of the heavens has been replaced by a host of artificial images.
Our insulation from nature has made us more self-sufficient and less dependent on God. In the past people were more vulnerable to the elements and often equated them with God. Now it seems that only cataclysmic elements are able to break into our world. Even then we tend to look for help from others more than we do from God.
Allison's point is not that experience of the natural world generates faith. "But surely it can encourage a psychological orientation favorable to some brands of religious faith; and this suggests the correlative possibility that reduced experience of the natural world might do just the opposite."
My sister, who happens to be a Christian, was approached some years ago by a local newspaper on a question that the paper was putting to local residents. I can't recall the exact question, but the gist of her answer was that she thought people needed to spend more time outside. As I read Allison's introduction I thought of my sister's comment. Here is the theological basis for what my sister knew to be true. Being indoors and being exposed to a host of artificial environments and images of our own creating has changed us. Allison makes the case that we have suffered for it.
As I read this book, I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a scholar of Christian and classic literature, who was sharing riches from his storehouse of knowledge. In reading books by Christian authors, it's not often that I feel a sense of wonder being rekindled within me, but I found it here in unfamiliar subjects, intellectual honesty and scholarly analysis. The impression that the author is not jumping to preconceived conclusions on a topic is refreshing.
Allison delves deeply in a philosophical way into a number of subjects. This includes the impact of technology on religion, a treatise on light and dark and its implication on finding God, and the impact of artificial environments on the imagination. There is also a profound lament on diminished Bible reading. Happily, the end of books is not approaching. One chapter deals with the need for role models rather than celebrities so that we become more than we are rather than just being content to mirror the culture.
The theme that runs through the book, including the last section that touches on prayer, is a shutting out of sensory overload and the many distractions that compete for our attention. If we shut out the lights of this world and the fires of our own making, we can find God in the dark. It's hard to argue against the notion that the darkness of stillness and silence is conducive to experiencing God. This is what many of our forefathers discovered and Allison eloquently encourages us along the same lines.
|Whole book is a paradoxical challenge to action and yet to stillness Jun 5, 2007|
|"When Jack's mother threw her son's beans out the window, her intent was not to induce the adventure that followed." This is one of the best sentences in this whole, rich book. It also happens to be the first line of chapter 1, which more accurately is chapter 2, the introduction being a substantial essay itself.|
And there's no mistaking that this is a book of essays, loosely connected, organized under three topics: Stillness, Word and Prayer. Dale C. Allison, Jr., like Wendell Berry or Walker Percy, is concerned that we've lost touch with the natural world, with God, with our sense of wonder.
Allison is a middle-aged, chaired professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the Presbyterian (USA) Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. His previous books include a study of Matthew, a gospel that plays prominently in a chapter-essay titled "Saints and Heroes," in which he culturally and historically explains and then bemoans our loss of heroes --- known for virtue or rightful action --- and our substitutionary homage to celebrities, known for their talent or charm.
Allison's work includes an occasional delightful personal anecdote and lots of meaty quotes from ancient and modern theological and literary works. This wide base and perspective enlivens the book. I kept turning pages, looking for more insight. And yet I admit that I felt cheated by the lack of endnotes or source documentation. I suspect that the author or publisher chose the minimalist route so the book, which sometimes gets heady, would better appeal to a "lay" reader. But the strategy seems to contradict a complaint running through the book: that we've lost connections. To history. ("Until recent times, progress was measured against the past.") To nature. ("High school students who read Chaucer no longer laugh at Chanticleer because they no longer know anything about the behavior of roosters.") To books and the printed word. (There's a whole chapter titled "The Fate of the Book.") Allison missed an opportunity to root his readers in the big, wonderful (and supposedly disappearing) world of books.
Though there is plenty of social criticism in THE LUMINOUS DUSK, it is ultimately a positive and hopeful book, drawing us to deeper spirituality and faith. It will appeal to serious readers who sense that something isn't quite right with our increasingly technological, insular and standardized world. His theology will sound liberal to fundamentalists but conservative to liberals.
Allison's final section, "Prayer," includes an interesting chapter on "physical prayer," discussing the purposes or benefits of the traditional prayer postures --- bowing heads, bending knees, folding hands, closing eyes. "The shutting out of light is a sacred instinct that should move us to deny ourselves and to undo what we have turned ourselves into."
Like this sentence, Allison's whole book is a paradoxical challenge to action and yet to stillness --- found in wonder and in faith in a God who is often found, not in the dazzling noontime sun or in the artificial lights with which we surround ourselves, but in THE LUMINOUS DUSK.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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