The Sacred Journey | Charles Foster

I’ve been canoe tripping for years. I started adventuring to conquer distance, but that desire has morphed into a love for the journey itself. In my old mindset, rain and bugs were tragic. Now, they’re just another part of the trail. Until now, Bill Mason and Sigurd Olson have been my chief aids in interpreting the wilderness experience. Now, I’m happy to add Charles Foster to their company. His The Sacred Journey has given me a way to understand the difference between tourism (placing checkmarks beside the names of rivers and lakes) and real pilgrimage.

Foster’s writing is as eloquent as always. In addition to the mere information you can strip from this book, his style of writing makes you want to experience that sort of life for yourself. I often found myself longing for my next pilgrimage (taking the form of a two week journey through Algonquin Park).

One of the interesting treasures of this book was Foster’s ability to demonstrate how many various religions have all promoted the idea of pilgrimage. That places it in the category of caring for the poor and the golden rule: things that religions besides Christianity have perceived are important. This isn’t to suggest that we learn doctrine from alternate religions—it just adds a nice synergy to the study.

Foster’s attack on gnosticism made me smile. He reminded me at times of Eugene Peterson, who first taught me (through many of his different books) that spirituality is not primarily otherworldly. To my chagrin, Foster often used the writing of Paulo Coelho to attack gnosticism—while I’ve stopped reading him for his gnostic impulses!

If you’re looking to find a carefully reasoned theological argument for the role of pilgrimage in the life of the Christian, don’t bother. You’ll just find yourself frustrated (as other reviewers have been). If you want to experience the best of God’s good creation and explore the depths of your humanity, Foster’s book is an inspiring guide.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free as a member of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program.

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