Tag Archives | Ignatius

The Way of Discernment | Elizabeth Liebert

The cover of Liebert's The Way of Discernment“What’s God’s will for my life?” might be the single most common question asked of any pastor. The question usually comes from a person at the crossroads of a major life-decision. Should I change career or stay safe? Should I commit to that mission trip or stay at home? Should I marry him or move on? Elizabeth Liebert provides a holistic way to bring the decisions of life to God.

Three elements set this book apart from the rest.

  1. Grounded. Liebert grounds her discernment practice in the writings of Ignatius of Loyola. From the initial prayer of examen to reflections on consolation and desolation, Ignatius’ fingerprints are all throughout this book. From those Ignatian roots, Liebert moves out to glean wisdom from a variety of other sources, from Jonathan Edwards to the practices of the Quakers.
  2. Practical. Liebert is not only interested in providing a theology of discernment. She invites readers to “begin [their] own discernment process, rather than just thinking about discernment” (xi). To facilitate discernment, Liebert has included a series of exercises throughout the text which will give the reader the practical tools necessary to develop their own discernment practice. The book is so practical, I suspect it will become one of my most lent-out volumes (and re-purchased when my book isn’t returned)!
  3. God-Oriented. While some of the discernment practices included would find a welcome reception in a corporate boardroom, the overall thrust of the book is to determine God’s will (or to use Liebert’s preferred word, “call”). To retain this focus she emphasizes spiritual freedom through indifference. By this, Liebert stresses indifference to anything other than God’s fundamental call.

The Way of Discernment is theologically rich yet easy to follow. I will be sharing it with anyone who is seriously concerned with determining God’s next steps for their life.


Liebert, Elizabeth. The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

Three Philosophies of Life | Peter Kreeft

The cover of Kreeft's Three Philosophies of LifeThis book is one of those rare books worth reading twice.

I bought the book while at Tyndale for a course in Wisdom Literature. I pulled it off the self a few weeks ago as a reference work for a sermon I was writing and couldn’t stop reading. As Kreeft himself wrote (about Wisdom Literature), “a classic is like a cow: it gives fresh milk every morning” (7). This book will pull you in.

Three Philosophies of Life covers three books of the Bible: Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Songs. Kreeft interprets them in sequence.

Ecclesiates

Ecclesiastes is hell. As the first truly existentialist work, the author describes life “under the sun,” apart from a God who loves. Kreeft describes this book as a starting point en route to faith. It is “like the silhouette of the rest of the Bible” (23). The final words of Ecclesiastes (whether appended by a later redactor or not) point us toward Job:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)

Job

Job is purgatory. Kreeft’s footnote on this term demonstrates his sense of humour:

Note to Protestant readers: please do not throw this book away just yet. I am not presupposing or trying to convert anyone to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. Here I mean by Purgatory any suffering that purges the soul. It begins in this life. If it is completed in the next, you can just as well call it Heaven’s bathroom, if you like. A sanctification by any other name would smell as sweet. (8)

Job followed the advice at the end of Ecclesiastes and suffered greatly. This is still a big spiritual step forward, though, because Job engaged the living God—he didn’t merely philosophize at a distance (cf. Ecclesiastes 5).

Kreeft lays out his theodicy here in logical fashion. He uses Augustine to make the problem clear, “If God were all-good, He would will only good, and if He were all-powerful, He would be able to do all that He wills. But there is evil [as well as good]. Therefore God is either not all-good or not all-powerful, or both” (64).

In the end, Job gained the audience with God he desired. Instead of protesting his innocence, however, he was shut up. This encounter is the transition from the suffering purgatory of Job to …

Song of Songs

Song of Songs is heaven. It is a “double love story, vertical and horizontal, divine and human” (100). As a metaphor, it’s been delved by saints of all ages.

Finally, we’ve reached the point where we understand God as lover and ourselves as beloved. Kreeft reflects on 26 aspects of love, while recognizing that he is only scratching the surface. “For more, both in quantity and quality, go to the saints” (201).

Kreeft’s Three Philosophies will make these three ancient books of Scripture come alive in your life.

—Peter Kreeft, Three Philosophies of Life (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989).

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