I had posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was reading "Relational Holiness" by Thomas J. Oord and Michael Lodahl and some of ya'all wanted to hear my comments on it. Since I figured I would have more to say than Twitter's 140 character limit, I thought I would put it in a blog post.
First, if you're hoping to get the main points of the book in this review, I'm sorry. Besides the main thesis, you're not going to get a lot of content here, just some theological reflections.
The back and inside covers have a lot of good things to say about the book from a lot of people. Several of these individuals are people that I know personally and respect greatly (H. Ray Dunning, Jeren Rowell, Mary Paul, Al Truesdale, Fletcher Tink, etc.). If nothing else, this should tell you that this book is worth reading.
As a brief summary, this book sought to provide a core theological truth to holiness that is centered around the idea of love. When we know and experience God's love for us, we can then love God, others, and creation perfectly. Love is an intentional act that brings wholeness and blessedness to the other.
Here some some really good things that this book did:
- Provided a new vocabulary to the doctrine of holiness that is refreshing and relevant to today's culture.
- Described holiness in an understandable way that you don't need a theological education to grasp.
- Gave a great and helpful description of the Trinity
- Expressed what a holy life should look like, especially in relation to a community of believers
Here are some questions I had when reading the book:
- How should sin be understood within this framework?
- What's the difference between salvation and sanctification in this framework?
- What does it mean to really "experience" God's love, and to what extent does it transform us?
While I was reading this book, there were several additional questions that I had about this theological framework. Most of these questions (which were actually critiques) were answered in the final chapter of the book, which related this concept of holiness as love to the more traditional ways that holiness is explained. While I still think that the authors could have put a little more emphasis on the transformative power of God's love and less on the human experience and knowledge of it, I really appreciated what this book had to offer to the conversation of holiness.
As Dr. Jerry Porter, General Superintendent, wrote, "Every believer's life can be enriched with this candid, contemporary dialog about the holy life."