Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness by Jeremy Walker (265 pages, 2015)
How is the church to relate to culture? How are we as individual Christians to think about and structure our day-to-day lives? What exactly is our identity as Christians and how should this shape our actions in this present world? It is to these questions, and others, that British Pastor Jeremy Walker turns his attention in this helpful book on the Christian life. Central to Walker’s thesis is the idea that we as Christians have lost sight of our Biblical identity and that the loss of that identity has compromised our actions in this world. What then, is our Biblical identity? Walker argues that we are to see ourselves primarily (though not exclusively) as pilgrims. People who are simply “passing through” as the title puts it. After introducing his thesis and providing a framework for our thinking in chapters 1-3, Walker develops his point by looking at various aspects of the Christian identity. Whether it is as pilgrim-warriors (ch. 4), pilgrim-evangelists (ch. 5), pilgrim-citizens (ch. 6), pilgrim-servants (ch. 7), etc… Walker urges Christians to consider how the Biblical motif of the pilgrim life can shape and reshape our understanding of this world and our place in it. Each chapter follows the same basic structure: first, Walker introduces the topic of the chapter. Second, he provides a Scriptural framework for considering the topic by looking at (and carefully exegeting) various relevant passages. Third, Walker gives some summary thoughts which not only consider the content of the given chapter, but also connect that with all that has come before. Finally, Walker provides specific counsels which provide practical guidance for how to apply what has been discussed thus far.
I found the structure of Walker’s book to be very helpful. For someone like myself who thinks in terms of outlines, reading chapters which followed the same basic shape was tremendously helpful. Not only does Walker provide good structure, he also produces good content. Walker writes well. In an age when too much writing (and far too much theology) is written poorly, Walker’s sentences sing, his paragraphs flow, and his ideas are communicated vividly and profoundly. One can tell that he has read the Puritans deeply as he shares their wonderful ability to convey truth through beauty. Another feature I appreciated about the book was how Walker tries to spend as much time as possible fully quoting and thoroughly exegeting the actual text of Scripture. He avoids the exegetical shortcut of simply following up his statements with a string of proof-texts and instead does the hard (but fortifying) work of showing us how and where he gets his ideas. With all the discussion today about questions of culture and engagement I found Walker’s book to be refreshingly Biblical. While I would not agree with every jot and tittle, the broad thrust of this book was right on target and has already begun to helpfully shape my thinking on the topic. I would encourage everyone to pick up this helpful volume as a useful tool on this pilgrim road we trod.
I would like to thank the good folks over at Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free review copy of this book. I was not obligated to provide a positive review. Please check out their interview with the author here.