Evangelical Protestants Have Lost Touch with the Contemplative Aspects of Their Faith

May 7th, 2014

I received an email from Mary, who listened to my audio devotional titled, “Our Protestant Heritage.” She brings up a critical question that I’d like to respond to publicly.

Mary writes, “I don’t have a Protestant heritage. I have a Catholic heritage. I thought the devotional made it sound like my faith didn’t count. But I love Jesus, talk to Him personally, daily; I read the scriptures; I tithe and I listen to God. I felt as if your characterization was exclusionary. I don’t understand it. So I stopped reading the book, The Turning, for a long time. I picked the book back up and finished it on Easter. It was wonderful. But I haven’t figured out how to process this Protestant discussion.”

The Turning By Davis BunnMy response:

I have wanted to address this very issue since completing The Turning and the accompanying devotional lessons, but I was not sure how. Mary’s email, in truth, was an answer to a prayer.

Let me begin by saying that I am married to a Catholic, a wonderful woman who has taught me more about faith than any person alive. My mother and my sister have both converted to Catholicism. I have recently been asked to write a series for the largest Catholic publisher in the United States.

But this particular book, and the devotional lessons, were written for a conservative U.S. Christian publisher. And the reason why I felt called to write on this subject, the one specific intent above all others, was because far too many evangelical Protestants have lost all touch with the contemplative aspects of our faith and our Christian heritage.

Too often these days, such people see the whole issue of spiritual contemplation as being a Catholic concept. And this simply is wrong. It hurts me to hear it referred to in this way from the pulpit, because it reflects a ‘majority opinion’ within many churches that does not jibe with who we are, and what has formed a foundation of our Christian heritage from the very beginning.

This devotional lesson is first and foremost aimed at the Protestant believer who has most likely never had contact with the message of contemplation. In order to break through this barrier, it was necessary to specifically address their incorrect assumption that the discipline of attentiveness is Catholic in nature.

First of all, the majority of lessons that shape Christian contemplation predate what we today refer to as the Catholic church. I suppose the better way to speak of this is by referring to today’s structure as the Roman church, as opposed to the Eastern church or Orthodox church.

The Age of the SpiritIf you are interested in how this issue specifically relates to the discipline of contemplation, may I suggest you read a truly wonderful book, The Age of the Spirit, by Phyllis Tickle, former Senior Religion Editor of Publishers Weekly.

In any case, the whole concept of Christian contemplation is grounded in the Old Testament, and given its first formal shape in the time of persecution during the second and third centuries.

But what is far more vital for today’s Protestant audience, the people who, in my opinion, need these lessons the most, is that the discipline of attentiveness – what today is referred to in the Catholic community as contemplation – was a vital component of the Protestant movement from the very beginning.

That is why I wrote the second lesson as I did. My intention was never to exclude the Catholics. In later lessons more than half the examples I used in describing life-changing revelations came from Catholic believers.

There are any number of wonderful texts from Catholic sources, including many contemporary writers, about the wonders of spiritual silence. And yet these are simply not known or discussed in many Protestant churches. It is tragic and unnecessary, in my opinion.

Their walk would be richer for including this. Mine certainly has been. And in order to reach these people, I addressed their incorrect assumptions at the starting gate. The founders of the Protestant denominations both practiced contemplative prayer and urged it among their followers.

We should all do so today, and learn to listen better.

Radio Interview: Writing and the Spiritual Life

May 5th, 2014

I was recently a guest on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection show. The hosts and I discussed how God has worked in my life to prepare me for a career in writing. I hope you’ll be encouraged to learn that “overnight success” is highly overrated. Rather, hard and discipline in your craft can pay off.

Click here to listen to the show:

Midday Connection – Moody Radio

Learn more about Midday Connection and listen to their many amazing broadcasts.

Listening Through the Hard Times: Audio Devotional #13, ‘The Turning’

May 2nd, 2014

The Turning 300During this audio devotional series, we’re reflecting on turning from our stale, ineffective ways of connecting with God to new ways.

This is particularly challenging when we’re hurting or facing challenges without any ready answer. How does the practice of daily listening help us in those times?

Click here to listen to my 2-minute audio devotional:
Listening Through the Hard Times: Audio Devotional #13, ‘The Turning’

Subscribe to my blog and receive my latest audio devotion via email — I’ll be posting a new audio devotional several times each week.

You can download all 40 devotions at TheTurningBook.com

Reader Mailbag: Praise for ‘Unlimited’

May 1st, 2014

Unlimited by Davis BunnRose Mary writes:

Unlimited is an awesome book, Mr. Bunn. Unlimited made me feel as if I were on a mission trip. I cried more than once as this book stirs the emotions. Keep up the good work.

I order all my books from Christianbook.com and they have a search option, which allows one to see the latest publications. I had just finished Strait of Hormuz when up popped Unlimited. I am so glad you such a prolific author. Hope I don’t have to wait long to see your name again.

Dear Rose Mary,

Thank you so much for the beautiful words about Unlimited. The fact that this touched your mission-oriented heart means a great deal. This was my first such work, and I really did feel that it stretched me, not only because I knew so little about the border country at the outset.

Preparing Ourselves to Receive: Audio Devotional #12, ‘The Turning’

April 30th, 2014

The Turning 300

“There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets.” – Daniel 2:28

In the moments when God speaks, the biblical prophets reveal to us that this is an opportunity for us, like them, to glimpse around the bend of time.

Click here to listen to my 2-minute audio devotional:
Preparing Ourselves to Receive: Audio Devotional #12, ‘The Turning’

Subscribe to my blog and receive my latest audio devotion via email — I’ll be posting a new audio devotional several times each week.

You can download all 40 devotions at TheTurningBook.com

One of Davis Bunn’s Best Novels… or Not.

April 29th, 2014

The Turning 300One difficult thing all published writers must learn to accept graciously is criticism of our work.

Today’s reader reviews of The Turning serve as a point/counterpoint. One reader saw flaws in the character development and point of view, whereas another reader connected strongly with the characters.

I appreciate both reviews, which are so thoughtfully written.

Point

By Diana Savage, Heartlifters blog

When I received a complimentary copy of Davis Bunn’s The Turning from River North Fiction in exchange for my honest review, I looked forward to reading the novel. The author has written many books, he has an excellent reputation, and he teaches creative writing at the University of Oxford.

Sure enough, I found Bunn’s sensory descriptions to be outstanding. I was awestruck by how deftly he described characters experiencing God’s intense presence. Many of the story’s events and references mirror contemporary headlines, making the book feel up to the minute. Suspense begins immediately on page 1, the conflict is compelling, and the tension ramps to fever pitch at frequent intervals. Sounds like a recipe for a topnotch thriller, doesn’t it?

Actually, I was disappointed. The author opens the book with a character who later becomes an antagonist, thus weakening the story’s impact by dividing readers’ emotions. He quickly introduces too many viewpoint characters to keep track of without flipping back to previous passages. And sometimes viewpoint characters “talk around” key elements to keep them hidden from us while we’re still in their heads.

In spite of these problems, the book has much to recommend it. I especially appreciate the story’s powerful takeaway message. Readers who prefer a plot-driven novel with a good takeaway and who don’t mind viewpoint difficulties will enjoy The Turning.

Counterpoint

By Jasmine Augustine, Montana Made blog

I think this book just might be Davis Bunn’s most powerful novel yet. You will be shaken out of your complacency and convicted to take that step forward to your own turning, and into the next thing God has planned for you. The impossible will seem possible.

Powerful, thought provoking, exciting, with a diverse and wonderful cast of characters. The five people chosen by God to bring the Church, the U.S., and even the world, a message of hope and God’s love, couldn’t be any different from each other if they had come from different countries. Each of them has a role to play, each must step out of their comfort zone, each must take a step of faith and give up things that they hold dear, and each of them must listen to the voice and promptings of the One who called them.

I think my favorite line from the book is when Ruth, the wife of a late-evangelist, says that God does not call the equipped, He equips those He calls. What a powerful piece of truth! Those words really hit me when I read them, and it made me wonder how God is using each of my experiences to shape and equip me to follow His plan.

The Turning is one of those books where you read a chapter or two and then you walk away to think about it, digest it, and maybe let it even change you. When Davis Bunn called this devotional fiction I think he used/coined the correct term. The way you read it does remind me much of reading a devotional, each section must be pondered before you can return for more.

But before you think this book is dry and boring, it’s not. The Turning IS a novel and it DOES tell a story, a good story. There is action, betrayal, danger, angels in disguise, a little romance, politics, and all the things we have come to expect in a typical Davis Bunn novel.

The Daily Discipline: Audio Devotional #11, ‘The Turning’

April 28th, 2014

The Turning 300Listening, like prayer, is a discipline best practiced daily. But that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.

Click here to listen to my 2-minute audio devotional:
The Daily Discipline: Audio Devotional #11, ‘The Turning’

Subscribe to my blog and receive my latest audio devotion via email — I’ll be posting a new audio devotional several times each week.

You can download all 40 devotions at TheTurningBook.com

Waiting on God: Audio Devotional #10, ‘The Turning’

April 25th, 2014

The Turning 300Have you ever felt as if God has called you or spoken to you, but you haven’t responded?

Hope born in faith can’t be self-reliant.

I share thoughts about this in my 2-minute audio devotional:
Waiting on God: Audio Devotional #10, ‘The Turning’

Subscribe to my blog and receive my latest audio devotion via email — I’ll be posting a new audio devotional several times each week.

You can download all 40 devotions at TheTurningBook.com

Reader Mailbag: In the Acts of Faith trilogy, was Bruno Aetius a real person?

April 24th, 2014


Veda writes:

I read all of the Acts of Faith series. My question is about Bruno Aetius in The Hidden Flame. Have you found him to be a real person? My research came up with an Aetius who lived earlier, but not a Bruno Aetius. Thanks!

Dear Veda,

The character of Bruno Aetius was derived from several historical accounts of different people. That’s where the hint of authenticity came from. But he was indeed fictitious.

Nancy writes:

The Acts of Faith Trilogy is absolutely wonderful!!

We purchased The Centurion’s Wife for my daughter’s summer reading project. Having both been a fan of Mrs. Oke for some time, we were confident it would be good. After my daughter read it, I did as well. I was very quickly hooked.

Each of the books was difficult to put down at every point. They had my attention. Hook, line, and sinker. Descriptions were vibrant and eloquent and only moved the story along beautifully. It was easy to imagine what was happening. Each character was very well developed and believable.

Personally, I love exploring well-known Bible stories from different points of view. I love the way you did this.

After completing the series, I went back to Acts in my daily reading. I had a whole new outlook, while keeping my imagination in check.

Thank you for a great look into what it may have been like to be present during those crucial days of our faith history. Thank you for taking us on a wonderful adventure!

Dear Nancy,

I too have returned to the book of Acts for my summer study, and there are moments as I go through the first few chapters—which I have not revisited since Janette and I wrote these stories four years ago—that the insights become alive once more. It is wonderful to know that readers are sharing in this with me.

Coming Near to God: Audio Devotional #9, ‘The Turning

April 23rd, 2014

The Turning 300

How do we prepare ourselves for silent communication with God?

Click here to listen to my 2-minute audio devotional:
Coming Near to God: Audio Devotional #9, ‘The Turning’

Subscribe to my blog and receive my latest audio devotion via email — I’ll be posting a new audio devotional several times each week.

You can download all 40 devotions at TheTurningBook.com