Sacred Pathways (by Gary Thomas)

I don't remember where I first read or heard of Gary Thomas's writing. He seems to be highly respected as an author in many circles; reading about his books at Amazon and elsewhere, I thought this one looked particularly interesting.

'Sacred Pathways' is very helpful book, focussing on nine different pathways that people meet with God. The introductory chapter gives some background into the author's life, and his experiences of different kinds of Christian spirituality. He explains that his 'pathways' are not the same as personality preferences - such as the Myers-Briggs or Enneagram systems - although there are some obvious correlations.

Then there's a chapter on each of the pathways, which he calls: Naturalist, Sensate, Traditionalist, Ascetic, Activist, Caregiver, Enthusiast, Contemplative and Intellectual. Each one has a thorough explanation, with some examples from Scripture and from other people's lives. There are some suggestions for exploring each one; some warnings against extremes, and a useful short questionnaire enabling the reader to build up a general profile. Any score of around 15 or over is supposed to indicate a distinct preference for that pathway.

As I read the first chapters, I found them very interesting and often revealing. But my scores on the questionnaires were all around 12-15 - and since the answers asked for a rating between 1 and 5, they could easily have been two or three points different on another day. I began to wonder and I wondered if any of them would apply to me. I could see some benefit in everything I'd read, and yet none of them leapt as really 'me'.

Then at last I read the last two - the Contemplative and the Intellectual - and scored 24 and 21 respectively. That made a lot more sense. I could relate to almost everything in the chapter on Contemplatives, which I think probably is my primary pathway.

I was surprised how much I also related to in the Intellectual chapter, since I'm no theologian and don't think of myself as being particularly intellectual. Possibly the score on the questionnaire was over-high because of my 5 points for the fact that I buy books more than CDs or DVDs.

Overall, I thought the book was nicely balanced, well written, and clearly presented. It's made clear that these are nine different equally valid ways of finding God, and that we mostly have one or two preferred ways, although it's worth experimenting with others from time to time.

My only slight reservation was the insistence -repeated a few times - that it was of vital importance to be part of an established congregation meeting for services... even though the author also points out that one hour per week can do very little to meet most people's spiritual needs overall.


Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 19th February 2010

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