A Joyful Exile
I first met Jim Houston in 1966 in Calgary, Canada, where I was preaching in an evangelistic campaign. Jim, a professor of geography at Oxford University, was exploring the potential for a new college in Canada, one which would focus on the spiritual and theological development of lay people and full-time Christian workers.
He left Oxford to become founding principal of Regent College in Vancouver, which has been so vital in shaping the personal and ministry lives of many, including our son Kevin.
His leaving Oxford was I suppose a kind of academic suicide – for full professorships there are rare – and yet it was typical of Jim’s deep conviction that, contrary to so much of our “success” rated ministry, the upward path with Christ may involve a downward mobility.
I have been reading his latest book Joyful Exiles, and recommend it as a rich and provocative reflection from a man late in years but young in mind and spirit who has lived “on the dangerous edge of things.”
Here are a few of his thoughts, to whet your appetite:
On the hidden life of Jesus. “He was not the Messiah of nationalistic expectations. He was the antihero. Yet … such a hidden life is the breath of the gospel.”
On inwardness (after Augustine). “How strange is it that human curiosity impels us to explore distant lands, to climb mountains, even to probe the depth of the oceans, which are all external things. Yet how little concern for the inner life before God.”
On heaven. “Heaven will be the sphere where we can all share each other’s inmost thoughts without hindrance.”
On institutions. “Institutional growth generates a life of its own – a bell curve of change from the personal to the bureaucratic …The original vision is eclipsed by money-making projects. What may have begun as a simple community dedicated to spiritual education and nurturing ends up an idolatrous environment of professional careerism.”
On personhood. “The Christian person is designed to be an object of eternal beauty.”
On slow progress. “Often I think faster than I can act; and I have more actions than I can incorporate in my character. Consequently I need a greater unity and integrity of faith, while realizing that any progress God gives occurs at the lowest pace of all”
There is much more to ponder – to wince at – to take in. But do read for yourself.
James Houston. Joyful Exiles. Life in Christ on the Dangerous Edge of Things. IVP